Zurich, the most important manufacturing town of Switzerland, and the capital of a canton distinguished above all others for prosperous industry, has 14,500 inhabitants, and lies at the North end of the lake of Zurich, and on the banks of the Limmat, just where it issues out of the lake in a rapid and healthful stream, clear as crystal.
Ah, Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city and now boasting 400,000 inhabitants, each just as prosperous as its industry.
I guess the best place to start Murray’s tour of the city would be where it all began, up on the hill, at Lindenhof.
A Roman station, Thuricum, fixed on this spot, probably gave rise both to the town and its name.
I guess I’m not alone when I read that paragraph in Murray’s notes whilst picturing Michael Palin and Graham Chapman playing Pontius Pilate and Biggus Dickus in “Monty Python’s Life Of Brian”…
“Thitizens! We have Thamthon the Thadduthee Thtrangler, Thilus the Athyrian Athathin, theveral theditiouth thcribth from Thaetharea…”.
It was interesting to learn that Thurich, sorry, Zurich, acted as Switzerland’s capital in 1837, alternating with Bern and Luzern for two years at a time. Many non-Swiss are surprised to learn that it is not actually the capital today, despite being the country’s largest city and financial centre. Come to think of it, many non-Swiss are surprised to learn that Stockholm is not the capital of Switzerland.
Given that Zurich is a grand city, made up of mainly old historic buildings, it was also fascinating to read that, when Murray visited in 1837, a key time in Zurich’s development, it all seemed rather modern and, in fact, many of its famous buildings were under construction at the time of his visit.
The flourishing condition of the town is visible in improvements going forward in it, in the number of new buildings rising in and around it. The banks of the lake and Limmat, and all the neighbouring hills, are thickly dotted over with houses, which by the removal of the useless and inconvenient ramparts, will soon be united with the town itself, forming a wide circle of suburbs.
From Lindenhof, the historical site of the Roman castle, you get a great view of the city and its incredibly expensive suburbs, which have indeed morphed into the town following the removal of the city walls and towers, with construction work permanently visible somewhere on the horizon still to this day.
Heading down the hill and over Rudolf-Brun-Brücke (known as Oberer Mühlesteg back in 1837), I followed one of Murray’s personal recommendations:
The voituriers (Lohnkutschers) of Zurich have the reputation of being extortioners and uncivil. The writer can, from experience, recommend an exception to this rule (if rule it be) one Jacob Aberli, living in the Hirschgasse, as having served him with honesty, punctuality, and civility, for more than four weeks.
A “voiturier” or “Lohnkutscher” was basically a private horse drawn carriage driver, the Uber Black driver of his day. I’m guessing even the most dishonest, late and discourteous voiturier would have stepped up his game when some rich English explorer came into town requiring transportation for an entire month.
Hidden behind no. 82 Limmatquai, Hirschengasse is so narrow, I’m not sure where Jacob would have parked his horse and cart and I was tempted to call in the Hotel Hirschen, which also existed back in the day, or knock on the door of No.7 (where I imagined he lived) to ask where they hid their horses.
Heading through Zurich’s Old Town along the quaint Niederdorfstrasse, it’s fascinating to think that whilst today these stunning mid to late 19th Century buildings fill the photograph albums or Instagram and Facebook pages of tourists from all over the world, back in 1837 Murray was decidedly, true to form, unimpressed.
Apart from its agreeable situation and thriving manufactures, there is not much to be seen in Zurich. There are no fine buildings here: that of the most consequence is the Cathedral or Gross Münster, on the right bank of the Limmat.
He goes on to say that the Grossmünster was built in the 10th or 11th Century, giving himself a margin of error by 100 years (building actually commenced in 1100), and that it is “worthy of respect from having been the scene of Zwingli’s bold preachings of reformation in the church, and amendment of morals.”
Having seen how the Protestant reformer, Jan Hus, had featured so prominently in the previous route (Route 7), becoming a national hero in the Czech Republic for his martyrdom at Konstanz, I was starting to sense that, with Zwingli in Zurich, the Catholic church in the region seemed to have a powerful control over anybody with differing interpretations of their Holy Book, not too unlike ISIS in Syria or political opponents to the North Korean or Chinese governments or, dare I suggest without fear of having plutonium placed in my afternoon tea, Vladimir Putin.
Inspired by Erasmus (the famous student party organiser from Route 1), Zwingli was famous for attacking the custom of fasting during Lent, an incident which became known as “The Affair Of The Sausages”, he promoted clerical marriage (which could be called “The Affair Of The Sausage, Part II”), he was responsible for introducing a new communion to replace Mass, and he publicly called for the removal of statues of saints and other icons (presumably referring to the one in Montreux of Freddie Mercury, the greatest icon of all), an instruction that was followed with iconoclastic riots all over Europe.
