The Intercontinental Hotel in Zurich is only a 10 minute walk from the train station, which in turn is only a 15 minute train ride from the airport. How convenient for the traveler on a budget. Several wings of the hotel interconnect to form two inside courtyards that are visible from glass-enclosed elevated walkways on each floor. The courtyards have been cleverly landscaped to camouflage the hard edge architecture of the hotel that looms around them. They add greenery and cheer to what might otherwise have been austere and oppressive views.
In the first yard, the curved pattern of the boxwood shrubs captures the eye and draws it inward, while the asymmetrically placed cow, decorated in a vivid multicolor pattern, further draws the eye away from the hotel walls.
In the second courtyard, strategically placed plants soften the appearance of the concrete environment and compliment the resort feeling created by the furniture.
The cow plays an important role in the folklore and industry of the Swiss and various vivid, artistic renditions of this animal may be found in the official retail store that sells handicrafts made by Swiss artists. In 1999 Switzerland produced 134,000 tonnes of cheese from cow's milk. I avoid most dairy products since I am allergic to cow’s milk. However, my wife has no such restrictions and she reports that the milk that she drank in Zurich, and the cheese that she ate there, was the best that she has ever tasted. Actually all of the food that we ate in Zurich led us to believe that Switzerland’s standards for food are much higher than they are here in North America. No matter where or what we ate, everything tasted better than it does at home.
Out of curiosity, we visited many retail stores in Zurich; one of which specialized in Swiss chocolate products only. Here we purchased heavenly-tasting [if heaven has a taste] chocolate nut bark sold in bulk and munched on it as we window-shopped. In all of the stores, we were impressed both with the graciousness of the staff and the sensor-controlled automatic sliding doors that whizzed open when we approached them. Hands–free doors seem like an efficient way to reduce the spread of germs in public. Another sanitary innovation that we experienced in some places was a robotic arm attached to a toilet that optionally disinfected the seat before it was used.
One of the most fascinating tourist attractions that we visited was the Landesmuseum [castle-like building in above slide show] which houses a historical cultural collection about Switzerland that visualizes its history and the industries in which this country has excelled. Intricately functioning machinery has always been at the forefront of what the Swiss do best. Swiss watches represent 50% of all watches sold in the world. However, this excellence in intricacy is also found in many other products, including armaments, woven textiles and laces. Other remarkable exhibits that we saw at this site include prehistoric wheels found in Zurich, which are among the earliest wheels excavated anywhere, and Celtic and Early Medieval finds.
Our stop-over in Zurich was intended to be nothing more than an opportunity for us to break up an otherwise lengthy plane trip to the Middle East. In the end, it turned out to be a delightful two day visit. Now, we regret that it was so short because there was no time to take a day trip to see the Alps.