Rum tasting by Paul Ullrich @ Fischer’s Fritz

What looked like a great opportunity to get a sip of very different rums came along like an extended BBQ on the shore of Lake Zurich and an early party.

To start with how it ended: too early because I felt a little bit tipsy. I couldn’t taste half of  the brands and was far away from sampling half of the different bottles the liquor shop brought to Zurich. I don’t know if the cocktail offered with the 25.- Sfr entrance fee or those fee sips I had where to much, but each where interesting samplings of craftmanship…

Maybe not the last rum I tried. It was the only one from the states, while all the others where from a Carribean Island, and way to strong for my liking. I tried just a little bit and I had to call it a day. So I was no more able to try the cheapes bottle on offer, for about 30 Sfr a bottle, but as I had tried some of the more expensive rums, for a little bit more than 200 Sfr, I didn’t had to hesitate too much.

The cocktails, 5 or 6 or 7 different you could chose from and everyone from a different well known bar in Zurich. Quite impressive. I’m not sure any more, but I think the recipe for the one I had was created at the onyx bar.

The crowd was quite interesting as well. And for most of the time I was there, a little bit over 2 hours, there where always some discovering some rums while others enjoyed the BBQ. Have a look at the photo for an almost random look at the crowd and not half of the bottles you could taste. Next rum tasting by the company will take place in Basel.

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Bruce Springsteen at Letzigrund, Zurich

Stadium Rock is probably the least thing expected to be covered on this blog, the higher the ticket prices and the bigger the venue the less character a show has got to have. Since selling records ceased to pay off for the mansions, sprawling live shows with exorbitant ticket prices have come to be the new income. Granted it’s sort of hard work, but the truckloads of stage, lighting and name the gimmick have turned this into a Vegas-on-tour madness that’s best skipped completely.

That’s the theory at least. Having paid little attention to what Bruce Springsteen is actually up to, expectations were mildly interested at best. Sure, there are some true gems in his repertoire, decades old but not aged a day and still sounding real. There was no opening band, and the band kicked off way before sunset. A true cynic would say that most of his fans do share the same birthyear as the Boss and at over sixty, one needs his sleep, but that would be unfair as his liveshow clocked in at three and a half hours without one single break. Secondly the audience was as diverse as it gets, from young to old, white and blue collar alike and everybody was hooked from the start.

A simple recipe, play the hits, give the audience what it wants and be thouroughly enthusiastic about what you do. As big as the venue was, as pricey the tickets were, you could not shake the feeling that this guy really does enjoy every minute of it. And it transcended easily, this was honest and coming from the heart. How about the music itself? Solid, well built up and fit for everyone, even to a bitter old music elitist as yours truly.

 

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Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Montreux Jazz

Here’s a public persona that’s both uniquely gifted with musical talent and notorious for being a class-a knob head. Usually that is not a bad pairing for Montreux, it has proven to be a fruitful ground for difficult artists. Prince, lost for decades, is at ease and happily plays two nights back to back. Others invite all their friends and create magic, all televised and straight going to Claude Nobs precious vault.

So you’d think even a troubled character such as the prodigious musical genius from Oasis would find his long sought home and peace at Montreux. Not so, obviously far away and gone into the colourful abyss of whatever he was on he showed his talent but did not hold back the hack he apparently enjoys to be. Not a few songs in and already solidly engaged in a fight with the audience, jokingly insulting his band and publicly offending Claude Nobs upon thanking him for visiting.

Surely, one should not take this guy serious, he plays the hits and magnificent they are, but carelessly thrown out insults do leave a bitter aftertaste. A hard youth, a troubled yet incredibly succesful time with Oasis have left their mark for the worst it seems.

Oh and one last word to Bombay Bicycle Club who opened for Noel: pleasant, but ultimately forgettable.

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Taking a stroll in Lisbon

Tram Lisboa

The famously tranquil and serene city of Lisboa in economically troubled Portugal is the perfect getaway for even a mere few days. A city that has been rocked on as many woes it lost count to remember, it transcends peace. Perhaps it has, long ago, finally accepted its own decline and rests gracefully for the times to come. Architecture from another continent, yet strikingly european adds to this otherworldly experience.

Lisbon Porto Vino

To walk up one of its many hills, one cannot overlook the many, once beautiful, boarded up houses, abandoned by its former tenants in search of less doomed and expensive homes. Scattered between them are incredulously crafted tiled houses, that would be fit for Louis XIV’s needs. The poverty is not hidden, yet does not seem to sow crime, theft and worse. Instead, this is one of Europe’s safest cities.

