Zurich attractions

Zurich Film Festival

Zurich Film Festival

I’ve had a sharp uptick in my filmgoing lately. From having seen zero films in Zurich ever, I think I’ve managed four in the past few months. Two of those were in the last week and part of Zurich Film Festival.

Zurich Film Festival is in its twelfth year and seems to be a very decent mid-level contender, as international film festivals go. It doesn’t (yet) have the clout of Cannes, Venice or Sundance but it seems to attract some decent celebs, as well as a shedload of sponsorship from some big players. As you’d expect — Zurich is not short of cash.

Anyway, I thought I’d give a couple of mini reviews of the films I saw.

 

DANCER

I went to the European premier of Dancer – a Steven Cantor documentary that follows Ballet “bad boy” Sergei Polunin for four years. I am embarrassed to say, Polunin was not much on my radar prior to this, although I do remember reading about the scandal of him running out on the Royal Ballet when I was in London.

I think the best bits of the movie are just watching Polunin dance. He’s incredible. A genius. The Picasso, the Prince and the Pythagoras of ballet.  I’m grand-jeté kicking myself for never seeing him perform in the 7-odd years I lived in London. Damn!

It was also great to hear him talk about the creative process and his struggles with himself as an artist. Something along the lines of “Just because I’m good at dancing, why does that mean I have to do it?” And yet, “The moment when you float in the air at the top of a jump… it’s worth it.” In my own, very watered-down, non-genius way, I sometimes feel the same about writing.

The climax of the film centres on the Take Me To Church video starring Polunin and shot by David LaChapelle, that went viral when it was released in early 2015. Polunin has said he cried for the duration of the 8-hour film shoot and it was going to be his last dance ever, although he’s since changed his mind. It’s a breathtaking piece of work.

It was cool that the film was introduced by the director and Sergei himself, although the ZFF Q&A was a little weak – there’s a better Q&A here for anyone interested.

I’d give the film 3.5 stars (out of 5) and would recommend it to anyone fascinated by the creative process, who likes dance and ballet and/or who thinks 26-year-old male Ukranian ballet dancers are hot (ahem – I may or may not have a major celebrity crush on Sergei right now).

Q&A with Steven Cantor and Sergei Polunin

STILLE RESERVEN

The second film I saw was German-language sci-fi Stille Reserven (Hidden Depths).

I’m currently researching sci-fi utopias and dystopias so it was very cool to catch the world premiere of this film. It’s an Austrian-made movie starring Lema Lauzemis and Clemens Schick (nah, me neither). Schick was chillingly, thrillingly Crispin Gloverish and Lauzemis had an appealing androgyny. Both great performances. The film was introduced by the director, Valentin Hitz, and had English subtitles (thankfully!).

I loved the premise. There were some really clever ideas for a near-future dystopia and the evils of the insurance business (one of my pet peeves – a horrible industry that relies on fear). In this case, people were being pressured to buy “death insurance” or else risk their bodies’ vital functions being kept alive indefinitely for organ harvesting, surrogate mothering and data storage — a nasty prospect that activists were campaigning against with a Right To Die slogan and attempts to shut down the evil human-factory plant.

Filmed mostly in Austria, I loved the bleak and deserted suburban streets and unused highways. As well as the industrial interiors and grubby, Soviet-looking apartment blocks. It all gave a desolate feel, a spooky emptiness that was nicely explained by the existence of the “Parallel world” that we never saw but that people could escape to if they chose (but possibly never return from?). There was good slumwork and some excellent ‘desperate-and-violent-urchins’ on the sidelines too.

Unfortunately, the plot did a bit of a Girl in the Freezer thing, which was a shame. And suffered from the boggy middle syndrome. Also I felt like the guy shouldn’t have had tattoos, he would have been more human and vulnerable if his skin was “clean”. However, these are minor quibbles in a mostly awesome genre film.

