Whimsical Folk Art We Saw in Switzerland

Fragment of a Roman Mosaic from Aventicum

One of the first photographs I took on arriving in Zürich was a rather large and gaudy angel that was hanging over the hundreds of commuters at the train station.

Note the neon bar she is holding. This flashed on and off.

She set the tone for the many kinds of weird and wonderful kitsch we would see everywhere in Switzerland: in public buildings, private gardens, places of business, etc. We just had to keep our eyes open and our cameras ready.

In fact, it is not only the modern world that provided interesting folk art. Our visit to the Roman Museum at Aventicum yielded some kitsch from the ancient world. Here are two examples:

Roman sippy cup

This is from the tomb of a baby. Sad, but who knew that there were sippy cups in the first century?

Buddha-like satyr giving the bird

Now this is just silly and more than a little obscene. Those Romans!

Let’s get back to the modern age. Come with me to Gimmelwald (that’s okay, Margo, you can stay at sea level. You’ve already seen it anyway) and check out the lively folk art we found there.

Happy gnomes greet us!

Oh, look! Someone forgot to take down the Easter decorations!

Socks on trees, Easter eggs hang from branches and bunnies

One house had many strange objects including old boots filled with flowers and this wooden bags- relief carving in a picture frame that reminds me of the folk art of St-Jean-Port-Joli, Quebec.

Man smoking pipe

But my very favorite of all are these witches silhouetted against the crisp white mountain snow.

Witches on the chimney tops

But we should move on to Basel now, lest you think only Gimmelwald has silly folk art. We went to see the Roman ruins which are in the suburb town of Augst (pronounced ‘ousht’). There I saw so many kitschy things in people’s yards, I wanted to post them all, but I must be content with a couple. I haven’t shown you any commercial kitsch yet, so here are some “Roman” statues at the entrance to a restaurant courtyard.

The casual soldier and the “come hither” whore

This next one I include for my son-in-law Kevin and my grandson Ryan, though I’m not sure the rest of this post is suitable for two-year-old viewing.

Choo choo on the lawn

In Basel itself there are some fine examples of whimsical folk art. First of all, we came upon this wonderful fountain that had us spell-bound.

The Tinguely Fountain in Tinguely Square

This picture in no way does justice to this marvelous fountain with hundreds of moving statues spraying water in every direction. I took a video, but for some reason can’t upload it here.

Well, I have one more piece of strange art to share with you, and again, a simple photo cannot capture it. This was one of the last things we saw in Basel. We walked into Munsterplatz just as a work of art was being unveiled.

Leonardo’s Flying Machine Unveiled

It was a bicycle with wings that flapped and a propeller that whirled. The inventor was interviewed, in German of course, so we didn’t really know what was going on, but it seemed rather comical. Then, a “volunteer” was chosen from the audience to get on the contraption and away he flew to the amazement of the onlookers.

Flying machine, helium balloons and the Munster spire.

If you’re observant, you might notice the giant crane that is holding the whole thing up. I took a great video of this event also. It was spectacularly weird and a great way to end our trip to Switzerland

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