seeing (and not seeing) the sights

Drifting past churches,
Faithful, faithless, wind, and snow,
Zürich's slow pulse throbs.

First, I want to welcome Mr. Joe Blaylock to Switzerland. Woooooooooo!

Somehow I never made it to the capital city when I was living in Darmstadt last summer, and somehow it also took me almost two full months to make it this time, despite the fact that it's just a 3 hour train ride away. Maybe it's the fact that everything there is a half-order of magnitude more expensive than anyplace else in Switzerland... ;______; But, in any case, I did go to Zürich this weekend!

Zürich is in the northeast-ish part of Switzerland. It has a population of around 300,000 people, depending how you count, and it is the namesake of its canton. They like to tell everyone that they have the cleanest water in the world, and they have some 1200 public drinking fountains (by "public drinking fountain" I mean "elaborate fountain in public whose water is drinkable and not grungy like the water in public fountains elsewhere") scattered around to show it off. Zürich was one of two self-governed little regions in modern-day Switzerland that was basically neutral all through history, except that they did take sides in the Catholic/Reform battle eventually. Now, though, religion is not a big part of life there except that it makes the architecture more gorgeous for tourists.

As a city, Zürich was mostly what I expected. Like Geneva, it's situated on its own lake. Unlike Geneva, when I woke up there yesterday morning there was 10cm of snow on the ground, and more was still falling. It's March. One thing that I also didn't expect about it was how small it is. I accidentally happened upon 4 of the (semi-obscure) places I'd intended to visit just wandering around.

The requisite churches around town were pretty cool; the only one that I actually went in was the Grossmünster. It's along one of the rivers, and it had THE BEST WINDOWS. They weren't stained glass: instead they were thin slices of geodes connected together. It was an awesome effect.

The Bahnhofstrasse in Zürich is renowned for being supremely expensive. It leads from the Hauptbahnhof to the lake, and it's lined with every designer label I could think of, plus a couple dozen more. On Saturday, it was too cold to be outside for very long at a time (I was dumb and decided that Zürich would be a lot like Genève weather-wise... so not true, and all I brought was a medium-weight coat), so I shopped. And by that I mean that I tried on lots of things that I had no intention of buying just because they were super fashionable and -expensive. I tried on a scarf that was $400. I tried on a trenchcoat that was $1700. I tried on $800 dresses. Life is sweet.

I attempted to visit the zoo, which is supposed to be pretty good as zoos go, but I was blinded by blowing snow and settled for a walk through the nearby cemetery instead. Cemeteries covered in snow still clean of footprints are super creepy. I don't know what I'd've done if I'd seen a set of tracks that... only went out... DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNN.

I tried to visit the Chinese gardens along the lake, but they are sadly not open until the end of March. The university's botanical gardens, though, were open, and I wandered through them for a while. And a friend of a friend suggested a place called "Cakefriends" where they serve, unsurprisingly, cake. I had lemon pistachio; it was delicious! Near that area there was an exceedingly strange shop, though. It had three pairs of flags: two American flags, two Canadian flags, and two Californian flags. The awning read "Papa John's American Restaurant and Caribbean Bar." What?

I also visited the very cool Landesmuseum, just behind the train station. I didn't know a lot about the history of Switzerland or Zürich before, but this place had it all. It's kept inside what was obviously an old castle of some variety (if the museum said anything about the castle, I must've missed it), and it's twisty and turny and awesome. Clearly the exhibits have been populated in stages: at the front of the museum, everything is in German and French on the walls, and there are cards with English and Italian on them. Further back, the English cards disappear and the Italian appears on the walls. Then the Italian disappears. Moving on, there's nothing but German labelling ancient weaponry and furniture from the Renaissance era. My languages got a workout. But did you know that Switzerland didn't have nationwide women's suffrage until 1990???????

I think my favourite thing about the trip, though, was dinner at Blindekuh. It's a restaurant staffed entirely by blind people where you dine in the dark. As in 0 light. To get to your table, the servers have you put your hands on their shoulders and lead you through the dining room. They tell you that your glass is on the right at the top, your fork is on the left, and your knife is on the right. When they bring you anything, they tell you where they've put it relative to you. Eating penne without being able to see it is a challenge, I assure you. On the plus side, table manners are totally a moot point, and I happily licked all the cream off my chocolate cake plate, knowing that it would not bother any of the other diners. It's not like I'll ever see them again, anyway. Or that I ever saw them in the first place. :)

It was a pretty relaxed weekend, I guess. I went out to the clubs with some Finnish guys, but other than that it was a lot of just exploring. Probably it had something to do with the fact that Saturday found everything buried in snow and lost from sight if it was more than 200m away (blowing snow == no fun). Sunday everything is closed, but it was a lovely day, anyway. Maybe next time I find myself in Zürich it will be during summer when I can have epic adventures on the lake. :D

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