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impressions of Thalwil, Switzerland


Welcome to our life in Thalwil: a personal blog with views and news of lakeside life near Zurich, Switzerland.

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This quiet lakeside town is located five miles south of Zurich and easily reached by train, boat or car. Now a commuter suburb, it has preserved much of its charm as a former farming village and boasts a strong community culture as well as a wide range of shops and leisure activities.

Thalwil includes the hamlet of Gattikon and borders on Rüschlikon, Langnau, Oberrieden, Horgen and (across the lake) Erlenbach.

Thalwil blog

Friday, April 14 : 11:13 AM

Blogtime again

Good morning Thalwil

It's Good Friday today, the shops are closed and the sun is on holiday, so we've nothing better to do than blog! Yes, we're still here and have just been too busy enjoying our life in Thalwil to share it with all of you out there.

It's been an interesting year, though, and an especially memorable winter with half a metre of snow covering Thalwil at the beginning of March!

The last snow came last week. Let's hope the winter is over when we burn the snowman on Monday week...

Sunday, February 6 : 2:08 AM

knowing the “grüezi zone”

To greet or not to greet? Exploring the unwritten rules of politeness in Switzerland.

Swiss people rarely talk to strangers. In this famously discreet country, it it highly unusual and suspicious to be approached, let alone greeted by strangers.

Go for a walk in the woods, however, and you will quickly need to respond to a stream of “grüezi” or “guete Daag”. As you return to the built-up area, this greeting mysteriously ends. Maybe Swiss people feel a implicit solidarity with other members of the hiking community as they enter the countryside, or maybe the warm sun and fresh air lets them loosen up a little and lower their discreet guard.

Knowing where this “grüezi zone” starts - and ends - is an art in itself. We've often wondered how Swiss people know when to greet others. Maybe you have a view on this that you'd like to share with us?

P.S. Sorry for the long break. We're back now and hope to revive this blog a little - when we have time.

Tuesday, November 9 : 8:09 PM

Firefox reclaims the web!

Congratulations from Thalwil on the launch of Firefox 1.0! Finally we can all surf the web with a browser that's not only faster but also SAFER and smarter. Hey surfing just got cool again! Welcome to the iPod of web browsing! Welcome to Firefox!

Firefox is a neat sleek browser made by a a group of volunteers. And yet it completely trounces Mighty Microsoft Corporation's venerable Internet Explorer. Fed up with countless browser windows? Firefox has tabbled browsing! Sick of popups and spyware? Firefox has ad blockers and advanced security protection so you can surf the net without worrying about worms and viruses. It also protects your privacy, has an integrated Google search, supports RSS newsfeeds, etc, etc.

Don't take our word for it: read what the BBC has to say about Firefox. Oh, it's also recommended by eWeek, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, Forbes, USA Today and many other media and internet experts.

Try it for yourselves: You can download Firefox in 15 languages for Windows, Mac and Linux. Switching couldn't be easier!

Oh, when you've rediscovered the web with Firefox, you'll probably also want its easy safe, spam- and virus-proof e-mail cousin Thunderbird...

Sunday, October 24 : 6:27 PM

Lake Walk IX

A beautiful autumn Sunday provides the ideal setting to complete our walk around Lake Zurich.

We made it! Nine hikes and almost five months after we first set out from Thalwil, we finally achieved our goal.

Sunday, October 3 : 3:58 PM

Lake Walk VIII

The Penultimate stage of our journey, in which we are guided by many signs, admire the style of a litter bin, hunt for the elusive bench and have an artistic encounter under a water jet.

The lake was quiet as our train passed along it in the early morning light. Only a few swans and ducks disturbed the slow waters. Oh, and three divers bobbing around near the station in Horgen. We were clearly not the only ones to start the day early.

After arriving in Richterswil, we soon headed up the cobbled paths of the old village centre to the church. Remembering how we lost our way due to stingy sign-posting in affluent Freienbach, we couldn't help noticing the large number of carefully placed signs which guided us through its less prosperous neighbour.

As we walked on, we enjoyed several nice panoramas of the lake before crossing the SOB railway line and continuing down into Wädenswil. This picturesque town is one of our favourite places on the lake with many small shops and a very friendly atmosphere. One new highlight we hadn't noticed until today were the rather special litter bins along the lakeside path. These mark a rather stylish contrast in an age of utility, where litter bins are mainly design to keep out household refuse. It's one of the peculiarities of affluent Switzerland, that people of all social levels will go to enormous length to avoid paying the two-franc levy on rubbish bags, including dumping it piecemeal in public litter bins.

