July 27, 2012

Eurotrip - Zurich, July 27

We did a great deal of things today. I kind of want to move to Zurich now. It's incredible. I know it doesn't take place here, but of you want to live in all the happy parts of the Sound of Music, I'd recommend a long trip to Switzerland.

We rented a car this morning and drove out to Lake Aergi which is a mountain lake a couple of miles south of Zurich. If you can't tell from the pictures below, it was breathtaking. There's absolutely no way to properly capture the scenery. Just imagine combining a lake, several small villages, farmland, craggy mountains and rolling green hills, then cover it all with some light low-hanging clouds. That's what we saw from the tops of these hills.

After walking around the small town of Oberargi (not to be confused with Unterargi) we discovered a gondola that goes up to the top of one of the larger hills in the area. We knew this little journey would be worth it when we started off by seeing a kid in a hamster wheel outside the gondola station.

You know what was waiting for us at the top? If you looked at the pictures already, you know already. A BOUNCY CASTLE! I guess when you can't ski down a mountain you'd better put a damn bouncy castle and inflatable fish slide up there.

The top of the hill had a whole bunch of hiking trails leading off of it which, at some other point in my life, would he fun to take, but we opted for the short route of trecking across the terrifying metal suspension bridge across a valley and then walking back up on the other side. The bridge was maybe a 1000 meters across (i actually have no clue how far 1000 meters is) and it was only attached to the ground on each side of the valley, so it swayed a lot as we walked across it. I wanted to take a video but I was afraid I'd drop my phone into the valley. The other side going back was much less exciting. It was hot, we were thirsty, and an old man passed me as we walked back to the gondola top.

After some more wandering around the small towns (lunches don't get served until 2:00?) we drove back to Zurich the long way around Lake Zurich via a bridge that bisects it to the south-west of the city. I'm not ashamed to say that I feel asleep during the ride.

Zurich is the perfect town for me. It's a pretty small city, especially compared to the other places we're visiting this trip. The population is only about 360,000 but the city is very cosmopolitan feeling. The city's layout reflects the lake very well and the heart of the city life (apart from the shopping area) is right along the water and there are bridges connecting the two sides to eachother.

Zurich is well known for it's shopping area, the Bonhaffestrasse, which is basically like a grown up, extremely rich version of the Nicollet Mall. We didn't shop here but did stop into the Musikhaus, where I played some pianos (mostly Yamahas and Steinways, come on!) and bought a little Satie score for myself. We also stopped into a large English language bookstore, where I looked unsuccessfully for a bathroom. Thought I should share that.

We had some time to kill before dinner and decided to hunt town the Kunsthaus Zurich, a museum for non-swiss artists. This museum blew my mind. Really it did. I loved it so much. In some of the must creative curating that I've ever seen, the museum posts artwork based on their content rather than the era or artists. It has some standard collections like "old masters" with tons of paintings of saints and Jesus, as well as a superb collection of Monet and the impressionists and a modern collection of Kandinsky etc. but the special collections were where the museum really shined.
In one area the museum collected portraits and different versions of still life from various eras. There were renaissance portraits paired with modern photography. Still life with flower photos. Giant oils with small drawings. It was so refreshing to see art collected this way, by subject, instead of how we traditionally group them.

The best part of the museum's exhibits though was the collection named "Riotous Baroque" in which the curators aimed to extricate the term baroque from it's usual meaning of pomp and frivolity and focus on life's relationship with disorder and pain. The exhibit contained a number of 17th and 18th century paintings of terrifying murders, battle scenes, and opium-induced nightmare visions. It was great to see these paintings, which I think often get hidden in favor of religious paintings from the time. Next to these works were pieces by modern artists who also worked around themes of sex, death, and the realness of life. It was also awesome to see Robert Crumb displayed in a museum. Going on about this won't do it much justice. I was inspired, entertained, and I wanted more.

Some other notes about the museum:
We got chased around by a lady who wanted to kick is out of every exhibit claiming we didn't have the right tickets. We both avoided her and saw it all. Bite me!

I keep seeing these paintings of saint sebastian, who I'd never heard of before. Apparently he's been left out of my education, yet ironically really popular in old paintings for the same reason. This guy died by being shot full of arrows. And old artists friggin loved painting it over and over again. I've seen probably 6 representions of it so far and at least one at each museum. Anyway, the reason I mentioned it finally was because I saw my favorite one so far and took a picture to share. In this one, saint Sebastian is a baby, and in the panel on the right, a dude is just hanging out waiting for Seb to grow up so he can shoot arrows into him. Can't this guy get known for anything else?

That's enough about the Kunsthaus. We made our way back down to the water and ate at a pasta restaurant, trying to spend some more of our Swiss francs before we go back to Euro land.
Wait, I have to say something about the Swiss franc. They don't use the Euro, which kind of sucks. But they do have their own badass currency called the Swiss Franc. The paper currency goes down to 10s and the coins go up to 5. They also have a 1/2 coin. The coinage kind of stinks because they're all about the same size (except the 5, it's huge) and they're all the same material. The paper currency is really cool though. It's in sweet colors AND they have neat portraits on them. I swear I'm going to find a giant 20 bill poster and put it on my wall.

Okay, dinner was great, our server talked to us a bunch and swore which felt great, and the food was food. Enough said. After dinner we drove up to a park, the name of which escapes me but couldn't quite find our way in. We did drive past FIFA headquarters though before finding a crazy underground parking garage that looked like a re-fitted missile silo and echoed in crazy ways (video when I get back). It was actually a parking lot for a hotel so we didn't stay long, just enough to pop above ground and take in the view from high above Zurich close to sunset. AND WE FOUND A CAT. That cute little cat followed us around and scared Justin by popping out of some bushes before we took off.

After a confusing and long return of the car back to the airport we got in the hotel shuttle, ran past the new arrival of Asian tourists and got up to the hotel room in time for the Olympic opening ceremony.

We're heading to Munich tomorrow and a week straight of hostels until I get home so I'm not sure when I'll get to update again. Hopefully these places have WiFi but I'm not counting on it. I'll keep writing though and upload them when I can!

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