Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Photoblog: 5+ Things You Didn't Know About Zürich + Switzerland

More pics at the bottom!
  • ZÜRI FÄSCHT. This 3-yearly festival is a BIG EVENT, which makes it all the more surprising no-one outside of Switzerland has heard of it. There were 2.3 million people in Zürich over one weekend, with streets full of music stages, caipirinha bars, shot bars, dodgem cars, cocktail bars, würst stands, ferris wheels and fairground amusements, along with attractions like high-diving, aerobatic planes, motorbike stunts, tightrope walking, camels, and the most amount of fireworks I've ever seen in my life. Seriously. In 30mins I saw more sky blown up than the rest of my life put together. I recommend seeing from a paddle boat on the lake. Mega.
The Fraumünster church, ferris wheel, tram, UBS, and the colours
of Switzerland and Zürich. Can't get more Swiss than that!

  • Swiss German is not German German. If you think 5 years of German in school means you can talk Swiss German, think again. The vocabulary is very different - take some of these basic phrases:

    EnglishGermanSwiss German
    HelloGuten TagGrüezi
    HiHalloHoi or Sali/Salü (yes like the French "salut")
    Thank youDankeMerci vilmal (yes like "merci" in French!)

    Not only that, they have an amusing accent - imagine a kind of Welsh version of German. The result? Even Germans have trouble understanding the German Swiss.

    It goes further though: you can pretty much say any of 4-6 things for basic expressions - whether it's German, French, Swiss, Italian, formal, informal, or even English.
High diving at the lake, part of Züri Fäscht

  • Everyone speaks 23 languages. Exaggeration? Perhaps. But consider the barbecue I went to, hosted by gorgeous educated Swiss people in their late-20s/early-30s, all designers and architects. Not only was there was German, Swiss German, English and French, but also Italian, Spanish and Portuguese (due to the Brazilians, who are apparently everywhere), and even one or two with Finnish, Russian, Hungarian. I was quite embarrassed to think about considering myself "international" with just very bad French and a handful of Thai.
The trampoline circus jugglers at sunset

  • Clocks and bells. One stereotype that isn't wrong is the Swiss and their clocks. You'd be forgiven for thinking the Swiss invented time itself. Zürich boasts the largest clock face in Europe (on St. Peter's Church), and everyone has a watch - Zürichers' way of being rebellious is wearing a cheap Casio instead of a big piece of chrome or gold.

    The church bells ring differently to the UK. Every quarter-hour gets one ring - 1 for 15mins past, 2 for 30, 3 for 45. Then on the hour, it rings 4 times, followed by 1 ring with a different bell for each hour. Near my friend's flat I stayed at, there were 2 churches - and they were about 15 seconds apart. Lots of bells.
One of Zürich's distinctive church towers and clocks.
Not pictured: the bells, the bells

  • ...And just everything else you don't know about Switzerland, because none of us do.
    • It's been a republican confederation since 1291, with 26 cantons (states/regions) who are all semi-independent
    • It's split into 4 linguistic/cultural regions - German, French, Italian and the Valleys, where the language "Romansh" is descended from vulgar Latin
    • The capital is Bern, the 4th biggest city. You probably can't name any cities in the Italian part, because Lugano (60,000 people) is the only one in the top 20 by population
    • There are 2 foreign enclaves which are fully enclosed by Switzerland: Büsingen am Hochrhein, part of Germany, and Campione d'Italia which is Italian
    • Basel's airport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg is jointly operated by France, Germany and Switzerland, and located entirely on French territory
    • Switzerland's direct democracy allows referendums by the people to overturn government laws or create new ones, from anything to building regulations to immigration, from selling bratwürsts at night to restricting bosses' pay (see below)
    • Switzerland's policy of "neutrality" means it is not in the EU and still uses Swiss Francs instead of Euros, but it is part of the Schengen Agreement allowing free movement of Europeans across borders
    • Switzerland still allows tobacco advertising in most (maybe all) forms, and you can see this on posters in the airport before you even get to customs. That said, the Swiss don't appear to smoke any more than everyone else in Europe, who all smoke everywhere.

Fireworks for Züri Fäscht. Hard to understate how many there were.

More Feuerwerk

Sunset over  Lake Zürich

Tightrope from the Grossmünster to St. Peter's, in front of the Fraumünster 

Ferris wheel and the Fraumünster

2 chaps up very high poles

The latin music stage right by the Fraumünster

The Grossmünster's two towers are Zürich's closest thing
to a distinctive skyline landmark.

One of Switzerland's famous referendum campaigns.
"Bratwürste Legalisieren" is ahead of a vote on changes to
the Labour Code which would forbid bratwürsts
being made & sold at night.

Meanwhile UNIA's "12x Is Rewarding Enough" is a
campaign to make bosses' pay a maximum of 12x their
lowest-paid workers.


  1. Very interesting, Jez. Thanks for a highly informative post about a great little country!

  2. Good stuff - I have been facted! (This is a new verb.)