Last but not least, I really got a kick out of the cabaret club scenes. Making a sort-of Weimar Republic seedy jazz club the backdrop to the activists’ activities was a master stroke. And Lauzemis’ rendition of  the song “Tiger” was the high point of the movie for me.

4 stars. 

 

 

 

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Limmatschwimmen

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On the weekend I participated in the annual Limmatschwimmen. This is where around 4,500 people jump in the Limmat River and float 2 kilometres through central Zurich from the Frauenbad to Flussbad Oberer / Unter Letten. It’s the one day of the year you can do this, the rest of the time there’s boat traffic, not to mention you’re liable for a hefty fine and risk being swept away by the current if you jump in anywhere but the approved spots (eg: Letten). You have to purchase tickets to the Limmatschwim online on the Wednesday beforehand. This year, tickets sold out in 8 minutes. I was lucky enough to get four (the maximum) for myself and three mates.

I was pretty excited before the event. After 2.5 years living in this city, I feel like I know this stretch of the Limmat quite well. I’ve walked alongside it, over it, photographed and looked across it, shown it off to many visitors, even swum in it at Oberer Letten. So the idea of floating the entire “city” length of the river was pretty thrilling to me.

This year’s event, the 52nd Limmatschimmen, was postponed by the organisers by one week and they definitely made the right decision. The previous Saturday was wet and about 19 degrees. This Saturday was gloriously sunny and 31.

Everyone gets given a floatie as part of the ticket. This year they were sting-rays, which my 5yo was very excited about (he loves all sea creatures). In previous years it was a turtle. I rigged up a “waterproof camera” using my old phone and a plastic ziplock bag, so apologies that some pics are a little blurry.

Floating through the city, filled with nervous excitement, grappling with my silly camera, I think I almost forgot to enjoy myself at first. It’s funny, you know. I love water and swimming and I’m a good swimmer, and yet my worst nightmares (as in real, sleeping nightmares) involve tidal waves. Growing up in Australia, my parents taught me to Never Turn Your Back on the Sea. I have a love/fear/healthy respect relationship with water, I guess. Anyway, I finally relaxed about halfway along. The current through the city was not particularly strong and the participants were nicely spaced out. One of the reasons I adore Zurich is for events like this is there’s enough people to feel buzzy but it’s not horribly crowded (I can only imagine how rammed and unsafe-feeling an event like this would be in London!) The river is not particularly cold at this time of year – it flows out of Lake Zurich, which is a balmy 21-25 degrees in summer. Even so, by the end of the nearly-one-hour swim I was a bit chilly, and welcomed the cups of hot, sweet tea they gave out! My friend’s husband and son followed us by road the whole time and took some great pics (in the slideshow) and my husband and kids waited near the end to wave us on (you have to be 12+ to participate in the Limmatschwim). I was on such a high afterwards, I just kept looking at all the photos and couldn’t get to sleep until nearly midnight!

Doing an event like this, such a Swiss/Zurich thing, really makes me feel anchored to this place. I have to take a moment to reflect how far I’ve come from my miserable, lonely first-year in Zurich to rounding off this wonderful third summer here by floating through town on a simply stunning afternoon with friends and family in attendance.

This summer in Zuri has been pretty wonderful in general. We’ve had loads of visitors; from random people passing through town and meeting up for just a few hours to a whole week of my brother and sister-in-law staying right around the corner. We’ve done some great things, which I’d like to note, just to remind myself when I read this back in the months/years to come:

MOUNTAINS CLIMBED: Rigi and Pilatus

FESTIVALS and EVENTS: The once-every-three-years Züri Fäscht, Zurich Street Parade (well sort of, we were in town early in the day swimming at Mythenquai so we caught some of the vibe), August 1/Swiss National Day fireworks (just a local celebration setting of a few poppers with friends), our 5yo’s Indianerfest to celebrate the end of the school year, the Dolder Classic vintage car show and, of course, Limmatschwimmen 2016

SWAM IN: Lake Zurich, Lake Geneva, Evian pool, Thonon-le-Bains pool, the River Töss, the Oeschinensee, Limmat River, Thermalbad Zurich, Novum spa Baden, Baden Freibad, Freibad Allenmoos (our local). I love all the swimming here!

