Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lauterbrunnental

A week after arriving in Switzerland, Joel and I went to do a hike from Kleine Scheidegg to Männlichen and then on to Wengen.  This hike is in the Jungfrau Region of the Alps and it was even more magnificent than expected.
Fresh Alpine Air
The Lauterrunnental
(tal means valley)
The North Face of The Eiger shrouded in clouds.
Along the path
Wildflowers photographed by Joel
Happy Cows
And friendly!
Joel on the way up to Männlichen
On the top!  Literally in the clouds.
About to hike down 3000 feet in one hour.  As in straight down!
Clearly needed Avalanche Gates
More wildflowers
Just a day in the Alps
Picture perfect mountains
About half way down.  Trees!  
Alpenglow
Miraculously we got on the last train out of Wengen and made all of the final connections back to Adliswil.  Talk about lucky! 
If you would like to visit Kleine Scheidegg and the Jungfrau Region, here are a few tips. 

Joel got the book Classic Walks in Western Europe at Powell's before we left and this was the first walk we did from the book.  Highly recommended!

We were surprised at how sore we were after this walk.  Hiking straight down uses completely different muscles, so be prepared to take it easy for a few days afterward, or train yourself adequately ahead of time.  

Half-Fare Travelcard holders can save money on train fare with the Tageskarte (Day Pass) from SBB.  The Tageskarte will get you all the way to Wengen and then you have only to pay 12 CHF for the private Jungfrau Railway to Kleine Scheidegg.  

Not a Half-Fare Travelcard holder?  SBB has offers for visitors from abroad.  For an even thriftier approach, look into the Eurail Pass before leaving home as Swiss Trains, like everything else, are notoriously expensive.  

However, once you get there, it's like those Mastercard commercials. Utterly priceless!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Beach Day on Lake Zurich

Just in the nick of time, summer decided to show itself!  Last weekend was the final weekend of summer before school started.  It was invigorating to have three days of sun, heat and delightfully warm evenings.  

Saturday we went to the Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen.  For those of us who don't speak German, that means Tiefenbrunnen Beach.

It was fabulous.  There are showers, grassy areas to put your beach towel, lockers, steps going down into the lake, floating docks, a restaurant and not one reason not to stay all day.  You can even rent an umbrella!  
The view overhead
View to the left
View straight ahead
What day to the beach would be complete without a little picnic?  The already hardboiled "Pique-nique" eggs available at the store are a such a glittery and shiny gold they make me feel like I'm in Willy Wonka's factory.  Yay.
I read many long New Yorker articles and watched the clouds change shape in the sky during my day at the beach. It was just what the doctor ordered following the most stressful summer of waiting for work permits, moving, visa applications and all that madness. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ridiculously Expensive

You've probably heard that Switzerland is expensive.  Maybe from a friend who stopped over while backpacking through Europe in college, or maybe you've been here yourself.  Either way, I'm here to tell you it's true.  Switzerland can be insanely expensive.  After a while, you get to know where to go and how to shop, but on the whole, you can count on paying more than you would elsewhere. A little joke of mine is that everything costs double.  The other day, after we opened our bank account, we walked past, and noticed for the first time, the "2 Franc Store."  As in the Dollar Store.  

Probably the most expensive thing here is dining out. If you live here, you can avoid it, but if you're a visitor, it will bankrupt you. Last week J and I went out to dinner with Romy, from Half the Sugar Bowl, and her husband.  This was our first experience eating out since arriving in Switzerland. We took out plenty of cash, expecting high prices, but looking forward to meeting some other Anglophones right here in the neighborhood. Our neighbors are lovely people. And the menu? Completely blew me out of the water. We paid $20 for a basic cheeseburger! Is that a typo you ask? No. Luckily I was not very hungry, so Joel and I opted to share our solid gold burger. 
Isn't the sparkler thing a nice touch?

