Working and Living in Switzerland 2010...
Going for a walk one day
On weekend in early March after going to the Zurich bike show I decided to go for a walk on Uetliberg, the small mountain that overlooks Zurich. I got a bit more than I bargined for! The bike show was really good, and unlike the UK shows all the manufactures were there and you could actually get near the bikes. I was having a good time looking at all of the new metal, but as the sun was shining I thought I should get some excercise. Bad mistake!
The new VFR1200 in front of the rare NSR750, Zurich Bike Show
Uetliberg has some great trails through the woods and although I slipped a few times I felt secure enough walking on the snow. Besides some people were riding mountain bikes!
Going for a walk in the snow, Uetliberg, Zurich
I got almost down to the bottom of the mountain after two hours of walking and was almost off the snow when I slipped. My little finger got caught and badly broke my right hand, so I spent the rest of the afternoon in emergency getting X Rays to confirm the break and organising surgery.
Apparently I had broken the bone so badly it required a metal plate and a couple of screws. I had surgery a few days later getting yet another metal plate put in my left arm, it is almost more metal than bone now!
Another day, another metal plate. Zurich
I went back to work a few days later. As a contractor I don't get paid to be sick! I am almost used to having one arm now although some tasks are harder than others!
Slicing a tomato with one hand is difficult. Zurich
I had originally planned to visit Milan on easter weekend, but I left it too late to book train tickets and hotels so I decided on a quick day trip to the capital of Switzerland. Bern is a beautiful UNESCO world heritage listed city that sits high above a sharp bend in the river, and was founded in 1191. Most of the town appears to be more modern than that dating back to the 18-19th centuaries.
I liked Bern, while I was there it had a large open air market selling fresh produce, cheese and meats in between a number of small cafes and bars. I was especially impressed with the fresh produce market in front of the Kongresshaus! Where else in world would you see that? Vegitables for sale in front of the Houses of Parliament, London or the Capitol building, Washington? Not in my lifetime.
Open air market in front of Kongresshaus, Bern
Art market behind the munster. Bern
I was also facinated by the shops in the cellars, half of the city appears to be underground. All along the streets are small raised wooden doors, most are locked but some lead to small shops or bars.
Kramgasse and the subterranean shops in the cellars. Bern
One of the star attractions in Bern is Einsteins house, where he lived while working as a Patent Clark and where he did some of his most important work, The Theory of Relativity was written while there. The house is tiny, and was surprisingly busy with all of Einstein's fans (does he have that many?). The top floor was used to display articles on his discoveries, political views and his views on nuclear weapons. His sitting room contains its original furnishings and a few family photographs.
Einstein's house where he wrote the Theory of Relativity, Bern
Einstein's sitting room. He is more popular than I expected! Bern
On the hour every hour a huge crowd gathers in front of the Zeitglockenturn to watch the animated clock strike the hour, a few jesters wurl around, bells ring and the main figure turns a hour glass. All a bit naff!
Zeitglockenturm a bit naff? Bern
Another weekend another trip to a UNESCO world heritage site, this time the Abbey of St Gall in St Gallen, Switzerland. The Abbey dominates the town, and was established in 719 but the cathedral is a 'new' addition dating back to 1768. The interior of the cathedral is stunning, it is decorated in Baroque style with beautiful painted ceilings, carved wooden confessionals and gold everywhere. It's definitely a contrast to most of the plain and austere reformed churches that you normally see in Switzerland.
The cathedral at the Abbey of St Gall, St Gallen, Switzerland
The abbey also has a magnificent library decorated in Rococo style, and contains on of the largest collection of medival books in the world. I was yelled at when I walked into the library as I did not know I had to put on a pair of special slippers to protect the floor! When I returned, wearing my slippers, I got yelled at again this time for trying to take a picture.
While walking around the town, I heard a strange buzzing noise. I looked for scooters, motorcycles and eventually looked up and there was a huge zepplin flying over, very slowly.
A Zepplin! St Gallen
Sechseläuten the Burning of the Böögg, Zurich
Sechseläuten marks the start of spring and combines three ancient festivals, the spring festival of the guilds when the bell marking the end of the workday shifts from it's winter time of 5pm to it's summer time of 6pm, the processions consisting of a childrens parade (Kinderumzug) on Sunday and guilds parade (on Monday) and finally the burning of the Böögg. The Böögg is a large white straw man that is burnt publically to chase away winter. The festival is normally around March 21 and attracts thousands of tourists and an even bigger TV audience. I have never seen Zurich so busy or so colorful.