With September fast approaching and the kids back at school /starting nursery, it feels like summer’s just about over now, but it’s certainly finished on a high!

Swimming in the Oeschinensee

Swimming in the Oeschinensee – have you seen enough pics of me in bathers yet?

The Dolder Classic car show

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Over the weekend, my brother and sister-in-law were in Zurich and since he’s a big car guy (and proud owner of an awesome Valiant Charger) we thought we’d check out the Dolder Classic vintage car show.  I think this is the first vintage car show I’ve attended and I really enjoyed it.

It was a nice scene – people just cruised in with their cars and would stay for a few hours (it seemed) then head off. Some of the vehicles were for sale, others just for show. Afterwards we checked out a few more beauties in the car park as well.

There were lots of muscular Mustangs, curvy Stingrays, a Delorean, some real golden oldies and, of course, many Porsches — I think Porsche must be Zurich’s favourite marque, you see so many on the streets here. My favourite was probably the superb Amilcar Pégase from 1936 – the workmanship and details were exquisite. It was an Amilcar that caused the death of Isadora Duncan (her scarf got caught in the wheels and broke her neck) so that’s an interesting bit of historical trivia.

As well as drooling over all the pretty motors, the people-watching was lots of fun too. I enjoyed seeing a family of six emerge from a two-door Mustang, some elegant old dudes in an elegant, convertible Bentley, a stylish matron driving her zippy, royal blue 60s Porsche and a pair of rockers with face tatts, a vintage jalopy and a baby bump.

Anyway, I haven’t done a photo blog in a while and this really lends itself, so enjoy!

Zurich after Dark

Zurich after dark

We’ve managed to go out twice (!) in the past month, thanks to having on-tap babysitters (my in-laws) in town.

It was somewhat of a revelation to experience Zurich after dark on a Friday and Saturday night, respectively. You almost forget sometimes that people are still going out, eating dinner in restaurants, drinking in bars and throwing it about on dancefloors. Anyway, I thought I’d give a couple of mini rundowns because we checked out some great spots and I feel like a few important pieces of the puzzle are now in place – eg: Zurich’s rock and goth bars, ha ha ha!

Friday Night around Langstrasse (Kreis 4&5)start of night

The area around Langstrasse comprises Zurich’s red-light district. I’ve been there during the day and it’s a little grimy but pretty tame. At night, it’s not exactly super-seedy but on a Friday it does have a decent buzz. If I were to compare to Sydney, it’s probably more Newtown or Paddington than Kings Cross. In London – maybe more Islington than Camden. Although I’d have to say it’s on the whole less batshit busy and with fewer falling-about drunkards than Australia or the UK.

We ate dinner at Josef – a restaurant that’s been on our list for a while. This place is pretty trendy. It’s decked out with shiny mosaic tiles and cool, moody b&w posters of 70s punk chicks and Matt Dillon in The Outsiders. And they’re doing the small plates thing that’s so hot right now.

There was a good crowd in the lively bar area near the door and the maitre d’ was refreshingly honest about seating us when we arrived a bit late (after 8pm for a 7.30 sitting because: kids) – “if you sit here, I won’t have to kick you out at 9…” And then when we finished around 10pm, he didn’t hide his glee “oh this is perfect, because someone else has just arrived and wants a table.” heh. There was also an Aussie waitress from Adelaide, so that was cool – there’s not that many Aussies in Zurich so it’s always nice to meet one. I guess half of them work in hospitality (see below.) And she gave us some really good wine recommendations.

