Apologies for the lull in blogging activity - such inefficiency is certainly not the Swiss way! The people to blame are our good friends Chris, Nick and Parso who came to visit at the weekend.
They picked a good weekend to get out here as we saw the first few days of consistently above-zero temperatures in a while. Nick arrived earlier than the others on Friday and we were able to head up to the Uetliberg, the hill overlooking Zurich, to take in the view.
It was a much clearer day than when Zoe and I made the trip up there previously and I was amazed to see the Alps looming not far away. I don't think there's much better in life than having a beer whilst looking at mountains and we did just that, catching up over a pint. Any negative health effects were surely offset by the fresh mountain air?
The other lads didn't arrive until late in the evening and Nick and I met them in the city centre to embark on my first proper Zurich night out. As you are likely aware, the cost of living means having a few pints in Switzerland can easily require the remortgaging of a property or the black-market sale of a kidney. Luckily, we have an organised and experienced pub crawl pilot in Parso, who had come armed with a map of the most interesting and (as we're all northern) reasonably priced bars the city has to offer.
The desire for a cheap pint (and nothing more!) took us off the beaten track and into the red light district - apparently Zurich's 'trendy' quarter. Here we did find some interesting bars, not least an FC Zurich fan pub where a drunken older lady gave Nick a 'Prost' so hard her wine glass smashed. Such was her level of inebriation this did not stop her drinking out of it.
When she then gestured towards Parso's camera phone and spoke some garbled Deutsch in his direction he thought he'd take her up on what he assumed was a kind offer of a photo of our group. By the time I'd processed what she'd said and realised she'd just sworn at Parso and demanded his mobile he'd already handed it over. When I explained what she'd said he understandably wanted it back. Luckily, after she'd downed the next shot the bar owner gave her it was not too long before P quite easily got back what was rightfully his.
We were then joined by Zoe who had been out at one of her Zurich girly meet up nights not far away (though not in the red light district, trendy as it is) to have some more drinks before heading home.
Unfortunately, we'd been much more organised in making plans for finding bars than for getting home from them so, after missing trains and busses I managed to get us taxis home (strange how my Deutsch improves with a few beers).
After a bit of time recuperating on Saturday, the lads and I headed out for a walk along lake Zurich to blow the cobwebs away. Zurich looks awesome in the sunshine and I think the boys enjoyed having a look at our new home. We strolled for quite some time until we reached the 'Zurichhorn' which is where the lake becomes wider. Given the weather was nice a little beer garden was open so we stopped and had a drink and a bite to eat. Actually, I probably now retract my earlier statement that there is nothing better than having a beer whilst looking at mountains. Having a beer whilst looking at mountains AND A LAKE can surely not be topped.
After a relaxed day we headed across town for our next 'cultural' experience - watching Zurich's top football team - the Grasshoppers. The bitter rivals of FC Zurich (whose fan pub we'd visited the day before), Grasshopper Club are currently top of the Swiss league. I've provisionally adopted them as my Swiss team of choice not because of their league standing, but as they wear the same blue and white halves kit as my beloved Blackburn Rovers. Surely after many years of torment you won't begrudge me watching a team win for once?
The Letzigrund stadium (above) is shared by both Zurich teams and in true continental style is seperated from the pitch by a running track. Another key difference in comparison to the English football experience is the lack of a meat pie, though the giant sausage with a bread roll was pretty good. With the visiting fans from St Gallen setting off flares in the away end I was pretty excited about the prospect of a good game, despite the stadium being far from full.
As it turned out the match saw 3 goals for Grasshopper Club Zurich and 1 for St Gallen with 2 red cards for the guests. On paper it sounds like an epic but in reality it actually was a bit tame. The goals were gifted rather than made and the gulf in the standard between the Swiss league and the English top tiers was evident. That said, we enjoyed it, though my only regret was that we were freezing in the stands instead of watching from a jacuzzi.
Yes, you heard me right - the game we went to saw the inaugration of GCZ's pitchside hot tub in which a couple of fans get to watch the game in their trunks whilst being served cold beer! The players even tried to join them as they celebrated taking a 2-1 lead!
After the Game we explored another couple of night spots including a mexican bar which was great fun despite seeming very much out of place in downtown Zurich.
On a trip to try and find the loo Nick and I came across a basement room with table football or 'Kicker' as it's called on the continent. Given that the room soon filled with Swiss blokes there was only ever going to be one outcome - Switzerland vs England.
It is to my shame that I have to report that Nick and I let our entire country down. We were comprehensively thrashed.
I'm not usually one to point fingers , but this national embarassment was mostly Nick's fault. Mexican lager had clearly not enhanced his hand-eye coordination. At least we can be grateful that England did not need to go through the agony of a penalty shootout before exiting this international contest. We left the room with our tails between our legs. Literally, as we'd been looking for the toilet even before the big match had started.
The next morning, the fondue lunch I'd arranged suddenly didn't seem such a good idea. Switzerland's pots of cheesy goodness deserve their own future post, but for now all I can tell you is that liquid cheese is not the best hangover cure.
We were sad to see the boys off on their way on Sunday afternoon, though this melancholy didn't last long as I went to bed soon after they'd left. I'm getting too old for such hi-jinx.
I think it helped us to feel more at home here having some of the people from our UK lives come to join us in our new Swiss world. For the same reason we're really looking forward to hosting Zoe's parents this coming weekend.
Big thanks to the boys for coming out here to help us explore Zurich nightlife. Thanks to their sacrifice we will be able to steer future guests away from some of the more diabolical establishments our new city has to offer.
Mike Stuart moved to Switzerland in 2013 when his better half Zoë landed a job in Zurich.