Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Zurich Isn’t Just for Gnomes

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 1st July, 2019

ZurichAs I hadn’t been to Zurich for at least 30 years I was pleased that the latest ALDE Party Council took place in Switzerland’s financial capital at the weekend. My hazy memory of the earlier visit was of grey skies and rather grey people — it must have been winter — whereas this time Zurich could not have looked more different. Cloudless blue sky, high summer temperatures and an attractive mix of buildings old and new, most in an immaculate state or repair. The lake and waterways are an added charm and the local people naturally were spending a lot of time outdoors, by day and at night. Hundreds of restaurants, bars and cafés have tables outside in summer or are open to the street, yet without any feeling of being crowded or noisy. Of course there are tourists, but not that many.

The city has a brilliant integrated transport system, including a notably efficient and regular tram service. Everything, including the trains, runs on an honour system; I am sure there must be ticket inspectors, though I didn’t see one. The Zurich card (one or three days) that can be bought at the airport or central station allows one unlimited travel, even on the train to and from the airport, as well as entry to a number museums and other attractions. The ALDE Council met at the SIX Convention Point, a well-equipped but totally anodyne purpose-built small conference centre that could have been anywhere and was located on an uninspiring main road. So I was glad I had booked a hotel in the much groovier district of Wiedekon; lots of ethnic restaurants and laid-back bars. Yet also remarkably free of much traffic. I was woken each morning by birdsong more typical of the countryside than a city. And what of those gnomes that are part of Zurich’s stereotype? Bankers is dark suits busy managing other people;s money. Well, they are certainly not the predominant species that you will encounter in the streets, moreover the city seems to have attracted a largely younger crowd of residents, dressed down in shorts and t-shirts and not in the least grim.

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