If I could recommend a restaurant, not solely for its food, but for a most unique experience, I would definitely recommend Blindekuh. I have never experienced anything like it in my life. Blindekuh is a restaurant (two of a kind, one in Basel and one in Zurich) in which you dine in COMPLETE darkness. Most of the staff is blind with the exception of the Chef. This experience allows you to walk, or dine in this case, in the shoes of the visually impaired.
When we arrived, we were a group of 8 non-German speakers, so the receptionist had to explain to us the menu, which was illuminated on the wall in front of us. (it was not dark in the lobby) Once we had decided on what we would be dining, we were told to lock our bags and jackets in the lockers provided, to prevent any tripping-type casualties in the dining room. We were then told that our server, Monica, would be out shortly to escort us into the dining room, to our table. Soon, Monica arrived. She was blind. She gave us some instructions. She told us that if we needed to leave the dining room for any reason, not to get up on our own, but to call out her name. She would then come and lead us back into the light. She then told us to form a line and put our hands on the shoulders of the person in front of us… she proceeded to lead us into the depths. Right away, I felt as if I was about to embark on a journey, almost the feeling I used to get when I would get onto a roller coaster, and strap myself in, pulling the crossbar down across my chest. I was nervous and my stomach felt unsettled as well. We descended into the depths and it was Pitch Black. You couldn’t see anything and your eyes would struggle constantly to adjust, without any luck. Once we entered, all we heard were voices and the clanking of silverware. It seemed so loud, almost like right away, our ears were trying to make up for the lack of sight by tuning in.
Monica led us to our table, and then came around, touching each of our shoulders, then our hand, and placing our hand on the back of what would be our chair. We all managed to sit down without any issues, but I felt like I was on drugs, it was all so strange…a sensation that is hard to describe. surreal and unpleasant. We were all laughing nervously for the first few minutes, just trying to take it all in, trying to adjust to the darkness, still, without any luck. Every once in a while, we would see a flash, presumably from the kitchen, but it was still not enough to illuminate the room in the slightest. Monica came back and we ordered our drinks and food, which was quite amusing in itself…just knowing when she was talking to you, or not. I felt myself wanting to grasp T, just to know that he was still right next to me. It was not a comfortable feeling, not to see. He ordered a coffee right away, and when it came, I think that the whole table smelled it. Our sense of smell was greatly heightened, even within minutes of being robbed of our sight. I think we were all nervous about the drinks and whether we would be able to bring the glass to our lips without having a major spillage, but I think most people were able to grasp this quite easily. My hands began to come in handy (no pun intended ), feeling around the neck and lip of the bottle, as I poured sparkling water into my glass, trying not to pour too much. When our food came, many of us didn’t yet have silverware. I actually found that “seeing” the food with my hands was much easier than using a fork anyway, so I ate most of my meal (shrimp and scallops) with my fingers. The rice and tomato sauce was a little more difficult to navigate, so I did use the fork, but also, I used my fingers as a guide, to give me an idea as to where the rice was moving on the plate, and to “see” just how much I had on my fork at any one bite. My fingers were also a gauge, to “see” just how drippy and messy a particular bite might be.
All through dinner, I have to say, that I felt pretty unsettled. I couldn’t get that nervous stomach to go away, and my eyes felt like they were straining to see, so much that I started to get flashes of light, almost like I was having a head rush. It was almost more pleasant to close my eyes, for then I knew that, “of course it is dark, my eyes are closed.” It didn’t feel as foreign.
We all passed on dessert, which for me is usually a main part of my diet, but, I honestly had reached my limit. I definitely appreciated the experience, but I was feeling like I had reached my maximum dis-comfort level.
Although this wasn’t the most relaxing and enjoyable of dining experiences, it was the most enlightening. You never can imagine what it is really like for the visually impaired until you do something like this. A blindfold doesn’t cut it. This was truly a remarkable experience, and it made me feel both thankful that I have my sight and also amazed by those who are without it and their ability to continue normal lives. It was also interesting to be in this situation; the visually impaired were the ones, comfortable in their element, showing us, the sighted yet temporarily blind, the way.