When I first heard that we will be going to a restaurant in Zurich...I wasn't expecting much. Only when a friend of mine told me that we are going to 'The Blind Cow', did things start looking up.
'BlindeKuh' or 'The Blind Cow' is a very special restaurant in Zurich. Whats so special about this place ? Well, apart from the fact that the entire staff, sans the cheif cook and the Receptionist, are blind, there is one more twist to this place. The conceptualist of this place , Mr. Joerg Spielmann, is blind. The idea of making people sighted experience the world like a person with no sight, was what brought this restaurant into being in 1999.
The restaurant offers the experience of eating in the dark. And by dark, I mean pitch dark. No light sources are allowed into the restaurant. Cell phones, illuminated watches, lighters etc... are all dissallowed. Smoking is not permitted. The guests are let into the entrance hall, which is lighted, where they make their choice of food from the menu written on the wall. For blind guests, the menu is read out. Once decided, the receptionist calls out a helper, who is blind, and then he/she leads all the guests, in a bee-line formation, first into a partially dark room to aquaint the eyes and then into the completely dark main seating hall. The helper then tells you his/her name and then you have to call out the name in case you need anything. The only respite from the darkness are the restrooms, where also you are led to by the helper.
So I reached there with my friends around 7:15 pm. We made the choice from a three course menu, A starter, the main course and a dessert. We were asked to put all out cell phones, luminiscient watches, lighters etc...in a locker in the entrance hall. Then a helper was called out to guide us inside. Her name was Sabeena. Sabeena could not see. She asked us to make a bee-line formation, like kids in kindergarden, and follow her.
After reaching inside the main hall, one thing was clearly evident, the place was dark. Completely and totally dark. There was not even a glimmer of light from anywhere. The experience of being in such a place, where it does not matter whether your eyes are closed or open, is exhilarating. Sabeena showed us to out seats and we were seated. We checked our relative positions by talking to each other and listening to the reply. That was the only way of knowing where people were seated. We could hear other people, eating, talking, laughing, but we could not see a thing.
The next challenge was making sure we knew the placement of the knives and forks and glasses. Once that was memorized, it wasnt much difficult. Although at times, we did take each others drinks. Food came. But managing to eat with a knife and fork was a major challenge. So, most of us decided to ignore the etiquette and eat with out hands. It did not make much difference as we could not see each other anyways. Filling the glasses with drinks was another challenge.
Towards the end of the evening, we were completely in awe of the helpers who were able to negotiate through the place, remember everyone's orders, and the placement of items on the tables.
A very old story came to mind. A sighted man is lost and reaches the land of the blind. And understands the handicap of being too dependent on sight.
For anyone who wishes to visit the place, which I highly recommend, here are the details :
148 8008 Zurich
Tel: 01 421 50 50
Fax: 01 421 50 55
The menu is a la carte. A dinner that includes starter, main course and dessert, costs about 50 EUROS. Drinks are extra.
The place is generally full, so make the reservations well in advance.