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Text & Photos by K. Cecchini @tonightatdawn
From the foreign perspective, Switzerland is synonymous with the Alps. If in Zürich and can’t make the trek all way out to touch its great peaks, you need to seek out bucket list-worthy local views. Nearby Uteilberg Mountain and the city of Lucerne seem to be the next best thing and, although tourist destinations, they are not inundated with traps.
Towering Over the Alps
We took the bright red local train out to Uteilberg on our second day in country. The train runs regularly throughout the day which allowed us to explore the area without the stress of catching a trip back to town. At the trains stop, there’s a small restaurant and a beautiful view of the Alps- but there was no need to linger there as the view is more pristine as you delve move up the paths.
It’s a ‘choose your own adventure’; the trails are marked with approximations of trek lengths ranging from an hour to most of a day.
A quick climb up past lights embedded in the antlers of mosaic reindeer and we had reached the main tourist summit with a hotel and restaurant. We ascended the steep stairs on the metal tower lookout to capture a breathtaking panoramic view of Zürich to the left and the Alps in the other direction.
We then continued to hike through well maintained trails and glimpsing at the Alps through the trees as the morning clouds dissipated.
Less than hour by train from Zürich, we were surprised to find that 2- 2nd class train tickets to Lucerne would cost us around a hundred American dollars. Yet, the information clerk declared it to be a “special place” so …all aboard!
My husband and I settled into a seat on the train and the conductor came to check our tickets. Oops, we had settled into a 1st class car; “up the stairs, then down, and to the back,” he insisted in his thick German accent.
We reclined back in our new seats; 2nd class wasn’t too shabby. But, alas, he compelled us forward again; “up the stairs, then down, to the back!”.
We went up, down, and to the back until we came upon what was unmistakably the lower class car; we are not first class travelers by any means but after the reclining chairs and peace of the other cars, the difference between classes was stark. The smells of cheap food assaulted us as soon as the car door open and people were spilled out over the floors.
Fortunately, if the train ride was not quite worth 50 bucks, Lucerne was every bit the special place that we were promised.
We spent the day wandering the winding streets of Lucerne and the banks of its river. 35 francs for an hour on paddle boat allowed us to float ever so slightly closer to the commanding Alps where they appeared to rise above the pristine blue lake. We enjoyed lunch in one of the many European squares and dined near the river bank.
Before heading back to the station and our 2nd class world, we sat and watched the moon rise above the peaks in the distance.
Other Swiss Adventures:
Text and Photos by Kimberly Cecchini @tonightatdawn
“HOW DOES ONE ACHIEVE ETERNAL BLISS?
BY SAYING DADA.
HOW DOES ONE BECOME FAMOUS?
BY SAYING DADA.
WITH NOBLE GESTURE AND DELICATE DECENCY. TILL ONE GOES CRAZY. TILL ONE LOSES CONSCIOUSNESS.”
-Hugo Ball, founder of the Cabaret Voltaire in the original Dada manifesto
Right now, insanity is more likely than CONCIOUSNESS with 7 hours to go til Newark in this pressurized tube. (See the reverse: “No Sleep Til Zurich“).
Alas, customs will be easier if I just shut up and write rather than shout DADA over the Atlantic.
I’ll admit, I never had much appreciation for this nonsensical self-declared non-art. I suppose I never appreciated that Duchamp’s upside down urinal precluded me from having to do a handstand in a men’s room to garner that perspective.
So, even though we were staying a few blocks over from it in Zürich’s medieval section, I almost didn’t even care to throw down 5 francs at its birthplace, the Cabaret Voltaire.
5 francs. 4 blocks (maybe). 3 X 10 minutes of film. 2 of us. 1st trip to Dada’s heartland…perhaps it made too much sense to go.
But I relented. And it was well worth every damn CH franc.
If there is no performance on the schedule, the main attraction at Voltaire is the self-start film on Dada’s history. If you’ve studied art history, you already know the basics; Dada was a reaction to the horrors of World War I and the “scientification of life”. In this vein, it was a rejection of the organized principles of art making and was reconciled in different Western art centers such as New York where the “ready-made” was popularized (re-appropriation of every day objects as works of art(?) like the inverse urinal).
