Thursday, September 08, 2005

Do You Know Jack?

We woke up at 7 a.m. (3 a.m. CDT) ready to roll. We make sure we`re downstairs for breakfast by 8 a.m. when Chris is supposed to call. Maria greets us heartily with a typical Swiss German breakfast. She has large crusty rolls, slices of salami and other lunch meats, muesli, orange juice and three kinds of jams. No fruit, other than orange juice. My typical breakfast consists of an orange and a bananna. I like to get a good start on my five fruits and vegetables a day, by starting out with two fruits. But we`re on vacation, and after the big plate of hashbrowns, bacon and egg last night, now is not the time to turn virtuous.

Rosalee asks for coffee and Maria brings her a pitcher of hot coffee and a pitcher of hot milk. Rosalee knows the drill from Vienna, and carefullz pours an equal amount of coffee and milk together into her cup. I try some. I think I will re-introduce caffeine into my diet, at least for the next week. The old stomach is just going to have to buck up.

The weather is perfect. Temperature in the low 70s, sunny skies. We decide to walk along the lake to the train station instead of taking the bus this morning. Although hotels like this side of the lake, the actual lakeside and the walk along it (they call it a "quai") are kept public. Big old chestnut trees line both sides of the sidwalk forming a canopy. It is a beautiful walk. Old people go hobbling along with their walkers, young mothers zip along on roller blades, pushing their baby carriages. An idyllic scene.

We go to the Festival box office to see about tickets for the big names here for the Festival and everything is sold out. The New York Philharmonic is playing tonight, St. Martin`s Academy in the Fields on Wednesday night. The Cleveland, London and Berlin orchestras have already been here, in August. The top tickets run 290 francs ($232) a seat. The cheap tickets start at 30 francs. Chris can get us free tickets for his concerts, the first of which is tonight, and the second and last of which is Friday.

The concert hall in Lucerne is a work of art. It sits right on the shore of Lake Lucerne, and the architect has tried to bring in the water theme. There is a little canal that flows through the building. The back of the building is made to look something like a ship. There are two main halls; the larger one is where the big orchestras are playing, and where the Festival Academy Orchestra will play on Friday night. The smaller one, right next door is where tonight`s concert will be.

We meet Chris at noon at the Tourist Information office. He doesn`t look much like the poster, which is based on a photograph from last year. For one thing, he now has a beard, which we knew about; he grew that this summer before leaving for Europe; for another thing, he is not wearing glasses anymore, which we also knew about; he got fitted for contacts just before leaving for Europe. What we were not expecting, was the haircut, a buzz cut that one of his friends gave him after he got to Europe. I think it looks cool and have no objection to it. Rosalee complains; she would prefer a pony tail.

We walk along Pilatiustrasse, in search of a place to eat. Pilatiustrasse is named after Mt. Pilatius, one of the local landmark mountains outside of town. Mt. Pilatius is named after Pontius Pilate, whose ashes were supposedly buried in the lake there and whose ghosts would periodically stir up the lake and the inhabitants and cattle around it because he was trying to wash the blood off his hands. Sounds reasonable to me.

We find a restaurant, despite the Swiss sticker shock. Although we had been warned that everything is very expensive in Switzerland, we weren`t quite prepared to have to pay 20 francs each for a simple chicken salad lunch. Plus, we got taken on the water again at 5 francs for bottled water. Chris educated us later. If you just want regular water, you can`t just ask for water, you have to ask for "tap water." Damned thieving Swiss.

Chris`s quartet, Jack, is playing in the smaller hall tonight. They are playing Helmut Lachenmann`s second quartet. The name, Jack, is composed an acronym derived from the members` names. They are John, Ari, Chris and Kevin. I think it`s a cool name they ought to keep if their quartet keeps playing. That way, if someone say they have never heard of the quartet, they can say, "You don`t know Jack?" Oh, the puns would be endless. Chris has to go rehearse and we will meet him after the performance.

We decide to walk over the old covered wooden bridge spanning the river (it`s name escapes me at the moment.) There are paintings in the roof trusses, some of which were destroyed by a fire several years ago, but most of which are still there. Seeing the bridge is one of the must things to do in Lucerne, besides visiting the weeping lion.

Before visiting the bridge, I need to visit the bathroom, my bowels having decided now is a good time to start functioning again after leaving home. We were just across the street from the train station, and we knew there had to be public facilities in the station. I finally spot a WC sign and remember "water closet" is what we`re looking for; Europe calls its rest rooms "water closets" for some strange reason. I follow the signs downstairs. As I am hurrying, I see smaller lettering above the WC that says, "Mr. Clean." Great, that`s just what I`m looking for, a clean bathroom, although most train station rest rooms do not qualify to be called "Mr. Clean." I finally locate the place and, dancing on my tiptoes, try to go in, only to discover it`s not that simple. This is Switzerland after all, and they didn`t become a wealthy country just letting any Tom, Dick and Harry use their public restrooms. Oh, no, you have to pay to go in. But first, you have to decide what you`re going to do once you get there. It`s one franc for the "pissoir." (That`s one German word I think I can still figure out.) It`s two francs for the works.

By the time I figured out which of the coins in my pockets was a two-franc piece, I was happy to pay whatever they asked. Once you get inside, it`s nothing but luxury and cleanliness. No stalls with graffiti and door latches that do not work, like in the U.S. You get a regular closet, with three walls and a full door. There are red and green lights above the doors so you know which one is free, without surprising its inhabitant. As I left my stall, a waiting matron in a white uniform and armed with a mop and cleaning supplies, headed for the room to clean up. Jeez, I wasn`t born in a barn. I did find out later there are places to use the rest room for free in Lucerne; like in the concert hall next door, but only if you have a ticket for the performance. We also found some free lavatories on trains. But it`s a challenge, if you don`t want to pay.

After the ordeal at the train station, we strolled around the Old Town area. We looked at the paintings and visited the Picasso Museum. A Lucerne woman, Angela Rosengard, was a friend of and model for Picasso. Their Picasso pieces were nothing special, but the collection of photographs taken by an English photographer, Campbell, were very interesting. There were candid shots of Picasso at work and play, including one of him taking a bath, and others of him playing with his pet goat, his dog and his children.

Even better than the art is the fact that the WC at the Picasso Museum is a real bargain. It`s only half a franc of you need to use the facilities and you don`t need to declare your intentions in advance.

We stop at a grocery and buy some fruit and spinach strudel for some supper before Chris`s concert.

I realize this post has gone on fairly long, so I will do a separate live report of the concert.


keine echte amish said...

The McClean WC in the Zurich bahnhof even has current newspapers on a stick (as you would find in a cafe) available for customers who pay the price to sit in their facilities. Much better than squatting over a gutter after church!

Anonymous said...

OK, I need to ask, isn't there a proper apostrophe on the keyboard? I don't mean to give you a hard time because I had a similar experience during a three week trip to France last year. I got totally frustrated just trying to use their keyboard. It cut my commmunications dramatically. And I totally understand the price of paying for the time. I admire your efforts at the keyboard. Becky-I guess-I should-get-a-clever-name-anonymous