Alas, no fireworks for Zurich

Despite some last-minute rain, the powers that be decided to ban fireworks for Swiss National Day after all. The ban is in place for almost the entire country and is due to the dangerously dry conditions that exist thanks to a summer of unbearable heat.

But never fear, the rest of the celebration will go on. Zurich has a full program of events scheduled for tomorrow, including Alphorn concernts! After almost a year in Switzerland, we have yet to see a real, live Alphorn. For a schedule of the Swiss National Day celebrations in Zurich, click here. The program is conveniently available in multiple languages (listed on the right-hand side of the page). Enjoy.

Yet another Swiss holiday celebration tragically close to not happening

For the second time this year, Zurichers are biting their nails wondering whether a holiday celebration will be able to go on as planned. The first time was back in April, when the Böögg’s disappearance threatened to bring Sechseläuten to its knees.

This time around it’s not quite as exciting as a political kidnapping, but the situation sounds dire nonetheless. Due to the insufferable heat wave we’ve been having, the Canton of Zurich is dangerously dry. So dry, in fact, that locals may have to go without fireworks for Swiss National Day on August 1st.

Now I haven’t been here long enough to observe a Swiss National Day yet, but from what I can gather, it is not entirely unlike the 4th of July in the US. The stores are filling up with cheesy Swiss-flag-themed decorations such as banners and crepe-paper lanterns. And judging from the attention this potential ban is receiving, fireworks play an integral part in the day’s celebrations as well.

Apparently, it’s legal for private citizens to set off fireworks only on this day. Some stores are offering to give consumers refunds on fireworks through August 2nd should the ban go into effect. Meanwhile, authorities are plotting a potential ‘make-up day’ when fireworks would be allowed, since this is a preferable scenario to one in which everyone in Zurich stores piles of fireworks in their hot, dry storages spaces for an entire year.

Sounds like we will know whether the ban will be placed by Friday. I for one would hate to miss out on a full-blown Swiss National Day celebration (especially since we decided to actually stay in the country to see it), although it could be interesting to see how the Swiss deal with this wrench in their holiday. Will they realize the day’s deeper meaning, form a circle, and start singing a song in gibberish like the Whos in The Grinch who Stole Christmas? Now that would be worth seeing.

Cinema under the stars

A couple nights ago we went to the Orange Cinema, an open-air movie theater on Lake Zurich that is set up for a month in the summer. A different film is shown every night, and tickets sell out far in advance. (Many thanks to Ali for hitting the ticket office the day they went on sale. She’s still not over the fact that the Miami Vice night was already sold out…).

Seating is first-come first-served, a clever ploy to get the audience to arrive hours in advance and buy food and drinks from the vendors inside the gates. Luckily one of the vendors was Hiltl, making me not mind this early arrival time at all. With our (CHF 22) admissions tickets we also got free packaged ice cream cones, which we only realized after my husband went out to find ‘real’ ice cream somewhere else (not that this stopped him from eating the free stuff, too).

Right before the movie was scheduled to start, the giant screen rose up from its reclining position to stand on two stilts out in the lake. The setting was gorgeous, with the lake and the lights from the houses on the far shore in the background. Not a bad way to spend a summer night.

The Orange Cinema is all but sold out for the rest of the summer, but if you’re going to be in Zurich next summer, I definitely recommend checking it out.

From Badi to Wurst

(Alternate title: more hot, sweaty summer in Zurich, with guests)

The visitor parade is almost over, and none too soon. Don’t get me wrong – I have adored the chance to spend time with each and every one of the dear friends who have come to see us this summer, but I am the worst warm-weather tour guide ever. When the temperatures soar, all I want to do is hide from the sun. Not easy to do when you’re out walking around the city all day.

Kesha compared me to some creature on a sci-fi show that can’t go in the light and just slinks along from shadow to shadow; this basically sums up how I move around in the summer, if I have to move around at all.

Even so, we’ve managed to have a little bit of fun here and there. Boat rides across Lake Zurich are cool and breezy, as long as you are on a big boat and not one of those small, stuffy glass-topped things. The Kunsthaus café is cool and relaxing, even if the top floors of the museum could use some air-conditioning. And if you go to dinner late enough, and sit outside, you might just be able to enjoy a nice meal without having the seat stick to the back of your legs.

Even better than riding a boat across the lake is actually swimming in the lake. While Badi abound on Zurich’s lake and rivers (which charge around CHF 6 admission and provide useful facilities like changing rooms), my new favorite spot to swim is in the park at Zürichhorn, which can be reached by boat, bus, or tram. The grassy areas are packed full of sunbathers in the afternoon, but there’s always room in the water.

