Vintage Hunting in Heidiland

On all of my previous trips to Switzerland, I bought a lot. Not just enough to fit a suitcase. I’m talking multiple suitcases, small fortunes spent in chocolate alone and coats packed full of goodies to bring back home to friends and family. It was a constant battle against weight limits and baggage allowances. A battle that I always won, until now.

I wanted to show my wife the ropes. Take her to all of my favourite haunts in Zurich, Lausanne and beyond. Mission accomplished, and then some. I casually mentioned to her that she might like to visit the Brockenhaus, the Swiss equivalent of Goodwill frequented by my odd but loveable Oma, now 95, who used to find some of the coolest treasures there. Our first stop was the main branch in Zurich, located next to Altstetten station. Within five minutes, she had found a vintage Dansk piece that she fell in love with and had to have. It sort of snowballed from there.

A couple dozen thrift shops, flea markets and dusty roadside barns later, we had amassed quite the collection: a vintage Swiss Army blanket from the 50s, which are now collectible and a beautiful rustic piece of folk art, antique army belts, leather messenger bags, Sigg pewter glasses, art deco stemware, and even an old shoe nail box (that looked a bit too much like a crate of dynamite for comfort as we later realized in airport security). We were over the moon with all of these finds, and this was just what we bought. Not once did we consider how we were getting all of these things home. Eep.

In a country dominated by efficiency and order, these bastions of dust-bunnies and mothballs were a most welcome surprise, and a definite highlight of our trip. In the end, with weight limits pushed to the max and me looking like a retired sapper walking through the airport with my nail box, we managed to make it on to the plane and back home with all of our treasures intact. Just.

When in Switzerland, take time to search out the local Brockenhaus (in Swiss German) or the Brocante (in the French areas).  Zurich is a vintage-hunters dream, with a Saturday flea market down by the water (in Burkliplatz) that goes until around lunch time. When that’s over, head to the old town around the Grossmunster. Poke your head around every corner. They are there, believe me, but hunting them out is a challenge. Tucked away in basements, back alleys and attics, you will find incredible furniture, clothing and anything else you can think of, all of which you will want to take home with you (we almost did).

My next trip is already in planning, most likely with the help of a shipping crate. Why yes, I would like a giant cow bell and a 300 year old armoire. Teak dining set for 200 Francs? Why not.

Mike Poppe graciously used some of his luggage space to bring back vast chocolate supplies for the office. Unfortunately they were not vast enough to last more than 24 hours.

Not once did we consider how we were getting all of these things home. Eep.