I went to watch the city of Zurich celebrate the onset of the Christmas season.
At this particular time on this particular day, the city of Zürich turns on all its Christmas lights and the Christmas markets officially open. Throngs of people turned out for this much-anticipated event, packed shoulder-to-shoulder on Bahnhofstrasse, the central avenue. The photo below shows the moment after the lights came on, with the crowd cheering and the people in the verandas at upper left setting off confetti crackers. The smell of heiss marroni (roasted chestnuts) and glüwein (mulled wine) wafted by, and the shops were handing out free glasses of champagne or live music indoors. A very festive evening… see the short gallery – with video!
A lovely 48 hours at Hotel Paxmontana in a tiny village outside Luzern.
I spent about 48 hours at the lovely Hotel Paxmontana in the tiny village of Flüeli-Ranft, outside Luzern Switzerland, for a research-group retreat. One of those grand countryside hotels, recently renovated, Paxmontana is nestled above a valley with a 180-degree views including two lakes and several snow-capped mountain ranges. Behind the hotel is a narrow stream valley echoing with the bells of cows grazing its with hillside pastures – and the bells of several small churches that enjoy reminding everyone of the time every 30 minutes, around the clock.
Despite our short visit, the weather and light shifted frequently – from overcast to sunny, from light drizzle to heavy snowfall – leading to opportunities to photograph the same scenery in dramatically different conditions. I attach just a couple shots here; check out the photo gallery for more.
The valley is best known as the home of Bruder Klaus, also known as Nicholas of Flüe. Born in 1417, he is the patron saint of Switzerland. “Despite being illiterate and having limited experience with the world, he is honored among both Protestants and Catholics with the permanent national unity of Switzerland.” He left his family to live as a hermit in this tiny valley, and (according to Wikipedia) had a “reputation for wisdom and piety” that caused many to travel from afar to seek his advice and counsel. Soldier, farmer, hermit, ascetic, saint – interesting fellow!
A lovely hike on the Amden-Höhenweg (high mountain trail), with grand views.
After more than two weeks away from Switzerland – in the sunny Mediterranean and the Baja of Mexico – it was somewhat jarring to return to the crisp air and fallen leaves of autumn in Zürich. Within an hour of arriving home, I took a walk with the family to the hilltops above Zürich, where there were dozens of other families out for a sunny Sunday stroll among the colorful leaves of late-season forest trails and distant views of snow-capped Alps. I was eager to get back out into the mountains.
It rained all week, and the fog rarely lifted high enough to see the hill on the opposite side of town, let alone the mountains beyond. I thus had weak hopes for a hike this weekend; indeed, I thought perhaps the higher trails may well be buried in snow. But read on about our visit to the Amden valley – there is good news ahead – and check out the photo gallery. Continue reading “Amden Höhenweg – High Mountain Trail”
A daytrip to the Italian corner of Switzerland, with a hillside hike culminating in a tremendously long suspension bridge.
The weekend weather forecast for Zurich and all of northern Switzerland was looking rather wet, but I really wanted to squeeze in one more hike before the fall chill sets in. An officemate suggested Bellinzona, the capital of the Italian-speaking corner of Switzerland – the canton of Ticino. This small city is often overlooked next to its glitzier lakeside neighbor, Lugano, but has a lot to offer. UNESCO recognizes its three medieval castles as a world heritage site, and the surrounding hills include a web of well-organized hiking trails. Read on, and check out the photo gallery.
Continue reading “Bellinzona and the Tibetan bridge”
When hiking in the mountains one must occasionally have faith in the weather – starting out enmeshed in dense valley fog, only to climb into a spectacular day above the clouds. This was one of those rare, magical days, when we topped a ridgeline and encountered a mountain view more spectacular than any I have seen in 45 years of hiking, with the major peaks of the Berneralps spread across the horizon above a sea of undercast clouds. Breathtaking! Read on for the full story, and be sure to check out the photo gallery.
Continue reading “Faulhorn”
Zürich is located right at the tip of Lake Zürich, and there are several public swimming facilities easily accessible from the tramline along the shore.
The weather here in Zürich has been exceptionally warm and pleasant for September, or so the locals tell me. This weekend had spectacular weather. On Saturday I went hiking in the Glarus region. On Sunday, Andy and I decided to take a swim in the lake. Zürich is located right at the tip of Lake Zürich, and there are several public swimming facilities easily accessible from the tramline along the shore. For an entry fee of a few francs we joined throngs of happy Swiss folks who were sunning and swimming. The Seebad Utoquai facility, not shown particularly well in this photo, was well-appointed with changing rooms, lockers, showers, and a snack bar. And (though crowded) there was space to lay out your towel and catch a few rays, to see and be seen. Our quick dive into the lake was chilly – cooler than the Connecticut River at home right now – but very pleasant. The water is deep and clear. The swim floats were packed with young folks while the older long-distance swimmers arrived from their swim across the lake. Nice spot!
The weather thus far in Switzerland has been spectacular – blue skies, warm temps, low humidity. And this day, for my first hike, the weather truly delivered in top form. I joined a group organized by D-MTEC, the Department of Management, Technology, and Economics, which is the ETH department where I sit during this year in Zürich. The hike to circumnavigate a small peak named Gandstock was moderate in length and difficulty, covering 11.5 km (7.14 mi) in 4h55 at altitude ranging from 1610m (~5,280′) to 2167m (~7,110′), all of it above treeline. Check out the photo gallery, and read on beyond the break. Continue reading “Gandstock hike”
This morning’s view from our Zürich flat was a real treat, as the rising sun illuminated the Alps beyond the lakeside hills, before it reached the spires of the city center. I look forward to watching how this view shifts with season and light over the next 10 months.
#Nikon #D500 160mm 1/60s at f10, ISO 720.
In a fascinating NYT article this weekend, Even Physicists Don’t Understand Quantum Mechanics, the writer expounds on the importance of research into the fundamentals of quantum mechanics. In the process he mentions two famous Zürich scientists: Einstein did his PhD work here at ETH and Schrödinger was (later) a professor next door at the University of Zürich. As a former physics major (who once thought he understood quantum mechanics), it’s pretty cool to be surrounded by such history.
Last week I visited the Computer Science department, housed in the old chemistry building. That building is even more historic, home to seven Nobel prizes in chemistry. (ETH has a total of 21 Nobel prizes to its credit, including 10 in Chemistry.)
Zürich sits at the end of a beautiful lake, aptly named Lake Zürich (Zürichsee). On this pleasant sunny Saturday evening, the lakeshore promenade is full of strolling families, wandering tourists, and romantic couples sharing a bottle of wine. Ducks and white swans paddle the clear water to see whom might toss in a breadcrumb or two. Cafés serve wurst to those who want to linger over a beer. All in all, a lovely scene. More photos at the top of the Zürich album.