It is a heavy, massive building, in a style of architecture resembling that called Norman in England; very plain within and without, but interesting in the eye of the architect and antiquary.
I’m not sure how big the scales were, which Murray used to measure the building’s weight, and I’d love to know what the modern day Zurichois think of such a respected guide calling their biggest landmark “very plain”, however the whole paragraph reminded me of a conversation I’d had previously with a Swiss friend who was complaining that his country lacked any “statement buildings” like you find elsewhere in Europe. He accurately summarised that Swiss architecture reflected the nature of his compatriots as a whole; “always practical, occasionally pretty but never looking to show off their importance.”
Avoiding the security guards who enforced the “no photographs” and “no ice cream” rules, I tried my best to take as many shots as I could whilst trying to prevent my Magnum from melting.
Its nave is supported on square pillars and round arches
Beneath it is a very perfect crypt.
Its circular portal, and the adjoining cloisters raised upon small low triple arches, with slender columns and capitals of various patterns, fantastically carved, are very curious.
More curious, is the climb to the tower where you get one of the best views of the city and the lake.
Leaving the Grossmunster, my legs rather tired from climbing the tower, I headed up the rather fittingly renamed Zwingliplatz, to what is now Kirchgasse 13.
The house in which the reformer Zwingli passed the last six years of his life is still standing: it is No.185 in the Grosse Stadt.
I love how buildings which once housed famous people are pointed out. I understand celebrating their birthplace, however the building in which an aging Zwingli “passed the last six years of his life”, during which time he had finished pushing the boundaries of the church and was probably just sat back relaxing, living on his fame of past glories and counting the royalty cheques from his Reformation hits, reminds me of my time living in Vienna.
There, almost every building boasts a plaque claiming to be the home of Mozart, Beethoven or some other famous wig wearer, when, in reality, they just stayed there a couple of nights, crashing on their mate’s sofa. I want to see the dressing room in which Mozart collaborated with Casanova to compose “Don Giovanni” (yes, it’s true), or, for that matter, the bedroom in which Casanova lost his virginity (to two sisters no less), not some place they spent their lonely end days, probably bitter with life and reminiscing about “the good old days” amid thoughts of “putting the band back together again”.
Heading back down to the Limmat, I got to meet the man himself, as the Ulrich Zwingli Denkmal stands proud at the end of Kirchgasse.
Like Jan Hus before him in the Czech Republic, Zwingli is celebrated all over Switzerland, and there are statues all across the country in his honour, including this one and another, which was erected in the year Murray published his book, near Kappel am Albis, where he died in 1531. All of which seems rather ironic, seeing as he influentially preached about the removal of statues and icons.
The inns at Zurich are notoriously dirty, high priced and ill attended: they have hitherto enjoyed a monopoly, and there has been no inducement to improve. But at this time (1837) two large new inns are building – one near the outlet of the Limmat from the lake, on the right bank of the river; the other near the new post office.
The first hotel which Murray says was responsible for breaking this monopoly, was the Hotel Du Lac at Limmatquai 16 (as shown on this etching from 1845), directly opposite Zwingli’s statue. This stretch was originally called Sonnenquai and, like the hotel, was built around the time Murray visited. No longer a hotel, today it is home to the Molino Select Italian restaurant. [MENU]
Another hotel long since gone is the Gasthof zum Raben (The Raven), which was located next to the Hotel du Lac at Hechtplatz, which, up until the construction of Limmatquai around the time of Murray’s visit, used to reach the water’s edge (as you can see from this etching from the 1820s). An unlikely legend says that it was supposedly named after the two murderers of St.Meinrad of Einsiedeln, who supposedly hid in the inn whilst on the run in 861. Today the building houses Restaurant Le Cedre, which serves Lebanese cuisine. [MENU]
Talking of ravens, my favourite bar in the whole world (and I review bars for BestBarsEurope.com) is The Old Crow at Schwanengasse 4, just around the back of the Haus zum Schwert. I’m sure, had it been around at the time, it would have made Murray’s choice of recommended inns, not least for its rare whisky collection alone.
Zwingli’s statue was erected in 1885, some 50 years after Murray visited the adjacent building.
The Town Library, close to the New stone bridge, in a building formerly a church (Wasserkirche), contains, in addition to 45,000 printed volumes and MSS, three autograph Latin letters of Lady Jane Grey, addressed to her preceptor, Bullinger, in a beautiful clear and regular hand – a few grammatical errors have been remarked in them.