From Wädenswil onwards we were able to follow a rather nice path, right by the side of the lake. The next village we passed is known by the rather forboding name of "Au" - a German expression of pain. In actual fact the name refers to the 'peninsula' jutting out into the lake. However, the painful associations were not comepletely unfounded as we hunted in vain for a bench to rest our weary legs. Finally at the far end of Au, we found a nice place to taste our picnic.

Leaving benchless memories behind us, we finally came to Horgen. As we walked along the lake, close to the station, we noticed two things: the first is a new water jet - putting this sleeping lakeside town on a par with world cities like Zurich and Geneva. The other was three divers we saw earlier - still bobbing around underneath the jet. Why were they still here? When we looked more closely, we understood why: they were not humans but dummies. A work of art.

Sunday, September 26 : 3:44 PM

Thalwilers reach out to their
foreign neighbours

Voters in Thalwil have backed easier citizenship for young foreigners, despite nation-wide rejection of the new law after a controversial campaign by far-right groups.

The proposals supported by three of the four major parties wanted to ease strict citizenship rules for young second-generation foreigners and offer naturalisation at birth to the third generation. The only major party to oppose this change was the far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP). In an uncompromising campaign, the SVP and various shady groups associated with its leading members appealed to xenophobic instincts and used misleading statistics to threaten a naturalised Muslim majority in Switzerland by 2035.

Despite a positive trend in early opinion polls, the complacency of the supporters and the shameless propaganda of the opponents led to the rejection of the new law in today's nation-wide vote. Thalwil was one of the few rural communities in Eastern Switzerland to approve both proposals.

One of the most outrageous SVP adverts warned that if the naturalisation law were passed, women would soon be subject to Muslim policies. This was all the more laughable given the SVP's chauvinist opposition to maternity benefits - another proposal backed by the voters of Thalwil.

Monday, September 6 : 8:39 PM

Lake Walk VII

The seventh stage of our walk took us from the medieval town of Rapperswil through the Canton of Schwyz and back up the western shore of the lake to Richterswil.

Rapperswil is situated on the narrowest point of Lake Zurich, at one end of the Seedamm causeway. Until recently, hikers had to walk alongside the busy rail and road traffic to reach the other side of the lake, but in April 2001 a wooden bridge was built for pedestrians. This revived memories of the original medieval bridge, which linked the two sides of the lake from 1358 until the causeway was built in 1878 and was an important stage on the path to the pilgrimage abbey of Einsiedeln.

At 841 metres the new bridge is shorter than its medieval predecessor (1450m) but still the longest wooden bridge in Switzerland. Walking across in the early morning light was a unique experience as we really felt like we were walking in the middle of the lake, with all the ducks and swans around us. Another nice touch is the integration of the Heilig Hüsli, a medieval chapel and the last remnant of the old bridge.

Leaving the bridge behind us, we came to Hurden, on the Schwyz side of the causeway. This former fishing village is home to many millionaires and gained notoriety when its restaurants considered themselves too posh to serve the simple ramblers who swarmed across after the new bridge was completed.

Having crossed the causeway, we arrived in the village of Pfäffikon and headed towards Freienbach. This village is at the centre of one of the richest communes in Switzerland (which also includes Pfäffikon and Hurden). It also has one of the worst maintained hiking systems: despite our map, we got lost three times due to wrong or missing signposts.

Above Freienbach we came to the Leutschen, the largest wine-growing area of Schwyz, founded by the monks of Einsiedeln. These vineyards offered us fantastic views of Lake Zurich as we made our way through them to Wollerau. From here we left the Canton of Schwyz behind us and took the Bilgeriwäg ("pilgrim's way") down into Richterswil. This old path originally led along the lake to the Abbey of Einsiedeln: there are still roads echoing its name in several other villages, including Rüschlikon and Thalwil. It was also a fitting ending to our journey which had begun on the pilgrims' bridge in Rapperswil.

Saturday, September 4 : 9:49 AM

Bring- und Holtag

Today is the annual Bring- und Holtag in Thalwil: all locals can bring household items they no longer need - and take home anything they want.

Similar events are practiced by many other communes in the area and reflect the positive national attitude towards waste: Switzerland leads Europe by recycling 50 percent of all household waste. Certainly, the Bring- and Holtag in Thalwil is very popular, with cars queueing all along the surrounding streets to leave unwanted items or find great bargains. We saw everything from lamps and pots to whole furniture sets and grills changing hands.