Tram Lisboa

There are highlights galore, but just strolling around is where you find gems left and right. The food is not spectacular, it involves a BBQ, Sea Salt and usually a Sardine. The wine is well worth a sip, but the pleasure lies in the many carefully curated port wines. The simplicity is also what makes this city shine, why bother being glamorous and loud when you have seen and heard it all? Lisboa surely has and is ageing peacefully into long deserved retirement.

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Montreux Jazz Festival 2012

Only 5 days until this great event starts off. Yeah

While I had a look at their line-up when the big concerts where anounced, I was a little bit dissapointed. But now!!! The acts they organised for free sampling, fantastic! The kind of music I realy like. Among them:

– Gesaffelstein, on a Wednesday, so what. I’ll try to be there.

– Michael Kiwanuka. Maybe whitout me.

– Sebastien Tellier. Dito.

– Soko and Marlon Roudette. Yes Sir.

– SebastiAn and Kavinski… and so on. Man I like Montreux Jazz Festival line-up. And the better part is for free.

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More Music: Julio Bashmore – Troglodytes

As I don’t know why someone should make a song about cavemen, even using their latin name, it turned out great. At least I’m enjoying this recent download, free where I found it, every now and then.

Julio Bashmore – Troglodytes

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Strawberries from a nearby farmer

And as I picked them on my own, they where the bargain of the day. Something like 1.5kg for less than 9.- Swiss Francs. As it sounds like a very special offer, it isn’t. The one I have been to, has the ad placed alongside the nearest road while you will find others using this page: Selberpluecken.ch (means pick them on your own).

As I arrived I had to have my bowls weighted. Later the same bowls where a little bit heavier with all the not eaten strawberries inside. The farmer I’ve been to had a very nice breed. The fruits looked very healty and there where a lot of them, so that I had to take my shades off to be able to decide if they where red enough. Then I had to taste one that looked ready, just to make sure, and that’s no problem as you’re allowed to try a fruit every now and then, or ask any kid who was brought to the field.

On the way back to the scale I had to bow a little bit to pass under the cherry trees, no not yet ready to be picked, but I know where to go.

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Songs to wake up to: Here We Go Magic – Make Up Your Mind

A song both thriving and dreamy, while the first clearly dominates the latter. Good thing too, since otherwise you’d never leave the state of morning haze. Rather this song calls to action, gently pushing you.. to at last get on your feet.

This is not the first time one is pleasantly surprised by this outfit, if you like this check out their quietly energetic ode to nerds and geeks:

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Getting lost in Shikoku, Japan

It’s hard to actually get off the beaten tracks in Japan in general, and even then you are not far from the next Seven-11 or one of his many look-alikes. Nonetheless we tried and most positively succeeded. The quest took us to the, still not that remote, island Shikoku in Southwest Japan. Even there, highways and sleek skyscrapers galore you don’t even begin to get a sense of rural or traditional Japan. But we heard of a Valley, difficult to get to (Random bus schedule, check) called Iya and supposedly only reachable by car. Sights none apart quiet gorges and misty mountains. So all in all, the exact opposite of Tokyo and Kyoto.

However these not so postcard friendly conditions proved to be stunning enough, turquoise water, otherworldly rock formations (reminds one of Valle Verzasca) and low-hanging vine bridges where the Samurai movie in your head begins to become all to real. A surreal experience and thanks to the miserable weather largely void of mass tourism. Even as remote as here, there are a ton of horrible concrete disasters calling themselves tourist center, hotel and shopping malls. Thank god there are paths leading up to the mountains where you can actually skip all humankind and civilization.

To not see a car let alone a human being for more than a few hours is stunning, frightening even. To undertake a mountain pass in spring time requires a bit of preparation, otherwise even a simple thing like a lunch meal can prove rather tricky. But alas, even though remote does exist in overcrowded Japan, the aforementioned ubiquitous Seven-11 comes soon to the rescue.

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Offene Weinkeller (open vine cellars) next Saturday

What once started somewhere in the canton of Schaffhausen, has now spread to most German-speaking cantons. Some vineyards and the handicraft of those masters overlooking the process of juice turning into wine, and you have a nice product to put in a bottle and to be sold. To get customers closer to wine makers someone invented the event of the open wine cellars for the beginning of May. That’s just now. And maybe because the first wasn’t a public holiday everywhere, most regions have added the next Saturday to promote their wines.

I was back at the Bielersee yesterday. I thought same village as last fall, but as I went to the village with the biggest number of open wine cellars, I passed Twann and left at the next village: Ligerz.

Nice stuff, very friendly wine makers, cool cellars and a region that is extremely dedicated to winemaking. I like this place. Go to OpenWineCellar to find a region where you can hit lots of cellars (as I did) or if your favorite local man participates in the event. And have some lunch before you start tasting….

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