Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tomatoes in Zürich

English tomatoes, the very best in the world

After a stressful trip to the airport, with me arriving exactly 30 minutes before the flight, and so having to dump three decent bottles of English wine (from Whole Foods) and just catching the plane at the gate, I arrived into Zürich airport and bumped into Mike and Simon from IC, whom I haven't seen for a long time.

From the Hauptbahnhof, I walked out and met Ursula on the bridge. She took me over to Niederdorf area, where we met her lovely friends at Barfüsser, apparently one of Europe's oldest gay bars! Next morning, breakfast at Sprüngli, then in the afternoon, Selina and Henrik's wedding, on the 22nd August.

I know Selina from University, Marc and I meeting her and Supiya on a Mandarin language course. She's lived out in Zürich since moving out there with UBS many years ago, and it is here that she met her beau, Henrik.

The reception started at Acqua, a waterside bar. Once everyone was assembled, and after a fair bit of milling about, the bride came across the water, rowed on a boat with father holding an umbrella over her.

The bride approaches


After the traditional march up the aisle, they took their humanist service vows, in which they addressed each other and explained what the other meant for them. It was very touching, and at one point a wisp of smoke must have caught me in the eye.

Sel regains composure and organises the crowd

Next up the alcohol started flowing, and we were left to circulate.

Peter, Ting and Jennifer

The lovely Max and Louise

Yours truly with Ben

Now one of the delights of this wedding was how English, Chinese, Swedish and Swiss wedding traditions were blended together. Next up, a Swiss idea - a balloon release with a twist. All guests were issued with blank postcard and pen, the reverse side having Sel and Henrik's address pre-printed. We filled out the card, tied it to any one of hundreds of helium-filled balloons, and at the appointed time, released!

Balloon release

Remember that Zürich is not far from the borders of Germany, Italy, Austria, even France. So these balloons can easily reach far away, and hopefully whoever finds the card will post it back, so Sel and Henrik receive a trickle of cards with messages from friends - I think we were supposed to give a promise - something like "if you fly me to the Caribbean, I promise to cook dinner for you" or similar.

Balloons release

Family shots

The balloons released and wedding photos complete, it was time for the wedding tram. A special tram had been hired to take all guests on a tour of Zürich; with a huge bouquet of flowers on the front it drew many stares from locals. We had an official Tourist Board woman onboard giving us a very tedious tour which was ignored by most as we chatted. Of course, the main problem with the thing was lack of bar on board, and I sorely regretted criticising Ben for stealing his beer from Acqua.

Wedding tram

The tram dropped up nearby where the evening's festivities would be, the Zunfthaus zur Meisen. This is one of the many ancient guildhalls of Zurich, this one something to do with pottery, and now part of the Swiss National Museum. It dates from 1757 and has a beautiful interior.

The happy couple again

The interior was also pretty hot, and it was only consuming plenty of liquids that kept things bearable. Certainly it was a relief when we managed to get some windows opened mid-dinner!

The dinner

Dinner continued the mix of cultures theme, with a Asian Salad with Chicken to start, then a Toast Skagen, a tasty Swedish shrimp paste on crunchy toast thing, then the main course was Roast Beef. The Swedish for "bon appetit" sounds remarkably like "Smacky bottom" (Smaklig måltid!), which was wished to all with gusto before each course.

Our table had a fantastic crowd - Max and Louise, an English couple living out in Zurich, Hans and Tove, a lovely Swedish couple, another Swedish couple the names of whom I have awfully managed to forget - either Magnus and Kristina or Maria and Christofer (!), and brother and sister Ting and Jennifer from Kent! I realised that it was important to have some Swedes on the table to explain some of the traditions going on which otherwise might have been fairly confusing.

By each set place was a booklet with the lyrics for a variety of songs, English and Swedish, which we would proceed to sing between courses. The Swedes of course love their singing, which is done without accompaniment, but usually with a loud "skål" (pronounced "schkol")at the end and a dose of alcohol down the hatch, which one begins to suspect is the main purpose of the song in the first place.

The speeches were multi-lingual too and were ably managed by the three toastmasters. It sounds complicated but seemed to work. One interesting Swedish tradition emerged when Selina popped out of the room to go to the bathroom. All of a sudden all of the ladies leapt up and advanced to the groom, demanding one by one a kiss! Henrik looked initially worried with 100 ladies bearing down on him, but before long had got the hang of it, at least until Max appeared mid-queue!

Before long, it was time for the cutting of the cake, and the throwing of the bocquet. Sadly for all those of more mature years, it would seem that a bridesmaid of not more than about 6 or 7 years is the next one getting married!

Cutting of the cake

The dancefloor kicked off.. The move of the evening being the Migraine Skank, which our table group had mastered:

Our funky table group

The DJ music was as cheesy as one would expect for a wedding, belting through all the embarrassing classics that get everyone on the dancefloor.

Andrew and Ritu working the dancefloor

There was a self-service beer tap outside, and midnight snack of hotdogs and cheese! Definitely a good way of keeping things going till the end.


Post party we retired to the Odeon Bar for a nightcap, before heading home, it being almost 5am by now! I considered a swim in the lake, but it would surely not be a sensible thing at this hour, in the dark, in my slightly inebriated state, and with no idea of where to go!

Next day we visited Ursula's friend Sandro's parents for a fantastic proper home-cooked Italian meal, and in the evening a nice dinner at the Terrace. Incidentally the blog post title refers to a discussion over the lunch table about tomatoes. I was making the point that English tomatoes are the best in the world, which was disputed by the largely Italian crowd. Then Sandro's mother made a good point: "Maybe for you they are the best". True, true!

*Disclaimer - apologies, none of the photos on this blogpost are mine - instead I should credit Mike, Sel and others, basically anyone posting on Facebook!

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