The food was good, if not ah-mazing. We went for 3 small plates each (CHF51ea – pricey but normal for Zurich, to be honest, we probably should have gone for 4 plates at CHF62 or the “menu” for CHF67 as we weren’t exactly stuffed afterwards). However, we tried a pretty good selectionCocktails at Blurred (I think!) of the menu. The place was dark(ish) and fairly bustling and we were sat in between two other couples (3 separate tables but not much room between), which was fine, if not the most romantic of settings. However, we enjoyed the ambiance and we really enjoyed our meal.

Would I go back there? Hmm; maybe – I would definitely pop in for a cocktail en route to elsewhere in the area but there’s a few other places I’d rather try before eating at Josef again.

Next up, we trotted along Langstrasse to Mata Hari Bar a tiki-themed rock bar. We sat at the bar, which I love. They had a range of tiki-themed cocktails, which I don’t (rum isn’t really my thing) so I settled for the old standard safe bet Jack Daniels and soda. I’d actually forgotten how much I like JD – in fact, yep, I am practically Slash. Mata Hari was nice, good to know it’s there for next time certain friends visit (Mad Dog I’m looking at you), and I have to say it was possibly the cleanest rock bar I have ever been in. I couldn’t see any frayed upholstery, lifting lino, scuffy decor or anything. Even the toilets were surprisingly neat – with about 3 pieces of graffiti and not even puddles of mystery water to wade through. They didn’t even smell. I had to laugh thinking back to Big Red or The Intrepid Fox.

Feeling as though we were owend of nighted a cocktail, we trekked further along Langstrasse, under the rail bridge, to the Kreis 4 end. This side was a bit more happening, actually, with kids outside bars and clubs and cars of dudes cruising by in traditional Friday-night-stylee. We stuck our heads in the gin bar Dante but it was about 4-deep to get a drink and we couldn’t be bothered. So we skipped across the road to Total Bar. And it was great. A Lisbon-themed bar a bit like Bar Kick in London but with Lisbon-looking dykey types shaking up neat cocktails and not too crowded. It was also Lisbon prices so we had a couple of cocks apiece. They weren’t the finest drinks I’ve ever drunk but the price was right, the place had a nice feel and, let’s face it, by this time of the evening, we weren’t so picky. Would definitely pop back in to this little gem.

Saturday Nght in Wiedikon (Kreis 3)

For our Saturday night out (a couple of weeks later), we wanted to check out a different area, as well as having a bit more of a special meal, to mark our 10-year wedding anniversary (actually in October but we have babysitters now!). I’d read about Maison Manesse on a Zurich food blog I’ve been following, Zat for Zurich, and it sounded interesting. Himself and I are both kind of foodies who enjoy something a bit different/ molecular gastronomy type shit, so this place sounded like the goods. For dinner, it’s a set menu/degustation and prices were at the high end. We figured it was a special occasion so let’s go the whole hog and were glad we did.

Maison Manesse menu

The food was really awesome. I haven’t eaten at El Bulli or anything so maybe this would be a poor imitation, but for us, it really impressed and delighted. It started with an Uzazi seed from South Africa as a palate cleanser. Similar to Sichuan pepper, as you chew it, it sets your whole mouth buzzing, then watering for several minutes. Wow. Next was an appetiser of frozen rocket and chilli guacamole – I love rocket. Then onto the menu proper (complete with Joy Division refs :)). There was hardly a bum note in all seven dishes. Each course was served on its own unique plate that was matched to the dish, rather than each other. Stand outs were the 63-degree egg that morphed into a delicious nutty goo almost like satay sauce; a porcini mushroom with chuño – a Peruvian potato product; the scallop and the dessert – a fried apple thing that tasted like the best waft of donut-scent at a funfair. The meal ended with an extra dessert thing from the kitchen (what is that called? Dessertpetizer?) of marshmallows and fruit gels. You toasted the mallow at the table – a cute Swiss twist in the country that adores raclette, fondue and all forms of table grilling!

