Nordbrücke is in Wipkingen, 6 minutes from the centre by train. Six minutes! In Zürich terms, it's like the dark side of the moon. I usually prefer central places, but Beat said Nordbrücke was an emblematic café in his neighborhood that I had to check out.
I meet Beat once a week to do a French - Swiss-German tandem. As a real Zürcher, he knows his city very well and I trust his recommandations.
I found the place easily, right next to Wipkingen train station, only 2 bus stops away from Schaffhauserplatz. It was a cold winter day so the colourful terrace wasn't an option but it looked perfect for a lazy afternoon in the sun.
I immediately liked Nordbrücke's atmosphere. It has a vintage feeling with its Biedermeier sofas, its varnished nicotine-stained walls and the soft jazz music playing in the background.
I found Beat reading a newspaper at a sunny corner table. The place was pretty quiet: a middle-aged man was sitting alone at a nearby table, a couple were sipping their coffee in the sun and two girls were chatting on the old couch in the corner.
I went around the place to see the details: fresh flowers on every table, old lamps and a red fumoir that looked like an old style brothel in the back. I quickly took a few photos and sat down.
"So, what do yo think of the place?" asked Beat.
"It looks old, but in a good way. I feel like we're in another time."
Beat looked around and seemed very proud of the place, a bit like when people are smug about their football teams winning a game.
"It's a very old building, actually," he explained. "It was built around 1890 I think. Four years ago, there was an old bar in here where old guys would drink beer and smoke at 11 am. It wasn't fancy at all and there was no place for young people to go out in the neighborhood. But then someone bought the house and renovated it. I like how they didn't paint the old stained walls and respected the history of the place. Nordbrücke has become an important meeting point in Wipkingen."
The service was typically Swiss: polite and efficient. Beat and I only had a short break but the place definitely made me want to stay longer.
"Last week I met Dani, a friend who just moved to Zürich, for my first Ron Orp article," I told Beat. "She complained that the city was a bit boring. What would you tell her to change her mind?"
"Well, you know, when I was younger, I was a bit of a hippie. I had long hair and I also wanted to experience more freedom and diversity. So I understand how she feels. But after a eight-month trip to South-America, I realised how privileged I was to live here. The safety, the cleanliness and the organisation are not boring; they just make life easier."
"So in a way, like Nordbrücke, you also transformed," I smiled. "You kept your taste for alternative stuff but cut your hair and got a serious job... Tell me, what it is that you like so much in Zürich?"
"We have everything here! We're at the heart of Europe, in a city that has one of the highest qualities of life in the world and the Alps are only a short train ride away... Also, Zürich feels like a small city but it offers everything a metropolis has: culture, concerts, shopping, businesses, great work opportunities and beautiful nature everywhere.
I love Paris and London as well, but I am always happy to come back here."
Talking to Beat made me realise that I also didn't have the same priorities ten years ago. Having adventures was the most important thing back then. But Zürich is the right place for me to settle for a while.
An incoming text startled me as we finished our cappuccinos. I realised we had to go back to our busy schedules. But spending an hour and a half in this place felt like being out of time for a while.
If you're interested in Zürich and its past, you should check out Nordbrücke for a relaxing break and a good cup of coffee in the afternoon or a drink in the evening. I paid 7 CHF for a cappuccino and a croissant, tip included. Beware though because you might forget about your next appointment in this timeless place.
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