The “new stone bridge” is the Münsterbrücke, which was still being built when Murray visited, opening in 1838 when his Handbook went to print.
Obviously taken aback by Lady Jane’s pretty handwriting and spelling mistakes, Murray fails to mention the significant story of the building’s history:
The beautiful Wasserkirche and the attached Helmhaus became a library in 1634 after previously being home to a cult and, according to medieval tradition, is said to be built on the spot where St Felix and St Regula were executed. The two Egyptian-born siblings are the Patron saints of Zurich and are still celebrated today, although they could quite easily be the Patron saints of the Scottish Highlands when you hear about the miracle which saw the church bestow sainthood on them.
Fleeing persecution from Glarus, presumably by foot rather than camel, they were finally caught in Zurich where, on this spot, they were tried and decapitated by, I think, Connor MacLeod of the clan MacLeod and, if by a miracle (hmmm) or “a kind of magic”, they each collected their own severed heads up from the floor, and carried them up the adjacent hill (where the Grossmunster now stands). Despite Felix’s record-breaking time of 22.47 seconds and Regula’s impressive 23.68, each being qualifying standard for Team Egypt in the Headless 50m at the ancient Paralympics of AD 286, they both sadly died here, leaving Connor MacLeod to enjoy the Quickening. “There can be only one!”
Of course, as with all these sainthoods, the miracle was only ever witnessed by one person (whose sanity is never called into question). In this case, by a monk called Florentius… some 700 years later… in a dream (after he had consumed too much cheese before bedtime).
Now I’m not saying that Roman Catholics and the people of Zurich are gullible. OK, maybe I am, however Brother Flo’s rather unconvincing tale is largely seen as being responsible for converting the people of the region to Christianity. Thankfully he didn’t share the same kind of dreams that I have, otherwise Zurich could have become a rather debauched city instead.
Also in the library, Murray details “a bust of Lavater, by Dannecker”, “a portrait of Zwingli and his daughter, by Hans Asper”, “a model in relief of a large part of Switzerland”, “fossils of the Glarus slate, chiefly fishes, from Plattenberg”, and, best of all, “some very curious fossils from Œhningen, including one described by Scheuchzer as a human skull, though in reality a portion of a lizard.” An easy mistake to make.
Today, the Helmhaus is an exhibition space and the Wasserkirche has returned to being a church since 1942. The “Zurich Letters” of Lady Jane Grey, the Protestant Queen of England, Ireland and France, who was imprisoned and executed just nine days into her reign and replaced with her Catholic sister, “Bloody” Mary have since been moved into the impressive Zentralbibliothek Zürich, which opened in 1917 at Zähringerplatz 6, uniting all the city’s libraries under one roof.
The Rathaus, a massive square building close to the lower bridge, and opposite The Sword, is the place of meeting of the Diet, when it assembles in Zurich.
The beautiful Rathaus, a few doors along, is largely ignored by the passing tourists, largely due to its entrance being located on the shaded narrow Limmatquai, a road still under construction when Murray visited.
It is best viewed from the waterside.
In the council-chamber is an extravagant painting of the Oath at Grutli, by Henry Fuseli (properly Füssli), who was born here.
The chamber is still open to the public, with at least one month’s reservation required to attend the council meetings, held on a Monday. The painting “Die drei Eidgenossen beim Schwur auf dem Ruttli”, 1789, by the celebrated Zurich artist, who would move to England and influence the likes of William Blake, is now on display at The Tate Gallery in London. It dramatises the moment the three original cantons, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden swore an oath at Rutli meadow on August 1, 1291, to overthrow the tyrannical rule of the Austrian empire and form the Swiss Confederation.
Crossing Untere Brücke, or Rathausbrücke, as it is now known, and still commonly nicknamed “Gmüesbrugg” (vegetable bridge) after the old market stalls that used to sit on the wooden crossing in Murray’s time, I was interested in the Dolce & Gabbana store. Not for the clothes – which are bloody expensive, even without a weak pound and strong Franc – but its location, in the former Hotel Zum Schwert (The Sword), one of Murray’s recommended inns.
His other recommended inn, The Hotel zum Storchen sits opposite.
ZURICH ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANTS:
Schwerdt (Epée) – overlooking the Limmat, close to the broad wooden bridge which serves as a market place – expensive, and neither good nor very clean. Beds 3 fr. – in private 4 fr.; tea and breakfast, 2 fr.