The restaurants that have been the biggest hits with our guests (who were almost all disappointed to learn that summer is not exactly fondue season) are listed below. All offer outdoor seating and menus in English (although the daily specials are only listed in German. I am getting good at translating food, even though I still don’t have a clue what most of the meats are).

Zeughauskeller is awfully proud of its extensive Wurst menu (see picture), but also offers a couple options for us vegetarians, as well as plenty of meats of the non-encased variety.

Linde Oberstrass offers big salads and Fladenbrot (sort of like a thin-crust pizza, but swissified), which make good summer foods, along with pastas and a bunch of typical Swiss meat-and-potatoes dishes.

Crazy Cow has traditional Swiss food that tends to be on the heavy side, so save this one for a really cool evening, or better yet, the winter.

Hiltl combines two of my favorite things: a huge variety of delicious vegetarian food, and air-conditioning that you can actually feel. The special summer ginger shandy I had there was pretty yummy, too.

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To all our summertime visitors: please do come back to see us in winter. You will find me a changed person. I love winter, and winter in Switzerland is hard to beat. Snow-covered Alps, Christmas markets, skiing, Glühwein, sledding, fondue, raclette… I will be so freakin’ enthusiastic you won’t even recognize me.

Hergiswhat?

Yesterday we went with some friends to the small Swiss town of Hergiswil to visit the Hergiswil Glasi, a glass production company. There were also a museum, a ‘Phenomenal Glass’ exhibit, two glass shops, a big playground, and a nice lakeside café/restaurant as part of the Glasi complex.

The museum, which was free, was more entertaining than I expected. As you walk through the various sets, a narrator (in the language of your choice) tells you about the history of glass and the history of this particular glass production facility. Among other things, I learned that last century, it was popular to keep one’s liquor in a Schnapps Hund, a vaguely animal-shaped vessel with a pouring spout for a tail. At least I hope that’s a tail.

At the end of the museum tour we got to watch some grumpy-looking glass workers doing their thing. There was also a booth where you could do your own glass blowing.

The ‘Phenomenal Glass’ exhibit had lots of interactive things, including various musical instruments that had glass components. Surprisingly, neither the Urinophon nor the Bierophon has gained much popularity in musical circles.

As a wedding present, our friends had us pick out some glass we liked from the shop. Since no Schnapps Hunde were to be found, we settled on one of the signature pieces of the Hergiswil Glasi, a large tray with the outline of Switzerland on it. We also picked up some Tetris-piece-shaped interlocking candle holders, which promise to be hours of fun.


Outside on the lake, we played with these wacky interactive fountains.

We stopped in Luzern on the way home for dinner in what is becoming my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Switzerland. All in all, it was a nice little day trip. Good for kids, too – our friends’ children had a fabulous time (except in the museum, where the little girl complained loudly that it was MUCH too boring).

What else we did this weekend: conquer Mount Blanc

And by “conquer” I mean “ride the gondola up”. This was our second trip to over 3800 meters of elevation in two weeks, but unfortunately my body does not seem to have gotten any better at making the adjustment to a low-oxygen environment. At least this time we didn’t attempt any hiking (although sadly, there were no monks).

Snow in July is such an appealing sight that I’m trying to sell my husband on the idea of spending June through August in the southern hemisphere each year, so we can just skip summer altogether. Surely there’re some rich globe-hoppers out there who need us to house-sit for them while they’re spending their winters somewhere warm?

Rioting in Frawitzerland

Wanting to fit in one more trip before the visitor parade, we went to visit Sara and husband in a French suburb of Geneva this weekend. This gave us a chance to see first-hand some of the celebrations after France’s unexpected victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals of the World Cup.


The cheering and honking started immediately after the final whistle, and didn’t stop until sometime after we had gone to bed. There was a man dressed up like a giant soccer ball celebrating on a neighboring balcony (alas, it was too dark for the pictures to come out). If people were getting this crazy within the privacy of their own apartments, I reasoned, what wild, wacky stuff must be going on out on the street! We quickly donned our shoes and headed out to enjoy that rare beast, the French Victory.


We followed the noise to what seemed to be the main intersection of the little town, to find a crowd of all ages, races, and genders (yes, all 2 of them). Cars continuously drove through honking, with various passengers hanging various body parts out the windows and screaming.

Highlights of the festivities included a group of colorfully-dressed African woman dancing in the street, soccer moms trying to keep track of their young kids, guys running around holding lit fireworks, and a beer-bellied man on his balcony watching over it all in nothing but his bikini underwear. Don’t worry, we got his picture.

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