ON AN OFFBEAT TRAIL IN ZURICH
WORDS BY RASHMI GOPAL RAO
On the shore of its eponymous lake — where it meets the river Limmat — is Zurich, a city that wears many hats. The town centre, or Altstadt, is a zoetrope of historic buildings, churches with tall steeples, majestic clock faces, boutiques, and restaurants. Beyond the old town is the chic and contemporary bustling financial centre. Zurich’s cosmopolitan neighbourhoods, trendy shopping centres, vibrant nightlife, and excellent local transportation all make it one of the most liveable cities in the world. Given its eclectic nature, there is a lot to explore in Zurich beyond its famous landmarks.
Arguably the backbone of the city’s transportation system, trams (and tram hopping) are an intrinsic part of life in Zurich. A great way to learn about the history and development of trams here is the tram museum housed in the Tram Depot of Burgwies. The exhibits on display include the original vintage vehicles that date back as early as 1897. You will also find yesteryear equipment and paraphernalia like ticket punching machines, sign boards, uniforms, sample tickets, and ticket pouches. The museum has interactive activities that allow you to operate a tram car model and feel the components that lie beneath a tram car. With extensive information boards and pictures, a visit to the Tram Museum may be just the ticket.
Everyone loves a low-maintenance succulent, and the Zurich Succulent Plant Collection has a whopping 6000 varieties! For the uninitiated, succulents are a wide group of plants with fleshy stems and leaves that thrive in arid and semi-arid conditions. This collection is representative of close to half the succulent species in the entire world and includes plants native to countries like North America, Africa, Chile, and Mexico. With detailed descriptions within each of the glass houses, the plants, with their amazing spines, thorns, buds, and even flowers and fruits, are stunning! It is here that you can learn about the differences between aloe and agave, as well as the fact that many species of orchids are actually succulents!
Say the word ‘Swiss’ and someone will say ‘chocolate’, and you’ve probably made your way through the retail brands of Lindt, Sprungli, and Callier. It’s time, then, to sample some gourmet goodies. A champion of sustainability and fair trade, Max Chocolatier is a specialist in hand made chocolate with completely natural ingredients. With offerings inspired by the season, they curate some of the most exotic flavours; think saffron, port wine, black tea, and even tobacco.
Oro de Cacao on the banks of the river Limmat is another speciality boutique. They follow a patented cold extraction process and do not roast the cocoa beans at high temperatures (which can make them very bitter). Their process retains the aromas and flavours of the bean, so they need to add less sugar to sweeten the chocolate. A panacea for the calorie conscious tribe!
Another thrill in Zurich is the 1.3km ride on the Dolderbahnn rack railway. Operational since 1895, the line was originally was a funicular railway before being converted to a rack operation. The line takes you into the forested area of Adlisberg within minutes and, with a steep gradient (almost 20% in parts), you’re treated to some splendid views and beautiful scenery. At the summit, the Dolder Grand Hotel and the Dolder recreation area allow you to relax and unwind before you take the train down back to the city.
Zurich old town is the conventional favourite with tourists, so head over to the hip and stylish Zurich West neighbourhood. Earlier home to industrial establishments, warehouses, and ship building yards, it is now an effervescent quarter with a distinct creative bonhomie. While here, do not miss the Prime Tower, Switzerland’s second tallest skyscraper, and the Viadukt, a refurbished railway viaduct housing restaurants, pubs, and boutique shops within its arches.