A Free Saturday

First totally free day in Zurich for almost two weeks – since the few days I had free between arrival and starting work.

Almost totally free, apart from the continuing effort to find a place in which to live: the viewing ran from 12-2pm which, after a late night’s coding, I struggled a little to make. It was worth the “effort”: a glance at the map didn’t reveal what a great location this was, just a few dozen meters up a street feeding directly into the old town of the Niederdorf. Though the apartment isn’t the largest and its layout leaves a little to be desired, it’s got a nice feature in having shelving already built in under the windows and being situated on the third floor; to complement this, the building has an elevator along with the usual Swiss amenities of laundry room and plentiful storage space in the cellar. Yes, this would be a nice place to live.

After this, I check out a market I spied crossing the lake at BürkliplatzAddress:. This isn’t something I expected to find in central Zurich: an assortment of market stalls located apparently randomly around the square and spilling off into the streets around, right up the Louis Vuittons and Pradas of Bahnhofstrasse. Many stalls offer cutlery, trimmings from collections of china and glassware; others have clothes, others still sport goods peculiar to markets the world over such as postcards (this one sorts its cards by the regions of Switzerland) and mobile phones. Lots of stalls have DVDs – some of which you might want to own – and many have LPs – few of which anybody would want to own -; a few stragglers have VHS cassettes. No stall has any CDs whatsoever for sale.

Out of the ordinary offerings include stalls with hi-fi components, TV and audio equipment (with every AV lead imaginable) and a surprising number of antique stands. Or, this being Zurich, perhaps not so surprising: delving deeper reveals some hair raising prices on these same antique stalls and, presumably, on the fur coat stands (again, not a staple of street markets the world over). The postcard stall deserves a mention for offering an original Segeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (“UK, 1967”) and, of course, the hi-fi stand didn’t just have any old components: this was an old Denon home theatre system. A fine place, then, to spend a Saturday morning browsing and I hope it’s on every week; my only disappointment is that there isn’t a food market.

After this, I go in search of food and coffee: I spy people heading into something called “Picnic”, which serves a variety of choices from spuds, veg and meat through stir fries up to sushi served on a rotating conveyor belt. I bump into some Irish acquaintances from work and take this as an endorsement. After this, it’s back up to the Neiderdorf and something called Teecafé Schwarzenbach. First impressions are good – there is a delicious scent of coffee emanating from the attached tea and coffee shop; the café itself is packed, with many obviously camped there for the afternoon – and the rumours are true: this is by far the best espresso I’ve yet had in Zurich. Wishful thinking but…this and the aforementioned apartment would make a fine successor to KC Peaches.

There’s just time for a little shopping and I discover a couple surely destined to become favourites in the months ahead; unadorned names seem to be the order of the day here:

  1. “The Travel Bookshop” (and the map shop, next door) aren’t exclusively English bookstores but have many titles in English, such as Rough Guides and the harder-to-find-at-home Fodors and Brandt.
  2. “The Whisky Shop” is well off the main shopping street and was still open long after its advertised closing time of 4pm. A huge number of Scotch whiskies here, a few Irish (nearly all, I’m pleased to see, from Cooley) and a Yamazaki from Japan. I’ve noticed that although food is often impressively expensive here, wine to accompany it can be much cheaper than at home – sure enough, prices aren’t outrageous here at all, especially considering they mostly stock twenty year old bottles and some non-chillfiltered bottles (I’ll have to go back to discover what that means). Certainly no more expensive than the Celtic Whiskey Shop and they offer four tastings for 5 CHF.

Today’s last event was a trip to go see “Magnolia” in the Cino Xenix as part of their Philip Seymour Hoffman season. Xenix doesn’t look like much outside but into what looks for all the world like a prefab classroom (it’s located on Helvetiaplatz, beside a school and just down the road from the amusingly titled “red light district of Zurich”), they’ve managed to cram in a box office, a sizeable (if narrow) bar and a 110 seater cinema. The cinema is great: half its seats are of traditional type, the other a whole pile of couches and it’s got digital projection on a good sized screen with great sound. The film, of course, is a classic: a sprawling epic in the best sense of the word, with wonderful performances in a frenzied, exciting, meditation on how at various times we decide our own fate, how others decide it for us and how maybe there is no such thing as pure coincidence (“this is the part of the movie…”). Not forgetting the soundtrack, to which the film is really an accompaniment rather than the other way round.

Afterwards, at 12.40am, I can still get home by public transport in ten minutes flat. A good day.