The very first time I stepped on Swiss soil was a warm Friday night in early July 2016. I had just flown in from Helsinki and the first thing I remember is a switch from crisp Northern air to hot and humid weather. I never associated Switzerland with heat, and my mind was confused because I thought I was going to a city but felt like I landed in a vacation destination.
Early next day, we were on our way to apartment showings in Zuriberg, Wiedikon, Kreis 5, Seefeld and others (all names that at the time didn’t mean much to me), but visiting these neighborhoods and buildings, I got my very first impression of the city: quiet, clean, blooming, and full of beautiful window shutters. It felt like there was no house taller than 5 stories, there was no balcony without flowers, there was no street without bikers or pedestrians, and there was no stressful vibe – it felt summery, calm, with a steady, welcoming rhythm. Zurich city center greeted me with church bells and a landscape of bridges across the Limmat, which was a bright shade of turquoise in the sun. I remember that the Vancouverite in me was impressed by the mountains rising above over the lake and the lack of cars on the streets, the Finn in me loved that there was so much nature and water, and the temporary Parisian in me couldn’t get over the clean, functioning and non-aggressive state of the streets and the locals.
After the apartment hunting part of the day was done, we went to the Chinese Garden side of the lake. By then the sun was high up in the sky and a big blue body of water was dotted with boats and people, as if all life has concentrated there and there was no better place to be. The gardens were blooming pink and the air smelled like barbecue; children were running around the grass, while others were leisurely strolling along with a melting ice cream. The day was so hot that there was almost a mirage on the horizon, but you could still see the Alps. While the city was calm, here was all the energy. It felt like real summer.
I took my first fresh dip in Zürischee and later sat in the shade devouring a bratwurst and observing the locals. As the sun began to set, lights dotted the horizon and we walked along the water, discussing the pros and cons of the apartments. In the background, my brain was trying to make sense of the wave of new impressions and information. A new city, a new country, possibly a new life? I knew it would take time before it would all really sink in, and my heart was still fully in Helsinki, but it felt like Zürich and I had a great first date.