There is eternal vitality in good

The fountain I visit most often.

Although rather plain, this fountain is one of my favorites because I take a drink every time I pass by; it rests along the Zürichberg ridgetop, near the top of my daily walk and with a spectacular view of the lake and the Alps.  It commemorates a notable local, H.C. Susanna Orelli-Rinderknecht M.D., 1845–1939, “sponsor of the people’s well-being,” according to Google Translate.  “There is eternal vitality in good.”


I did not give the inscription much thought until now, but it’s striking for several reasons. First, I imagine there were few women MDs in the late 19th century, and even fewer who used a hyphenated last name.  Second, I’ve found a Wikipedia page (Deutsch) for this impressive woman.  (See English translation.)  Again with help from Google translate, it says she was born “in Oberstrass” (this neighborhood) and “was a representative of the Swiss abstinence movement and founder of the Zurich Women’s Association.”  She ended up running ten massively popular (alcohol-free) restaurants, and received many honors: “In 1919 Orelli-Rinderknecht was the first woman to receive an honorary medical doctorate from the University of Zurich. In 1945 Orelli-Rinderknecht was the first woman on a Swiss stamp.”  Indeed, the street on which this fountain sits, now called Orelliweg, is one of the most beautiful in the city.  (Ironic, though, that Orelli was the name of her husband of four years, her maiden name being Rinderknecht.)  Next time I pass by, I’ll tip my hat to this impressive woman.

One of many public fountains in Zürich.

Escher fountain

A statue of Alfred Escher is a pivot point at the heart of Zürich.

As noted in my earlier post, Zürich is a city of fountains – decorative, commemorative, and functional.  I’ve found very few that commemorate a particular person, or event – unlike what I’ve seen in other cities across the US and Europe.

One of many public fountains in Zürich.One notable exception is the statue of Alfred Escher in front of the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) and facing down the city’s central boulevard, Bahnhofstrasse.  Escher, according to Wikipedia, “had an unmatched influence on Switzerland’s political and economic development in the 19th century.”  He had a major role in the establishment of the rail system in Switzerland, as well as the formation of the university now known as ETH, in which I now am a visiting member of the faculty.  Not to mention establishing the banking powerhouse now known as Credit Suisse.  I can certainly understand why he stands at this prominent location in the heart of Zürich!

I photographed this impressive and elaborate statue/fountain in the quiet early hours of Easter morning, with the tulips blooming in the adjacent garden.  Unfortunately, extensive construction on the Hauptbahnhof building behind him, and some of the buildings on the opposite side of the square, make for a cluttered background and limited options for viewing angles.  I hope I’ve captured some of its essence, and its fascinating collection of heroic figures and gargoyles; more photos are in the Zürich fountains’ gallery beginning here.

One of many public fountains in Zürich.

Crises overcome

Zürich feels a bit more normal.

Last week, as restaurants around Zürich slowly reopened, one posted this sign out front… reminding Zurichers about past “crises overcome”, and “CoronaVirus 2020 nearly!!!”   As I walked through the city yesterday, I saw many sidewalk restaurants open for business, with cheerful customers enjoying their lunch and the spring sunshine with a glass of wine… often separated by nearby tables with new plexiglass screens or spaced apart with potted plants.  It feels a bit like old Europe should feel on a sunny late spring day.


For my part, I still stop by some of my favorite bakeries along my morning walk; it’s hard to resist a display case like this one!


Fountains of Zürich

Zürich has many beautiful fountains.

The city of Zürich has many fountains – in plazas and on streetcorners. Some are decorative, some are commemorative, and some are purely functional – but all are potable.  On my morning walk I pass at least two such fountains, and always pause for a drink.  They run constantly, even through the winter, and thus always taste cool and fresh.  It is a delightful public service and a boon to those who’d rather refill a water bottle than purchase yet another disposable bottle of water.

This elaborate fountain sits in a courtyard garden called Zentralhof, in one of the oldest quarters of the city beside Bahnhofstrasse and not far from some long-buried (but recently rediscovered) ruins of Roman baths.

Fountain in Zentralhof square - just off Bahnhofstrasse in Zürich.

In a common traditional design, the fountain pours into a pool over which metal bars can support a summer-time planter.  Such fountains (like this one on Bahnhofstrasse) also have streams that pour water over gaps in the metal bars, on which a villager could rest a pot to collect water.

One of many public fountains in Zürich.

