Putting 'rich' in Zurich

Updated: 2014-02-16 08:38

By Sindy Chan(China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Tireless efforts for excellence don't come cheap, but the expense for tourists is certainly worth it, writes Sindy Chan.

When we planned a holiday to Zurich, I ruled out a budget flight as my less favorable option for traveling continental Europe. Instead, we take the London-Paris Eurostar then connect to TGV-Lyria for Paris to Zurich. Both trains are a first-time experience for us. Eurostar makes traveling with luggage much easier. After two minutes on line, I get my passport stamped to leave England for France. After a smooth and comfortable two-hour train ride, we arrive at Paris Gare du Nord.

We make a two-stop metro connection from Paris Gare du Nord to Paris Gare de Lyon. From there, we hop on our TGV-Lyria first-class carriage to our destination, Zurich. A neat and tasty meal is served on board for first-class passengers. We arrive at Zurich after dark the city is even more beautiful at night.

Zurich is legendary yet subtle. Not every train passenger realizes they are readily greeted by a statue of Alfred Escher (1819-1882) in front of the central station. Escher, a son of Zurich, who founded Credit Suisse (Schweizerische Kreditanstalt) in 1856, is also Switzerland's father of railways.

The lordly Paradeplatz is bejewelled with a symphony of lights. From the balcony of my room at the Savoy Hotel Baur en Ville, I enjoy the magnificent view of illuminated Credit Suisse on the right and UBS headquarters across from us. Intersecting city trams going around Paradeplatz amazingly create streams of light, followed by a fade-in/fade-out montage a 17th-century marketplace filled with livestock and horse-driven carriage versus a global financial center packed by sedans and limousines since the 19th century.

Paradeplatz is one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in Switzerland, made iconic for two banks and one hotel.

Manfred and Christina Horger have managed the "one hotel", Savoy Hotel Baur en Ville, for 30 years. The Horgers tell me Zurich is most photogenic during the Spring Festival (Sechselauten), which falls in the third weekend of April each year. The procession of the guilds is the highlight of the festival.

Putting 'rich' in Zurich

Zurich guilds were first founded in 1336 when the city was still governed by knights and aristocracy.

I am fascinated by the legacy of the Zurich guilds and how they fit in society nowadays. Whenever I visit some of the historical shops in Zurich, I can't help asking the shop owner or manager: "Are you a guild member?"

Roberto Quaglia says: "Yes. I was invited to join the Guild of Tailors, Cloth Shearers and Furriers 12 years ago. There are only two tailors among 120 members in our guild. I am very proud to be one of them."

But why only two tailor members in the guild? I am puzzled.

"Zurich guilds nowadays are more for business and social networking rather than tradesmen's associations. For our guild, we have bankers, lawyers and businessmen," Quaglia explains.

The Quaglia family started their tailoring business when Roberto's grandfather came to Zurich from Italy. Roberto's father learned to become a fine Italian tailor through an apprenticeship. As the third generation, Roberto himself went to tailor school for both men's and women's clothing. He then opened his own shop on Bahnhofstrasse, the main shopping street, for tailor-made men's suits and women's fashion under his own brand name.

Quaglia's motto is "dress to fit". But fine Italian tailoring has to be more than that. My husband Troy magically turns into a good-looking model with a trim and fit Quaglia suit, which costs a reasonable CHF 2,500 5,000 ($2,800-$5600).

Zurich is home to luxury and quality. Many "one-of-a-kind" product and experience can be found here.

Franz Turler is a member of the Zurich Guild of Saffran and fourth-generation owner of the Turler Watch and Jewelry Heritage shop on Paradeplatz. This is a special place where one can choose to spend a few thousand francs for a Swiss watch, a million francs for a Burmese Ruby jewelry set, or just to have an up-close-and-personal look of the "Model of the Cosmos the Turler Clock".

The very finely constructed astronomical clock with five movement components (planetarium, tellurion, globe, horizon and perpetual calendar) is precious for both the layman and enthusiast.

It is a realization of Franz Turler's dream to create a clock of unique perfection. In collaboration with master watchmakers Jorg Sporing and Ludwig Oechslin, the clock took nine years to build. About 1.2 tons of brass was used, and 251 individually crafted wheels on 155 pinions make up the complicated wheelwork.

The Turler Clock might already be well known in China as the shop is popular with Chinese tourists who are big fans of the Swiss watch.

Freitag make bags out of used materials. The young and trendy Zurich brand is popular in Europe and getting more attention in the United States and Asia in recent years. The Freitag flagship store on Geroldstrasse, completely built from 19 rusty, recycled freight containers, represents the ecological and industrial character of modern Zurich.

We did not go to Geroldstrasse but went to Freitag's smallest store on Limmerstrasse where the factory and office are located. There we met co-founder Marcus Freitag, one of the Freitag brothers.

It is always wonderful listening to a success story told by the entrepreneur himself. Back in 1993, young graphic design students Marcus and Daniel Freitag, inspired by a view from their livingroom onto the transit-bridge in Zurich, came up with the idea of making tarp-bags.

The very first Freitag messenger bag by the two brothers was made from used tarp collected from a truck company. Marcus said they received "not bad" comments for the first bag and started getting "orders" from friends and schoolmates. The Freitag story continued and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Freitag brothers effectively transferred the concept of a shared mission for a sustainable future. The result is people carrying their cool, trendy bags all over Zurich, Switzerland and beyond.

And Marcus Freitag is not just young and successful. I ask to what extent their parents' values are reflected in the two brothers' business success.

"Our parents taught us to listen to our inner selves, choose to do things we like, be good to the environment and not to waste resources," Marcus Freitag says.

"They feel very proud of us. They use Freitag bags every day, and only Freitag bags."

Even small shops in Zurich can be fun. A gentleman in our hotel's Davidoff cigar shop explains to us different cigars for men and women a man's cigar is normally bigger and meant to last 45 minutes. A woman's cigar should last about 30 minutes. A good-quality cigar costs 20 francs, whereas a quality cigar lighter easily costs 1,000 francs. Only distilled water should be used for the cigar humidor.

"If you don't finish the cigar to the end, let it burn out. An extinguished cigar gives out a bad smell," the gentleman in the store says. Eager learners would enjoy Zurich as much as I did.

To complete my Zurich experience with very local signature dishes, I order Emince de filet de veau zurichoise avec Rosti, or sliced fillet of veal Zurich style, in the Savoy Hotel Baur en Ville's Orsini Restaurant famous for Italian fine dining.

The night before leaving Zurich, we have dinner at the Baur Restaurant on the first floor, with a view to Paradeplatz and the same enchanting symphony of lights.

Contact the writer at sundayed@chinadaily.com.cn.

 Putting 'rich' in Zurich

The river Limmat starts at the outfall of Lake Zurich, in the center of the city. Zurich, the biggest city in Switzerland, is even more beautiful at night. Provided to China Daily

 Putting 'rich' in Zurich

The local Spring Festival falls on the third weekend of April each year. The streets are decorated with colorful flags and the procession of the guilds is the highlight of the festival. Zhai Jun / for China Daily

 Putting 'rich' in Zurich

The iconic building of Paradeplatz stands among the enchanting symphony of lights at night. Nam Nai Choi / for China Daily

(China Daily 02/16/2014 page10)