A guesthouse had existed in the large Haus zum Schwert at Weinplatz 10 from 1421 and, under the guise of Hôtel de L’Epée, became the best hotel in Zurich, welcoming famous guests like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms, Giacomo Casanova, Louis Napoleon, Alexandre Dumas, Tsar Alexander of Russia, Franz Liszt, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Victor Hugo, Chuck Norris, King Frederick William III of Prussia, King Gustav Adolf IV of Sweden and Emperor Joseph II of Austria, amongst a whole host of royalty. A few months after Murray’s book had gone to print in 1838, the Hôtel Baur en Ville (now the Savoy) opened nearby and, the competition it posed, with presumably better and cleaner rooms, proved to be, rather fittingly, the death sword to the Epée. Since 1918, the building has belonged to the city and its ground floor is home to the Dolce & Gabbana store.
Storch (Cycogne), table d’hote, with wine 2 fr. 8 sous; bed 2 fr.; breakfast 1 fr. 4 sous.
The Hotel Storchen next to the Schwerdt dates back to 1357 and was rebuilt in its current form in 1938, 100 years after Murray’s book was released. Today, a room will set you back a hefty CHF 488 a night, whilst the table d’hote in the popular restaurant now costs CHF 100, CHF 170 with wine. A business lunch is half the price and, whilst waiting for your food, you can read about the history of the hotel here.
Walking down the beautiful riverside promenade alongside the Storchen, you soon reach the Fraumünster church, which Murray refers to as the “Liebfrauen Kirche”, not to be mistaken with the beautiful Liebfrauen Kirche on Weinbergstrasse, near the station, which was built in 1893.
The New Post Office and Diligence Office is built near the Liebfrauen Kirche. A letter reaches England in six days.
The new post office opened around the time “Murray’s Handbook” was going to print in 1838 on Poststrasse, next to the Fraumünster in the building, now known as Zentralhof, and home to the Gucci store and the Zwicker optician.
I was astonished to read that it only took six days for a letter to reach England 180 years ago, when it isn’t much quicker nowadays despite the invention of planes, trains and automobiles.
Diligences go daily to Schaffhausen, Constance, Basle, Bern, Neuchatel, Lucerne, Schwytz, Winterthur, and St. Gall, Rapperschwyl, and Coire; four times a week to Glarus.
Presumably, the diligence and post horses were kept in the building’s beautiful inner courtyard, Zentralhof.
ZURICH ACCOMMODATION / RESTAURANT:
The most important hotel to shake up the scene in Zurich, was the one Murray refers to, “near the new post office”. The Hôtel Baur en Ville (now the 5 star Savoy), was constructed the same year as his visit, and whilst it is no longer“notoriously dirty” or “ill attended”, it is just as“high priced” as ever, with rooms costing from a whopping CHF 690 a night.
Behind the Bauer en Ville, you will find the Zeughauskeller, a restaurant located in another of Murray’s highlights.
The Old Arsenal (Alt-Zeughaus) contains some ancient armour; also a cross-bow, said to be (?) that with which William Tell shot the apple from his son’s head: and several tattered standards, taken by the Swiss from their enemies, including one of Charles the Bold of Burgundy. This collection is inferior to those in several other Swiss cantons.
Perhaps Murray had become sceptical of Zurich’s claims following his human lizard skull disappointment at the Wasserkirche library, hence his “(?)”, however you can make your own mind up if indeed the crossbow is that of (whisper it quietly in these parts), the fictional character, Wilhelm Tell, whilst enjoying your Zürcher Geschnetzeltes in the former Zeughaus, which dates back to 1487 and remained as the city’s armoury until 1867.
Incredibly, when the Zeughaus moved location to larger premises on the other side of the River Sihl in 1867, the Altes-Zeughaus became a private residence. Since 1926, it has been the Zeughauskeller, the city’s most popular restaurant, serving traditional Swiss dishes, based on recipes that pre-date Murray’s times, including Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, Bürgermeister Schwert, Möckli, Kalbsleberli, Rösti and metre long Kanonenputzer sausages.
Fully fed, I only had to walk around the corner to Murray’s next stop, the Kirche St.Peter.
The Church of St.Peter (with the large clock), on the left bank of the Limmat, had for its minister, for 23 years, Lavater, the author of the renowned work on physiognomy, who was born at Zurich.
Not having a clue what physiognomy was, I decided to do some research. It turns out, as I suspected, that it is the study of the facial expressions of garden gnomes.
On the capture of the town by the French army, September 26, 1799, he was shot, within a few steps of his own door, by a brutal French soldier, to whom, but two minutes before, he had given wine and offered money, and while he was in the act of assisting another soldier who had been wounded.
It must have been shit wine.
