Monday, April 28, 2008

Uetliberg - A Must Visit in Zurich!

view from Uetliberg Mountain

Jace on top of the tower

Yesterday, we took a day trip up to Uetliberg, a mountain in the heart of Zürich with panoramic views of the city and the surrounding region. Yesterday the weather was beautiful - warm but not hot, sunny, and just 'unheimlich schoen."

We took the S10 train all the way up to the Uetliberg stop. (See the map below) From there, you're only about 10-15 minutes to the summit, depending on how fit you are. After about 30 steps, I was ready to be carried, but I submitted to Jace's desire to hike all around and we spent the next 3-4 hours looking at the views and then slowly walking down the mountain until we got to the Uitikon Waldegg Bahnhoff. (That's Uitikon, not Wiedikon or Uetikon! Swiss cities are very similar, so make sure you get the right one - I messed up Dietikon and Dietlikon on Saturday!!!)

Before the hike, we took in the views. Jace and I climbed the tower at the summit for the best view and from there you could see downtown Zürich in all its beauty. (You can play 'Where's Waldo' with Jace in the photo above!)

I would definitely recommend Uetliberg for visitors, expats, and anyone that loves a breathtaking view.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Culinary Encouragement - "Zwei Grosse"

I left for Boston the day before the big Sechlauten fest last week. It's a big event (you get half a day off work) in which the Swiss burn an effigy of a snowman filled with explosives and how long it lasts determines how long winter will be.

No, I'm not kidding, you read that right, I know! It's way, way better then some silly animal that tells how long winter will last! It ended up raining on the day, so Jace didn't get any photos of the event. But alas, the snowman says summer will be very short. Go figure.

Nevertheless, missing the big event didn't mean I had to miss out on the pre-event yumminess. Jace and I went for a nice walk, being the first non-rainy day of Spring, and we took in the sites and smells of the pre-day madness. They have all kinds of lollies available (licorice, sugar drops, chocolate, etc.), something that looks like a lamington but is instead filled with cream, and whatever those cakes are in the first photo. Naturally, I was wooed by the sugar covered almonds (Gebrannte Mandeln). Ummm, I can taste them now. Too bad Jace didn't get to taste them - sorry babe! We'll be going again next year for sure!

Speaking of food, here's another great Jace moment for all of his fans.

Yesterday, Jace took me out for dinner as it was his first payday. We walked all around town and eventually settled on this place that he said he'd been to the week I was away - a very typically Swiss restaurant. Now it's times like these that I try to push Jace out of his shell and get him to use his German a bit more. Ordering is pretty easy... so usually I'll nudge him to try out a sentence here and there, and more often than not he will just point at the menu or say the name of the food instead of a full sentence.

So yesterday, we sit down at the table and he points in the menu to brag about the HUGE steak he had last week (for 40 francs!) and the lady comes to take our drink order. I'm not quite ready yet so I look at Jace and she looks at him and he looks at me and I think, "Fine, I'll just order him a diet coke... and me a..." but then, what does he do?!

He looks at her calmly says, "Zwei grosse" and motions with his hands to show just how big he really wants the two beers he just ordered and before he can finish she's off and running to deliver.

Jessica (jaw agape...): "What the... "

Jace (nonchalantly): "I just ordered us two beers."

Jessica: "Uh, yeah... I know... I see Heidi over there filling the steins... uh, where'd you learn that, Rosetta Stone?!?"

Jace: "That's how you do it."

I couldn't even respond... that's all I needed to know. The drier the tongue, the better the tongue. Are we seeing a trend with beer yet?! Hummm..

Anyway, we'll take another "zwei grosse" over here please!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

On its way to Antwerp

We just received notice last week that our stuff is on a ship on its way to Antwerp. Actually, I think it arrived there on the 19th. Then we have to wait about 7-10 days for it to travel down to us. I have heard that it could travel by boat for a major portion of the European trek as well but because Jace and I can't agree which city it would come to via boat I have promised that I won't blog about it. If anyone knows and would like to settle the score, that would be great. More than likely it will be by truck, but I do like the idea of our things floating on down to us in Zürich. Don't even think about it sinking... we never want to think about that!

Things are going great here. Spring has sprung and the trees are finally starting to get green and the flowers and blooming. While I was in Boston last week, I took a mental picture of how Spring-like Boston was and I have compared it to here. I will now gloat and say that our Spring sprung way before yours and our trees are way nicer... yeah, take that.

Being in Boston for the week allowed me to sharply compare our new lifestyle with the old - and let's just say that I am really glad that we are here now. We loved Boston, and although it's often touted as a very European US city, let's face it - it is not Europe. The major things that got to me are these... the inefficiency of public transportation, bums asking for 'spare change' on every corner even though their shoes and clothes look way newer and nicer than mine, and the dirty streets. There are some things that I miss though - in general cheap food and Starbucks (although you may be paying for it in the poorer quality), more buying power in general (thank you poor performing US dollar), and the multicultural crowd.

