With my choir, I get to see Switzerland. Also, when people come visit us! In the last week, I have been to Appenzell, Solothurn, Payerne, Zurich, Chur, and Vals. The waning days of summer are such a beautiful time of year here. But I always feel slightly panicked around now because I know it is about to end and school is about to start.
My choir, as you know, sang at the Payerne Schubertiade this year. On our way (in fact, very much NOT on our way) our bus went to Appenzell. This region is known for its rural beauty and traditional way of life, as well as its infamous nude hikers. It is so stunning that my fellow choir members, most of them Swiss, who have spent their lives gazing at Lake Geneva and the alps across it, remarked upon it and exclaimed that this place looks like the Switzerland in Heidi. Unfortunately, we did not get to see much of it. The usual 3 hour ride took more like 5.5 hours due to the huge amounts of traffic in central Switzerland (Appenzell is far to the northeast). In fact, 3 hours into the trip, when we were very much realizing we were going to pressed for time, our bus driver announced that he was stopping at a rest stop for a half an hour, as per his contract. Our panicked president tried to reason with him, to no avail. So we got dinner to go and used the toilets, and the rest of the bus trip was spent eating, changing clothes, practicing some music, and going over concert logistics. We arrived 5 minutes before the concert was due to start, so we all were very flustered and felt unprepared, but it went ok. The building where we sang was a gorgeously restored brick-making workshop which is now an art center.
After the concert we arrived late in a hostel in Solothurn, a beautiful baroque city built on the banks of a river. The hostel where we stayed was incredibly nice and clean, with a surprisingly good breakfast. And it was trusting enough to leave our keys at the front desk since we arrived after it was closed for the night. I somewhat awkwardly had to sleep in the same room as our conductor, one guy I kinda know, and a couple I completely don’t know, but I survived. We were told to be outside by 9:45 am to meet the bus; at 9:40, me and a French girl were the last ones out and the group had already left. Thus we got to make a fun dash in our concert clothes with suitcases through the Saturday market. I want to go back for that Saturday market sometime. The Payerne concerts went pretty well as well. The festival was crowded, and the small town was soon wiped clean of food. I had been warned that this would likely happen, but said warning didn’t do much good; Seth and I spent about two hours looking for lunch for me, when I finally decided to eat some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted for lunch. We thus only got to see one concert (contemporary classic music played by piano, bassoon, and saxophone) other than mine. Cara F, former president of the Radcliffe Choral Society, came to my second concert on her Germany-Switzerland-Italy tour, and spent the night with us, to our delight.
The next morning, it was off to Zurich to meet Joel and Rachel, Seth’s brother and sister-in-law. They were starting out their vacation to Germany with a short detour in German-speaking Switzerland. We stayed in a basic, but clean, hotel in the red light (and still very much seedy) district of Zurich for the low (hah!) cost of 137chf per night. For this price, we got to witness many gentlemen’s clubs with explicit photos posted outside, prostitutes standing on street corners, and a couple of what looked like drug-related searches by the police.
The iconic mountain of Vals, scattered with little chalets and boulders
On Monday we rented a car and Joel drove us all on the windy roads to Vals, the site of the mineral spring which sources Valser Water and Peter Zumthor‘s architecturally award winning Therme Vals spa. We went more for the spa, based on Michelle’s enthused recommendation. It was pretty great for a series of swimming pools—but no pictures allowed, so you’ll have too look at photos on their own website. By the way, if you are going there, take along a towel, pool shoes, and shampoo/soap. Vals happens to be in the Romansch-speaking area of Switzerland, so once we exited the highway to climb up the mountain roads, the signs and names were a fascinating mix of German and something resembling Italian or Latin. On our way back, we stopped at the very old city of Chur, with an old town full of restaurants and boutiques. We dined at Rebleuten, a wonderful restaurant with an innovative take on Swiss food. Seth and I agree that it is the best food we’ve eaten in Switzerland, and made even better by the fact that it is actually Swiss food and is no more expensive than any of the ethnic eateries or typical fondue restaurants we generally find ourselves in. Before Rachel and Joel took off for Munich, we made it to the Freitag flagship store, built in an industrial/highway/train tracks area of Zurich out of stacked shipping containers. Everything about Freitag but the prices of its products fits this store and location.
Jackie and the “beautiful” view from the top of the Freitag Flagship Shop storage containers
And now I’ve got the about-to-be-back-to-school blues.