A high reward was offered by Masena, the French commander, for the discovery of the murderer; but, though known to Lavater and his family, he refrained from informing against him.
This was obviously in the days before Poirot, Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes, however Murray’s notes left me somewhat confused at first reading; no wonder Lavater refrained from grassing up his “murderer”: it’s not an easy thing to do when you are dead.
I headed across the church square to his house opposite, at St. Peter-Hofstatt 6, to see if I could find any clues to help solve the murder.
Only, on further reading, Murray reveals that Lavater hadn’t actually been murdered. Well, at least, not quite yet:
After lingering through three months of excruciating agony, he expired, Jan.2, 1801, at the parsonage: his grave is marked by a simple stone in the churchyard of St. Anne; where Ebel, author of the Swiss Guide, and Escher von der Linth (Route 14) are also buried.
Lavater’s grave has been moved from St. Anna-Kapelle, which was demolished in 1912 to make way for the department store which is now the Co-Op City St.Annahof at Bahnhofstrasse 57 – a new Protestant church and orphanage was built nearby, at St. Annagasse 11, in 1848 (ten years after Murray’s book went to print). Lavater’s body was exhumed and reburied, more fittingly, at the church in which he was minister. Interestingly, more recent studies of his skeleton have lead some scholars to believe that it wasn’t actually his body buried in his grave. Elvis has not left the building.
Peculiarly, the steeple of Lavater’s church, Kirche St.Peter, on which the largest church clock face in Europe stands, is owned by the city of Zürich, while the nave is owned by the parish, the first Protestant church to be built in Switzerland, in 1706.
It would be remiss of me to not mention the other dead dudes namechecked by Murray; Johann Gottfried Ebel and his housemate, Conrad Escher von der Linth. Ebel is recognised as writing the first real travel guide to Switzerland in 1793, after three years of research. Focusing on geological and historical content, “Anleitung, auf die nützlichste und genussvollste Art in der Schweitz zu reisen” was released in two volumes, presumably as its title was too long to fit on the cover of just one edition. The book was formatted with each of the towns arranged in alphabetical order and published in English with the more catchy title, “Ebel’s Traveller’s Guide through Switzerland”, in 1818. It was recognised as being the best guide to Switzerland until John Murray rode into town in 1837. Interestingly, Ebel lived with the family of Escher von Linth, the pioneering canal engineer who is the main subject in Route 14.
On the side of Lavater’s house is the beautiful Michelin-recommended Kaiser’s Reblaube, located in one of the oldest buildings in town, dating back to 1270 and used as Lavater’s vicarage from 1778. The poet Goethe came to visit Lavater in 1779, probably staying in the room that is now known as the “Goethe-Stübli”, and from which he wrote of Lavater: “He is the best, greatest, wisest, sincerest of all mortal and immortal human beings I have ever known”, no doubt adding “but his wine is shit.” The vicarage was turned into an inn in 1880 and remains one of the best restaurants in town, with a much improved wine list since the days of Lavater. It takes its name from the hilarious tale of its owner in the 17th Century, who grew vines on the roof and sold the wine on the ground floor. Occasional gusts of wind would tip the vines over onto the neighbouring house, so he cheekily attached poles to both buildings to support his plants. His neighbour was less than happy and successfully sued him. Thus the property ended up in the records as “Zur Reblaube” (which translates as “a canopy of vines”).
Around the corner from the Lavaterhaus, is a series of buildings focused around the Augustinerkirche.
In 1832-3, a University was established at Zurich, and many professors, expelled from other countries for their political opinions, have repaired hither as teachers. The most eminent of them is Oken. As yet the number of students is not great.
Today the University of Zurich is one of the most prestigious in the world and has grown massively since the days Lorenz Oken taught that there are only five classes of animals (invertebrates, fish, reptiles, birds, mammals and Donald Trump). Its original building has long been demolished by the ugly modern concrete blocks at the back of the church, with only the “Strohof” building remaining at Augustinergasse 1.
The building of the suppressed Augustine Convent has been appropriated to its use, and considerable additions to it are contemplated.
Indeed, the university now boasts many buildings (high up on the hill above the city) and the Augustinerkirche church has been returned to its catholic parishioners.
The Library contains many MSS of the early reformers.
Like the library at the Wasserkirche, these important manuscripts can now be found at Zentralbibliothek Zürich with a whole department dedicated to them.
The Museum Club contains a capital reading-room, where Galignani, The Times, John Bull, Examiner, Athenaeum, and Literary Gazette, Quarterly and Edinburgh Reviews are taken in; besides all the best Continental journals. Travellers can be introduced for a few days by a member.