We got chatting to Fabian, the founder/chef, when our meal was over and of course he is half Aussie (and half Swiss). When we asked about the marked presence of Peruvian ingredients on the menu, he said it was due to a trip he’d done there a few years back that really blew him away and that he’s basically the only guy in Zurich using a lot of these flavours. The cellar was also impressive, with a spreadsheet wine list describing around 400 varieties. There were bottles for CHF1,500 on there. Suffice to say, we chose something a little more modest. I discovered only today – after the fact –  that Maison Manesse has a Michelin star. So I’m impressed we even got a table, considering I booked it on Thursday for the Saturday night… love Zurich!  Would I go back there? Yes definitely. The menu completely changes every couple of months, too.

Dessertpetiser (or whatever it's called) of table-toasted marshmallows

Afterward we walked around the corner to check out Zurich goth bar Bonesklinic which was like every goth bar, ever. Groups of dark-clad, pierced and interesting-haired friends getting drunk on beer, wine and shots, etc. They talked to each other and completely ignored us. So far, so normal. It was decked out inside a bit like a mobile home: cheapo wood panelling and tartan-upholstered booth seating, albeit with many alpine drinking horns hung everywhere. But they were playing Queen. And they gave us a free welcome shot in a plastic skull. And the smokers out the front were extremely quiet and well behaved. I didn’t check out the toilets but I bet they were clean and had toilet paper. So a bit of a departure from, say, the Dev of old in Camden – with its SECRIFICE MYSELF TO YOU Jesus and Mary Chain graffiti in the horrible loos that I must have spent at least 5 hours of my life looking at if you add up all the time we spent in there. Heh. Would I return? Depends who I was with and where we were off to – it’s a little off the beaten track but if an appropriate gig was nearby, or if/when I manage to befriend some of the local goth kids: sure!

But I digress. 2 fancy, foodie Zurich restaurants: tick. Rock bar: tick, Lisbon lesbian bar: tick. Goth bar: tick. Can’t wait for our next night out!

Rheinfall

I’ve had my in-laws here this month and we’ve done some great day trips so I thought I’d post a couple of photo blogs for the 3 people who read this that aren’t Foolbook friends…

This was our visit to the Rheinfall (Rhine Falls) – the largest waterfalls in Europe. Even at what is probably the lowest ebb of the year, the sheer volume of water was impressive. It would be amazing to go back in spring when all the snowmelt is pouring down! Also for 1 August (Swiss National Day), they have fireworks above the Rheinfall, which would be something to see!

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Zurich Zoo

Rhino at Zurich Zoo. Photo: Iain Scott

Rhino at Zurich Zoo. Photo: Iain Scott

It’s been ages since I’ve blogged. So much has been going on but I’m not going to talk about that now. I’m going to talk about the Zoo instead. Because Zurich Zoo is, for want of a better one, a great metaphor for all that’s awesome about this city.

The location is lovely, if not utterly breathtaking (by Swiss standards!). Situated, high up on the hill (Zurichberg) near the home of Fifa and crazily expensive, super-indulgent luxury hotel, the Dolder Grand, the zoo has some of the best views in Zurich. It’s clean and well designed but still friendly with it.

It’s obviously affluent but spends its funds well on continuous improvements (IMHO). The recently-opened Elephant House (or Elephant Hilton, as Himself calls it) is incredible. A huge indoor-outdoor complex with its own river, waterfall and elephant swimming pool! It’s part of a wider African Savannah section that’s due to open this summer, which looks like it will be equally impressive.

It’s got great connections – I was impressed by Zoo Zurich’s link to Thailand’s Kaeng Krachan National Park, where the zoo supports a project to help protect Asiatic elephants. I also liked the fact they sold Thai food there and it has inspired me to make this satay sauce, ohmygoditisgood.

It requires some effort, but you get out what you put in and it’s probably good for you anyway. Some of the walkways are quite steep and/or unmetalled but you can get around OK – a trip to the zoo thus constitutes a pretty good workout! And the air up there is clean and bracing.

