The names of streets are a city’s way of remembering the great and good that navigated the twists and turns of urban society past. The signposts stand as reminders of those who went before.
In Zürich’s District 4, a neighborhood that has recently emerged from troubled times, the street markers remind us of eras past, and keep the living in touch with their historical urban counterparts. For the most part, the experience is in passing, walking the dog or peddling to work. In finding your way, you may muse upon an unfamiliar street name, which, for the very curious, may even elicit a wiki search to help fill out the city’s history.
Which brings me to a particular street in District 4, Herman-Greulich-Strasse. Hermann Greulich is a name which has faded for many in Zürich, but he was an important person in his time, and his influence can still be felt today.
Hanging out in Zürich with Hermann Greulich
Aside from working as a bookbinder, a photo assistant, and a coffee roaster, Hermann Greulich was a socialist politician and worked side by side with fellow socialist thinkers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. He founded the International Workers Association and made several attempts at initiating the Social Democratic Party. Greulich was also an early advocate of the Swiss Suffragette movement. For both the SDP and the Suffragettes he was not able to get the job done in his lifetime, but he did the important work of getting these political movements underway. (Unbelievably women did not get the vote in Switzerland until 1972!)
And the only reason I know anything about Hermann Greulich is there’s a street named after him and on that street is the Greulich Hotel where I recently had the good fortune to stay. Building on the hint that Herman-Greulich-Strasse provides, the Greulich Hotel fills out the picture of its namesake with its mission of hospitality for visitors and locals alike.
Hotels can be exclusive and isolated places, walling off their guests from the neighborhood. Hotel Greulich flips this relationship on its head, inviting the community in at every level in a way that would make Hermann proud.
It starts out front where guests enter through a cafe-style seating area. All are welcome to sit and enjoy the activities of the street while partaking in coffee, tea and treats, served in Hermann’s Wohnzimmer (living room).
Hermann’s Wohnzimmer is a bit more intimate and, as the name suggests, honors Hermann Greulich, his love of reading and his reputation for entertaining friends for discussion and debate. With Hermann’s first career as bookbinder, he developed a love of the written word and the craft of bookbinding. Hotel Greulich’s library in Hermann’s Wohnzimmer is open as a reading room and its literature can be checked out by guests and local visitors.
Breakfast time is when guests and locals cross paths the most in Hermann’s Wohnzimmer. Although there are plenty of healthy choices available on the menu, this being Switzerland, you must try one of the many varieties of Muesli, something I always look forward to when passing through this country.
Hotel Greulich is formed from a ’60s era apartment building. You can’t miss its dynamic curving facade inviting passersby into its forecourt. The hotel started small and grew naturally over time. As renters moved out the flats were converted into hotel rooms. Now there are 28 rooms and, because they began as apartments, most are spacious. All feature simple design, luxurious beds, desk space, and generous living areas. Staying at the Greulich feels like staying in a private apartment.
Behind the hotel there used to be manufacturing facilities that drew on the occupants of the surrounding apartment buildings for its workforce. Those kinds of live/work arrangements were the legacy of Hermann’s advocacy. But this cooperative kind of manufacturing has long since fallen out of favor. With the abandonment of this land for manufacturing, the Greulich took it over and added a modern design annex with new efficiency hotel rooms bordering a tranquil birch tree garden. That’s the setting for public yoga classes during the summer, and at other times it’s a place of quiet relaxation.
Operated by a friendly and helpful team, the Greulich feels more like a home than a hotel. Hermann would certainly approve. Located not far from downtown and many local attractions, don’t forget to take advantage of the Greulich’s fleet of 3-speed bicycles to easily explore other fascinating street-sign stories in and around Zürich.
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