#ShutDownSTEM day

A beginning.

Taking the day off from this personal blog, and most of my academic work as well, to reflect – and make plans – in the spirit of today’s #ShutDownSTEM event. If you are not familiar with #ShutDownSTEM or #ShutDownAcademia, please check out shutdownstem.com and this AAAS statement.

I recognize that a one-day pause is, while valuable, not sufficient. At least for me, I see it as an opportunity to plan for future action, not only as a symbolic single day of reflection, but as the beginning of an ongoing effort.


A fountain with a fishy theme.

One of the most visible fountains in the city is at Bellevue, a large plaza in front of the opera house and seated at the corner of the lakefront. It is also a busy interchange of several tram lines, and a favorite for people who want to meet, sit in a cafe, and watch the world go by.

A large bowl fountain at Bellevue, with decorative spouts around the edge.

This fountain is of simple, bowl-shaped design, but exceptionally wide; around the rim are playful decorative spouts enabling anyone to stop by for a drink. While I was there one sunny weekend afternoon, so many people came by to fill their water bottle, that a line had formed.

A man pauses to refill his water bottle from the fountain.
Each spout is a different design, here of a boy riding a fish, each spouting water.


Not a nightengale after all?

Our flat is fortunate to be surrounded by trees, and our mornings are filled with birdsong. As I noted last month, some of these birds have the most beautiful, complex song I’ve ever heard, and we suspect nightingales. I finally got a good look, and a good photo, of one of these special neighbors. It appears, though, that he is a Eurasian Blackcap warbler, not a nightingale.

His song is beautiful nonetheless! (I’ll keep watch and let you know if we perhaps have both blackcaps and nightingales.)

While leaning out my bedroom window to capture these photos, my camera shutter clacking away at high speed, our other neighbor – a woman whose window is just a few meters across the alley – poked her head out of her window. Fearing she might get the wrong idea about me and my long lens, I quickly pointed down at the branch where I’d been aiming, and indicated she should look as well. She understood my gestures, fortunately, and joined me for the next few minutes watching a busy bird, below, as it tucked a new twig into a nest in our shared Chestnut tree.

A (female?) bird seen from our Zürich flat.

Check out the full-res photos in the gallery.


A playground on Uetliberg.

I took a walk up to the summit of Uetliberg yesterday, and enjoyed its commanding view of the city of Zürich and its lake, Zürichsee. The Alps peeked out of the clouds in the distance. (See full-scale photo.)

Panorama from Uetliberg, looking over Zurich and Zurichsee.

My real goal for the day was to enjoy the network of trails that lead from the edge of the city up through the steep hillside forest to the top. Runners, bikers, and walkers of all ages were out to enjoy this Saturday morning. I enjoyed passing through the Spielplatz (playground) at Höhensteinplatz, along the way, with its wooden-structure playground surrounded by picnic tables and a delightful fountain.

A delightful playground in the Uetliberg forest, in which all elements are made of wood.

It was too early for picnicking families to arrive, but I’m sure this spot is a favorite for parents with active children.

A delightful playground in the Uetliberg forest, in which all elements are made of wood.

Zürich has many of these playgrounds, tucked into tiny lots within the older districts of the city, or sprawling across open patches in the surrounding forest. It’s one of the many reasons why Switzerland is recognized as the ‘world’s best destination for expats’.

Natural fountains

Many fountains are made of natural material.

Most of the fountains I encounter in Zürich – and most of those I’ve shared here – are constructed from concrete or metal, or sculpted from stone, to form pillars or bowls or human figures. But there is another fascinating trend in fountains, most often visible along the forested trails of Zürichberg or Uetliberg, the hills that straddle the Zürichsee valley. These natural fountains, made from boulders or logs, can be plain and functional, or playfully elaborate, or almost zen-like in their simplicity. Here are a few examples; see 19 photos in the gallery, beginning here.


A fountain for a thirsty boy.

I often pass this fountain, built into a hillside near the top of the Rigiblick Seilbahn, as it is one of my preferred routes down from Zürichberg. One warm spring day I was planning to photograph the fountain from across the street when this boy came pedaling up the steep street, and stopped for a drink. An old woman stood a few meters away – in this era of social distancing – waiting her turn to approach the fountain. A middle-aged man came by, and refilled his water bottle. All in a matter of minutes! I eventually got the photo I came for – of the fountain with no people – but I actually like this one better.

A boy stops his bike to drink at one of many public fountains in Zürich.

For the other photo, see the gallery. And, for that matter, 16 other new fountains, of various designs, none worthy of its own blog post.


A boy riding a frog?

Today we went for lunch in a cozy Indian restaurant on Predigerplatz, a quiet church square in Altstadt between the bustling Limmat riverfront and the busy university district. We paused to look at this fountain – topped with a boy seated on a frog – and wondered (as we often have) about the symbolism or story behind this one!

