Thursday, September 15, 2016

Storms + Sunshine in Zurich- A Tale of Two Cities

An empty street in Zurich's shopping district @ 8 PM
An empty street in Zurich's shopping district @ 8 PM
A wind rustles up the leaves which I brush away from my face as I walk down the nearly deserted streets of Zurich. A flash of lightning sears the sky. Before the clap of thunder reaches us, the dark clouds burst. Despite being mid-summer it's nowhere near warm enough outside to enjoy the precipitation. The downpour quickly transforms into a gale, blowing the large water droplets sideways, like taking a horizontal shower. 
An elderly lady on a bicycle and I seek cover under the awning of a building. "We haven't had much of a summer," she remarks. 
As the downpour abates, I head back out on Zurich's mean streets. Her restaurants are mostly empty, possibly on account of the weather ... Well, that and the window promotions featuring $28 Caesar Salads.
I'd rather donate to charity than to waste so much green on greens, so I head to the Coop brand grocery store. 
$6 mangoes-  
(the Swiss Franc is just about on par with the US Dollar.)
There I witness a crime- $6 mangoes.
Zurich is magnitudes more expensive than any other city I have visited, with only Oslo, Norway keeping pace. Swiss citizens living near Germany will often head over the border to stock up on groceries and other staples to insure healthier bank accounts.
The sky high-prices are absolutely correlated with the world's highest salaries, as the average hourly salary in Zurich is $33 an hour. Take that America!

Companies with offices in Switzerland adjust the pay of their employees upwards (a cost of living multiple.) Many foreigners working here take advantage of this by living as frugally as possible, smartly saving the extra money to spend in countries where it will buy much, much, much, much, much ... much much more.  
video: the quiet, empty streets of Zurich, Switzerland

At 8:10 PM, almost all the shops and restaurants are closed ... and this is in the center of town. I walk back home. My AirBnb host warned that the neighborhood is a little loud. I hear the same amount of noise outside as I would if I were floating through outer space, in a vacuum, wearing my Bose noise canceling headphones. I awake the next day wondering why I decided to book two nights in this boring town.
Prime Tower- Zurich's one "skyscraper"
Prime Tower- Zurich's one "skyscraper"

The architecture quickly becomes far more utilitarian, as I walk away from the city center, towards Prime Tower, Zurich's sole "skyscraper," which at 125 meters (410 feet) is not even a third the height of the Empire State Building. On a good day, I could leap over Prime in a single bound.

I walk inside and attempt to take the elevator to the top floor for a lookout over the city. A young man in a navy blue suit at the desk stops me, refusing me entry.
"I cannot let you up as you are wearing shorts."
"Look, it's actually sunny today. I walked all the way here, can you just let sneak up for a quick lookout?"
"No, I cannot," he states.
He's by no means rude, but he's very firm. Not following protocol, whatever extenuating circumstances, is simply not an option. I seriously doubt a $100 bribe (or 16 mangoes) would have made a difference. A little disgruntled I walk back towards the lake. 

the canal leading to Lake Zurich- with swans as decorations

a mansion I believe. Right by Lake Zurich

having fun by the Lake on a warm day

The area around Lake Zurich features the cities most opulent buildings, perfectly hedged bushes, and elderly trees scolding me for treading on their manicured grass. 
People are outside enjoying this beautiful afternoon. Sure they're paying $30 for a salad right in front of me, but at least there is life and activity, unlike yesterday. 
On the lake, people are jumping off high-dives built over the water, swimming, kayaking, and boating. 
I swim in the lake, meditate, and watch people enjoying their day; what a difference a little sunshine can make.

Nevertheless, I'm not sad to leave the following morning. Zurich has a dull feel to it, a stiffness if you will. Unless I'm opening a bank account I want to keep hidden, I'd have little interest in returning. 
a beautiful tree by Lake Zurich
a monster emerges from the ground
the beautifully decorated shop window
Zurich's Opera house
the nicest buildings are as always near the center
by the river feeding into the Lake


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