Sunday, July 4, 2010

How DF stopped loathing and learned to kinda like ZueriFaescht

It is a well-documented fact that DF does not like public festivals. Crowds, bad food, loud music—it’s all about the polar opposite of DF’s scene. So when the ads went up around town for “Zueri-Faescht” (Zurichfest, fwiw, and possibly also obv.), DF was far from excited. The ads featured animation of a night sky lit by exploding fireworks, with the faces of smiling lions in the center of each explosion. This seemed somehow very European and also very unappealing.

On Friday night, the continually generous people of ETH again took DF out to dinner (while I am generally suspicious when others are nice to me, this is getting almost ridiculous—I constantly expect someone to pop up and hand me an exorbitant bill for all this) at a fancy, Japanesey restaurant called “Tao” in the central city. Walking there confirmed all my negative preconceptions about public festivals. The less-than-a-mile walk required us nearly a half-hour, as we had to traverse dense crowds of tweeny Swiss girls, cheesy Eurotrash dudes (which is pretty much all the dudes under 26), celebrating Dutch football supporters (didn’t mind them too much & they are very well-behaved), and all other manner of massed humanity, all pushing to get circus food or to make their way closer to some stage with awful, deafening music.

The dinner was great, as dinners in Zuerich nearly always are. One of the upsides of the city’s expense is that it’s keyed toward and insanely high quality of life, and that means many schmancy places to eat for bankers and the independently wealthy, and when there’s an extra table, some of the hoi polloi get a taste of the high life. The Japanesey fare was on par with anyplace in the U.S. save perhaps Nobu/Matsuhisa. The experience was not, however, enhanced by the proximity of a Polyphonic-Spree-type band performing nearby, belting out American gospel classics in labored German accents.

DF and his ETH compatriot parted ways after dinner, and the plan was simple: navigate the crowds, stop by the office, and get home for an early night (b/c heading to Zermatt the next day, about which more soon). But Z-Faescht thwarted DF’s plans. Hopping the 9 tram didn’t produce the familiar direct route back to Raemistrasse, because streets were closed and the trams were all re-routed. Hence DF found himself on a tram with very drunk and hyper Zuerich teens who were equally confused as to their whereabouts, albeit for chemically-induced, rather than slightly-disoriented-tourist reasons. The ensuing scene was comedic: DF in awful German and the drunken Eurokids in awful, slurred English, tried to figure out just where on earth the 9 had taken us and how we’d get back to the central city (DF to head home, the inebriated Zuerich boys to go to a disco called, apparently, “Caliente”—they asked me if I wanted to join them, assuring me there’d be “hot bitches” there, but I declined for many many solid reasons).

Eventually, the Eurokids and I decided the quickest way back would be to walk, and then I left, sort of having been absorbed into their pack by osmosis (and because it would have been harder to separate myself, since we were all going the same way), and eventually we got to the southern part of town and went our separate ways (despite more entreaties to go with them to “Caliente”; I wanted to be all like, “Do you know how old I am?”). I finally emerged just south of Quaibruecke, and immediately realized that both I knew where I was (excellent), and that the city had gone entirely dark (WTF!?!?!). So now I was disconcerted for a different reason, and just when I was thinking of how to say “power outage” in German, I realized: the lights had been killed because they were about to set off fireworks above the Zuerichsee, and I had just happened into the prime viewing territory for show.

And so I viewed, and the fireworks were really impressive, and it put me in a good mood. They ended, and I strolled back through the festival, less irritated with it all than I had been before. I strolled past the Muenstergasse, all lit up with animation, and felt a twinge of nostalgia for home as American pop songs blared from various outdoor discos. This time, when I got the 9 tram at ETH, beyond the confines of the Faescht, it was on track and dropped me off at Rigiplatz to be funiculared on up home.