26Cantons52Weeks: Zürich

Beautiful Zurich

Canton: Zürich

Destination: Zurich (and beyond!)

Interesting thing: You’ll see it spelled Zürich, Zurich and Zuerich, all are correct. Zurich (without the umlaut) is the English/international spelling – easier for the internet and is commonly adopted since it’s a multicultural city with multinational companies as well as institutions such as ETH University that mostly deal in English. Zuerich is the German-non-umlaut way to write it and is often used in web addresses (ü is pronounced ‘ue’). Although a local friend recently mentioned on hearing Nick Cave’s “Hello Zurich” at a concert that I’ve been pronouncing my adopted city name wrong all this time… I guess you can take the girl out of Australia…

Special guests: practically everyone I know here?

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I’ve saved the best til last: it’s Zurich!*

What do I say about the canton and city I’ve called my home for nearly four years now? Four years is a long time. Thinking back, while I lived in the cities of Sydney and London for longer, our flat in Zurich is probably the longest house I’ve lived in continuously since becoming an adult. I feel pretty at home here, although various circumstances mean it’s still sometimes hard to feel settled.

Despite hitting an average of one Swiss canton every fortnight throughout the year for #26Cantons52Weeks, the bulk of my time has been spent in good old Zuri. We had a great summer with lovely weather, lots of swimming and what now feels like a regular influx of visitors from abroad – always a pleasure and a great excuse to explore further afield.

I have travelled a fair bit in the canton of Zurich too – discovering new things, visiting friends who live either side of the Zurisee (Lake Zurich) and in the hinterland of Winterthur, Dietlikon etc. But I guess my main focus has been on the canton’s capital city and my small corner of it.

I went in the Limmatschwimmen for the second year in a row. I wrote a Love letter to Zurich in a local publication. And, aside from #26Cantons52Weeks and other writing successes, perhaps my biggest, unexpected personal achievement this year has been that I started running in summer, which has been kind of a revelation and saver-of-my-sanity. For me, this culminated in participating in the annual Zurich Silvesterlauf winter 10km run. From the name, the Silvesterlauf should be today (New Year’s Eve is called ‘Silvester’ in German, lauf = run) but it was actually a few weeks ago, for reasons you can read about on their site.

It was my first-ever official run. The weather was utterly appalling – snow, sleet, rain and -5 through the day. I didn’t have a companion runner and by my start time of 17.30 it was already dark so I told my husband and kids to skip it and stay warm and dry at home. And, I guess maybe that’s what I’ve come to love about Zurich. I know it well enough that I can head into town after dark on a shitty day and run 10km by myself and feel like I’m ‘part’ of something.

Another lone-runner asked me to snap a finishing pic of her so I got her to return the favour. I wished I’d given her a hug, or at least a high-five. But that’s quite Zurich too – people aren’t all up in your shit. There was no participator medal given at the end, just the standard bottle of Swiss fizzy drink Rivella. I slushed home through the city, soaked to the skin and on a huge high.

So here’s to another big year of my life in Switzerland doing and seeing things that surprise and impress me all the time. Love Switzerland. Love Zurich. Roll on 2018!

Silvesterlauf – success!

*best-known anyway!

AND THAT’S A WRAP PEOPLE: I have achieved my self-imposed project of visiting every canton in Switzerland in 2017!! I must be insane. But I feel a huge sense of achievement.

Thanks again to all my Clairevetica readers, whether you came for the poetry or the travelogues (or whatever else) and especially those who commented, encouraged and made suggestions both on and off the blog.

I’m going to take a bit of time in January to take stock of where it all goes next so you’ll be hearing from me again very soon.

Happy new year! 🙂 🙂 🙂  Love, Claire x


Cantons visited in  2017’s #26Cantons52weeks


Appenzell Ausserrhoden

Appenzell Innerrhoden
















St. Gallen









The Smell of September

Josefswiese Park, Hardbrucke

Josefswiese Park, Hardbrucke

The world has turned.

It’s a little bit darker in the mornings. I’m taking a jacket out with me again as standard.