Other fountains are more plain and functional; like many, this has a mini fountain at its base so your dog can drink as well.

A basic fountain in alt stadt, with a pretty reflection of morning light.

And some newer fountains take a more contemporary approach, yet blend it with the natural world so ingrained in Swiss consciousness, such as this rocky fountain near an entrance to the Universitätsspital.

An interesting fountain at the hospital in Zurich.

As I varied the routes of my morning walk, I began to realize the huge variety of fountains, and it occurred to me it might be fun to find them all.  Since most (if not all) appear on a street corner, i.e., at intersections, the challenge appeared to be similar to the famous Hamiltonian Path problem in computer science: given a graph of vertices (intersections) connected by edges (street segments), devise a path that visits each vertex exactly once.  No such option existed for me, as I spread my travels out over several weeks and must begin/end each walk at the same point.  But I’ve tracked my walks as a means of finding new routes to cover each day; here’s how it looks so far:Map of my fountain-search walks, as of May 18.

See the gallery for more shots of the above fountains. More fountain pix yet to come!

The city apparently has a project underway to refresh and renovate some of the historical fountains.

Fountain in Zentralhof square - just off Bahnhofstrasse in Zürich.


My first encounter with the Swiss health system.

Screen Shot 2020-05-17 at 3.16.24 PM
Number of new cases per day, per New York Times as of 17 May.

Switzerland is slowly reopening as the number of daily coronavirus cases declines.  Museums, shops, and restaurants opened last week, as well as primary schools; barbershops and gyms opened two weeks earlier.  Many restrictions still apply, though, and the goal is to remain cautious lest we trigger a large second wave of infections.

So on Wednesday when I started feeling mildly ill, with a slight difficulty breathing, I began to be concerned.  It took more effort to speak, and my voice deepened.  After two nights of difficult sleep while finding it hard to breathe, I decided to contact the university coronavirus testing center.  It’s only a few blocks from here and I’d noticed its sign a few weeks ago.  Read on to see how it all turned out.

Continue reading “Negative”

Spring flowers

Spring flowers burst forth in March and continue to this day.

Spring has been truly beautiful in Zürich, starting in late March with the daffodils and flowering trees.   The city plazas and hillside gardens have all been in bloom, making it a delight to walk through the hillside neighborhoods. Every week a new phase seems to begin – the wisteria and chestnut trees have faded, but the azaleas are now bursting with a range of hues. Over time, I’ve captured a few photos of these colorful displays, and share them in a gallery here. Below is our neighbor, the Liebfrauen church.

Liebfrauen Kirche, near our flat, Zurich.


The Landesmuseum is again open for visitors.

It’s a dreary, rainy day today so I pulled out a photo from Monday’s sunny morning.  I was walking along the Limmat river and liked the way the morning sun reflected off the Landesmuseum tower and the placid river.  The museum re-opened that day, and I hope to go back for another visit soon.



I was way overdue for a haircut.

Unfortunately, I was coming due for a haircut just as Switzerland closed all the barbershops (and other services*) on March 16. Although Switzerland re-opened barbershops and nail salons on April 27, it was only yesterday that I finally decided to give it a chance and get a haircut (Haareschneiden), 15 weeks after my prior haircut.   I picked a cheap place near the university, put on my brand-new mask, and headed in. The barber was wearing a mask, and sanitized his hands between customers, but otherwise there appeared to be few of the protective measures I’d expected.  Still, the haircut came out well, and now I’m set for another couple months.


*, March 16: “Postal and banking services can remain open, as well as outlets offering take-away or delivery food, though hairdressers, barbers and prostitutes were among those told to shut down activities.”  – Wait, what? 

Last week I saw one upscale hair salon trying to lure customers with champagne al fresco.  Maybe I should have gone there…

A Zurich hairsalon tries to lure in customers with free Champagne.

Fanciful carvings

Zurich’s old buildings often carry elaborate carvings.

As I walk the quiet streets of the neighborhoods on the Zürichberg hillside we call home, I try to look up from time to time.  Many of these multi-family apartment buildings used to be, I believe, grand homes of wealthy businessmen perhaps a century ago, and each has its own distinctive style.  Many have elaborate ironwork on the balcony railings, or classical figures carved in relief. The lion is especially common, because two appear on Zürich’s coat of arms, and the Lion is the namesake of the local hockey team.  But I found this particular building, with an elaborate combination of an eagle and a snake, above a mustachioed man, to be especially captivating.  I wonder what it means?