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We’ve been to the Zurich area three times now and each time only stayed there for a couple days using it as a staging area for further travel.

It’s NOT the Switzerland that you probably have in your head--sparkling Swiss Alps in all directions, etc. There are some hills around Zurich but the city is anything but sparkling. We found the people to be OKAY but by no means overly friendly. Language in Zurich is German, in case you were wondering. They don’t speak “Swiss!!”

Zurich is very expensive, no matter how you look at it. We stayed at the Swissotel on one visit and a sirloin steak dinner was $48 U.S. French fries were $8 US. If ya wanted butter with your roll that was an extra buck. Catsup at the Mickey-Ds with your fries was another 35 cents or so!

Zurich's ultra modern Kloten International Airport is a fine facility and seems to have outstanding security.  It's a great launching platform if you're heading to the Far East. 

Food is mainly German with brats and wiener schnitzel popular and they DO have those famous Swiss Fondue places you may have heard about. The potato rosti is a local favorite. One great restaurant we sampled during our first time in Zurich was Kronenhalle (our review).  At least I hope that's how they spell it.  Great schnitzel--veal or pork.  Their web site is here.

In some cases we ran into some downright unfriendly people in this city.  One day we set out to take a train to Basel for a little exploring and before leaving the hotel checked in with the concierge at the Swissotel.  We asked her to make reservations at a great fondue place and to make sure that they took credit cards.  This was our last night and last stop on this particular European trip and we were a little bit low on cold, hard cash.  Upon our return from the train station I checked back in at the concierge desk and she handed me the name of the restaurant along with the reservation confirmation.  My wife and I took one taxi to the restaurant and our son, daughter and her husband followed in a second cab.  Each cab fare to the restaurant was $30 U.S.  So just getting there cost us $60!  When we checked in at the restaurant they told us in no uncertain terms that NO credit cards were honored.  We asked if they might be able to change some U.S. dollars into Swiss francs and they literally showed us the door!  Another $60 cab ride and we were back at the hotel.  There was a little Italian place right next door that looked good.  It was jam packed.  It was getting late and after waiting out in the cold for about an hour we finally got inside and got a table.  We each ordered a calzone.  We saw smoke coming out of the kitchen and smelled an awful burning smell.  Turns out it was OUR food that had been scorched.  We appealed to the waiter to take it back and he had the gall to take his fingers, peel some of the charred dough off of it, and then suggest that we eat it.  I DEMANDED an immediate refund and we bailed.  By this time it was about 11:30 so we just sent our son, son-in-law and daughter out to fetch a few Big Macs.  We finally chowed down around 12:15am. So we had spent several hours in search of dinner, $120 on cab fares that got us nowhere and we wound up dining on food from Micky-Ds.  Oy...!

Swissair was a treat.  On our return from Zurich to Atlanta on one trip we flew on a Boeing 747-300.  As we taxied out onto the active runway, the captain came on the PA in a thick German accent and said:  "Take off in 2 minutes."  Later came:  "Take off in one minute."  Finally:  "Take off in 30 seconds."  And off we went with typical Swiss efficiency! 

Going over to Zurich from Atlanta one time on a Swissair 747-300 in first class I'll always remember awakening following the hop over the Atlantic.  The crew as preparing to serve breakfast and they were so proud to be able to offer a fresh egg!  Unheard of in airplanes!  They seemed eager for me to give it a try and I did.  I ordered the egg over easy and that's exactly the way they brought it to me.  They hovered over me until I sliced into the yolk to make sure it was perfect.

Sadly, the Swissair tradition came to a grinding halt in March of 2002 due to financial problems.  A new airline was born on April 1st.  It's called Swiss Air Lines and while it has the familiar red cross painted on the tail, it's a very different carrier from the Swissair that international travelers grew to love so much.

On our three visits to Zurich we were a little bit disappointed. Then again we were only there for two days each time.

That’s about all I can tell you about Zurich. If I ever go back I’ll probably use Zurich as a staging area again and head south to Italy or to some of the beautiful alpine resorts that Switzerland is so famous for.

Currency is the Swiss Franc. Driving is on the right. Passport required but no visa. Swissair (was) a great airline!

  Click here for photos of Zurich, Switzerland


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