First up is the childrens parade where any child can take part as long as they are dressed in one of the freely supplied historical outfits. I expected a parade of a few hundred kids but it turned out to be a parade of just over two thousand kids all dressed in historically accurate outfits. Mixed in with the kids, are a number of marching bands, horses, camels, lamas and finally an international section where kids of other nationalities can join in dressed in their native costumes. They looked like they were having great fun, especially as they got to throw sweets to everyone who lined the streets. The parade took around one hour to pass by.
A carriage in front of Fraumunster. Kinderumzug, Zurich
A band marches over Munsterbruke. Kinderumzug, Zurich
Little girls in Baroque dress rush to form up with the other two thousand kids. Kinderumzug, Zurich
An hour long parade in order of historical periods. Kinderumzug, Zurich
Very colourful. The kids were having a blast throwing sweets to the crowd. Kinderumzug, Zurich
Is this the desert phase of Switzerland's history? Kinderumzug, Zurich
And camels? In Switzerland? Kinderumzug, Zurich
I liked these oarsmen, carrying a fish through the streets. Kinderumzug, Zurich
Flowers and baskets of sweets. Kinderumzug, Zurich
And mounted soldiers. Kinderumzug, Zurich
Very smart. Kinderumzug, Zurich
More soldiers in natty hats with flowers in the barrels of their rifles. Kinderumzug, Zurich
Baroque dress! Very smart, much better than jeans and T-shirts! Kinderumzug, Zurich
More confusion. Drum majorettes. Kinderumzug, Zurich
In the international part of the parade now. Alpacas from Peru! Kinderumzug, Zurich
A chinese dragon. Kinderumzug, Zurich
Thai children. Kinderumzug, Zurich
The Böögg, awaits his fate. Kinderumzug, Zurich
Next is the guilds parade on Monday, each marching in outfits associated with their guilds. In some cases this association is rather loose, for example members of the large Zunft zum Kämbel (originally food dealers and wine merchants) marched in Arabic style dress. I thought this was a bit puzzling as Switzerland doesn't have any deserts that I know of until I saw their mascot, a yellow camel on a blue background. In other cases the guilds marched in military dress and a few marched in the traditional outfits of their trade or carried symbols of their trade, for example the Zunft zur Schiffleuten (originally fishermen and boatmen) carried oars. The guilds used to represent particular trades, fixing prices and representing their members interest. Think union but with a lot more power, to work in a trade you had to be a member of the guild. I don't think the guilds are as powerful as they once where.
Every now and then during the parade female spectators rush out, offer the victum of their choice a flower in exchange for a kiss. At first I thought it was a random choice and then I realised they were looking for particular men amoung the marches, I think the girls of Zurich see the parade as an opportunity to snog male friends, co-workers, friend's husbands etc!
The marchers passed out sweets or products associated with their guilds for example wine by the small tumbler, bread rolls and dates (from Zunft zum Kämbel). At one point members of the Zunft zur Schiffleuten suddenly started hurling dead fresh fish at the posh folks standing on the balcony of the Savoy Hotel. It was quite funny watching them try to dodge the smelly fish.
A medic zoots by on her scooter!
Start of the parade, flag bearers carry the guilds flags
A guild marches
Packing the wine over the alps
Zunft zum Kämbel dressed in Arab dress
Giving dates to the crowd
Zunft zum Widder, butchers and cattle merchants. A gift of a flower in exchange for a sneaky kiss!
Zunft zur Schiffleuten, fishermen and boatmen
More wine anyone? Hic, hic!
Zunft zum Kämbel, food dealers and wine merchants.
Not sure how PC it is to darken your face! But he does look very Lawrence of Arabia.
I say! The empire is back! Maybe this is a good look for me? I could use the wig!
One of the many brass bands
Zunft zur Waag, weavers and hatters
One of the musketeers?
One of the many horse drawn floats. This one was huge!
More mounted gents!
I like this outfit, much better than jeans and a T-shirt!
After the parade passed I rushed down to the Opera House where they set fire to the Böögg but there were so many people there I could only get to within about 750 metres of the burning. Maybe next year I will get closer!
The burning is happening behind those trees over there!