Gattiker Weiher

A pleasant, mild hike outside Zurich.

I’ve been a bit under the weather lately so I’m focused on taking easier walks closer to home. This pleasant parkland, in a suburb of Zürich, includes meadows, pastures, forested trails, and two pretty ponds. On this cool Saturday morning I was not the only one out to enjoy this little pocket of nature! Joggers, strollers, bikers, families, and even horseback riders, all hummed by as I explored some of the trail network outside Langnau-Gattikon. The ducks were in the pond, the wildflowers in the meadow, the cows in the pasture, and the smiles were on all the people. I capped it off by walking down toward the lake shore, reaching the Thalwil train station after passing through its flowering uphill neighborhoods. This hike was recommended by Swiss Family Fun. More photos in the gallery.

Scenes from a walk through the outskirts of Langnau-Gattikon, near Thalwil, near Zurich.

Münsterhof fountain

This two-spout, two-bowl contemporary design turns out to have two uses.

The large fountain anchoring the west corner of the Münsterhof plaza – in the shadow of Fraumünster church – is one of the most elegant contemporary fountains I have found in Zürich, and one of the largest. Its elegant spout arcs high over a large bowl to create a pool that refreshes one’s spirit – and a side spout pours into a smaller bowl to quench one’s thirst. I’ve visited this fountain many times; the gallery contains a few of my favorite shots from three very different settings.

The elegant fountain of Münsterhof plaza on Easter morning.

I stopped by early on Easter morning, when the sun was still rising over Zürichberg to the east, and explored different ways to capture the sunlight as it played with this fountain. The first shot in the gallery may be the most fun.

I visited again on a warm spring evening, with a tripod, to capture another view when the church was illuminated. This plaza is tricky because there is a bright light suspended in the middle of the square – here placed just behind the arc of the fountain.

The elegant fountain of Münsterhof plaza, with Fraumünster behind, on a spring evening.

Yesterday, now that restaurants have re-opened and all the plazas like Münsterhof are scattered with tables and happy couples dining in the late-spring sunshine, we went for lunch at a restaurant near the fountain. Suddenly, a woman and her dog approached the fountain, and the dog decided to get a drink from the middle of the large pool! He spent about 20 minutes walking around the rim of the pool, walking through the pool, drinking from the falling water, and very nearly shaking off his coat as he passed some neighboring diners. More photos in the gallery.

A dog enjoys the large fountain in Münsterhof plaza, as his owner tries to protect neighboring diners.
A dog enjoys a drink from the middle of the large fountain in Münsterhof plaza, Zürich.

Robot fountains

Some fountains remind me of a robot.

I’ve encountered this model in four places. At first I saw it as just a pillar with some geometric carvings. But I’ve come to see it as a face, which somehow makes me think of a stereotypical robot. The particular example below is only two blocks from our flat, and has grown a crown of thorns thanks to the neighbor’s rose bush. The others in the gallery give you a clearer look at the carvings.

Fountain quest

I still need to find another 1,000 fountains.

I discovered a web page claiming that Zürich has over 1,200 public water fountains, which means my quest to find them all will take quite a bit longer than I anticipated 🤭.

Today I’m just going to note that – despite the claims of the tourist-oriented page above – not all of Zurich’s fountains have an interesting story or sculpture. Some are rather straightforwardly practical, like the three below. All of them welcome a thirsty pedestrian, and most have a doggy fountain at their base! More photos in the gallery.

One of many public fountains in Zürich; note the little doggy fountain at its base.
This fountain is stainless steel and has a birdbath motive.
A rather functional, simple, modern, metal fountain.

Mystery solved

The story behind my “four muses”.

No new posting today… instead, a quick note about an update to last week’s post about the fountain I called the “four muses”. It turns out to have a fascinating story behind it, about a Paris philanthropist who funded the placement of hundreds of public fountains to ensure access to clean water for the poor and homeless. This “Wallace Fountain”, one of only two in Switzerland, is pretty special.

A decorative fountain on the corner of Pestalozzianlage square, in central Zurich.

Morning on Neumarkt

A pretty square on Neumarkt.

I strolled the narrow streets of Altstadt (old town) last week, visiting new nooks and crannies of this ever-interesting section of Zürich where no street is quite the same as another, and came across this lovely little square along Neumarkt street. Under the imposing presence of a nearby clocktower, in the tiny triangle of space spared by an intersection of this small street with two even smaller lanes, was a curious fountain and a cozy sidewalk café. I found the fountain to be somewhat curious because it had rather traditional water spouts – with ornate brackets, and with a support framework for any heavy pots you might wish to fill with water – but it also had a more modern-looking, abtract winged figure atop its pillar. Behind the fountain’s streams I spied an older man enjoying his morning paper with coffee, while around me delivery people scootered by to drop off the morning mail or produce to the neighborhood grocer on the opposite streetcorner.

Three photos below, added to the gallery.

A pretty fountain and cafe in a small square along Neumarkt in Altstadt, Zürich.
A pretty fountain and cafe in a small square along Neumarkt in Altstadt, Zürich.
A pretty fountain and cafe in a small square along Neumarkt in Altstadt, Zürich.

Fountain in a nook

Some fountains are mid-street.

When I began this series, I said that I’d only seen fountains in plazas or at intersections – meaning I could find all fountains by ensuring I visited every plaza or intersection, rather than traveling the length of every street. In short, I needed to solve the Hamiltonian Path problem, not the Eulerian Path problem. (Interestingly, Euler was inspired by the famous Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem: to devise a walk through the city that would cross each of its seven bridges once and only once. So you might say I am following in Euler’s footsteps. Sort of.)

This week I found two exceptions to my ‘intersection’ theory, including this lovely little fountain in a nook on a tiny back street in Altstadt.

One of the few fountains I found along a street – not at an intersection.

Four muses

A pretty fountain in central Zürich.

This small but ornate fountain sits on the corner of Pestolazzianlage square in central Zürich, right along Bahnhofstrasse.  It’s just over 2m high.  Unlike other fountains, it is not a drinking fountain from which to sip, nor a place to fill your kitchen pot, but its downward stream of water is perfect for filling your water bottle if you reach behind the four women holding the fountain’s cap.  I don’t know the story or symbolism behind this fountain, so I’m dubbing it the four muses. Two more photos at the gallery here.

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update 27 May: a reader tipped me off to the fascinating story behind this fountain. It is one of only two Wallace Fountains in Switzerland. The original series of these fountains were funded by Sir Richard Wallace in Paris in the late 19th century, as a means of providing free, safe water to the poor and homeless of the city. The four figures are “caryatids representing kindness, simplicity, charity and sobriety” [Wikipedia]. Another page (in German) provides some info about this specific fountain in Zurich. Switzerland’s only other Wallace Fountain is located in Geneva.

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“Fountain from Paris, 1870, to initiate the 1982 World Convention of Water Experts in Zurich. The four nymphs personify simplicity, purity, sobriety and charity. They symbolize international co-operation in providing people everywhere with pure and salubrious water.”