The free Bring- und Holtag is being held on the Chilbiplatz. There is also a market for unwanted books in the nearby Schützenhalle. Both events end at 2pm this afternoon.

Sunday, August 29 : 7:32 PM


Bustling village life: scenes from yesterday's busy street market in Gotthardstrasse. Over 100 stalls offered everything from tasty food to fun and games for the younger inhabitants of Thalwil. Our favourite attraction was the 'Biire-Chrapfe' offered by our favourite Kölli-Beck bakery.

Tuesday, August 24 : 7:55 PM

Happy Birthday Blogger!

Many happy returns to our favourite blog engine which has just reached the tender age of five. The early pioneer of weblogs, it has recently revived and is now owned by the fine folks at Google who continue to improve this tool and provide it provide it free to the online community. Got blog? Why not start yours today...

Monday, August 23 : 6:00 AM

a moment of silence

On Saturday night, a woman was killed by her husband after an argument. The man was arrested. Our thoughts are with the three young children who have lost their mother and - in a way - their father, too. We did not know them, but they lived close to us.

Domestic violence can happen anywhere. Even in a place as prosperous, safe and peaceful as Thalwil.

Sunday, August 15 : 3:37 PM

Lake Walk V:


Saturday, August 14 : 2:44 PM

Early morning coffee wars

The battle of the coffeehouses is in full swing now following the opening of the new Starbucks a week ago. Just last week, I and other commuters were accosted by a Starbucks waiter offering free frappucino samples as we waited for the 6:18 am (!) train at Thalwil station.

Fortune is said to favour the brave and so far Starbucks' efforts are definitely paying off. Every time we pass, the cafe and balcony are full customers. We've been wondering whether this is down to the great coffee, special opening promotions, a passing trend or simply the large English-speaking community in Thalwil. Time will tell. We will, too, when we get round to redeeming our opening promotion voucher. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 20 : 10:23 PM

Coffee vs. Kaffi

Starbucks is coming to Thalwil. The famous green letters and logo have appeared outside the former UBS bank in Gotthardstrasse, announcing the latest addition to the local gastro scene.

The new outlet is just footsteps away from the venerable Chrottebach café. We eagerly await the head-to-head between the humble Swiss "Kaffi" and the mighty American coffee giant. Will it be traditional vs. trendy? Cups will be locked from 6. August. May the best coffee win!

Disclaimer: The writers of this post are devotees of the green leaf with no vested interest in the brown bean. Tea rules ok!

Wednesday, July 14 : 8:15 PM

Lake Walk IV

This fourth leg of our lake walk took us from Erlenbach to Meilen.

(details to follow)

Monday, July 12 : 11:26 PM

Endless April in July

After the blistering heatwave last year, 2004 seems to be stuck in April. With sub-20 temperatures, high winds and sudden showers summer seems like a distant memory. One moment it's raining cats and dogs, and then the sun starts to shine. It's bad news for ice cream sellers and outdoor cinemas but great for photography! Here's a picture we took on our evening walk today:

Sunday, July 4 : 9:17 PM

Lake Walk III

For the next leg of our lake walk we got the no. 11 tram to Rehalp, a former deer pasture on the edge of Zurich. From there we headed into the forest, towards the village of Zollikon. This was our first foray into the 'gold coast', the wealthy suburbs on the sunny side of Lake Zurich, and we soon noticed the affluant villas as well as the jewellery of the ladies taking their dogs for a morning walk.

Details to follow...

Saturday, July 3 : 11:57 PM


Today is the second day of the Züri-Fäscht (Zurich Festival), so we decided to take an evening walk up to Thalwil Church and see the fireworks along the lake. Apparently we were't the only ones with this idea as the viewing area was full with locals enjoying the spectacle...

Sunday, June 13 : 8:33 PM

Lake walk II

It's been a while since we started our lake walk and we've been eager to keep our momentum. Despite a discouraging weather forecast, we headed to Wollishofen for the second leg of our journey: the lakeside path around the city of Zurich.

Landiwiese park in Wollishofen

The lake is especially accessible and attractive in the Zurich because of the many parks around it; however, especially in Wollishofen, this is somewhat dimished by the large amount of graffiti. We began by passing the "Landiwiese", named after the Swiss National Exhibition held there in 1939. At that time they actually built a cablecar across the lake. However, this has since been dismanted, so we had to continue on foot, past the "Sukkulentensammlung" with its collection of exotic plants, to the water jet which marks the port at Enge.

