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Published: February 12th 2013
Walking in a Winterthur wonderland
I wake before my hostess and pour myself a little bit of ultra-pasteurized milk (a strangely pleasant taste to me but one many Americans dislike) with my muesli. Due to Kristy’s tiredness yesterday and my own desire to simply enjoy with her and not push a sight-seeing agenda, I opt for a day in Winterthur. And so when Kristy wakes up we munch a bit more and then decide to run some errands.
Kristy and Stefan live very near the pedestrian-only center of Winterthur and it takes less than ten minutes, especially when you jaywalk. Which Kristy says that few Swiss do but as Americans we do so with great abandon…and even some relish. Winterthur may be Switerland’s 6th
largest city but there is little hustle and bustle here except for rush hours. After all, this city/village has turned into a quasi-suburb for Zurich so during the day much of the populace pours itself south. The city center has cobbled streets and palely-pastel buildings, jammed together but very well-maintained. Kristy points out that though these buildings and streets are hundreds of years old, there are very, very few buildings that have faded paint, weathered
Non-rush hour times (i.e. most times)
shutters, or anything of a worn look about them. All is tidy…and dare I say it, Swiss. The two main streets revolve around the Kirchplatz, the Protestant church of indeterminate age (since we can’t read the Swiss pamphlets) and sumptuous, colorful murals inside. Metal dragon cut-outs flare out from one of the double towers of the church, a pagan embellishment on this rather staid Christian front.
We stop to get maternity clothes (Kristy’s first!!) and some posh coffee. I browse in and out of shoe stores, looking for a pair of fashionable walking boots but not surprisingly, all of them are fur-lined. Very sensible for Switzerland, plain stupid for SoCal “winters.” We head back for a cheesey lunch (seriously, this is not the country for the lactose-allergic or intolerant!) and after Kristy naps, we head back out to the forest. Can’t see the forest for the city
Patches of forest hem in Winterthur, as I’m sure they do most Swiss cities. The forest is very new though, whipcord-thin saplings crowding close, giving the feel of an overgrown bramble. Even the older trees, tall as they may be, are thin and crowded. Kristy tells me that, not surprisingly,
these forests are heavily managed. Europeans in general have a very different concept and attitude toward “wilderness” than Americans do. After all, people have lived on this continent in relatively dense populations for millennia. Untouched wildness faded long ago. However, even these forests are being rudely manhandled now. More land has been developed in Switzerland in the past 70 years than was developed since humans arrived to this part of the world.
As we talk of these issues (both of are conservation scientists, after all), I still enjoy the urban forest. The broad road-path is snow-covered but only lightly so. The last snowfall was last week. Mud is more of an issue now. We meet only a few folk, mostly walking their schauzers or scottie dogs. I greet them with an enthusiastic, “Grutzi!” That’s the Swiss-German greeting. German would also be understood but Swiss-German is more appreciated. Swiss-German really is another language, distinct enough from German to confuse native Germans and frustrate Swiss-Germans. And let’s not get started on Swiss dialects within the Swiss-German areas or Swiss-Italian or Swiss-French. And then there’s this dying language only spoken in the southeastern mountains. And so forth.
Finally we reach our
View from Goldenberg point
Part of Winterthur in the background
destination, a high point with an overlook called Goldenberg. Winterthur rests in low spots between small mountain ranges, covered by a thin layer of haze and glare. After some requisite pictures, we move on to Goldenberg restaurant for some excellent gelato, warming ourselves in the sun and indoor heating. The sun has been out all day thus far and we are duly grateful. After all, it was due to rain today. Stefan laughed when I asked him how long the rainy season was here. Turns out, it’s always the rainy season in Switzerland. Sometimes it’s just warmer and the grass turns green. Who really likes roasted chestnuts?
When we get back down from the forest, rush hour has hit and the quiet streets are quite full. There are even a few street vendors out and roasted chestnut stands are on every corner. We decide to sample this almost proverbial food, a food we’ve heard constantly in Christmas song renditions but never had. Kristy can’t even finish hers. I choke mine down. The brain-looking nut is bland and oddly soft, like congealed, faintly nutty mush. We will leave the Swiss to their chestnuts. Instead we focus on Swiss mothers
and babies. Really, the puffy sleeping bags that the babies, in their well-used strollers, are swaddled in. A sleeping bag for a baby! So cute! I wonder if the strollers have snow chains.
That evening we make Thai food in their tiny kitchen. This is a nice-sized apartment for two but it reminds me more of a San Francisco-style place with its narrow bathroom and kitchen and economically-sized bedrooms and living rooms. The kitchen is only big enough for two cooks though space is well-managed here with hanging utensils, pop-out trashbins, and such. A mutual friend of Stefan and Kristy’s joins us. She’s a translator/teacher, fluent in six languages. As befitting a group of multi-cultural people, talk varies between just chatting and stereotyping about our cultures.
No late nights for anyone. It’s a work night for Stefan and tomorrow, Kristy and I will journey to the mighty Zurich, largest Swiss city. I go to bed full of Valentine’s candy (Kristy had me bring some over from the States to gift to her Swiss friends…and to consume straight out of the bag) and ready for some more Swiss sight-seeing.
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