Zurich is really a beautiful city. I feel like I don’t talk about that enough- traveling is fun and all, but inhabiting the place you actually live is also fun. And I love the place I live, even if it’s a bit of a rarity that I’m actually there on a weekend. It’s a quaint little city perched on the lakeside under the towering shadow of the Alps, filled with cobblestone streets and soaring church spires and ABSOLUTELY NO trash or homeless people. I still don’t know how they manage this last, but it often leads to the sensation that I am living in a happy little bubble far distant from the problems of the world. I don’t know if this is good or bad for the psyche.
It’s no great secret that I love the mountains, but there’s a quieter sort of beauty to the rolling countryside around Zurich that I also love. There’s no end to walking or running or cycling paths, all marked out with the usual Swiss perfectionism. There are over 65,000km of marked trails in the country, which is more than the distance around the world! And it’s very diverse- my natural inclination is to make a beeline for the glacier strewn mountains farther south, but the local “mountain” Uetliberg” is wonderful for a midweek hard jog or walk upwards through the woods, a wonderful view over lake Zurich awaiting you. And it seems no matter where you go, you run into local farmers selling their wares, often by the honor system where they list the prices and leave self-serve homemade cheese and jam out in a little hut next to a bucket where you can drop the cash.
Last weekend was a pretty typical weekend “at home” and I thought for once it might be fun to record what a normal weekend in my doctoral student life in Zurich is like. At almost three years in, Zurich is truly home for me, and it is so nice to have made a little circle of friends and acquaintances to relax and enjoy the springtime weather with. One of my favorite parts of living here in Zurich (NOT in Switzerland as a whole, this is definitely not true in the countryside) is how international working life here is. In just this weekend my friends mentioned here were: German, Swiss, Italian, Australian, Mexican, French, and Spanish. No Americans at all on this particular weekend, although usually there is a smattering of them.
The blow by blow:
A normal 9-5 working day, although when the weather is so nice it can get hard to stay alllll the way until 5pm. Every week a rotating group of PhDs at my institute gathers at 5pm for after work beers, and today a group of 5 or 6 of us go down to the river and have panache (lemonade and beer mixed, also known as Radler in high German) at a little open air bar. My friend has brought her toddler along, so we spend a lot of time blowing bubbles and quacking at ducks in different languages (animal sounds in different languages is one of my favorite conversational topics).
Afterwards a couple of us eat burritos and then head to my friend Dayra’s birthday party. She has rented out a whole bar in the Langstrasse district, a part of Zurich known for its hard partying and (ahem) ladies of the night. She has provided open bar, bowls of gummy bears, unicorn balloons, and even a homemade tres leches cake- A+ birthday party.
I have a mission today. That mission includes reviving my bike. See, I don’t cycle in the winter for various reasons that boil down to the fact that I’m a wimp. One December day I biked to work and then decided it was just entirely too cold to bike back. It’s been there ever since. I haven’t really checked on it, but I suspected that 1) the tires would be flat or even possibly have holes in them, as I already had to patch one last fall, and 2) it is covered with dust from the construction site next door to my office.
It was also a beautiful spring day in the 70s, and I decided to kill two birds with one stone by taking a meandering jog to the office by way of a trail by my house down to the lake. This turns into more of an obstacle course once I reach the lake, as approximately 3/4s of the mobile population of Zurich has decided that this is the place to be and are walking around sunning their pale winter legs. Nevertheless, I make it to the office, drag my bike to a nearby bike store, and purchase two inner tubes for my tires. Then I stare at my bike for a while, a little bemused. I am just not the Fixit Type. Luckily I have friends who are. I call my friend Heidi and show up at her door, dusty bike in tow, still in my sweaty running outfit and no makeup. We have an awesome relaxing afternoon on her rooftop with her, her boyfriend, and another friend Anne while we hose down my bike and repair the brakes/tires. After a full day of relaxing in the sun, I pedal home for the first time in 2017, pondering how nice it is to have friends who accept emergency calls from sweaty runners who need bike first aid.
This same friend Heidi has now organized a bike tour for five of us along the Sihl river into the countryside. I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea to kick off biking for the first time with a full day 70ish km hilly tour, especially as I was already a little sore just from 40 minutes of biking home the day before, but overdoing it seems to be a general theme in my life. Let’s just say, sore bums are the worst.