A fountain in Predigerplatz, Zürich.

It appears to be made of sandstone or, anyway, some highly porous stone that weathers easily. I’ve noticed that about many of the statues and gargoyles across the city. Presumably it is less expensive – but won’t last more than a few decades. Why would the city, church, university, or other building owner choose such a short-lived material in such an old city? Another puzzle.

A fountain in Predigerplatz, Zürich.
A fountain in Predigerplatz, Zürich.

Following up

Recalling a Röthlisberger statue – and the story behind a fountain.

Forgive me if I return for a moment to the Röthlisberger statues. Today I was walking past the statue called d’Frou Wallimaa, which is of an old woman carrying a bag, and lo, next to it was an old woman carrying a bag. She had stopped to answer a cellphone call, reminiscent of another Röthlisberger statue, Handy. I couldn’t resist a photo!

An old woman and her purse pause next to Röthlisberger’s sculpture of an old woman and her purse.

Also, a follow-up to my post about the fountains of Bahnhofstrasse, in which I was unsure about the story behind a fountain with this lovely carving and an inscription in German.

A Zürich fountain illustrating a story from Genesis.

Thanks to Jean Rosston ’77, who has lived in Zürich for decades and recently retired as an art conservator at the city’s major art museum, the Kunsthaus, we realized the carving and inscription refer to a Biblical story:

Genesis 24:17
And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher. 
Genesis 24:18
And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.

King James Bible, on Sarata.com

She estimates that the fountain was made in the later 19th to early 20th C.

Contemporary fountains

Contemporary designs – and links to other bloggers.

Although most of the fountains you’ve seen me highlight, thus far, have been of a classical design, you’ve also seen a few with a more contemporary style – like the Münsterhof fountain so enjoyed by that dog late last week. Today I thought I’d highlight a few more of the contemporary designs I’ve found… all quite different!

Some of Zürich’s public fountains are more contemporary, like this one in St. Peter’s square. As most do, this includes a doggy bowl too!
One of the “swan” fountains in Zürich. Swans are quite common in the lake and river nearby.
An interesting fountain with three sculpted female figures, in Unterstrass. Oddly, someone put mango peels on two of the heads!
A contemporary fountain tucked into a courtyard in Altstadt. From the inscriptions, it may (?) be a war memorial for Vietnam veterans.

As usual, I show only a few photos here, and only at a small size; these and eight other photos were added to the gallery today, starting here.

PS. It turns out other bloggers have highlighted Zurich’s fountains, including Annette’s bucket-list journey (I’ve found almost of of those she photographed), Anita’s sane travel blog (same!), and Tall Stories 33, a 5-minute audio blog, which claims Zürich has more fountains than any other city in the world, approximately 1,200. The latter provides some interesting historic background. Indeed, I’ve noticed many fountains labeled with dates from the early 1700s.

Fountains of Bahnhofstrasse

Bahnhofstrasse is home to many beautiful fountains.

Bahnhofstrasse could perhaps be perceived as the “Main Street” of Zürich, leading directly out from the main train station HauptBahnhof to the lakefront, passing the most luxurious shops on the most expensive commercial real estate in town. It begins at the Escher fountain in Bahnhofplatz and passes the Wallace fountain in Pestalozzianlage, and very close to the courtyard with the ornate fountain that began my fountain tour.

There are three other wonderful fountains along this strasse. First is a rather heroic male figure atop a pillar at the corner of Rennweg, who I always thinks looks rather silly with pidgeon spikes on his shoulders; the fountain, though, has a lovely flower planter above its pool.

A major fountain at Bahnhofstrasse and Rennweg.

Next is a female figure atop a pillar in Zughusplatz, with her peacock, next to the Hérmes store.

A pretty fountain in Zughusplatz along Bahnhofstrasse in Zürich.

Finally, near the end of the road at Berkliplatz, is an elaborate fountain; here is a close-up of its spout.

One of many public fountains in Zürich.

I encourage you to visit the gallery here to see a few more shots of each of these fountains, especially the last. It has an inscription: “DA LIEF IHR DER KNECHT ENTGEGEN, UND SPRACH: LASS MICH EIN WENIG WASSER AUS DEINEM KRUGE TRINKEN. UND SIE SPRACH: TRINKE. MEIN HERR: UND EILEND LIESS SIE DEN KRUG HERNIEDER AUF IHRE HAND UND GAB IHM ZU TRINKEN.” Google Translate says that is, roughly, “Then the servant ran towards her and said: let me drink a little water from your pitcher. and she said: drink. my lord: and hurriedly she dropped the jug on her hand and gave it to drink.”

Unfortunately I do not know the story (if any) behind these fountains.