Last night was an adventure. We took 5 teenagers to Blindekuh in Zurich for a birthday dinner.
Blindekuh is no ordinary restaurant. It’s the first dark restaurant in the world.
Let me tell you more…
In 1998, there was a exhibition in Zurich called ‘Dialog im Dunkeln’ – Dialogue in the Dark. It was very successful and during the exhibition the blind priest Father Jürg Spielmann and the partially sighted psychologist Stephan Zappa got to know each other as they were both employed as guides. They decided to work together on a project based on darkness, which they would exhibit at EXPO ’01 in Switzerland, and at the same time they would develop the concept of a dark restaurant in Zurich. Together with blind singer, Thomas Moser and blind social worker Andrea Blaser, they created a foundation called ‘Blind-Liecht’ to raise money for the project.
Blindekuh opened in 1999 in a former Methodist chapel, followed by a second restaurant in Basel. Many others have copied the idea – and today there are blind restaurants in Cologne, Berlin, Paris, Hamburg and even Moscow.
The teenagers were excited to visit Blinde Kuh, but I think also a little spooked when we were lead caterpillar-style with hands on the shoulders of the one infront into total blackness by our blind waitress, Rita. Some things weren’t so foreign – cutlery was where it usually is, water glasses too, but the darkness took some getting used to. There were other people in the restaurant, but we had no idea who they were (which certainly stopped in their track any rude comments about teachers), or even how many, and if they were old, young, cool and trendy or grannies secretly knitting in the darkness? Who knew?
We ordered our meals, drinks were delivered and then the hilarity began. Trying to guess what was in a mixed salad, when the only description my son could come up with was ‘slimy’. Things only went downhill from there with some people (ie.said son). I am 99% sure he ate his tagliatelle with chantarelle sauce with his fingers and judging from some very strange slurping noises and a lot of giggling, he may even have licked the plate. Of course this was vehemently denied and I have no way of proving anything.
We all noticed how food tasted more intense and how we were much more aware of sounds. There were comments from the teenagers as they realized that this was the view for many blind people for the rest of their lives. Inhibitions broke down. When we sang happy birthday, many voices joined in and clapped when we were through. I don’t think that would happen often in a normal restaurant here. Our waitress was a delight – super-efficient and fun, Rita was totally blind and had worked at Blinde Kuh for 9 years. She clearly enjoyed her job.
Not only does Blinde Kuh provide an insight into how it feels to function in a blind world, it also raises awareness of blindness and provides worthwhile jobs for blind people. I think there should be a restaurant like this in every large city.