Friday, October 26, 2007

Into the lake!

Yesterday I went to Kunsthaus, the art museum. At first I thought it was extremely empty, but it turns out they have an admission price for just the changing exhibit and that's where all the locals were headed. Plus I was there a bit early in the day. Normally I don't get the audio tour when I go to a museum, I prefer to just soak in my own impressions. But because I could read nothing but the name of the pieces I decided to go for it this time. It was actually very interesting, I liked hearing about the artist, the subject and sometimes even the relevance of the piece to Kunsthaus Zurich. The museum seemed sadly quiet and just full of staffers. Seems they are not hurting for patrons though, there was a story on the audio tour about a patron and a museum official traveling to France, and the patron fell through a bridge and into the waters of Monet's waterlilies. He took this as a sign, bought 3 of the paintings, and donated 2 of them to the museum. Nice! I love seeing van Gogh's works in person. I've seen Starry Night at the MoMA in NYC twice now, but my favorite is hanging right next to it. The Olive Trees has even more texture, and depth in the brush strokes. Here in Zurich I picked out the panel with the most texture and sat down to soak it in a bit. I love looking at his work from off to the side, so much of the variation in tone is actually shadow and light sneaking into the supposed two-dimensional piece. Really many of his paintings are practically sculpture! I finally encountered the crowd at the more temporary exhibit. Nice that people don't have to pay to see the whole museum every time they visit. The current exhibit was the works of Felix Vallotton, which was very interesting. I got the audio guide here as well and listened in on the artist's work progressing through his life. Very cool.

At breakfast before going out I picked up the Zurich guide that is offered for free in the lobby. Apparently Hooters is open in Zurich, oh the horror! I didn't know where to go for lunch and ended up at a place that my guidebook said had good lunch specials. I must have been too late again for lunch, so I just got the regular menu. Fondue and raclette were offered here, but I knew I'd be having fondue for dinner... plus the music and decor were cheesy enough on their own! Ooooo! I had the pumpkin soup that I've seen offered many places, which was very good, but rich with cream. And a small salad that was drenched in a dressing most similar to ranch, and none of the greens were all that... well, green. But hey, soup and salad seemed like the right effort to make when you know you'll be eating cheese and bread for dinner!

In the afternoon I wandered out to the park behind the main train station. The Swiss National Museum is back there too. There wasn't too much to see out there. Whenever I visit a new city it usually seems so big, spread out and hard to comprehend. And then as I wander around in circles for a few days I see how all the pieces make up the whole, and it ends up seeming smaller, more easy to swallow. Funny thing about Zurich is it is so compact that I am still surprised by just how close everything is, and just how quickly you can see something new. My walk in the park was about 10 minutes. Oh well.

I took myself out for hot chocolate at the Sprüngli cafe. Two men and a woman sat down next to me, they seemed to be speaking English as a common language though it was not the first for any of them. I asked them to keep an eye on my seat (and my chocolate!) when I got up to see if I wanted to order anything to eat, on my way back one of the fellows was headed over to the counter and he said, "Actually, I had a little sip, but it's okay." HA! I laughed. Very funny guy. The hot chocolate was very good, made with melted chocolate but I didn't know to stir it so the top seemed watery and the bottom was extra super chocolaty. Still, it was very good.

Afterwards I went to the cute flower shop I had noticed a couple days ago and bought a little bunch of roses to take to CF's coworker's house as a little gift for having us over. I still had extra time on my hand so I went back up the Lindenhof and just soaked in the view for a little while. A teenage boy started reading something out loud to the girl he was with, he was sort of laughing. I don't know if it was funny or if he just felt awkward. He noticed me paying attention and laughed some more. I wonder if he'd feel better if he knew I didn't know what he was saying. She answered back. I think maybe they were saying lines from a play and she knew the part. I'm not sure. I got out the camera and took a few more pictures. There were actually a number of people up there with me, unlike Monday morning. I offered to take a picture of an Asian couple who were going to try to do a delayed timer shot. They turned out to be American! Kind of a surprise. And the guy took two photos of me in return, so I finally have some proof that I am actually here! I decided to head back to the hotel, to upload photos and maybe, just maybe have a little nap since I knew we'd be out late. I encounter yet another American on the way, she was lost and trying to ask for directions from a local, I bought her along with me since I was headed across the water myself. Maybe there's more Americans here than it seems, and they're just keeping quiet, like me.

CF met up with me at the hotel, just when I was thinking I could get away with having a short nap and we scurried off to get the tram. His coworker's apartment was very large! I've never seen one like that in any city. His little boy is about two, I had met him (the coworker) a few years back when he was visiting Mountain View and the little boy had just been born. I gave them the flowers and they seemed to go over well. The little boy nodded his head at me as he said, "Dannn-ke!". His mother translated for me, it was all very cute. They poured some white wine (proper for a fondue dinner), we clinked our glasses (you must make eye contact while clinking, or it's very rude). I almost forgot to toast CF at all, so his eye contact with me was more of a sneer. There were some antipasti type nibbley things out and we sat down on their enormous Italian leather couch, the depth of the seat was as long as my legs. Now that's a good couch! We were joined by three other coworkers, and one of their wives. What a fun week they must be having at the office. The American, the Swiss, the Frenchman, The Spaniard, and the Portuguese (although he wasn't at dinner).

The little boy went to bed and we started in on the fondue. The hostess brought out some shots of a cherry brandy which you should dip your bread in and then into the cheese, it's supposed to help you digest so you don't end up with a stone of cheese in the bottom of your stomach. It was very strong though, so I just dipped a corner in. And of course jokes were made about what happens if you lose your bread in the cheese. "Into the lake!" was the judgment passed several times. But no, it never really happened. Dessert was a cake from Sprüngli and one of the local coworkers that was there (though he is currently on paternity leave and the 6-week old newborn joined us from time to time during the night) had brought my favorite luxemburgerli cookie. What a night! We caught a tram right around midnight once we were told the frequency slows down dramatically as the hour turns over to 0:00. Though I'm sure the walk home would have done us good, and wouldn't have taken long at all. I had a great night of sleep, even though it started a little later than it probably should have considered CF had to get up for one last day of work.

Today I'm headed out to maybe find a boat ride to take on the Lake (but not IN), maybe I'll head up the mountain to Uetliberg if the transportation day pass will get me there twice, we're planning on having dinner up there too. And mostly I am just going to take it easy, pack up and decide if I need a souvenir other than my photos and chocolate.

Tomorrow morning we get on the train to Cologne. As I am writing this I am getting Grey's Anatomy updates from Thursday night in the US. I am missing quite the shakedown! I'm happy that after today CF will be on vacation with me... even though it will probably be rainy in Amsterdam next week. I have enjoyed my time here but I'm just about ready to move on.

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