It’s sustainable. The new elephant house features cool sustainable design elements – rainwater is recycled, and there’s clever, low-power air conditioning and heating systems in place. I wouldn’t expect anything less in a city that sends most of its rubbish to biomass and even has a “recycling tram” to collect bulky waste.

It’s manageable and knowable but still interesting. The zoo is not massive, but there’s new bits all the time and the various sections mean you can visit quite regularly but continue to have relatively different experiences.

It’s expensive but good value. Like so many things in Switzerland, zoo entry comes at a hefty price: CHF26 entry for adults. But you get what you pay for. And for locals who buy an annual pass (not exactly a snip at CHF210 per family) it’s well worth the money.

It’s surprisingly convivial. Because pretty much everyone in Zurich with zoo-age kids does have said annual pass, you’re bound to see someone you know here. Plus, because Zurich is such a managable size (pop. 350-400k) you’re even more likely to run into your mates.

It’s child-friendly. Like most zoos! In many ways life is very easy in Zurich with kids.

Transport is amazing. We are so spoilt for public transport in this city, it’s not funny. Two tram lines run from central Zurich up to the zoo and a tram leaves every 5-10 minutes, so even when there’s weekend crowds, you pretty much always get a seat, buggy room and a hassle-free journey.

It’s open on Sunday. I’ve come to like the fact that most shops don’t do Sunday trading here. It really puts the brakes on the relentless retail addiction. And it kinda forces you to do nice family stuff – like visiting the zoo and/or enjoying a leisurely Sunday brunch.

It’s a bit daggy. Zoos are not by their very nature particularly sophisticated places. I’ve said many times it’s like the 80s here in Switzerland (mostly in a good way) and this is no exception.

 

Jucker Farm Photos

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We went to Jucker Farm for brunch last weekend.

About a 20 minute drive from our apartment in Zurich / Oerlikon, this place is somewhat of an institution for family days out. The jury is divided on whether people love or hate Jucker (yes, their logo font makes it look like it’s called Fucker, haw). As far as I can ascertain, the hate is mostly due to parking nightmares – even the Jucker-lovin friends we went with mentioned that in summer the whole nearby town becomes an extended parking lot with long walks up the hill for the unlucky.

But we were there on a snowy Sunday in February and parking was no problem!

Our friends had booked brunch in the Hof Restaurant, which was great. A big, rustic table that would have comfortably sat eight for us four adults, one toddler and two babies. We were right by a large glass door and windows with impressive panoramic views down over snowy fields to the half-frozen Lake Pfäffikon (Pfäffikersee) and the mountains beyond.

Have I talked about Sunday brunch in Zurich before? It’s A Thing here. Perhaps even more so because the shops are closed. Most places seem to do similar brunch arrangements with a fixed-price, all you can eat buffet. Food comprises:

  • hot stuff: bacon and eggs, wurst (sausage), plus Jucker had fried eggs on rösti – which is a traditional Swiss farmer’s breakfast, I’m told.
  • several kinds of bread: proper loaves that you slice yourself including the tasty Zopfli (a buttery braided loaf) and gipfeli (croissants).
  • There’s deli meats and a plate of different cheeses – what European breakfast would be complete without?
  • Then there’s a load of jams – in this case all homemade Jucker farm products.
  • A range of fruit juices. Here, they were Jucker juices too.
  • Cereals including another Swiss specialty, Bircher museli – I’m a convert to this healthy wet dish!
  • There were also tasty cakes, which I was almost too full to eat. Almost. Mmm. (Thankfully, breastfeeding makes you ravenous and you can eat what you like. Not that I usually stint myself anyway!)
  • You order coffees separately but they were included in the price (as many as you want).

It cost chf32 per adult. Our toddler’s meal cost chf2 per year, so chf6 because he’s three. Most places do this kids’-age-price thing and I reckon it’s a nice touch.

