Home from home.

"I look upon Switzerland as a sort of inferior Scotland" - Sydney Smith, an English wit from Woodford. (Rare breed indeed)

North Zurich

Switzerland with it's neutrality, polyglot languages, wealth and direct democracy seems to inspire a lackluster antipathy among the British.

Nothing to match the heat of our centuries old squabbling with the French, war won jingoism of common relations with the Germans nor the faded patriarchal contempt for our American and Australian ex colonies. Even the hangover from our 17th Century rivalry with the Dutch has been etymologically preserved in our idioms more boldly. Or have I rambled into double Dutch?

Still I detect a slight derogatory twinge in the average British stereotype of the Swiss.

"In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock!" - Graeme Greene

Yet on leaving Zurich I am struck by just how similar to London I found it. Certainly the most familiar city I have so far visited.

Yes of course Zurich is smaller and it's lakeside geography is as alike to the Thames' muddy meanders as fondu to fish and chips 

but hear me out:

The smell and sounds of wealth and inequality curling up from bankers leather soles striding along pavements.

A formality and functionality to the architecture at odds with the ornate papal fripperies of more Catholicism continental cities.

Skepticism of the EU and smug dismissal of the single currency.

Reserve and politeness which, while not total or more than skin deep, manifests itself most clearly on public transport.

A fondness for parks big and small.

Soho's seedy trendiness is mirrored in Langstrasse.

A cosmopolitan feel marred by a growing distrust of immigrants.

Aggressive, consciously attempted, fashionableness. A coolness which can seem mean.

Expensive rents and a spiraling cost of living.

Climates changeable enough to make discussing the days likely weather interesting.

A vibrant art scene distorted by the huge prices paid for flavours of the months.

Confidence and arrogance in their supremacy as their respective country's premier city.

Ugly urban sprawl mixed in with the beautiful and venerable. No museum piece these cities but dynamic; alive. Cut throat behind the elegant veneers.

A dapper cyclist traverses the plaza in front of the  Zurich Opera house 

Zurich may be twinned with San Francisco and London with New York, Berlin, Tokyo and many (many) others but surely if ever two cities deserve to be paired together in meaningless matrimony it is these proud financial centers.


  1. Like the insight into Switzerland, if your going to smash into anyone then a lovely Swiss postlady like Agnes is obviously the person to pick.

    Heard today that you had crossed the alps and were heading down hill into Italy - pretty good going.

  2. by the way that post was by Dad XX