Sat 13th July.
Winterthur and Rikon.
When I told my Swiss friend in London (Claudia) that I was visiting Zürich, she recommended that I meet one of her friends who was also a keen cyclist, Judith Wolf. Judith studied design in Zürich with Claudia and continued to live and work outside in a small town called Rikon, near Winterthur.
I left René’s and thanked him for his hospitality and stories and then went to meet Judith at the station. Initially I was happy to cycle to Winterthur but Judith insisted she take me by train as she had a few things planned out for the day and it was her and her boyfriend Simon’s day-off.
Judith was a lovely and very warm from the outset, always smiling and very happy to meet me and learn more about what I was doing. She offered me a bottled tea she had on the train to Winterthur (which she paid for) and said I might need the sugar due to cycling.
She picked up her bike from the station and we rode to her studio nearby where some new people were moving in. Simon was also based there with his bike business.
Simon used to be a professional downhill racer and travelled all over Europe and America racing in competitions, but now he was ‘getting older’ (his words) he retired and setup a business selling bike parts and was on a business course.
Judith was a kindergarten teacher and had a design practice with a friend called ‘Büro Fax’.
Once at the studio we picked up Simon and left. The studio was a beautiful clean space in an old warehouse that was out-of-town and therefore inexpensive, but very well-organised and practical. It made me think of one day moving out of the dense city and creating the ideal work haven for a low-budget business elsewhere.
We cycled together from Winterthur to Rikon, it took about forty minutes. The weather was perfect and the track was flat and idyllic going through the woods. Simon mentioned this was his commute and that he was very happy with his life. I asked him how cold it got in the winter and what he did when it rained. “There is a car for those days” he said.
We got back to their apartment and Judith began prepared food for us. I unpacked and had a Swiss cider with them before heading out. The plan was to go back to Winterthur for the night, where we would meet friends of Judith’s who also knew Claudia in London, the infamous link.
The bar we met at was all outdoors and again of the repurposed ilk which was popular in Zürich and at home. I met Lisa who was Swiss and Raby her friend from Berlin where they both lived. I told them about my trip and that I was heading to Berlin. They told me to get in touch once there, offering to put me up. I couldn’t believe the odds and generosity of people. A friend of a friend was putting me up here and now a friend of theirs was offering to put me up in Berlin.
I mentioned what I had learnt about Swiss-German dialects varying from place to place to Simon and he seconded it and went on to say that it was different from town to town. For example, he came from a part of Rikon where the accent (or dialect) was different to that only a few imles away in Winterthur. I was astonished at the variation in what seemed to be quite a chaotic language that had no formal root. Also that the Swiss who where know for being so organised, had all these stems of there language. Although if you compare it to English, we have a dense variety of accents from a relatively small island.
We left the bar and went to a squat party the girls knew about. On the way there Simon told me about how the city turns into a music festival once a year and how it had just happened. In the 90’s he saw Radiohead and Soundgarden here on a stage in the high street. At that time of day it was dead and there was no-one to be seen.
The punk squat house was fun. They made you roll dice to determine how much you should pay to get in. There were DJs in the basement and dirty toilets upstairs and it felt like an old bar in Hackney and didn’t feel like I was in Switzerland whatsoever, but I liked it.
There were also circus style games outside, where you got to torture various right-wing politicians who were famous for their fascist regimes. It was typical squatter party. I did well at butchering the politicians with darts and was awarded with shots of something.
We stayed until the early hours in the morning then headed back.