Although I can’t locate where “The Museum Club” would have been located, I could picture Murray hanging around on Augustinergasse, stood outside the Literature Museum Strauhof (and home to the Zurich James Joyce Foundation), trying to accost anybody who would enter its door, begging mercifully for a temporary membership or, at the very least, last quarter’s edition of the Edinburgh Review. I can only wonder what he’d make nowadays of being able to access the latest breaking fake news stories from back home, beamed from cyberspace via a 4G smartphone connection.
At the shop of Henry Füssli and Co., near the stone bridge, will be found the best collection of maps, views &c., such as travellers often require to supply themselves with.
I can’t be sure which building near the Münsterbücke housed the bookshop, however, it’s more than likely it was owned by the same Henry Füssli who painted the aforementioned “Oath at Grutli” in the Rathaus. A painter, writer and publisher, he died in London 10 years prior to Murray’s visit. I’m still to decipher if this little shop grew into the Orell Füssli chain of bookstores, who boast 31 branches around Switzerland, five in Zurich alone, including one at Füsslistrasse 4, which is not “near the stone bridge”, but next to the former St. Anna-Kapelle.
The Museum of Natural History some good specimens of Swiss minerals and fossils, together with the Herbarium of John Gessner.
The Museum of Natural History was formed with the university in 1833. The Zoologische Museum has since moved to a larger impressive building attached to the new university building and still boasts minerals and fossils amongst 1500 animals.
One of the most pleasing features about Zurich is its promenades and points of view. The best of them is decidedly the Cat’s Bastion (Katzen Bastei), an elemented mound commanding a delightful view of the town, lake, and distant Alps, which originally formed a part of the fortification, and it has been deservedly preserved, though the adjoining ramparts are cut away. It has now assumed the peaceful shape of a garden and shrubbery.
Now known as the Alter Botanischen Garten, the University moved their botanical garden here in 1837, the same year that Murray visited. Still one of the only places in town where can you see the original city fortifications, it has been lovingly preserved despite the university moving the main gardens to a new complex in 1977. At the highest point of the park, a 16th Century herb garden has been created in honour of the naturalist and town physician Conrad Gessner, of whom John Gessner was a descendent.
Nothing can be more delightful than the view at sunset from this point, extending over the smiling and populous shores of the beautiful lake to the distant peaks and glaciers of the Alps of Glarus, Uri, and Schwytz, tinged with the most delicate pink by the sinking rays.
The mound is certainly less elemented than when it was built and its view no longer as breathtaking, however these old pictures show what Murray would have enjoyed back in 1837.
It’s at the Katzen Bastei that you get the best idea of the old city ramparts that were largely being removed at the time of Murray’s visit. Here, the medieval city walls can still be seen running along the Schanzengraben moat.
Most of Zurich’s fortifications were demolished around the time Murray was writing his notes, with the two towers, he mentions, “Wellenburg” demolished that year and “Keltzer Thurm” (Ketzerturm) in 1878 – there’s still a few bricks left from the original city wall at the former site of the Heretics’ Tower (Ketzerturm), across town on Gräbligasse, where “the unfortunate Reformers” were confined “during the religious troubles of Switzerland”.
When you see how beautiful some of these medieval towers and bulwarks were, especially in comparison to some of the concrete monstrosities that stand on their locations now, you have to wonder about the mentality of town planners throughout the ages. That said, Murray reveals the growth of the city at that time was largely down to “the removal of the useless and inconvenient ramparts” which was taking place during his visit in 1837.
Fortunately, some of the towers still stand (although not mentioned by Murray), and you can spot the secret annex of the demolished Manesseturm at Napfgasse (now Cafe Schober), the beautifully preserved Grimmenturm on Spiegelgasse, the Brunnenturm, further up the hill (next to Turm Restaurant), Bilgeriturm at Neumarkt (now the Neumarkt Gartenwirtschaft restaurant), and the Glentnerturm at Limmatquai 76.
Down at the lake,
A Steam-boat goes twice a-day from Zurich to the other end of the lake (Rapperschwyl) and back. Diligence convey passengers thence to Wesen, where another steamer is prepared to carry them across the lake to Wallendstadt (Route 14). Travellers proceeding to the Righi may take the boat as far as Horgen.
Paddle steamers were new when Murray visited, with the first ship, the “Minerva”, made by William Fairbairn of Manchester, setting sail on the lake, 19th July 1835.
