The area of Zurich we reside in is called Oerlikon (pronounced Ur-lee-kon). It was by chance that we ended up here. A little out of town (about 20 mins from the centre, such is the compact nature of Zurich) it is one of the less expensive areas of the city to live in and, being just a ten minute tram ride from Zoe's office, the location seemed ideal when we started looking for a flat here.
It's actually worked out brilliantly. I've just gone and got myself a job as Editorial Manager for a company that makes dental implants (well, I wanted a role I could get my teeth into) and my office is just 15 minutes away on the tram, a couple of stops past Zoe's. This makes it an hour less than my previous commute from Hitchin to London. On a cleaner, more punctual and cheaper transport system. It's simply wunderbar.
However, there is more to Oerlikon than just great transport connections and I haven't even gone into half of them! - Direct (and on time!) trains to Luzern and other places, plus they're extending the train stations for even more links, which, for a Brit used to getting soaked on a crowded platform, is pretty exciting. I appreciate, however, train ranting might not make for the best blog post. So enough of that...
Apparently, the name Oerlikon goes back to the alemannic settlement founder Orilo. Oerlikon was mentioned for the first time on record in the year 946. At that time the town consisted of no more than one dozen houses and was part of the municipality Schwamendingen, where the inhabitants of Oerlikon went to school and attended church. Zoe and I actually live just off 'Schwamedigenstrasse' now, though we're still not sure how to pronounce it.
In 1855 a railway (last mention I promise) that connected southern Germany with Zurich was built. As a result Oerlikon expanded and became a hub for industry and trade. One of Switzerland's biggest industrial firms bears the name 'Oerlikon' to this day and ABB are among the engineering companies that have big offices here. In 1872 Oerlikon was separated from Schwamendingen and became its own municipality. In 1897 a tramway (my previous promise referred only to trains!) from Zurich to Oerlikon was built and the suburb has been a busy part of Zurich ever since.
The town's industrial heritage is still very prominent today. One well know example is the recent moving of an entire building to make way for the expansion of the train station I mentioned. Yes that's right, here, you don't demolish buildings of historical significance to make way for progress - you move them. Even if, like the old headquarters of engineering firm Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (MFO), they weigh 6,200 tonnes.
You can see a time lapse video of this feat of Swiss precision here. It's a very nice building and fantastic that it has been preserved. It actually now has a bar in it which I visited with my new work colleagues the other day. I imagine the bar wasn't there when the builders were moving it or they'd never have got the thing 60 metres down the street, well, not in a straight line at least.
Next to the old MFO building is the MFO park. Created on the site of the old MFO factory, it's now an award winning bit of urban landscaping with platforms, stairs and scented plants, all on a frame which stands where the old factory walls used to be.
The building above dates from the industrial age and is now the heating plant for the surrounding residential buildings. The repeated number two on the side is a bit of left wing artwork that stands for 'community and the divisible', presumably in a nod to the common man / trade unions that used to operate in the area in its factory filled heyday.
Back in the old part of town there is another interesting piece of 'Kunst' (art). Aptly entitled 'The Walker', the bronze statue (below) of a naked chap going for a stroll actually has nothing to do with the Swiss passion for naked hiking, though it has caused just as much controversy.
When I read in the poorly translated guidebook blurb that the statue's erection had caused a stir I was a left feeling a bit sorry for the poor chap, but it turns out that they meant his mere installation triggered uproar. Installed in 1934 next to a school (I sense local sculptor Franz Fischer was looking to ruffle a few feathers) the locals protested vehemently against it and local writer Albin Zollinger called it "pornographic". They must have found something else to complain about, however, as it actually won a gold medal as Switzerland's entry at the World Fair in New York five years later and it stands next to the changing rooms of the local school to this day.
Attitudes must certainly have become more liberal in recent years otherwise the town would never have allowed the bright orange 'Dorflinde' to be built. Roughly translating as 'Linden Tree Village', this complex of bright orange blocks sits pretty much opposite our flat and contains, amongst other things, some local authority offices. The name refers to the village that was on the site until 1799 when it was burnt down in a battle with the French and the Austrians (and you thought the Swiss didn't get involved in wars!).
I thought the orange colour of the buildings might be a tribute of dubious taste to this blaze but my dodgy guide book (provided by the state I hasten to add) explains that it is "painted in the colours of the 1970s". That this is written in an almost boastful way causes me a great deal of concern. It may also help explain why the clothes shops here often seem to be in a time warp. If you want anything from C&A just let us know - still going strong in der Schweiz!
All in all, we love where we live. Equidistant from the airport and the city centre, Oerlikon is great for transport, has a few nice bars and restaurants and also, as we've seen, a few stories to tell too. Hopefully we'll be hosting a few more of you soon so that we can show you its delights in person.
Mike Stuart moved to Switzerland in 2013 when his better half Zoë landed a job in Zurich.