Swimming, Art in Zurich

While in Zurich, Elke prepared us delicious breakfasts of fruit, bread and cheese, honey from her parents’ farm in Germany, her uncle’s strawberry rhubarb jam, coffee…We also enjoyed a chocolate spread called Ovalmaltine (we know this company as Ovaltine due to a trademark registration error in the early 1900s—Ovalmaltine makes much more sense!). We ate on the rooftop and Elke’s balcony, where she grows dill and parsley.

I’m so thankful that Elke convinced me to try things that scared me, like eating a strong Swiss cheese (which I inexplicably used to think was French?!) and biking through the city. She showed me all around Zurich, including the Kunsthaus museum, where she restores modern and contemporary art. Have you ever seen a painting that’s, like, 500 years old and think, “Wow, that’s in amazing condition!” I have, but, duh, I realized this weekend that they look great because people like Elke have been restoring them. In another 500 years, I guess it’s possible this hypothetical painting’s original concept will be preserved, but the paint will be new.

So Elke and her crew repair tears and chipped paint and clean bird poo off Monets that have languished in country homes. There’s a lot of chemistry involved in figuring out the pigments and binders artists used.


Did you know I modeled for Rodin?


In the Old Masters section of the museum, you can hear muted screaming. If you think to look down, you’ll see a hole in the carpet where a video installation plays of a woman trapped in hell pleading in several languages for help.


Elke also restored a Chagall at Kronenhalle, which used to attract tons of artists and is now a fancy-pants restaurant where a lot of original paintings still hang (Picasso, Matisse, etc.)


After the museum, we swam around Lake Zurich, which is purified and incredibly clean. They take their water seriously in Zurich and you can drink from any of the city’s 1,200 or so fountains—more than in Rome! This concept freaked me out a little at first, but I filled my water bottle from several fountains and it tasted great and looked crystal clear (unlike the chalky water that spills from the tap in Italy).

Sarah Mikutel