“How have you managed to stay in one place for so long?” asked a regular customer at our café in Zürich. “Hasn’t it made you crazy being grounded for the past three months?” She wasn’t the first to ask this question. “I’ve been completely fine staying within Switzerland’s borders,” I said. “For sure, I’m looking forward to travelling internationally again but it’s been refreshing to live life in a new rhythm free from 05.30 queues at airports, unexplained flight delays and short-hop trips that are frequently more draining than longer trans-con jaunts.”
Of course, life with many liberties and services removed has been tough. But there have been worse places to spend it than Zürich, where it was very much “lockdown light” with small gatherings allowed, domestic travel permitted and the federal government confidently and competently guiding the nation throughout. Where many around the world have struggled with vague guidance and an absence of timelines, the Swiss set up a timetable from the start of emergency measures and stuck to it – almost as though they knew how the whole thing would play out. It’s now clear that the country’s economy received as much emergency attention as healthcare and we come to the end of this first half of 2020 feeling certain that there’s a plan to restore social life, workday rhythms and cross-border relations.
It’s somewhat fitting that I’m writing this on the morning that borders across most of Europe reopen to regular traffic – and not surprising that I’m marking the occasion by jumping behind the wheel and making a business trip to Munich. Yes, I’ve been very happy with the walk back and forth to my office in Zürich’s Seefeld district but now it’s time to get out on the road again. And there’s much work to be done to restore stalled projects, replace cancelled advertising and get monocle into perfect shape before Europe breaks for its summer holiday.
Over the past few months you will have noticed that our issues have been a little thinner. But this special edition is already a bit thicker (perhaps not ideal for swimsuit season) and all indications from the market suggest that many companies are feeling positive about selling their products and services on page, screen and through headphones. From our side, we’ve not only maintained a full publishing schedule but also launched a series of new radio programmes, reopened all of our retail operations (with stock boosted by a new series of collaborations) and – perhaps most importantly – unveiled a new, mobile-friendly extension of the magazine dubbed Monocle Digital Editions. You can find out more by visiting monocle.com/subscribe. While we have overcome logistical challenges (diminished freighter capacity, overwhelmed postal services), the past few months taught us that supply chains are fragile affairs and that we need a crisp, digital offer for our readers who aren’t able to get the print edition or simply want something nimble on screen. Aside from offering the magazine in a more backlit-friendly format, we will also be keeping subscribers up to date with an ever-expanding line-up of tips and intelligence on the best in hotels, restaurants, shops, jogs, dips and bars in our favourite cities around the world.
As you settle into this issue, you’ll notice that we decided to give our annual city rankings a holiday this year: we felt that it wasn’t quite the right time to be assessing cities when most of them were struggling with the basics. Nevertheless, the city and all it offers is still in the spotlight for this issue as we reject the narrative that big urban centres have had their day and that everyone is retreating to the countryside. As much as the pessimists and crystal-ball gazers (aren’t they so often the same thing?) have declared that the world’s cities are no longer fit for a healthy, comfortable, rewarding quality of life, we believe otherwise. As you will see across these pages, it’s the city that still excites, delivers on opportunity and will continue to offer the best in education and medical facilities. This doesn’t mean that we don’t want to get out of our urban environments from time to time – but to think that our cities are going to hollow out because of a pandemic is short-sighted and foolish.
By now you’ll have noticed that monocle isn’t hosting its annual Quality of Life Conference this summer but this doesn’t mean we don’t want to see you and engage in some needed discussions over dinner and drinks. From 17 to 19 September we’ll be hosting the debut edition of The Chiefs – our new high-altitude summit focused on leadership and looking ahead. As you need a bit of height to see where the world might be heading, we’ll be convening in St Moritz and, of course, all of your favourite editors and radio presenters will be on hand to moderate, host and mingle. For more information, take a peek at monocle.com/events or contact my colleague Hannah Grundy directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you make your way down to the jetty or find your comfy place on the terrace, we’ll be busy finishing our latest book (gentler living is the theme), developing some jingles for our new audio programmes, moving our Merano shop to a new location and cooking up a couple of other surprises – more on those very soon. ’Til we see you at our next event, thank you for all your support these past few months and wishing you a good summer. Cheers.