My Town: Zurich, Switzerland
Star Snowboarder Nicolas Müller on Mountain Art & Meatless Wonders
Burton Snowboards, where Müller sits on its global team, has an eco-friendly namesake snowboard, rightly called EcoNico. It’s made from recycled materials, lessening his carbon footprint while creating a new paradigm in snowboard construction. Nico, as his friends call him, is known for having the smoothest style around-– dribbling across the snow with complete creativity. His skills are seen in some of the biggest snowboarding films, notably, It's Always Snowing Somewhere and That's It, That's All-– X-Dance winner at Sundance.
During a short break from filming next season’s films, Nico chatted with psychoPEDIA from his apartment in Zurich, by phone. He shared his love of growing up in the land of neutrality, and why the best food on the planet just happens to be vegetarian:
How was life growing up in Zurich?
I had the best of both worlds, because my dad lived in Zurich and my mom lived right outside, in a town called Aarau. It’s about 45 kilometers from Zurich-– I had a big city and the suburbs in a way. The country side and city culture. I would go back and forth on the weekends between both parents.
What’s so special about the city?
If it’s one thing, it’s the culture here. In a big city, like New York City, yeah, there’s culture everywhere and some of the best events happening in the world. But the thing about Zurich is that it’s the number-one cultural area per square meter. You really feel it as soon as you walk outside your apartment. There’s something going on everywhere. You really feel the connection and contact with people. There’s always an art opening or just something happening just within walking distance.
Which art galleries do you frequent?
The Kunsthaus is great. It’s this really old building that has collections of artwork, and also has new exhibitions and openings all the time. One time they had a collection of artists come in that had artwork featuring the Alps. My friend Ari Marcopoulos, who has photographed snowboarders through the years, had a space at that exhibition featuring his work. It was really cool to hang out with him-– the vibe of that place is really nice.
Where are some great spots to see a band?
Well, there’s a bunch of places. As far as the big arenas go, where I’ve seen The Beastie Boys-– it’s this arena called Hallenstadion. It’s the top place in the city for huge concerts and sporting events. Madonna…everyone has performed there. It can fit around 10,000 to 15,000 people – it’s huge. On a smaller scale, however, there are a bunch of intimate places too. There’s another place called The Rote Fabrik. It’s this really old factory near the lakeside. A bunch of events and concerts and happenings go on there-– there’s also a restaurant.
Any especially good bars?
First, it really depends on if it’s summer or winter in Zurich. When it’s the summer there’s a whole new world of places to go. There’s this one place called Longstreet. It’s a pretty sad area of the city with crazy people and hookers. Once you get inside, though, it’s a whole different world. Tourists can’t really get in and you won’t see a lot of drunks either. Every block has a bar-– it’s a really shitty area. Lots of drugs too-– but once you get inside, it’s great.
I’m sure you have your favorite restaurants…
One of my absolute favorite restaurants is called Hiltl-– it’s all vegetarian. It’s this huge buffet that’s like 20 feet long! There’s a warm section, a cold section, salads. They have everything! It’s fresh and organic. No meat at all. You go in, load up your plate, weigh it at the register and pay. I brought a friend there from Los Angeles who was visiting and we met up with another friend who was in town from Austria. We went there three times in three days! It’s never boring! The food is so good. I can go there almost every day to eat.
Switzerland is, well, considered neutral to the rest of the world. What’s it like on the inside? Any political battles?
I don’t really follow politics and know every detail, however Switzerland is a very small and very rich country and we’re not a part of the EU (European Union)-– lots of workers try to get passports from Switzerland to gain citizenship. There are parties here in Zurich that are racist against immigrants coming in from, say, Yugoslavia; and in the past Italians were considered cheap workers. Now it’s Turkish people. There are people here who want to kick out them out of the country and say they’re just here to get a free Swiss passport. On a local level, a law just passed making every bar and restaurant smoke- free. I hate smoky places, and still in a few countries you can smoke in bars, which I hate.
If you could share one bit of insider information with someone who is visiting Zurich for the first time, what would you tell them?
I’d tell them to come in the summer and not winter! It’s an entirely different world. It’s cold and foggy in the winter and people tend to stay indoors. In the summer it’s a 180-degree difference in the atmosphere and environment. Also, don’t rent a car. Parking is horrible. Get a bicycle while you’re here! And oh yeah, public transportation is great – take the trains all over the city and country.