So far, we’ve been to a few brunches in Zurich and I look forward to many more. This was the fanciest yet and just lovely. The room was stylish-rustic, lots of wood with delicate touches, vases of branches and classy gauze table runners, tea light candles in glass, vaguely “woodland”-themed decor. And not too crowded. Our friends had warned the staff we’d be arriving with two buggies so they had kindly put us to the far side where both prams could sit easily by the wall and be out of the way. It’s so nice to have room to manoeuvre, rather than extra tables shoved in where they barely fit just to maximise profits. I do love Switzerland for this (the restraint of easy affluence!?)

Afterwards we had a wander round the farm grounds. Himself and P-boy went further afield than S-baby and me. As well as three separate-but-together function rooms making up the restaurant, it’s a proper working farm with fruit orchards, animals, kooky straw statues (!!) and a prime lakeside position close to Zurich. Apparently “they” tried to buy it several years ago for redevelopment but the owners held on and now it’s a popular and profitabile attraction. It was fairly uncrowded when we went but you can see how it would be rammed in spring, summer and autumn when they also have demos and kids’ activities such as showing how cider is made etc.

I’d definitely book brunch again, particularly for a special occasion such as a birthday or with visitors in tow. As stunning as the farm was under a light a blanket of snow, my pals assure me it’s even lovelier in warm weather. And the farm activity days sound fun if you can find a parking spot. Roll on spring!

I saw some Dinosaurs

Sauriermuseum and Dorothy, of course!

I’m currently living with a baby dinosaur. The noises he makes – gurgles, hiccoughs, squeaks, grunts, sighs, squeals and grumbles – are primal, almost prehistoric. And his little mouth is like a tiny pterodactyl or elephant – that kind of beaky but human shape. (Although his coos and increasingly regular smiles are very human 😉 ). So perhaps it’s appropriate that we recently took him and our not-so-baby-dino to the Dinosaur Museum / Sauriermuseum at Aathal, a 20 min drive from Zurich.

I must admit, I was a tad sceptical about a dinosaur museum. I mean, I have nothing against dinosaurs per se. Except for the fact they seem kinda fake. But I guess I believe in science more than god so, yeah. Anyway, the Dinosaur Museum exceeded my expectations. For one, it was bigger than it looked. There were heaps of full size skeletons of some really huge and not-so-huge dinosaurs (mostly replicas, although a few displays contained genuine dinobones) as well as models and pictures of what they’d look like in the flesh.

There were lots of rooms over several levels that were loosely themed so you got to see standing dinos, swimming dinos, flying dinos, meat eaters, herbivores, etc. Pretty much all the info was in German, but that didn’t matter much. P, our nearly-4-year old, can’t read (although his spoken Deutsch is better than ours) and the names are all in Latin so they’re the same anyway. Plus, there was almost too much info to stand around reading everything. An unexpected plus was a whole display on Archeopteryx – a sort of half-bird, half dinosaur about the size of a crow from c.150 million years ago – which just happens to be mentioned in one of P’s books about birds, so he was fascinated to see that.

Other particularly notable displays were the triceratops skull (very sci fi), giant turtle dinosaur bones, pterodactyl bones and those of the Steven Tylosaurus – a huge-mouthed shark-osaur.

On the whole though, P was a bit freaked out by the dinosaur museum. And fair enough, they are pretty freaky, and big. The website does say suitable for age 4 and over. Plus, we’d mostly convinced him they were all extinct and just models anyway and he’d calmed down, then we came across an awfully lifelike model of a baby dinosaur with a WINKING EYE that freaked him out all over again. (Also: how to explain dinosaurs are real and extinct but, say, dragons never existed?)