Passing the port, we entered one of the nicest lakeside parks in Zurich. The Arboretum is named after the Latin word for "tree" and was opened in 1887 as a "tree garden", grouping many different varieties according to species and origin and creating a unique place to enjoy both "science and beauty".

Many of the current lakeside parks were designed on reclaimed land in the last decades of the 19th century. Much of this is owed to the efforts of one man: city engineer Arnold Bürkli (1833-1894), after whom the Bürkliplatz between the Bahnhofstrasse (Zurich's main shopping street) and the lake is named. Nowadays this is a busy junction and little remains of the original 19th-century piazza.

From Bürkliplatz we crossed the Quaibrücke across the Limmat river and continued along the Utoquai. This area offers nice views of the Uetliberg, the landmark hill above Zurich it is named after.

(more soon)

Monday, May 31 : 7:15 PM

Exotic escape to Kunming

It's Whit Monday, the shops are closed and it's raining. Now what? You might feel tempted to dream of distant holidays with warm weather and hot food... We decided to stop dreaming and spice up our lives at the local Chinese restaurant.* Named after the twin city of nearby Zurich, the Kunming in Gotthardstrasse is a typical Asian restaurant with palace lanterns and oriental music helping to set an exotic tone.

The ginger chicken and sweet & sour pork we ordered weren't spectacular but the staff were very friendly and the portions were quite generous. And the starter definitely made our day: delicious steamed shaomai which were as good as any we'd tasted so far in Switzerland.

All in all, we enjoyed our exotic escape and will definitely be back to treat ourselves to more oriental delights when the weather is bad again...

*A second Chinese restaurant off Ludretikonerstrasse recently closed - before we got to try it.

Sunday, May 30 : 3:50 PM

Lake walk I

This year we have an ambitious project to boost our fitness and improve our local knowledge. We want to walk around Lake Zurich.

We decided to begin our journey by heading northwards towards the nearby metropolis of Zurich. Our starting point was the Park im Grüene, a popular recreation area gifted to the public in 1946 by the founder of Migros, Gottlieb Duttweiler.

The park is located on the border between Thalwil and its affluent but sleepy neighbour, Rüschlikon. We passed some rather luxurious apartments but were soon walking through the open countryside on the crest of the Zimmerberg. This moraine hill was formed by the mighty glaciers that covered this area during the last ice age and offers wonderful views of the Uetliberg and Lake Zurich.

Before long our path led us to the hilltop church after which the next village is named. Kilchberg is home to the world-famous chocolate-makers Lindt & Sprüngli. Continuing along the ridge, we passed the Stockengut farm before turning down into Wollishofen.

The weath gap to the affluant suburbs of Rüschlikon and Kilchberg is evident from the cars in the streets. However, like its neighbours, Wollishofen, was once a farming village before it was forcibly made part of the city of Zurich in 1893. Hidden behind the urban streets some half-timbered houses which still preserved the old village spirit.

We originally planned to walk into the heart of Zurich but having spotted a passing boat, we decided to end our first leg in Wollishofen and enjoy a nice cruise back to our home in Thalwil. To be continued...

Saturday, May 29 : 2:17 PM

Redesign month

We're still here! Yes, it's been a while since our last post but, as you can see, we've been busy working on a new version of our Thalwil blog!

May is the traditional season for redesign and many venerable online publications and web gurus (Zeldman, Shea and Bowman, to name just a few) have refreshed their online presence. Our own publishing host, Blogger, has come up with a great new design, offering fresh features such as comments, which we'll be implementing in the course of our new edition.

Not wanting to mention our own humble blog in the same beath as these venerable names, we're still pleased to present a new design just in time for the end of May (phew!). Please bear with us as we iron out the corners and finish off things throughout this Whit weekend. Normal posting will resume as soon as possible...

P.S. For reference purposes, the old design is still available here.

Saturday, May 8 : 9:51 AM

Dreaming of lakeside summer days

Summer is here again! Well, not quite. But at 10 AM today the lakeside baths of Ludretikon and Bürger I will open again after their winter break. (Bürger II opens on 22 May).

The thought of long and lazy lakeside evenings is certainly warming after the recent cold spell. Soon the three baths and any other patch of lakeside grass will throng with the hustle and bustle of kids and adults alike. The smell of barbeques will fill the air. Mmmm the joys of a lakeside summer! Tabletennis anyone? ...

Tuesday, May 4 : 10:47 PM

No more bella vita in 2005?

