Uetliberg walk

A lovely walk above Zurich today.

My plan for the weekend had been to get out skiing, one more time… but work kept me indoors despite beautiful weather. Sadly, Switzerland just ordered all ski areas to close today, so I guess that’s the end of the season for me.  I needed to get out, so I took a tram across town and hiked up Uetliberg, the big hill dominating Zurich’s west side.  It was sunny and warm, and a few green leaves and flowers poked up among the leaf litter.  The birds sang, and the views of the Alps were spectacular.  I decided to take a less-direct route down, starting on the Schlittelweg – a trail designed specifically for people who want to sled from the top of the mountain to the bottom.  Very cool – except that it never snowed more than a dusting this winter, so the trail likely never saw use this year.

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As I followed this trail, I came to a lovely picnic area. I love how the Swiss maintain truly functional firepits, and tables, and even a custom water fountain.  (All the public fountains run constantly, with city water, and are thus cold and tasty and clean year-round.)

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As I left this little park, a man was practicing his Alphorn – the long tubular horn that rests on the ground and into which a standing musician blows.  His tunes resonated across the valley as I descended, spanning a repertoire from Christmas music to the Star Spangled Banner.

I soon came to a sign advertising the ruins of a castle, and decided to investigate.  Burg Friesenberg turned out to be the jumbled walls of a tiny structure, smaller than most modern homes.  It was surrounded by construction fencing, with signs indicating its condition had deteriorated (no doubt, because previously people had climbed all over it and held campfire outings inside).

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On the way down, I passed another lovely picnic area with another nifty fountain.

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On the way home I stopped into the store for some essentials.  The COVID-19 situation has been getting more serious, every day, and everyone expects Switzerland may soon lock down the country.  So we stocked up on the four Swiss food groups: cheese, wurst, chocolate, and beer.

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Sure enough, this evening the federal government announced that they were closing the borders to most non-residents, closing all “shops, markets, restaurants, bars, entertainment and leisure establishments such as museums, libraries, cinemas, concert halls, theatres, sports centres, swimming pools and ski areas….”

Difficult times ahead.  I’m glad I got out to enjoy a bit of nature today.

Fasnacht Zurich

The annual Fasnacht celebration in Zurich, with dueling bands in wild costumes.

Many Swiss and German cultures celebrate Fasnacht, an event with a fascinating centuries-old history.  I had hoped to attend the legendary celebration in Basel this week, but it was cancelled due to concerns about coronavirus and large crowds.  Zurich cancelled its big parade, but proceeded with the rest of its  a three-day weekend celebration of street music by informal bands dressed in wild costumes. In this “ZüriCarneval,” nearly every square in old town had a band and food trucks, making for a festive atmosphere.  As the city website notes, the core event is “various ‘Guggen’ bands – mostly brass ensembles – playing well-known melodies very loudly and intentionally out of tune.”  I enjoyed strolling the streets and capturing some of the scenes and faces.  Check out the gallery!

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Christmas in Zurich

December is a lovely month to be in Zurich.

Zürich really knows how to do Christmas.  All the main streets are hung with Christmas lights, ceremoniously illuminated in mid-November, every commercial building (and many residential buildings) are decorated for Christmas.  In the early weeks of December there are Christmas markets in all the major plazas – each with dozens of stalls selling seasonal foods, decorations, and beautiful handicrafts.  One platz has a “singing Christmas tree” – a tiered riser, decorated with evergreen boughs to look like a Christmas tree, on which choral groups stand to sing Christmas carols.  Along the lakeshore, an artist installed a Friedenslicht (peace light) that flickers in the lake breeze.  And every café places sheepskin and fleece blankets on their outdoor chairs, so visitors can snuggle while enjoying glüewein or hot chocolate.  We took many strolls about town, exploring these sights and smells.  On Christmas morning, I walked up to my usual viewpoint, then down through town, along the central avenue to the lakeshore, then back through the narrow alleys of old town.  The churches – so numerous – all with their belltowers ringing, called parishioners to morning services.  Lovely!  We finished the day with a fine dinner at the Dolder Grand Hotel – wow.  See the full gallery.

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Another Uetliberg sunset

Another grand sunset above Zurich.

It appeared that another grand sunset was due to grace Zürich, so my father and I took the train to the top of Uetliberg to capture the view of the Alps.  Here is one sample – but check out the gallery for my other favorite photos.  If you’re interested in current conditions, check out the webcam view.

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Another beautiful sunrise

Another beautiful sunrise from Zürichberg.

December 15 – Another beautiful morning in Zurich.  I’ve added these five photos to the sunrise gallery from earlier this week.

Sunrise view of the Alps from Zürichberg.

Trugberg, Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau, as seen from Zürichberg at sunrise.
Trugberg, Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau, as seen from Zürichberg at sunrise.
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Finsteraarhorn, Lauteraarhorn, Schreckhorn, and Wetterhorn, as seen from Zürichberg at sunrise.

Sunrise view of the Alps from Zürichberg.Sunrise view of the Alps from Zürichberg.

Alpine sunrise

A spectacular sunrise over Zürich.

Every morning I climb Zürich’s steep strasse and steig until I reach the clear ridgeline of the Zürichberg hilltop, with its broad view across the city and Zürichsee lake to the Alps.  Some days I am enveloped in the valley fog common this time of year.  Other days the clouds grudgingly give me glimpses of the Alps beyond the valley.  Today, finally, I was treated to a spectacular sunrise, with a crystal-clear view of the Alps and a sky painted with deep red sunlight.  I picked just five photos for the (must-see!) gallery, and share only one below.

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