When you visit Zurich you feel like you’re at the epicenter of Western European intellectual thought. Since the Reformation, Zurich has been an incubator for progressive ideas as a peaceful axis of European cross-cultural academic, artistic and economic collaboration.
Standing below one 18th century townhouse, my guide Monika stops at the apartment where Lenin lived in 1917.
“He was working as a journalist and lawyer here while preparing the Russian Revolution,” she says. As we walk, Monika points to hotels and cafes where Casanova, Mozart, Brahms, Liszt and Goethe lived and studied. She tells me, “People don’t realize just how progressive the Swiss are.”
We stop for coffee near the University of Zurich—the first in Europe to admit female students. Nearby, the Federal Institute of Tech has 21 Nobel-awarded alumnae. Einstein is one.
I'm not a church guy but I love the 9th century Fraumünster Abbey. In 1970, Chagall created and installed five stained glass windows in an anteroom. Together, they are beautiful beyond description to the point where it feels like the incoming light is singing.
We end our day at the Conditorei Schober patisserie built in 1850, where locals gather in a secret garden for coffee and croissants. I tell Monika that people in the U.S. don’t always think of Zurich as a major art and cultural capital. We think of banks.
“I know, but we have over 200 art galleries,” she says. “People in Europe think Zurich is the most trendy city in Europe.”