Jaza's World Trip

Exploring Zürich

Seeing that the weekend was over, and that Mark and Susi were back to work as usual, today it was up to me to keep myself occupied in Zürich. I didn't particularly have any sights left to see in the city: however, since my new ATM card is being sent here by courier (after I lost it), and since it hasn't yet arrived, I basically have to stay here and wait for it. So today, I decided to explore the city on my own a little bit. Sadly, my effort to go and visit both the Science Museum and the Kunsthaus (art gallery) were thwarted (not open on Monday — apparently, this is common for museums in Europe); however, I did find a nice coffee shop in the technical university, with nice cheap hot choc (and a heated interior, away from the bitter Zürich cold) inside. Plus, I saw a bit more of the city than I'd bargained on encountering.

In the afternoon, I ended up discovering "the other side of Zürich": a side that Mark and Susi neglected to show me; and a side that I never expected would even exist in a city like this. From the ritzy upmarket shops of the Bahnhofstrasse (the main street of town — strasse or straße means "street" in German, and you know how they love to shove their words together around here), I went west to Helvetiaplatz, and then north from there. And as it turns out, around here Zürich has a dodgy district to rival the dodgy districts of most other places in Europe. The entire area around here is packed with sex shops, with erotic bars, with dirt-cheap kebab take-aways, and with discount clothing bazaars. So dodgy was the area, that I even got offered drugs several times while walking along the street. What's going on: am I still in Zürich — supposedly one of the "cleanest" big cities in the world — or have I already hit Amsterdam?

The area north of Helvetiaplatz is a mere 10-minute walk from the upmarket boutiques of the Bahnhofstrasse — but it might as well be light-years away, because the two places are worlds apart. And funnily enough, my family declined from showing me around this side of town, or even from mentioning its existence. Anyway: I guess all those wealthy Zürich bankers need somewhere to go and have a bit of fun at night, after they finish work.

It's also quite the juxtaposition, the east and west sides of central Zürich. While the west side is seedy and dirty and (probably) plenty of fun, the east side is clean and beautiful... and very boring! Sure, the river and the lake are gorgeous; and sure, the shopping and the architecture are fancy. But seriously: Zürich is one of the most dull, sterile, and icy cities I've ever visited. I guess there's a flip side to every coin.

Filed in: ZürichSurpriseWanderingToursIronic