Monday, August 16, 2010

More Chocolate Than You Can Shake A Stick At

Naturally one of the great benefits of living in Switzerland is being surrounded by more chocolate than you can shake a stick at! Tonight before after dinner, J and I had a few squares of banana chocolate! Have you ever heard of such a thing? It was tasty, rich milk chocolate with banana flavored crème filling. There really is just about every kind of chocolate you can imagine. Naturally one of the great drawbacks of living in Switzerland is the constant threat the surrounding chocolate poses to one's waistline!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Laundry

As anyone who has lived abroad can tell you, laundry is certainly one of the most challenging aspects of expat living.  It doesn't seem like something that would be a big deal, but it is.  It is a very big deal.
Ready to wash.  Detergent and laundry card are ready to go!
In Switzerland, each apartment building handles laundry differently. Some buildings, like ours (thank goodness) are first come, first served when it comes to laundry.  In other buildings there is a roster where one must sign up.  In others, there are assigned days for each apartment.  Typically when this is the case, each tenant is given full use of the laundry room for one day every three weeks or so!  Just to keep things exciting, it's a date, not a day that you're given.  So you might wind up having a Thursday, in which case you'd be at work most of the day and then tasked with cramming 8 or 9 loads of laundry in before midnight.  No thank you!

Regardless of when you can do laundry, there are all sorts of rules. In Neuchâtel, the laundry room was locked at 10 pm and all day Sunday. Apparently the concierge in that building was not aware that Sunday is the universal day for doing laundry. Apparently I had never considered laundry "work," nor lived in such a religious place.  Go figure.  

At any rate, I can't really read the rules in my current laundry room. Here's a sampling of the signs I'm wondering about.
I can see that I'm not supposed to do laundry after 10 pm.  Standard enough.  I wonder what the rest says.  Clearly there are some really bright ideas outlined in this rule list.  That man has a lightbulb over his head, that's how I know.
I did manage to gather from this sign that there is a washer and dryer for the red side and another for the blue side.  
It's helpful that this sign is in blue and the other one is in red.
Unfortunately, I couldn't remember what side I live on, so I just did my laundry in the empty machine, which is the red side machine.  Side of what you ask?  Oh, you'll see.

That's when the fun really began.  Do I put my detergent tablet in the little compartment up top or straight in with the clothes?  What does all of this mean?
Hell if I know.
In the end, I put my laundry tablets up top and it seemed to work out fine. Then I went upstairs and set a timer to make sure I am there the moment the cycle finishes.
Action shot.  I can't help but be puzzled by the total lack of suds.
On the way up, I checked to see which "side" I live on. Our apartment is up the stairs to the left, so it turns out I live on the "blue" side.  I can't believe it.  First load and I'm already breaking the rules!  
The lobby is nothing short of hideous.  A far cry from the lovely Silver Court!

Arrival

Our arrival in Switzerland two weeks ago seems like a decade ago. We have as been busy as little bees! We start work full time tomorrow. What happened to summer? Did it fly by or never arrive? I'm going with the latter.

We flew to Zurich July 30th on standby with my wonderful friend Andrea who works for a big airline company.  Miraculously we managed to check 8 huge, overweight pieces of baggage and boxes and got on all of our flights with no problems!  As far as Andrea's getting back to the US on time, that's another story...she had a longer than expected mini-vacation in Zurich.  Uh oh.

We were so surprised to see that our administrator had arranged our apartment so that it was all ready for us when we arrived.  


It was also a big surprise to see our names are on little engraved plaques all over the place - the entry intercom, next to our door, on our mailbox.  So official.  So Swiss.


Although Andrea was effectively stuck here, that meant we had plenty of time to sightsee in Zurich.  One of the funniest passages in our Rick Steves' Switzerland book is about the hypodermic needle machine in Central Zurich.  Rick notes that Switzerland has very progressive drug policies and that doing so has helped to clean up a bit of the drug problem in the country, making it safer for everyone.  He is very tongue in cheek when he writes, "Go ahead, buy a box [of needles] - it's about the cheapest souvenir you can purchase in Zurich."  We did not buy a box as we felt it was best to leave them for the heroin junkies.  But we did stop for a pic with the machine.  Probably the most offensive snapshot possible!

It never hurts to arrive on the eve of the National Day, so we were at a fabulous paella party within 48 hours of arrival, hosted by the brother-in-law of our administrator, Susanne.  To make it extra fun, we took a cable car up to Felsenegg and hiked to the party over two hills.
Walking along.

The patio all ready for the revelers.


Paella in progress.

After dessert, it started to rain, so a tarp was put up.  And when the tarp wasn't enough we grabbed the wine and made a run for it inside.


It was quite the storm!  The dragon downspouts put on quite a show.  As did the lightning!


Once it cleared up, we headed up the hill, watched the fireworks and then went to a big party in a barn!

Of course, that only covers the first two days.  I'll catch up.  Maybe this afternoon.  Maybe later.

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