|The Grossmünster as never before|
The Zurich Festival, a celebration of Zurich joining the Swiss Confederation in 1351, takes place throughout the city centre every three years on the first weekend in July. It is by far the largest Swiss festival, attracting around 2 million people over the three days. There is music, dance, a host of live gigs, shows, daring fly-bys, high wire antics, and a varied feast of events to tantilise the senses, with a stunning 30 minute display of fireworks at 10.30pm every night (with an extra display for the die-hard fans between 1.30am and 1.50am on the final Sunday night!) In addition, all inner city train and bus schedules run as a normal day service throughout the night – how fantastic is that?
Being a triennial party, this was the first time we had the chance to experience it and our expectations were high. But we weren’t disappointed - Saturday night was seriously good fun. I was in awe. We arrived into the city via Stadelhofen Bahnhof, my favourite station and favourite part of the city. Coming out of the station we were greeted by a mass of people swarming to and fro. The sun was just going down, bathing the sky in a golden glow as we sauntered onto the humming fairground on Sechseläutenplatz in front of the beautiful Opernhaus. We stopped to watch a monster ride which pushed a revolving circle people up to the heavens before releasing them back down to earth with a spine-tingling whoosh and then crossed over to the banks of the Zürichsee and watched a spectacular helicopter fly-by. The boats tooted in response and I gasped to see a line of cars sailing along the river! How very Bond.
|Eat your heart out Bond|
The Grossmünster was rocking - on both sides. We greatly enjoyed the Doors tribute band. If you closed your eyes, you could have been standing in front of the real thing, these guys were so, so good. I’m pretty sure Jimmy Morrison looking down from above would have approved of his reincarnation with his baldy head and crazily long side pieces of hair – and hypnotic performance. And following hot on the heels of this incredible act was a Jimmy Hendrix and Janice Joplin tribute to name but a few! Pulling ourselves away with great difficulty to see what was taking place on the other side we were immediately engulfed by gyrating bodies, happy smiles and the incense of cannabis. The DJs NaturKlang act was as captivating as the rock gig – with their pulsating anthems you couldn’t help but move with the groove. The Grossmünster itself was pulsating with different colour schemes - one minute it was adorned in Swiss flags, another plagued by spots and later covered in techincolour rubber ducks. Great fun.
Heading up Niederdorfstrasse, we heard again the boom boom of the beat and turned down a tiny side street, finding ourselves in another dance haven and we danced some more, drawn to the huge disco ball revolving in the centre. People peeked out at us from the flats above, enjoying the occasion. I guess if you live in town you have to succumb to these festivals and enjoy it or move out for a while. We had to head for a train on the packed platform at 12.15am – unfortunately we live well outside the city so our last bus home was at 12.45am – but we could have happily stayed a while later.
And the amazing thing about all this - apart from the incredible quality of (free) entertainment – is that, despite thousands upon thousands of young people thronging through the packed streets, many carrying a beer – or in some cases swigging from an entire bottle of wine – there was absolutely no sign of trouble anywhere. No anger was even hinted at. The mood was calm, serene, and above all happy. And diverse. How diverse it was. Looking around the crowd listening to The Doors reincarnated, I struggled to see two people alike – people from across the entire world seemed to standing around me, grinning just like me. A city, full of thousands of people from everywhere, many full of alcohol, some on drugs, some with tough lives - and not a hint of trouble. How do the Swiss do that? While throwing the best ever street party at the same time!