We’re in the middle of a ten day train trip around the German-speaking countries of central Europe. When planning such a trip, determining the day of the week that you will be in certain places is a bit arbitrary. Often the start and the end dates are fixed and then it’s just a matter of joining up the places that are on the list.
And so it fell that we had an afternoon to explore Zurich on a Monday. Not the best day of the week as it turns out. Zurich Tourism had kindly given us ‘Zurich Passes‘ with which to explore the city. However, after an early coffee stop to peruse the accompanying guide, we realised that almost all of the attractions were closed on Mondays – all but a clock and watch museum and any exhibitions on in the Stadthaus.
But actually, when you’ve only got three or four hours to explore a place, it’s possible to end up being paralysed if you have too much choice. So rather than use an hour of the available time to look at all the options, make a decision and then scamper between attractions, we felt liberated by our lack of choice.
We wandered around backstreets in the Altstadt (old town), poking our noses down alleyways and taking in shop windows. This grotesque pair were actually in the window of a Spanish restaurant. We could take our time over taking pictures and whilst the clocks on the churches gave us time’s measure, we relished the moments, rather than feeling enslaved by them. It was cold – the temperature was about freezing – certainly chilly for the hands and face.
We found the watch and clock museum in the basement of the very exclusive Beyer watch store. I don’t think either of us had spent a second thinking of how many different mechanisms there are to tell the time – candles, steam, water, sun – as well as the more obvious mechanical means.
A five minute walk away was the Stadthaus – the city’s government office. This fin-de-siecle neo-Gothic building is actually quite a gem. A beaming gent at the reception desk pointed us up to the top floor where there were 18th century depictions of the Zurich Altstadt, which gave us great context for what we had seen in our earlier ambling.
And then we were done. No stress. No rush. Just a few hours well spent getting a sense of what makes Switzerland’s largest city tick. And then our own bodyclocks were telling us that it was dinnertime.
But before we finish up, we’ve got a question. We all know how the Swiss are known for their timepieces. But how many references to time-keeping did you spot in this piece?