Im Herzen von Zürichs alter Stadt


The words “Im Herzen von Zürichs alter Stadt” are in German. The literal english meaning is “In the heart of Zurich’s old town” and that is where I was for two days last week. I love traveling. So I took two days off after my business trip to Israel and visited Zurich. Now I am not a mountains, lakes and hiking kind of a person. I am more of a history, culture and museums kind of a person. So the Swiss Alps is not exactly my kind of fun. But Zurich is a historical city and in this VERITAS I will describe the historical aspects of the city and I hope to convince history lovers to visit this charming city.

Zurich has been inhabited since the Roman times. In the Roman times this was a tax collection point for any goods that were trafficked on the Limmat river.  The Romans had build a small castle on top of a hill by  the side of the river. This castle lasted till the 7th century AD. By this time it had already got the name of Ziurichi. From 746 AD to 1351 AD Zurich was a part of the German empire. The German Emperor Charlemagne built a castle and a church here. But some historians attribute this to Charlemagne’s grandson Louis the German. But one fact is certain, a German emperor built a church here in 835 AD for his  daughter. The name of the church was Fraumunster(Minster of our Lady). All the land around Zurich was placed under the control of this church. The German emperor’s daughter Hildegard became the first abbess of this church. In 1045 the then Emperor of Germany, Henry III allowed the Church to collect taxes and mint coins. So the then abbess of the Church was effectively the ruler of the area. In 1230 a city wall was built. On the other side of the river Limmat another great Church called Grossmunster
was built between 1090 and 1230 AD. According to a legend Charlemagne was led to the site of this church by a stag. He founded a church there which later became Grossmunster.

In 1351 Zurich joined the Swiss confederation which at that time was a loose confederation of independent states. Zurich became the centre of Protestant movement in Switzerland in the sixteenth century. This was mainly due to the influence of the then preacher at the Grossmunster, Huldrych Zwingli. He was killed in 1531 during a war between the Catholic and Protestant cantons of the Swiss Confederacy. Zwingli’s Zurich Bible first appeared in 1531 and is still published.

In 1798 the French Revolutionary Army under Napoleon attacked Switzerland and the Swiss confederation was destroyed. On 12th April 1798 the cantons formed a new country known as the Helvatic republic. But this was more of a satellite state of France. In 1803 Napoleon restored the Swiss autonomy. After this Switzerland was to always have a central government but its cantons had a degree of self rule also. In 1815 the Congress of Vienna fully established the Swiss independence and Swiss neutrality. So Switzerland never fought a war after 1815.

Now, the history of Zurich after 1815 may not be interesting in terms of wars and political turmoil. But this lack of turmoil has a great side effect- it preserves history. The historical monuments stand in Zurich just the way they were created centuries ago. In fact the city of Zurich, especially the old town looks like a huge historical place. The old houses have been preserved beautifully and narrow stone roads criss-cross the old town. And the people of Zurich seem very proud of their history. I saw so many houses in which the date of construction has been proudly written outside the house. And many houses proudly display the history of the people who lived there on the front gate.

So that is how I spent the two days in Zurich- I walked through the narrow streets of the old town to see the charming houses and how proud people are of their history. And I tried to find older and older houses. And I found two houses that were built in the thirteenth century. And the oldest house that I found was built in 1218! And the hotel that I stayed in has been a guesthouse since  the sixteenth century! So I spent those two days walking in history- a beautiful experience.

And then I searched on the internet for some  famous residents of Zurich to see if I could find their houses. And I did! I first found the cafe which the famous German philosopher Goethe used to frequent. And then I visited ETH and the University of Zurich. Albert Einstein had studied at ETH( Federal Institute of Technology) . In fact ETH has produced so many great scientists like Pauli, Rontgen, Cantor, Dedekind, Minkowski, Weyl. It is a beautiful monument and an institute that has had a huge influence on Physics and Mathematics of the 20th century. Einstein later taught at the University of Zurich which is also a beautiful monument. And then I went looking for Lenin’s house. And I found that also- 14, Spiegelgasse. And I saw the fact that Lenin lived here in 1916 and 1917 displayed proudly outside the house. This is the house where Lenin planned the Russian Revolution!




Walking through the streets of the Zurich’s old town was a beautiful experience. An experience that I will never forget. Every house, every street seemed to have a tale to tell!

And of course, any trip to Europe is incomplete without tasting the local delicacies. I tried the very interesting Swiss Fondue- they place a pot of boiling cheese in front of you and you dip pieces of bread in it and eat it. And I also tried the delicious sliced veal in Zurich style cream sauce served with rosti. And the wonderful swissmost crème is a perfect dessert to end a Swiss dinner!

So for a lover of history, a lover of culture and a lover of beauty Zurich is a great place. A place that you must include in your “places to visit before you die” list!



 Go, wondrous creature! mount where Science guides:
 Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides:
 Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
 Correct old time and regulate the Sun;

Creative Commons License
Veritas by Kanwarpreet Grewal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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