I'm still waiting to get the lights switched back on in my flat after last weeks flooding incident, which would be winding me up more if it wasn't for a really great weekend with friends near Zurich. This had been planned for a while (they moved there 7 years ago and the intention has been to visit ever since), but somehow planning seems to get harder with age.
Thanks to being busy at work, then busy mopping up, I hadn't really thought much about this trip, and then very quickly realised I knew absolutely nothing about either Zurich, or Switzerland more generally, other than childhood memories of reading and watching Heidi, and that they make good chocolate.
The chocolate really is good, exquisitely good, but like everything I saw really, really, expensive (worth it though). I suppose I knew in a vague way how picturesque the country would be, but without much context - that it was so pretty everywhere we went was a bit of a surprise.
How clean everything is was another surprise (car parks particularly, clean, well lit, not the vaguely sinister places so many British ones seem to be, and classic cars everywhere so it often felt like being in a museum.). But also streets, the water, verges, just everything.
Switzerland is also synonymous with money (when I told people where I was going without fail the first thing they said was expensive), and there's clearly a lot of it around, which partly explains the cleanliness, the green spaces, and the sense of things running like clockwork. Central Zurich certainly has a feeling of luxury about it that I've never quite found anywhere else outside of a Bentley.
I was hanging out with architects so a lot of what we went to look at was building based (churches, train stations, opera houses, bridges) old and new. There were also cows actually wearing cow bells, fields full of flowers, a brilliant variety of birdlife for quite urban areas, a lot of agricultural in quite urban areas, and a general sense that it would be very easy to get used to life in Switzerland.
The flowers everywhere were a definite highlight - the verges by the roads hadn't been cut and were full of them without looking in the least untidy - I'd love to see more of this here.
In two days we also managed to see a lot, thanks entirely to having people who were happy to guide us around and drive us to all sorts of places. We had a good walk around the old parts of Zurich, along the river and down to the lake. Saw church windows by Chagall, Giacometti, and Sigmar Polke (he uses slices of agate in some of the windows of the Gross Munster, it's like being inside a kaleidoscope).
We went to Zug to buy torte from Konditorei Treichler, it was a favourite of Audrey Hepburn, seems to be made mostly from Kirsch and is delicious. Then to Lucerne to admire opera houses and train stations along with the more traditional buildings including the impressively exuberant Jesuit church. We admired the view down the lake from Schwyz towards some snow capped alps in the distance - they looked like ghosts of themselves just emerging from the sky - picture postcard perfect. Then it was up to the Benedictine abbey of Einsiedeln which was full on Rococco. Like a wedding cake.
I even found a really exciting gin, Tanqueray Malacca, at the airport. This was a limited edition a few years back, the middle of a run of 3, and one I missed. It looks like it's been done again for travel retail, but is only available if you're going outside the E.U. I've wanted to try that gin for the longest time, so before I'd even got on the plane things were looking good.