Europe

Zurich, Switzerland – Affluence, Cacti, and Motörhead

For the last couple of days we have been pre-occupied with day trips into the Swiss countryside, but we thought it was finally time to explore Zurich. Zurich is extremely pretty, extremely expensive and extremely…extreme in it’s offerings. They also like flags.
20140628-202844.jpgAs we’ve mentioned before, our flat is situated right on Lake Zurich, so we decided to take the boat line into the old town. Sitting on the deck, in the shade, watching the scenery pass by…I couldn’t think of a more lovely thing to be doing with my time. These people live in a beautiful city, that’s for sure. There are a lot of things I love in Nashville, but the Cumberland River is not one of them. It’s a dirty, old thing…I think if it were cleaner, the happiness quotient of our city would sky-rocket. There’s nothing a dip in the lake can’t cure…even I, who normally refuses to enter any natural body of water, was tempted to go for a swim.

We started the day off by visiting the Fraumünster (Church of Our Lady).20140628-191204.jpgThe choir of the abbey contains 5 impressive Marc Chagall windows, each one depicting a famous bit of the bible. From left to right we have 1) Elijah’s ascent into heaven 2) Jacob fighting and dreaming about Heaven 3) Christ’s Greatest Hits 4) The end of the world and 5) Moses being sad.20140628-193042.jpgAcross the street is the Grossmünster, which our guidebook describes as “the closest thing we’ve got to a landmark”.20140628-193817.jpgLegend would have us believe that the patron saints of Zurich, Felix and Regula, were beheaded and then proceeded to walk to where the church stands today, holding their own heads. Charlemagne later passed through Zurich and, after a hint from his horse, decided to build a church on the site in honor of the martyrs. Although the Zurich Pocket Guide author didn’t seem to be too impressed, I thought it was very nice, especially the lovely stained glass windows by German artist Sigmar Polke. He used agate and semi-precious stones to create these 12 unique windows.

20140628-193732.jpgI must admit, the real reason we visited was to climb up the 187 steps to the top of one of the towers. The view over the Limmat river and the lake was delightful.

20140628-194646.jpgWe criss-crossed the river several times as we wound our way through the Old Town. The little cobbled streets are packed full of boutiques selling mind-numbingly expensive things. There is an abundance of opportunities to buy shoes and watches. Seriously, every other store is selling one or the other at painful prices. Here’s a $40,000 watch:

20140628-195020.jpgBelieve it or not, this was not the only watch in the window to crack 5 figures…I would say about 50% of the watches on display were over $5000…and this wasn’t just one store…it was every store. Who buys a $40,000 dollar watch? That’s almost 50% of the value of the first house I bought. It’s OBSCENE. Some people have too much money. What’s scary is that there were watches that had no price at all…too offensive to even divulge to the affluent Swiss. Shocking.

It was time to do a little window shopping more in line with our tastes, so we set off to Zero Zero Rare Groove record shop. We’ve popped into to quite a few record shops on this trip, but mainly just to torture ourselves…the price to ship them back home would be astronomical. Zero Zero definitely takes the cake as far a selection goes.20140628-200424.jpgIt seemed like every 10th record was one I had been looking for in Nashville and online for ages, including Tom Waits – Early Years, Vol. II, which was the first album I put on my list to buy after we bought the turntable 3 years ago. Alas, we’ve got to fund 9 more months of travel, so we snuck out of the store just before our good sense did.

Growing tired of the art museums and beautiful churches (disgusting, I know), we set our sights on the Sukkulenten-Sammlung, or, the Zurich Succulent Plant Collection. Cacti have always held a place in my heart, as they are the only plants that don’t die after 3 weeks in my presence. We got there very close to closing time, so we didn’t get to see their prized possession: the Queen for One Night plant, which only blooms once a year during one single night. The immense collection is housed in 7 large greenhouses as well as a a nice outdoor area for the hardier plants. They have all sizes and shapes of these spiky little blighters, from all over the globe. Cactus garden was immediately added to the list of house projects post visit, where it lives alongside celestial ceilings, dragon spouts and Prague mosaic paths. Look at these beauties!