The museum was created in 1977 by a Swiss guy, Hans-Jakob Siber, a mineral and fossil dealer, who worked on some pretty hardcore excavations of dinosaur bones in the US and suchlike. So it’s got proper chops. And there did seem to be plenty of good information about palaeontological research, excavation methods, fossils, dinosaur eggs, dinosaurs in Switzerland etc. Although again mostly in German. (Interspersed with cheesy displays of Dinosaur and Monster movie paraphanelia and screenings of films such as The Land Before Time, heh). Plus there were activity corners where kids could do colouring in and stuff.

So on balance, the Dino Museum was pretty cool, but I don’t think we’ll go again too soon. A bit scary for young kids and, at CHF21 per adult, quite pricey for the rest of us!

Haarschnitt in Zurich

 

It’s taking a while between posts lately because it’s hard to blog one handed. I can do most things on my phone or kindle while feeding the baby – emails, facebook, online shopping, read books – but writing is tricky. I was going to roll a few posts into one but this turned out longer than I expected. Sorry if this entry is not terribly exciting… Coming soon: Dinosaurs and lactobling!

Haircuts in Zurich

It’s well documented on the expat forums that good haircuts in Switzerland are hard to come by. There’s tonnes of hairdressers (Coiffures), that’s not the problem. Haircuts are expensive because everything is expensive here (or if you prefer: staff are properly paid and get decent benefits). The cuts themselves are often a bit daggy because it’s like the 80s here. And, at least around where I live, most of the salons look a bit old lady-ish. Truth be told, I don’t see a lot of cool, alternative or hipster types around Zurich at all, except perhaps near Hardbrucke. Even so, most alternative types appear to be under 30. But I digress…

Not long after I got here, I had my hair cut at Haarock, a gothy / motorbikey / tattoo type place, but I didn’t find it great. You can tell within about five minutes if a hairdresser’s got the goods by how they handle your hair and unfortunately the lady who cut my hair there came up wanting. (she fell into the “goths with scissors” category – someone who looks cool but doesn’t have the skillz to back it up. Maybe she’s an awesome tattoo artist, I dunno). Haarock is probably fine for long-hair trims and crazy dye jobs (and tattoos, presumably) but not for the kind of edgy, sculptural cut I like. So I held out and went back to my fantastic hairdresser in London at Good Old Days when I was there last July. And then I got chopped at Marked Hair in Newtown, Sydney when I was there in October. Many of the expat forums blithely recommend you “Go to Germany” – which is actually the answer for a lot of things (eg: where can I find affordable/decent clothes, baby products, food, anything). But it’s rolled around to February and I don’t have any trips planned anytime soon.

[ASIDE: Even if I wanted to cross the border, I’m stuck to the baby right now and he can’t leave Switzerland until we’ve got his passport, which we can get until he’s issued with a birth certificate. Swiss bureaucracy means that a baby born here to non-Swiss people needs a shedload of paperwork to get a birth certificate, including both parents’ birth certificates, which must have been issued within the last six months… so we’re still getting all that together. Once we finally have his birth cert, then we’ll apply for either a UK or Aussie passport/citizenship, which will also take time and cost money. Anyway, it’s not a huge deal, but just thought I’d explain why I’m currently “grounded”.]

Plus, my parents were here to mind the baby so I had to bite the bullet and get a haarschnitt, or probably wait another six months! I decided I’d just pick a relatively cool-looking place I’d seen from the no. 14 tram so I made an appointment at Black & White. And whaddya know, I got the gothy girl hairdresser who’d worked in London for a year! Nice one. She did a good job and I’ll go back. It wasn’t cheap but I used to spend a fair bit on my haircuts in London so I guess it’s not so very different. I think I’ll have to keep dyeing it myself though. Adding “farbe” to the mix really does start to break the bank. I paid CHF170 (£116, AU$230) for a cut and colour. And that’s fairly standard. Although pretty much exactly what I paid in London too!

I think next time I’ll go even shorter up the back.

Note: I tend to use “goth” in a generic way to mean roughly “a person who looks like they’d go to a goth club”. Not the full-on Morgana Deathspell 😉