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.

Macro snail

Not the fastest critter I’ve ever photographed.

Now that my “hiking” constitutes long walks through the streets of Zürichberg’s hillside neighborhoods, I need to keep an eye out for the smallest of photographic opportunities. Today, I nearly stepped on one as I walked out the front door.

This little fellow was cruising across the path, literally 2 meters from our building door. I put on my macro lens, lay down next to him, and popped off a hundred photos.  At one point he looked right at me – yes, I think those are eyes on stalks – just the thing any wildlife photographer loves to see in a subject.  Indeed, this subject also had the advantage of moving more slowly than the pansies I shot yesterday.  He was making his way around and over the colorful white & red blossoms dropped by the chestnut tree outside our window.

He is perhaps 5cm long when fully extended.
I’ve added full-res photos to the Macro gallery.

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Macro pansy

Experimenting with a macro lens.

I’ve done very little macro photography, but while the flowers are blooming in Zürich it seemed to be a good time to pull out that macro lens (thanks dad!) and experiment a little.  I found a bed of pansies,  beautifully deep purple and dripping from a recent drizzle.  Sitting on the sidewalk, while passers-by snickered at me, I snuck in close to these pansies and explored different approaches.  Here are a few favorites – I often found it more interesting to zoom in on a droplet, or part of a petal, than on the whole flower.  I have a long ways to go to get the right exposure, depth of field, and crisp imagery.   Maybe tomorrow.

Same photos (full-res) in the gallery.

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Fountain cat

Even the housecats enjoy Zurich’s many public fountains.

Finally, after more than six weeks without more than a drizzle, it’s raining.  I went for a walk, as usual, but was diverted by some road construction and ended up on a path that tucks into the entrance to the neurology clinic at the nearby university hospital.  There is a truly lovely fountain there, and I was not the only visitor. Like all of the many public fountains in Zürich, the water is fresh and drinkable.

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Northern Lights in Sweden

A weekend above the Arctic Circle in an effort to photograph the Northern Lights.

I recall a warm summer evening, about forty years ago, when I reclined on the rocky shore of Lake Champlain to watch a distant aurora borealis dance across the stars of the far northern sky.  Ever since then I’ve held a quiet fascination with this phenomenon, determined to see the northern lights “for real” some day.  I’ve longed to visit the Arctic, in part so I might see the northern lights.  This weekend – capping a week of academic travel in Finland and Sweden – was my first opportunity to travel above the Arctic Circle.  I flew to a tiny village in the far northern tip of Sweden – so close it was practically in Norway – and spent two nights standing in the snow, watching the sky above Abisko National Park.  Did I see the aurora?  yes!  Was I satisfied?  no; if anything, I want to return to see more!  From the other people I met there, it is clear that Abisko has that affect on many people.  Read on, and check out the photo gallery.

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A reindeer seen beside the road in Abisko.

Continue reading “Northern Lights in Sweden”