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20140628-202412.jpgThe reason we got there so late was due to an apple maps mishap which diverted us to a huge park next to cactus land. We did however get to peek into the Bonsai Garden. Peeking was all that was happening, as the entrance fee was about $20 each…nope!

20140628-202802.jpgOur dogs were barking, so it was high time to dip them into the cool waters of Lake Zurich. It seems like you can swim along the entire lake shore as there were plenty of people splashing around and soaking up the sun every we saw the water meet the shore. We found some rocks away from the sunbathers, unlaced the shoes and peeled off our sweaty socks. The lake was clear and cool…a welcome relief.20140628-203540.jpg20140628-203632.jpgIt was time for us to part ways; John had a big evening planned with the lads from Motörhead. My plan included catching up with The Big Fat Quiz of the Year (my love for Noel Fielding is blossoming on this trip). For those who are not familiar with this British quiz/panel show, here’s a good one to get you started.

After spending almost every minute of your day with someone for 3 months straight, it’s very odd when they go away, even for a couple of hours. Believe it or not, we haven’t yet had to “go for a coffee” and get out of each other’s way. Even at my lowest point, when after a grueling 8hr train trip, I told John to go *ahem!* himself in response to a particularly smart ass comment, I never wanted to leave his side. When you’re separated, it’s like having a phantom limb…on my way back home to the flat, I saw three things which I pointed out to John…but he wasn’t there…*pang!*

All that lovey-dovey nonsense aside, I wasn’t going to sit through Motörhead. Therefore, I’ll let John take over for a review:

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“Hello. We are Motörhead, and we play rock ‘n’ roll.”

So Lemmy announced after walking onstage at the Eishalle Wetzikon. Apparently, this place is a hockey arena on most nights, but tonight it belonged to the trio from London. They had filled this venue with 4000 intense, beer-fueled fans who were ready to see the band. I know I was.

This was a whole different experience from Latvia, where I was made (well, told) to sit down by the usher during a rock show (admittedly, not a Motörhead show). The floor in Wetzikon was packed with 3000 standing, fired-up fans. Another 1000 or so were seated in a small second level right off the main floor. I managed to work my way through the floor crowd down to a spot about 10 rows back on stage left, to the place where I knew Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister would spend his time during the show. This show had previously been cancelled when the 68-year-old Lemmy fell ill; I was fortunate enough to be in town for the make up gig.

“We are Motörhead, and we play rock ‘n’ roll.” After making his announcement, the band opened the show with Damage Case. They played a greatest-hits type set that featured songs from nine of their twenty-something albums, including one song from the new Aftershock record. The setlist included some of my favorites, including Stay Clean and Metropolis. They closed out the show with Ace of Spades and a great version of Overkill.

My buddy Burton told me before the program to “show ’em how it’s done”, but they didn’t need me to do that. Unlike shows that we saw in Latvia and Lithuania, where the crowds didn’t really know what to do at a rock show, the Swiss have this thing down. The fans knew what to do, and they were enhanced by access to an adjacent biergarten (you could just walk freely in and out of a large open door between the show and the beer).

Unlike American venues, which stop serving drinks at halftime and hustle everyone out as soon as the band plays its last notes, this place kept the bar open for who knows how long after the end of the concert. It was a big party. I hung out for 30 minutes and had another round, before setting back off to Zürich by train. Have I mentioned how much I love the European public transit?

In other crazy news…we are coming home in less than a week. There are days that feel as though we haven’t accomplished anything and then there are times when it’s hard to remember all the things we have done. One thing is clear…when we get home, we are doing the following things, in order:

1) Hugging the dogs for at least 1 hour each.
2) Eating an italian sub at The Gold Rush.
3) Watching the fireworks on Love Circle with our wonderful friend (and pup-sitter), Burton.

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