Switzerland. The home of cheese, chocolate, the Alps… and a bustling English Department at the University of Zurich with an overwhelmingly well-stocked library that I could have lived in for the entirety of my four-week stay and I still wouldn’t have even scratched the surface, and a staff that welcomed me with open arms?
As it turned out, yes.
After two years of part-time PhD work, the stars finally aligned and as funding was secured, the distant dream of a research visit to the home Department of one of my supervisors came to fruition. I arrived in Zurich in late April and was immediately met with extreme kindness and willingness to help with anything and everything from everyone I met at my host Department.
A view of the Limmat river from Lindenhof, the former site of a Roman fort and, later, Charlemagne’s grandson’s palace.
My weeks were spent with my nose firmly planted in both primary and secondary sources of my dissertation as well as discussing my research with my supervisor and getting to know some of the rest of the staff more closely. I also had a chance to present my research at one of the Department’s Lunch Talks, where the audience enjoys their lunch while listening to presentations.
The rooftops and church towers of Zurich.
The weekends were for exploring. I wandered the streets of the medieval Altstadt (Old Town) and visited its various churches, including the Fraumünster, the founding charter of which is from 853 and on display in the church’s crypt (not going to lie, this was maybe the most exciting single thing I encountered). I explored the National Museum, the Kunsthaus (art museum), and paleontological and archeological museums, as well as the local zoo. Venturing south, I visited the town of Rapperswil to get a better view of the Alps. Fun fact: Rapperswil is home to the longest wooden bridge in Switzerland!
Lake Zürich, the Rapperswil-Hurden wooden bridge, and the Alps in the distance.
Another fun fact: If you decide to cross Lake Zürich via said bridge and take the train back to Zurich from the other side, once the wooden bridge ends after 841 meters, you are actually nowhere near the closest train station and you might find yourself walking for 5 kilometers in 23 degree heat, growing increasingly desperate and losing hope of ever reaching your destination with each step.
Against all odds, I survived to tell the tale.
All in all, I enjoyed my visit immensely. In addition to achieving all of my academic goals, I became a huge fan of Swiss bakery culture and the efficiency of public transport, expanded my knowledge of Swiss chocolate brands, and discovered that melted cheese, mashed potatoes and pickled onions make a delicious combination.
I would like to thank the English Department of the University of Zurich and the Kone Foundation for making this visit possible.
Text and photos by Ida Meerto