Return to Zürich

So happy to be back!

I was sad to leave Zürich in July 2020, after spending a delightful year collaborating at ETH and exploring the many mountains and valleys of this beautiful country. The coronavirus pandemic had arrived only a few months earlier, but I somehow thought it would fade and I could make a return visit to Switzerland a few months later. That was naīve. Another year has passed and the pandemic is not yet done with us; nonetheless, three months ago Andy and I booked our tickets to Zürich so we could visit friends and colleagues and enjoy the city and the mountains once again.

Evening along the Limmat, Zurich.

We arrived yesterday morning and immediately started to explore. Now, late on our second day, here are a few of my quick first impressions.

The Swiss are, as always, incredibly organized. There is an app for storing a covid certificate – a QR code indicating that one is fully vaccinated, or recovered, or had a recent negative test. This certificate must be scanned on entry into restaurants and other venues (like the Christmas markets) where there are many people or where people may go unmasked.

We also had to fill out a web form in advance of travel, detailing our covid status, arrival flight, and even our seat number – to support contact tracing if needed. And they encourage the installation of the SwissCovid app, built on innovative privacy-preserving contact detection protocols developed at ETH and EPFL.

We are staying at a new hotel near our old flat, so this morning I took my traditional walk up to the viewpoint on Zürichberg, the hilltop to the east of the city, where one can have a grand view of the city, the lake, and the Alps beyond. It snowed, perhaps just two days ago, and there are still a couple of centimeters of re-frozen snow on the ground here – and also on Uteliberg, the (taller) hilltop to the west of town. (Down in the city center there is no snow.) This snow now is far more than I saw in the entire winter of 2019-20, which I guess was an unusually warm winter.

The view from Zurichberg on a cloudy morning, with valley fog. Two-day-old snow rests here and on Uteliberg, opposite, but not in the city below.

It is Sunday morning, and while I stood and enjoyed the view, with its mix of clouds and sun and valley fog, I could hear dozens of church bells ringing all across the city, simultaneously calling the faithful to services. I captured a movie panorama, then wandered down an alternate route, one I was sure would take me past the Honold bakery … where I was able to pick up a hot chocolate and a pair of fresh croissants. Such a treat!

Other interesting sights, some of which are shown in the photo gallery:

  • A gang of Santa Claus motorcyclists
  • A large march of people protesting femizid (femicide)
  • A serious of running races, for children of various age groups
  • The amazing variety of chocolate truffles available at Sprüngli
  • Long lines at the Weinachtmarkt (Christmas markets), because of the need to check covid certificates and identity documents.

Looking forward to more explorations, soon!

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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