Winterthur lies nestled in a wooded basin on the river Eulach about 28 kilometres northeast of the city of Zurich. A former industrial hub that has undergone a significant transformation in the past decade, it combines the intimate feel of a small town with the varied offerings of a big city. We peek behind the scenes with three residents to discover its unique character.
Michael Kuenzle: Heart and soul
It was probably for the best reason of all that Kloten-born Michael Kuenzle relocated to Switzerland's sixth largest city at the age of 30--he had fallen in love with a girl from Winterthur. "It wasn't easy in the beginning, because I knew only my wife's family and friends," he remembers. However, thanks to his proactive and open nature, the qualified lawyer quickly established himself in his newly adopted home. "As I got involved--at work, joining clubs and later taking on an active role in politics--people began re-paying my efforts and started placing their trust in me," he confirms. This trust would later become the foundation for his career as City Councillor, Head of the Police, Minister for the Environment--and his current role as the Mayor of the city of Winterthur.
"Politics opened my eyes to the real Winterthur," reveals the 47-year-old, as his lips curl into a content smile. In 1999 and 2000, he was part of a parliamentary commission overseeing the revision of planning regulations in the city of Winterthur. Trying to learn about the unique character and needs of each quarter, he travelled the length and breadth of Winterthur, seeking insights from the locals. He discovered a city of great variety and unique identity.
The Winterthur of the turn of the millennium was a city in flux, re-discovering and re-defining itself after the collapse of its former glorious industry. It was developing and growing rapidly, turning into a city of many names: Garden City, Culture Capital, Biking City, City of Architecture and Student City--to list but a few. The high living standards and advantageous business environment attracted an increasing number of national and international companies and residents, awarding the regional centre a big-world feel. Today, 1,500 people--from all walks of life and including a variety of nationalities--opt to relocate to Winterthur each year. And the city counts a total of 8,000 businesses.
"We celebrated our 100,000th inhabitant with large fireworks," says Kuenzle, noting that the city is...