Now, don’t forget, this was the time before the automobile, the train and even the Manchester Ship Canal, so you can only imagine the effort which went from transporting the ship all the way to Lake Zurich. After construction, she was broken down into pieces and sent over the Pennines to Hull (which wouldn’t have exactly been an easy journey in 1834). There, she was put together and made the long voyage over the North Sea to Rotterdam and thence up the Rhine to the Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen, where, once more she was again dismantled and carried overland to Zurich, where she was reassembled for the second time. The effort was certainly worthwhile as avid travellers were able to make their way from Zurich to Rapperswil and onwards over Walensee, with a ship being introduced on that lake in the summer of Murray’s visit. The shortcut to Horgen would have come as a big relief to those wanting to climb the Righi.
Whilst there are now ships going almost every hour of the day, the oldest paddle steamer is the Steamboat Stadt Zurich, built in 1909.
Back in 1837, Quaibrücke and the quays did not exist (built in 1885), so Murray would have caught the ship from its dock at Bauschänzli, the manmade island which remains from the medieval fortifications of the city. Today the island acts as a beer garden and restaurant. .
From the middle of Quaibrücke, or what would have been the middle of the river mouth during Murray’s time, you get a great view of the Limmat making its way through the city, with all the landmarks on view.
There is one landmark missing though.
The tall and picturesque Tower of Wellenburg, rising out of the water at the outlet of the Limmat from the lake, is used as a prison. State-criminals were formerly confined in it: Count Hans of Hapsburg passed more than two years in it.
The tower (engraved here in 1834) was demolished just weeks after Murray visited, meaning his Handbook was already out of date before it had even gone to print. The bricks of the tower were used in the construction of the “new stone bridge”, Münsterbrücke.
Across Bellevueplatz, which was built in 1856, I headed up the steep hill to another of Zurich’s “pleasing promenades and points of view”.
The Hohe Promenade, another rampart on the right bank of the Limmat, also commands a good view, but more confined than the former.
Indeed, the view was “more confined” than that at Katzen Bastei, and nowadays, the Hohe Promenade is sadly rather ignored, and serves little more than a back alley to the school of the same name, with its view even “more confined” than in 1837.
The triangular piece of ground at the junction of the Limmat and Sihl, below the town, is also a public walk: it is planted with shady avenues, but commands no view.
The triangular “island” behind the Bahnhof, which splits the Sihl and the Limmat, became home to the Landesmuseum Zürich in 1898, 60 years after Murray visited, one of the most important art museums of cultural history in Europe.
For me, and many of the other tourists seemingly outraged by its 2016 extension, this stunning French Renaissance style palace was architecturally vandalised with the opening of a huge concrete wing, which is actually attached to the existing building.
Its only redeeming feature, seems to be the way it reflects the shadow of the existing building as the sun rises and falls.
Maybe I’ve inherited the grumpiness of John Murray, and I can certainly be accused of living in the 1830’s whilst following his route, however I strongly believe that this particular edifice is reminiscent of a 1970’s East Berlin shopping centre or a 1980’s multi storey car park.
Don’t get me wrong, I love architecture – both old and new – however this concrete monstrosity was a wanky architect’s pretentious statement too far for me, and seemingly for many of the other tourists who walked around, also shaking their heads in disgust, before stopping to catch a photograph of the 1898 building’s silhouette on the side of its 2016’s ugly sister.
The Platzspitz park, in which it stands, with each river running alongside its borders, is now one of the most popular picnic areas in the city. That wasn’t always the case though as, in the 1980s, a pharmaceutical invention from 37 years after Murray set foot in the park was to leave the place a mess; heroin addicts would flock here in large numbers to score amongst the beautiful Baroque architecture. In an effort to contain the problem, the authorities legalised drug use in the park in 1987, banning the police from entering it and giving out clean needles to help prevent the newfound disease, AIDS. Its nickname, “Needle Park”, became so famous world wide that drug users would head there in larger numbers than those tourists heading to the National History Museum today. It’s said there were 20,000 addicts in the park at one point.
As is often the case with these initiatives, just like Amsterdam or Christiania in Copenhagen, crime soared as the dealers and gangs took over and addicts stole from the locals to pay for their habit. The emergency services were overwhelmed with almost nightly overdoses and the Swiss government finally called a day on the idea in 1992.
Somehow, I can’t imagine the authorities being that liberal in 1837.
Here is a simple monument to the memory of Solomon Gessner, author of “The Death of Abel”, who was a native of Zurich.
Salomon Gessner was a jack of all trades; a town councillor and forestry superintendent, who also ran an important publishing house, which released his books of etchings and poems, including the epic “Der Tod Abels” (“The Death of Abel”) in 1758. His work was translated into 20 languages, including Welsh, and inspired the likes of Byron, and Wordsworth.
He was one of many inspirational Zurich residents.
