My journey of discovering the novelty of seasons continues with my latest (third) trip to Zurich.
An upbringing in Florida affords one many benefits thanks to the almost total lack of seasonality. These include a narrow spectrum of required clothing items, perennial access to the water, and nearly endless sunshine, useful when you want to be outside for any reason.
Vitamin D is in no shortage either. Weather-related depression is not a frequent ailment like it can be in places like Seattle.
When a Florida native moves to a place further from the Equator, the seasonal swing of temperatures and generosity of sunlight can be quite curious and awe-inspiring.
Milan is a different place in July than it is in January, as many places are, but the contrast is not as drastic as what I have experienced in Zurich during my first, second, and now third trips. The Milanese typically leave as often as they can during the warmer months; there is not a strong â€œcelebrate in placeâ€ mindset.
Zurich is completely different. While summer holidays are enjoyed far and wide by all, Zurich throws itself a couple of big parties during the summer, and flicks the switch on myriad seasonal venues to serve the young, beautiful, and moneyed. Maybe its placement between crisp alpine waters (Limmat and Sihl rivers and Lake Zurich) and relative isolation from beachfront give it less of an escapist mindset in the summertime.
My first trip was just after the new year in January, and as one would expect, it was brisk. If memory serves, it rained nearly the entire time. We found fun things to do nonethelessâ€”my host and friend Matt is no slouch in sniffing out fun. And curling up with a hot beverage and enjoying the chill still tickled this Floridian.
By April, I was done with winter in Milan, so imagine my disappointment when Zurich was again wet and chilly. In fact, painfully cold at times, as we stood outside watching a burning snowman for many hours, under umbrellas.
Matt promised that sometimes Zurich was kinder, but I was beginning to think it may just be a cold, dreary, serious city known for serious stuff like banking and fine watches.
Meanwhile, in August in Milan, the city starts bleeding bodies early in the month to vacations in more exotic and relaxing destinations, like Ibiza and Paros.
I myself took to Amsterdam in July to escape the Italian heat and enjoy some northern-Europe efficiency and order.
But last week, Matt texted me and suggested I come to Zurich for the weekend, to partake in streetparade, anÂ event very similar to Gasparilla, for those reading in Tampa.
On a whim, I bought the ticket and hopped on the train on Friday. And boy Iâ€™m glad I did!
I donâ€™t want to overstate it, but Zurich in the summer, under a cloudless sky, is a completely different place. Outdoor bars and restaurants abound. Daylight lasts until 9pm.
There is an attitude of jubilation and delight, like the only thing anyone should be doing for those precious hours is sipping a beer or smoking a cigarette and chatting with a new friend under the pink sky. I met quite a few lovely people, all with impressive resumes and the intellect to hold a witty, incisive conversation in short order.
Light jackets are only needed at night. In other words, it is the perfect temperature for sartorialists to design a multilayer outfit without much added weight.
Streetfair was, as Gasparilla is, not really my thing. Day drinking begins early, and under the heat of constant sun, it can easily go awry. However, the underlying spirit was lovely. Happy people, pretty bodies and a fascinating mix of colors, cultures, languages, all in unity for a party on the lakefront.
The culmination of the weekend for me was a daytime party on Sunday at a river-side bar in the Limmat.
In essence, it is a beachfront recreated along the seawall of the rapidly-moving teal green waters, where you can jump in and out with ease, procure drinks and snacks, people-watch, and listen to DJ-ed music all day long. I think we were posted there for the better part of six hours.
As a sidebar, it is worth noting that upon initial judgement, Zurich was not a place I felt had so many attractive, health-conscious bodies. This time it was the complete opposite. Skin, skin, skin everywhere! And it looked good. I exercise regularly and eat consciously, and I felt on the pudgier side compared to many this weekend.
Nonetheless, it was a sight to see.
The city really is a much nicer place to be in the summer, and it has a distinctly, ironically, Seattle-esque feeling this time of year. This shouldn’t be so surprising. The two share characteristics like proximity to water and mountains, and probably aren’t too different in latitude.
The hilly nature of both cities, combined with unbeatable summer ambiances and populations keen on biking, walking, or taking public transit, makes it easy to blink and mistake one city for the other.
Zurich is, of course, far older and therefore a much more compact, walkable place than Seattle. Now and as before, the breadth of its train, tram, and bus systems impresses me. It also addresses one of my complaints of Milanâ€”that nothing works as well as it should.
True to stereotype, very few things in Switzerland sit broken for long. And beyond that, many systems are so logical, a child could interpret and use them effectively without much effort. These are the little things in life that satisfy my exacting, particular nature.
On the other hand, Swiss people can be strange, and Zurich itself is at once distinctly Swiss (while also being fairly German), and also indeterminate. There are so so many expats working there, coming from elsewhere, that has a cosmopolitan flavor in one moment and an anonymous, almost bland flavor the next.
For a foreigner, Zurich is also very expensive. However, for those living there and earning CHF, it is not quite as jarring to spend 32CHF on two roast-beef sandwiches from a street cart or 15CHF on a beer.
For reasons subjective and objective, it has become a fun place for me to visit and be among friends. Matt is a familiar face from Florida, and he has introduced me so many interesting, nice people.
This will hopefully not be my last trip there, especially during this special summer period. Zurich has a far more exciting summertime attitude than other cities in which Iâ€™ve lived or visited, and while it is undoubtedly dreary much of the rest of the year, maybe this is why efforts are stepped up when the opportunity presents itself to relax, enjoy, and be happy.
See my Zurich Spots map here.