Until the beginning of summer, I’d been keeping up with my target of one new blog post a week, but as of today it has been over a month since I last wrote anything new. The main reason for this? Living in Zurich.
As part of the probation period for my new role, I’m required to pass a certification exam, the training for which is ordinarily held in Switzerland. So in early July, I packed my bags and patted Charlie goodbye, and headed for the Swiss capital (via Newcastle for my sister’s graduation, and then a short stopover in Amsterdam).
I arrived at Zurich airport late on a Wednesday night, picked up my apartment key from the airport information desk, and caught a train into the city centre. I found my little studio without too much trouble, and fell pretty much straight into bed around midnight to get some sleep before the first day of my course the next morning.
The first two days of my course passed without issue, and I spent the evenings getting my bearings in the city, finding the nearest grocery stores etc. and trying not to cry at the price of just about everything. When I heard the per diem the company paid for Zurich, I assumed I would be rolling in it (the daily allowance is about what I spend per week in Edinburgh), but it is honestly hard not to spend a fortune. Zurich, in all fairness, is regularly described as one of the most expensive cities in the world.
My first weekend in Switzerland, I decided to head out of the capital to explore a little more of the country. I caught the train to nearby Lucerne on the Saturday, and spent a long day wandering around the beautiful little city, visiting the famous church-on-a-bridge, Kapellbrücke, and the lion statue commemorating those massacred in the French Revolution.
After I returned, I showered and changed (Zurich is incredibly hot and humid in the summer), then met up with some coursemates for some beers, which eventually led to dancing in a nightclub at 3am. The 30CHF vodka coke soon sobered me up though, and we left relatively early, which helped me the following day as I had a long run along the river planned. The route along the river was fairly flat and scenic, with plenty of locals scattered along the shores swimming or sunbathing in the 30°C heat.
The second week of the course had been touted as by far the most difficult - and it lived up to the reputation it had been given. I barely went out during the week, spending most of my evenings revising the material that was piling up. This spilled over into the following weekend, which was a blessing in disguise as I was starting to overspend my allowance. I took a walking tour of the city on the Saturday morning, which unearthed a few hidden gems across the city; I do love walking tours, and this was a particularly good one. For the Sunday I chose to revise some more material - I was hoping to get the exam passed and over with on the first attempt.
The third week out in Switzerland went a much calmer pace - the material we had to learn was more straightforward, which meant I could spend more time out in the city. By this point I had figured out that trying to revise in my apartment was not going to work, so I stayed in the office each day for an hour or so to go over my notes of that day, which helped me to not feel guilty for doing no work when I got back. As is my preference, I went running to explore the rivers and parks throughout the city most evenings. Zurich is a fairly runner-friendly city, and almost painfully clean.
My final weekend in Switzerland, I took the bus out to Bavaria, to visit the German city of Munich. Four hours on a bus may not sound particularly appealing, but with beautiful Swiss, Austrian, and German countryside to watch, the time passed fairly quickly. The weekend itself was a four-day weekend thanks to the Swiss National Day on August 1st, so I stayed in Munich until the Monday afternoon. The Tuesday was the holiday day in Switzerland, and literally everywhere closed for it. Along with my coursemates, I headed up in the Polybahn to ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology, to watch the celebratory fireworks across the city.
My final few days in Zurich passed relatively event-free. I made sure to eat some traditional cheese fondue before I left, at Le Dézaley, but aside from that I spent the last couple of days pretty much just counting down the hours until I was reunited with Charlie.
Zurich is definitely the cleanest city I’ve ever visited, and one of the most beautiful too, but I don’t think I can see myself ever living here. I found it painfully expensive, and it wasn’t even my money I was spending; if it had been on my own dime, I think I might have cried.