Zurich is the native place of Hammerlin, the reformer; of Gessner, the poet, and Gessner the naturalist; of Lavater; and of Pestalozzi, the teacher.
And, little did Murray know it at the time, but also a 10 year old Johanna Spyri, who would go on to write possibly the second most famous book to come out of Switzerland in 1880, “Heidi”.
“The second most famous book?”, I hear you say, as you try to guess what could be even more famous:
The first entire English version of the Bible, by Miles Coverdale, was printed here in 1535.
So who would have thought that a long lost relative of the lead singer of Whitesnake was responsible for the troubles in Northern Ireland. “Saints & Sinners” indeed.
Those who desire a complete panorama should ascend the Weid, a hill about 3 miles North of the town, where an inn has recently been built.
Having climbed Waid on the way from Schaffhausen (Route 8), I can confirm Murray’s recommendation, and you can enjoy the distant views over a glass of homegrown wine at the inn.
An inn was opened here in 1828, eventually becoming the Waidberg Restaurant in 1926. After burning down in 2004, it was rebuilt and modernised in 2005, and the Restaurant Die Waid now offers two concepts, the Seasons Restaurant and WAID Wok, with dishes from CHF17.
It’s whilst sat in the vineyards at Waid, overlooking the sprawling city, numerous rivers, expansive lake and majestic mountains that I read Murray’s summary of Zurich.
The principal manufactures are those of silk, the weaving of which occupies many thousands in the town and along the shores of the lake. There are one or two large cotton-factories. The cotton and silk goods made in the neighbourhood, and in other parts of the canton, are the object of an extensive commerce with Germany and Italy. Many of the manufacturers of Zurich have the reputation of great wealth, without much polish; hence the expression “Grossier comme un Zurichois.”
Whilst there are still a few cotton spinning mills in Zurich, today, “the principal manufactures are those of” money, the making and hiding of which “occupies many thousands in the town” and pays for their expensive homes and 5 star hotel rooms “along the shores of the lake.” It is “the object of an extensive commerce with” Russia, Qatar and whoever else is paying – sorry, I mean bidding – to stage a World Cup. It’s safe to say that the Zurichois still have a “reputation of great wealth”, however they certainly polish up a lot better nowadays.
Zurich is historically remarkable as the place where the Reformation first commenced in Switzerland, under the guidance of Ulric Zwingli, in 1519. It was the asylum of many eminent English Protestants banished by the persecutions of the reign of Queen Mary: they met with a friendly reception from its inhabitants during their exile.
Whether it be Protestants on the run from “Bloody Mary” in the 1500s, British intervention giving Switzerland its independence in 1815, mad, bad and dangerous to know poets, upper class English explorers and mountaineers in the early 1800s, pipe-smoking fictional detectives in the 1890s, undercover agents with a license to kill in the 1960s, tax evading Tories in the 1980s, or the chosen home for many a British rock legend or Formula 1 driver in the 1990s, Switzerland has always held a close relationship with the UK, and the two nations share many a common history.
From Mancunian Steamboats on Lake Zurich in 1835 to Robert Stephenson and Henry Swinburne designing the Swiss railway network in 1850, from Edward Whymper conquering the Matterhorn in 1865, (John Murray would publish his books) to fellow crazy upper-class Hooray Henrys introducing Alpine skiing in Grindelwald and tobogganing in St. Moritz and Davos in the 1860s; it can all be dated back to the Reformation in 1519 and accelerated thanks, in no small part, to “Murray’s Handbook For Travellers In Switzerland 1838”.
OTHER ZURICH RESTAURANTS:
As well as the historic hotels and restaurants mentioned above, if you’re looking for somewhere to dine in Zurich, then you should visit any of the following restaurants, which, whilst not actually inns during his time, do have some relation to Murray’s notes:
This restaurant and beer garden specialises in Swiss wines. Located in the Bilgeriturm at Neumarkt, one of the few remaining towers from the medieval city ramparts, there’s even a dining room in the tower itself. 3 courses for around CHF50.
Located in the secret annex of the Schwendenturm or Manesseturm, part of the medieval ramparts demolished after Murray visited (in 1850) at Napfgasse.Today it is a cafe and confectionary that has kept the style of the 1800’s.
This restaurant. also on Spiegelgasse, belongs to celebrity chef Tony Navarro and is located next to the Brunnenturm, another medieval rampart. The restaurant itself is somewhat tacky but serves good Mediterranean cuisine. 3 courses for around CHF60.
Restaurant Rechberg 1837
As the name suggests, this excellent Swiss restaurant is housed in a building constructed the year Murray visited.