4 hours in Zurich: art and coffee on tight budget

Zurich is a fantastic place to be stranded for a few hours, but you must make a plan before you go off into town, especially if your budget is tight. I had decided not to spend more than forty euro, which is the same amount in Swiss francs; but did want to see some art…

The cancellation of my connecting flight and its replacement with an evening flight left me with a frown at first; then I picked up my 3 hour sleep energy, put my hand luggage in a locker and went out to see Zurich. It was a winter’s day with dry cold and grey light, but no wind nor rain, perfect for walkers. From the airport I took the train to the city, a little ten minute ride. I was most kindly informed at the airport desk to buy a day ticket that would serve for the train and for all public transport into town: ticket about 14 francs, locker 6 francs for 12 hours storage; half of my budget was spent before making a move.

Once off the train and walking with a tram map in my hands, I had to orient myself: tower at the left, man on scooter, stoplight, Christmas market, train rails; I should cross and be at the other side. Not sure of distances, I took the first tram that would bring me to the Kalkbreite building complex which opened a few months ago. They advertise it as an urban experiment; this was enough to attract me, a 100% city person. The complex has an elevated common central yard with a playground and stairs that lead to a higher level with view to the city and to the complex itself. There are community places (with common dining room with chef), cluster houses (with some shared rooms), office and cultural spaces. Connecting requirements include keeping energy consumption low and not owning a car. It was too early in the  morning even for a coffee at the Houdini film house, so I took the tram towards the other side of the river Limmat.

Kalkbreite urban experiment - Zurich
Kalkbreite urban experiment – #Zurich

I had to choose fast between contemporary art from Japan in “Logical Emotion” and the exhibition “Egon Schiele-Jenny Saville” at Kunsthaus. I went for the second; Schiele could not fail me. The ticket was 16 francs, with reduction, and free audio-guide which I switched off after the first two works. Schiele’s paintings and drawings deserved some active response from my side; a real painter this one, color and line with accuracy. Seen as a total, the exhibition makes once more obvious what a difficult art painting is and even more how easy it is to fall into lies and effects. Artists have been too eager to give away painting… After this, I walked upstairs to the permanent collection, the “classic illustrated” as I call them. What can one feel walking among Giacometti’s, Dubuffet’s, Rothko’s, Matisse’s, etc. and then further deep into history through Canaletto’s, Rubens’s, van Dyck’s, etc. The rooms were too stuffy and the walk too long for my strengths. On the ground floor there were those dark rooms with a presentation by the Venezuelan artist Javier Téllez called “Shadow Play”. I entered without expectations but stayed, legs resting on a bench, to watch two lengthy films. This is an extract from “Artaud’s cave”, one of his art films included in this presentation:

Taking the way back to the train station and the airport, I had to find the place where the dadaists were gathering in the ’10’s of our 20th century. I went by tram, found it and photographed it; what else could I do, make up an instant poem? However, they seem to organize poetic evenings in that same building; there is also a shop with dadaist objects in the semi-basement. It was just afternoon; the evening would offer a different view I suppose.

Cabaret Voltaire, the dadaists house - Zurich
Cabaret Voltaire, the dadaists house – #Zurich

My time was up, my money too; I had to go back to collect my stuff and wait for the flight. Zurich is a good stroll; not a luxurious city, despite the high prices; quiet though busy, safe too. Not to worry if you get stranded for a few hours.

P.S. a kindest young man at the museum café gave me a cup of coffee though my last coins did not make the full 4 francs. Thanks again! #Zurich @Zurich

Walking In the old center of Zurich
Walking in the old center of Zurich

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