Living in the shadows can be a mixed blessing.
For example, my cousin is a world class athlete who has qualified for the Olympics, ran in the Commonwealth Games, and is presently raising money for children as he runs and rolls across Canada, so while I proudly boast of my connection to my cousin, I simultaneously find myself humbled when I compare his accomplishments with my own.
The city of Winterthur, in the shadows of Zürich and inside Zürich Canton, has similar problems.
Like myself, Winterthur craves attention but resigns itself to accepting that it will never be as famous as its Züricher cousin.
Winterthur is Switzerland’s 6th biggest city with a population of over 104,000 people.
It is a service and high-tech city, but most folks only value Winterthur for its proximity to Zürich (30 km / 19 miles to the southwest and only 18 minutes by train).
It is a transportation hub with major motorways connecting the city to all parts of Switzerland as the junction of seven crossroads.
An army that controls Winterthur controls access to most of Switzerland and points crossing the Rhine into southern Germany.
Winterthur’s Hauptbahnhof (Grand Central Station) is one of the busiest railway stations in Switzerland and one can grab a train from here to Germany, Italy or the Zürich International Airport.
This central station handles 122,000 passengers a day and is one of the ten stations within the city.
Winterthur is the headquarters city for Sulzer (pumping systems, thermal turbomachinery and fluid material mixing machines), Rieter (textile machinery and automobile components), SLM (Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works: railway equipment, especially mountain railways) and the Club of Rome (a global think tank that deals with a variety of international political issues, “its mission to act as a global catalyst for change through the identification and analysis of the crucial problems facing humanity and the communication of such problems to the most important public and private decision makers as well as to the general public”).
Winterthur is the birthplace of Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS (Union Bank of Switzerland), and Switzerland’s largest insurance business, AXA Winterthur.
Peraves, the manufacturer of the fully enclosed cabin motorcycle, the Monotracer, has been making these unusual vehicles since the early 1980s.
The town is renowned for its institute of higher education Technikum, the largest school of technology in Switzerland.
Winterthur’s chamber orchestra Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur is the oldest orchestra in Switzerland, while the Swiss folk metal band Eluveitie and the punkabilly band the Peacocks hail from here.
Winterthur has an artist community of over 60 artists, including San Francisco born Michelle Bird.
Winterthur is the birthplace of former Zürich mayor Sigmund Widmer, Swiss comedian Viktor Giacobbo and NHL San Jose Sharks defenseman Mirco Müller.
And what of the people who live in this city?
Most speak Winti (a Swiss German dialect) and thus the residents of Winterthur are called the “Winti”.
83% speak Winti, 5% speak Italian and 2% speak Albanian.
The little river Eulach flows through the middle of the city, giving Winterthur, its second name: “Eulach City”.
So, why is the glory that is Winterthur not more celebrated?
Because it is only 19 miles away from Zürich.
Winterthur is not a classic tourist hotspot like other destinations in Switzerland, so there are not so many places to stay in Winterthur, and as it is so easy to reach Zürich by public transport, most Winterthur visitors sleep in Zürich.
So, why bother with Winterthur?
Most visitors come to Winterthur for its excellent museums and its old quarter.
The Oskar Reinhart Collection, housed in two museums, is one of the leading private art collections assembled in Europe in the 20th century with works from the 15th century to the present day, including paintings by Cranach, Holbein, El Greco, Goya, Brueghel, Rubens, Rembrandt, Renoir, Manet, Degas, Anker and Giacometti, to name just a few.
The Kunstmuseum (art museum) has a splendid collection covering international art over the last century with works by Van Gogh, Monet, Rousseau, Picasso, Rodin and many others.
The Fotomuseum (photography museum) is the most beautiful museum of photography in Europe and is well worth a visit, while Technorama is an extraordinary voyage into the multiple worlds of hands-on science.
Winterthur is an exciting city and surprisingly green and the combination of green hills, tranquil river, art galleries and cafes make for a pleasant sojourn.
There always seems to be events happening and things to do.
Winterthur is one of Switzerland’s best kept secrets.