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.


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.


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.