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