Friday, 11 November 2016

Zurich: Hey Hey We're The Munsters

Today I celebrate being on holiday by not getting up until 9.30.

That might seem so routine as to not be worth mentioning, but I normally get up between 6.30 and 7.30 even on weekends, so for me it's pretty extraordinary. As I said though, ill.

This is relevant only insofar as it curtails my activities a bit, and also means I've missed the hotel breakfast by the time I am functional at about 10.30am. So I head out and buy a few morsels at a local coop. Here I cause confusion by assuming that if a menu simply states "tea", and I ask for "tea", I would receive tea. There is an awkward silence before they try to work out what kind of tea I want, and having no idea what the likely options were I just look confused. All is eventually sorted, although they do put hot frothed milk in my tea for some unfathomable reason. Possibly an obscure form of punishment. Ah, the joys of travel!

I feel like a sign indicating the part of a shop where customers are welcome to eat their purchases should look less like a horror novel.

Some more general street scenes, to get you in the mood.

Around the Paradeplatz in the town centre

An intriguing courtyard

I don't think this fountain symbolises anything.

This is Fraumunster, which used to be a nunnery.

Since I'm planning to visit Grossmunster afterwards, and you can't take photos inside Fraumunster, and there's an entry charge, I decide not to go. I'm not averse to paying to visit, I just couldn't work out what I'd actually get for my money without having done more research than I had.

On that note... I'm finding places that don't let you take photographs to be mildly annoying as a tourist. Not just because it infringes on my precious Freedoms or whatever. And don't get me wrong, I do appreciate there can be good reasons - like not disturbing other people in the space (especially non-tourists), and avoiding damage to sensitive museum stock.

The thing is, I'm a lone traveller. Most of the time, my experience is purely ephemeral; I have no shared memories to reminisce about with companions. There was no Time When We. And it can often end up feeling unreal, like something that happened to another version of myself.

My photos, and my blog, are partly my way of compensating. They didn't start out that way - I began the blog to document the experience of becoming a full-time intensive student of Japanese, to help others considering the same thing. But nowadays, one of the functions it has is letting me share those travel experiences with other people. In looking back through my photos, in writing about what I've seen and experienced, I reinforce those memories with a little more reality and make them feel more valuable. And as a bonus, some people also enjoy reading about it.

The downside is that where a place or occasion doesn't allow photographs, I can't do that. Something happens, but I don't have a way of sharing or capturing that memory. It's not a major problem - life is usually like that, after all! - but on the whole it inclines me towards things I can photograph, rather than things I can't.

A very typical street

Buildings around the Paradeplatz


I saw quite a few places called Zunfthouse around, and often they seemed to be restaurants, so I spent quite a while trying to work out what food-related thing it could mean. It's actually Guildhouse. Apparently quite a few were built in various town centres, and later became restaurants.

More of Fraumunster

I don't know why there's a Camel Guildhouse either.

This building has a very cool fa├žade - and it's called Zum Thor. What's not to like?

I love the display in this tailors' shop.

Not sure if they are engaged in a Great Work or a Great Escape...

Just a cool waterfront building

The Two Towers of Grossmunster

"This merchant, Friedrich Zygler, became infamous for exploitation of workers and a series of clashes with the Guild of Stonemasons in the late 18th century. Zygler died in bankruptcy, and shortly afterwards this stone was placed over the door of the house where the leader of the Guild then lived. It bears a striking resemblance to the face of Zygler, locked in a permanent scream, and legend has it that the Guild enacted a diabolical pact to ruin their foe." A Book I Just Invented, A. Falschenkerl, 1998

I passed St. Peter's church along the way, which has a cool sculpture outside.

This is not at all menacing or sinister.

Obviously from one perspective it's an intriguing amalgam of thematic symbology related to spiritual forgiveness and tolerance and the need for dialogue, as the artist's description says. It's just than from another perspective it's a terrifying mass of fused entities towering over you in the twilight.



The Grossmunster has a very cool door, decorated with all kinds of Biblical scenes.

The doorframe is pretty cool too. Nice Celtic-inspired spiral knotwork.

You're actually not supposed to take photos in the main part of Grossmunster either, but since it's free, and I can take photos elsewhere, and I've walked all this way, I go in regardless. It's a nice nave and all, but I couldn't talk about it even if I remembered it more clearly, and I don't have any photos, so let's move on to the tower!

There's access to one of the towers, up about 160 steps, and I rather recklessly decided to pay my CHF4 for the privilege. I say recklessly, since being mildly ill it may not have been the best idea... but I didn't think about that until I'd started, so hey. The way up is, of course, a windy spiral staircase with barely room to move, let alone pass anyone else. Thankfully only a couple of kids squeezed past me at a passing-place.

A side-room visible through a door as you climb. There are some models of the cathedral inside.

The mid-way landing has these chairs where you can sit, rest and still get a decent view, which is thoughtful.

You get a couple of decent views at landings along the way, eventually reaching the not-quite top of the tower, where there are four lookout points.

The views from the tower are genuinely good, and the weather's thankfully still, though still not clear enough to really make the difference. I'm grateful for the absence of bone-chilling wind or driving rain, though, which have been many of my previously experiences of standing in high places.

A view over the city

The bell tower from the observation tower

Leaving the Grossmunster, I find a mildly pleasing building opposite, before heading off into town again.

Outside Grossmunster

Vertical panorama of flats opposite Grossmunster

Zwingli. He was a big deal.

Narrow street

There were a few chocolatiers in this part of town, with particularly strikingly lavish wares.

Terrifyingly expensive Fathers Christmas in a chocolatier.


This gingerbread house will set you back about £100.

A general street panorama

View across the lake.

In a few moments another unexpected turn occurs, but let's leave that for another post...

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