I’m feeling the flutterings of new life in my belly.

Nothing has changed, but everything has changed.


P has gone from crawling into our bed each morning at 5am to sleeping through past 7 sometimes. He’s also gone from a few weeks of whining and “nup” to everything back to a lovely(mostly) kid again. It’s so hard to tell with these phases – is it us? Is it him? Something else? Even though I’ve done this parenting thing for nearly 3.5 years now, I always forget that each phase only lasts a couple of weeks. The good and the bad.

I’m in a new phase too. I feel different. Things are OK. Somehow I’ve clicked over from raging against my fate to accepting things and it’s so much better (for now!). I am cool with the boy thing too – so much so that I almost can’t fathom why I was so upset.

Even the language – somehow a shift there as well. From worrying if I “could” or “couldn’t” if I was “good” or “bad” at German to realising I just have to learn it. It’s just knowledge that’s there to be gained and I am taking the classes, doing the study. It’s hard but not insurmountable, it just takes work. Work I can do.

Some piece of myself has returned and I’m organising stuff! I’ve been teeing up a few social engagements and going out to things, buying household items and planning travel. It feels good.

I went to this Motherhood Support Group the other night. Only three people of a projected six showed (including the organiser) but it was good to have a small group so everyone could say lots. We talked for nearly 3 hours! The organiser, who is a psychologist, expat and mother herself, said some interesting things about moving cities/countries/continents that I hadn’t thought of before.

When you cut yourself out of the fabric of your life and try to re-establish those threads of familiarity in a completely new environment, you lose so much. The subconscious things I hadn’t realised were smells and geography.

Smell is such a primal sense, not something you think about so often. When you relocate to a completely new place, you lose all those familiar scents of home. Even of your own home. The streets, the odour of your local newsagent, the office, the Tube. It’s very disorienting to be without all these smells. I almost cried when she said this – it’s so true! When I was in the nasty throes of morning sickness, with the bloody churchbells reverberating through my new apartment, I would crawl into bed and think “I hate the smell in here”. It was a completely innofensive odour of clothes, sheets, dust (I guess) but it was different to “home” – different washing powder, different water, new trees, less pollution.

Feeling a chill in the air this week, I found my nose reaching for the familiar Autumn smell of Horse Chestnut trees and fox shit. A smell I actually didn’t like. But it signalled something: London/Autumn/Now. And drawing a blank on that scent was really odd – like walking into an unlit room in my brain. Early Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. What does it smell like in Zurich? I don’t quite know yet.

Geography too. Just knowing the patterns of your local area – the well-trod journey to the train station, the local park, your corner shop. They build reassurance in the brain: I have been here, I know this, I know what I’m doing, I know who I am. Losing that is tough, it takes time to re-build those familiar routes, make new connections to your local landscape. It’s fascinating, and sort of terryfying to think how lost I felt without this. Also explains why my homesickness often takes the form of small yearnings for odd places – a nondescript corner of Castlereagh Street, Sydney. The view of the sky above the railway tracks as you walk down Bedford Street, Newtown past the Hub. My bit of the Thames as I strode across London Bridge to work. The curve of the path through a crappy Tottenham estate where I weekly pushed my newborn child in his buggy…

This week, we also had a lovely afternoon at Josefswiese park at Hardbrucke, where I’ve actually spent enough time for it to feel like a familiar friend now. When we came to Zuri in Summer 2013, with the move still very much up in the air, I took my son to this park and had my first “This is good, we could live here” moment.

I love it there. I’ve fallen in love with Josefwiese! For me, to fall in love with a place is important. It means taking it into my heart, owning it, but also giving something away. It’s that thing of committing, admitting vulnerability…  I now own a piece of that park and it owns me, a tiny part of my heart will be left there if and when we leave Zurich. And I’ll miss it and yearn for it in odd moments. Like my bit of the Thames in London, or that chunk of sky in Newtown.

And soon I’m going home. To one of my homes. Home, home, home. Oh Sydney, I can’t wait. But I’m working hard to make sure I want to come back to Zurich too.