Yet, the film superseded my expectations in both form and content.
I entered the ‘crypt’ as they call it (a wine cellar in its previous life); it’s cave-like ceiling is covered with a constellation representing the evolution of Dada. (Hey, a constellation may not be typical but it’s still a form of organization-is it not? Just sayin’.) I hit the ‘English’ button and the film began projecting on a camera shaped screen and everywhere but; more successfully emphasizing the lack of structure valued in Dadaism. I was craning my head to watch the associated words and images being projected across a wall, a corner and above my head.
The film is filled with images and quotes that showcase DADA’s history from its homeland in the neutral zone as the Zürich based artists reacted to the world crumbling beyond Swiss borders, to its geographical spread and it’s influence on the development of new art movements such as surrealism.
After that, I meandered upstairs to look at the performance space with its random art (damn, I still don’t know what to call it if the idea is nonart), and the extensive bar menu.
Their advertised tasting of 15 absenthi should, I would think, effectively highlight the effects of repeating Dada, eh?
Adding to the randomness was the guy who came off the street trying to read the young employee’s fortune while I was browsing the small gift area. She was hesitant, saying she doesn’t subscribe to fortune-telling. He was insistent and told her, when she inquired, that she would only pay if her fortune came true. Asking her about her favorite flowers and to pick a number he reiterated a vague report on a love life to be blossomed and such.
Vague and random and not worth a damn CH franc.
Contemporary Art in Zürich
We happened upon a number of other contemporary galleries-although we had to window shop a few of them as many are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays (like many things in Zürich). We spent the most amount of time in Lumas which hosts a list of global artists; beyond the bright array of 2D works, it’s draw is making current art affordable by selling reproductions in a variety of commercial sizes.
There were also a Cindy Sherman exhibition at KUNSTHAUS ZÜRICH that we were not able to fit in, advertisements for gallery openings and experimental theater throughout the city.
On the river in the old district, we visited a free contemporary art space in an old school building. There were a few pieces that I took a second look at – like the video diptych commentary on the Iraq War that featured one man slowly eating roses and another hitting his solder’s helmet. Perhaps it’s dada alive. But perhaps because I am more a fan of realistic rather than conceptual work, to me the story here unwinds into yada (dada) yada, and then we listened to a street band improvise in the museum’s courtyard for a bit.
And then there’s the pineapple rocket. dada.
Text and Photos by Kimberly Cecchini
Langstrasse is German for “Long Street” and that it is.
Of course, yours truly, hoofed it.
Every metropolis has its dark underbelly, and Langstrasse is, or at least was, Zurich’s. Once known as the red light district, travel sites now hail it as a Swiss Brooklyn (which really drives my husband nuts). Supposedly it has been fairly well cleansed of the rampant drug use and, ahem, red lights of its past and now it is a diversely populated, hip neighborhood known for its shopping and nightlife.
Switzerland is often considered one of the safest places in our chaotic world, and beyond my ingrained alertness, I felt at ease. Langstrasse was not much different; it had all the edge of today’s East Village in Manhattan except the prostitutes were more easy to identify.
Heading down there in the evening from the Zürich transit hub, the first few blocks appeared to be a quiet middle class neighborhood, but we discovered there was more life deeper into the district. Absorbing all the warmth of the short summer like the rest of the town, we joined everyone who was crowded into the sidewalk seating at a trendier spot, DIE Bar, for a drink from the ink covered wait staff.
We ended the night hanging out the windows at Bagatelle. The dimly lit and eccentrically decorated bar felt like the kind of place you would be cool to know about. When we walked up, there was a lady of the night a few steps in front of a small crowd of young patrons on its porch. We purchased a couple of drinks at the bar where cash was nonchalantly stacked next to the computer. From our perch on the windowsill, we watched the revelers stretch off into the night.