The Italian-speaking Ticino is one of our favourite places in Switzerland. And currently it is also very easy to reach from Thalwil: several direct trains offer fast and daily access to the sunny side of Switzerland, with its Mediterranean atmosphere and food. Sadly this 'bella vita' will become somewhat more distant after December 2004, when the new SBB timetable takes effect...

The proposed changes are generally beneficial to Thalwil, with the exception of the trains to southern Switzerland, which will no longer stop in Thalwil. As it is still possible to suggest alterations to the new timetable, the Thalwil Gemeinde is campaigning to keep the direct links to the Ticino. You can show your support by signing the petition at the information counter of the Gemeindehaus (Alte Landstrasse 112) until May 6.

Friday, April 30 : 7:34 PM

Z'Thalwil spricht me Änglisch

We've met them in the Migros supermarket, we've overheard them on the bus or by the lake. Perhaps our ears are biased, but there seem to be a lot of English speakers in Thalwil.

Rather than feeling threatened by this Anglo-Saxon 'invasion', most locals actually aspire to learn the language of their guests. In April 2001, the New York Times reported that Thalwil was at the forefront of efforts to introduce English teaching at primary level: "Students as young as 7 are learning multiplication or discussing the weather in English." The parents are delighted. As one mother commented: "Everywhere people are speaking English, not just abroad."

However, three years on, Swiss German - here the local Züritütsch variety - is still going strong. Even if youngsters like to add some international flavour: "Mundart ysch halt immer no mega cool und voll easy!"

Monday, April 19 : 1:57 PM

Burning (eating) the snowman

Thalwil is unusually busy today and the shops are closing early. Yes, it's "Sächsilüüte Day" again
and the bigwigs in nearby Zurich are preparing for the annual ritual of burning the "Bögg" (snowman). This is meant to mark the end of winter, but judging from the cold weather, they may be celebrating too soon. For simple folks along the lake this day means an afternoon off work and the chance to enjoy our own personal "Bögg" - a chocolate version from Sprüngli...

Saturday, April 17 : 1:44 PM

Sakura season

It's a sunny spring weekend and the trees of Thalwil are in bloom!

Sunday, April 4 : 5:25 PM


We paid our first visit to Oberrieden today. Although we've been living here for a year now we somehow never made it to this small but pictureque village just along the lake from Thalwil (it became independent from Horgen in 1773). We enjoyed an especially good view of Oberrieden surrounded by the lake and mountains as we walked down Knonauerweg and then into the quiet village centre. After a brief stop at the Kölli Beck bakery (yes, their shop/cafe in Oberrieden is open on Sundays) we got the bus back home again...

Saturday, April 3 : 8:45 AM

Easter market in Thalwil

Today is Easter market day: stalls offering seasonal decorations and food are open from 9 am to 4 pm. Where? 'Uff dr Platte' - outside the church in Thalwil Oberdorf.

Wednesday, March 31 : 8:00 PM

Our first year in Thalwil

It's exactly one year since we took on our new home in Thalwil! But it seems like we've been living here for ages... it's a great place and hopefully we can stay for many years to come!

Tuesday, March 30 : 7:28 AM

Milking an opportunity...

The local butcher has now started to sell cheese and milk products - just days after the cheese shop closed! Looks like he has a good nose for business. And for marketing as well: he's kicking off his new range with special discounts and a stall offering cheese bratwurst on the high street... en guete zämme!

Saturday, March 27 : 11:06 AM

so long and thanks for all the cheese

Our local cheese shop closed today! It's sad to see yet another small store die, but this time the culprit wasn't competition from large supermarkets. Apparently the landlord didn't want to extend the lease after the current shopkeeper retires. Instead the neighbouring skateboard boutique will be expanding. For this Thalwil will lose a small but popular part of local culture and we'll be missing our favourite smoked raclette...

Luckily we found a new cheese shop in Oberrieden: looks like we'll be going 'abroad' to buy our cheese from now on...

Wednesday, February 4 : 12:50 PM

First post from Thalwil

Hello and welcome! We've been living in the pictureque lakeside 'village' of Thalwil for almost a year now but we keep discovering new views, new events, new places to enjoy. Yet somehow this village (or town as it has now become) has not attracted much attention on the web. So stay tuned to this very occasional blog to learn more about "unser Lääbe in Thalwil" - our life in Thalwil...


Watch this space for more in-depth information about Thalwil and the Zimmerberg region.


Coming soon: information about events in Thalwil.