If you arrive in Zurich after dark, and pass along the river-front, you will think yourself for a moment in Venice. The street lamps glow responsively across the dark Limmat, or trail their light from the bridges. In the uncertain darkness, the bare house walls of the farther side put on the dignity of palaces. There are unsuspected architectural glories in the Wasserkirche and the Rathhaus, as they stand partly in the water of the river. And if, at such times, one of the long, narrow barges of the place passes up stream, the illusion is complete; for, as the boat cuts at intervals through the glare of gaslight it looks for all the world like a gondola.
Zurich need not rely upon any fancied resemblance of this sort for a distinct charm of its own. The situation of the city is essentially beautiful, reminding one, in a general way, of that of Geneva, Lucerne, or Thunat the outlet of a lake, and at the point of issue of a swift river. Approaching from the lakeside, the twin towers of the Grossmunster loom upon the light, capped by ugly rounded tops, like miters; upon the left, the simple spires of the Fraumunster and St. Peter’s. A conglomeration of roofs denotes the city houses. On the water-front, extensive promenades stretch, crescent shaped, from end to end, cleverly laid out, tho as yet too new to quite fulfil their mission of beauty. Some large white buildings form the front line on the lakenotably the theater, and a few hotels and apartment houses. Finally, there where the River Limmat leaves the lake, a vista of bridges open into the heart of the citya succession of arches and lines that invite inspection.
Like most progressive cities of Europe, Zurich has outgrown its feudal accouterments within the last fifty years. It has razed its walls, converted its bastions into playgrounds, and, pushing out on every side, has incorporated many neighboring villages, until to-day it contains more than ninety thousand inhabitants.* The pride of modern Zurich is the Bahnliof-strasse, a long street which leads from the railroad station to the lake. It is planted with trees, and counts as the one, and only boulevard of the city. Unfortunately, a good view of the distant snow mountains is very rare from the lake promenade, altho they appear with distinctness upon the photographs sold in the shops.
Early every Saturday the peasant women come trooping in, with their vegetables, fruits, and flowers, to line the Bahnhof-strasse with carts and baskets. The ladies and kitchen-maids of the city come to buy; but by noon the market is over. In a jiffy, the street is swept as clean as a kitchen floor, and the women have turned their backs on Zurich. But the real center of attraction in Zurich will be found by the traveler in that quarter where stands the Grossmunster, the church of which Zwingli was incumbent for twelve years.
It may well be called the Wittenberg church of Switzerland. The present building dates from the eleventh and twelfth centuries; but tradition has it that the first minster was founded by Charlemagne. That ubiquitous emperor certainly manifested great interest in Zurich. He has been represented no less than three times in various parts of the building. About midway up one of the towers, his statue appears in a niche, where pigeons strut and prink their feathers, undisturbed. Charlemagne is sitting with a mighty two-edged sword upon his knees, and a gilded crown upon his head; but the figure is badly pro-portioned, and the statue is a good-natured, stumpy affair, that makes one smile rather than admire. The outside of the minster still shows traces of the image breakers of Zwingli’s time, and yet the crumbling north portal remains beautiful, even in decay. As for the interior, it has an exceedingly bare and stript appearance; for, altho there is good, solid stonework in the walls, the Whole has been washed a foolish, Philistine white. The Romanesque of the architectural is said to be of particular interest to connoisseurs, and the queer archaic capitals must certainly attract the notice even of ordinary tourists.
It is also worth while to go to the Helmhaus, and examine the collection of lake-dwelling remains. In fact, there is a delightful little model of a lake-dwelling itself, and an appliance to show you how those primitive people could make holes in their stone implements, before they knew the use of metals. The ancient guild houses of Zurich are worth a special study. Take, for instance, that of the “Zimmerleute,” or carpenter with its supporting arches and little peaked tower; or the so-called “Waag,” with frescoed front; then the great wainscoated and paneled hall of the “schmieden” (smiths) ; and the rich Renaissance stonework of the “Maurer” (masons). These buildings, alas, with the decay of the system which produced them, have been obliged to put up big signs of Cafe Restaurant upon their historic facades, like so many vulgar, modern eating-houses.
The Rathhaus, or Town Hall, too, is charming. It stands, like the Wasserkirche, with one side in the water and the other against the quay. The style is a sort of reposeful Italian Renaissance, that is florid only in the best artistic sense. Nor must you miss the so-called “Ruden,” nearby, for its sloping roof and painted walls give it a very captivating look of alert picturesqueness, and it contains a large collection of Pestalozzi souvenirs.
Zurich has more than one claim to the world’s recognition; but no department of its active life, perhaps, merits such unstinted praise as its educational facilities. First and foremost, the University, with four faculties, modeled upon the German system, but retaining certain distinctive traits that are essentially Swissfor instance, the broad and liberal treatment accorded to women students, who are admitted as freely as men, and receive the same instruction. A great number of Russian girls are always to be seen in Zurich, as at other Swiss universities, working unremittingly to acquire the degrees which they are denied at home. Not a few American women also have availed themselves of these facilities, especially for the study of medicine.
Zurich is, at the present time, undoubtedly the most important commercial city in Switzerland, having distanced both Basel and Geneva in this direction. The manufacturing of silk, woolen, and linen fabrics has flourished here since the end of the thirteenth century. In modem times, however, cotton and machinery have been added as staple articles of manufacture. Much of the actual weaving is still done in outlying parts of the Can-ton, in the very cottages of the peasants, so that the click of the loom is heard from open windows in every village and hamlet.
But modern industrial processes are tending continually to drive the weavers from their homes into great centralized factories, and every year this inevitable change becomes more apparent. It is certainly remarkable that Zurich should succeed in turning out cheap and good machinery, when we remember that every ton of coal and iron has to be imported, since Switzerland possesses not a single mine, either of the one or the other.