Now if only I could find those old fashioned donuts from Starbucks in Zürich... um, thank you Boston for those 5 extra lbs. I brought back! Yum...

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

My run-in with a Swiss Army pocket knife

Today, while waiting for the train, minding my own business, trying to avoid all the smokers, the funniest, most Swiss thing happened to me.

I was sitting on a bench on the train platform, waiting for the ever punctual S12 and minding my own business, when all of a sudden the gentleman sitting next to me leaned over and ever so coolly and calmly displayed his Swiss Army pocket knife.

Now, don't freak out! Switzerland is probably the safest place on Earth. I don't think the Swiss even know real crime - I think not recycling properly is their number one offense. Therefore when I looked more carefully, I wasn't surprised to see that that indeed it wasn't the knife tool that he was displaying, but rather the scissors.

Then I realized what else he had in his hand - my jeans... more specifically a long string that was the unraveling off the back of my jeans. In the US, this style is acceptable. Long jeans are worn by all and the whole scraggly look they get when they're worn down over time is even fashionable... but I have noticed here that no one has this problem. Everyone no doubt has a seamstress named Maud that takes care of this issue for them here. (Hey Maud - give me a call, you know the number...)

Then to my surprise he asked me politely (in Swiss German - how I understood I have no idea, perhaps the whole theatric drama of it all helped my understanding), "Do you mind if I cut this before you trip?"

And of course, I signed with relief and said "Yes, please!" And he did! And I didn't trip and die! And for that I am forever grateful and find myself now yearning for my own Swiss Army knife so that I, too, can do the common man some good... Yes, perhaps I'll even get one with a USB memory stick....!

Man, I love the Swiss.

Half-Fare Cards... they get you half priced fare.

Today I went to the train station to buy a half-fare card. I read somewhere that these cards are the best deal in Zürich, if not the best deal in public transportation - like EVER. And coming from a girl that likes a good deal, I have to agree.

Basically, the card does what it says it does... (birds chirping, breeze blowing... silence..)

Ok. That's fine. I'll explain - the half-fare card gives you half priced fare anywhere within Switzerland and to some destinations in Germany and Austria on pretty much any kind of transportation. (Check the ever so clever "synoptic map" for exact destinations...)

You wanna travel with the bus? BAM - half price. You wanna go somewhere on the train? BAM - half price, baby. How about from Zürich to Munich and back? KABLAM - half priced fare. Oh how I wish you all could have heard the noises I made for those in my head.

The cards cost 150 francs for one year, 250 for two or 350 for three years for adults. I especially love this calculator on the SBB site. It plays to what Jace calls my 'Cheap Charlie' personality and shows you exactly how quickly you'll make back the 150 francs you spent on the card.

Being a tight wad, I took it upon myself to find the fastest way to get my card's worth... basically I have to take two trips back and forth to Berlin within the year... or two to Cologne, or three to Vienna.. you get the picture. Or I could just use it to go to work everyday (borrrinnnng...) and spread the cost out across the year. Then again, Berlin would be awfully nice...

Before you start traveling, emphasis on before, run to the train station and get yourself one of these half-fare cards. You can also order it online but because you need to hand over a passport photo and a wad of cash you might as well do it in person. In about 10 days, you will receive your card in the mail - then let them try to hold you back, you adventure lover you.

Full details regarding the half-fare card available on the SBB website. Happy trails!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Daily routine in Zurich

This morning I got up early and walked Jace to work. He had training nearby today so he didn't have to take the train in to work. I wake up early because I like it and because it gets me up at a reasonable hour so that I don't feel like a college dropout. Plus, it's lovely in the morning. The morning light is especially beautiful because you can really see the mountains in the distance south of Zürich more clearly. I took this photo today.

After I walked him around the lake, I stopped by the Burkliplatz Market on my way back to the apartment. I wasn't feeling well enough to take some photos but there were lots of lovely things there (flowers, plants, cheese, bread, fruit and vegetables, etc.) and I'll definitely take photos next time.

My daily routine has now become as follows:

8 - 9 am : Walk Jace to work/Bahnhof and run errands on the way back

9 am - 10 am: Update blog and read blog subscriptions, read Zurich yahoo group, drink at least 3 cups of Lipton Earl Grey tea with milk and sugar using ingenuiTEA, eat yogurt with berries or fruit flavored quark

10 am - noon: Apply for jobs, write correspondence or interview depending on the day. (So far some good prospects...)

noon - 2 pm: Small adventure - only small for now because I'm getting over this cold... so I've done some really fun things like transfer money, find the post office, go grocery shopping (or set up online shopping lists for later!), etc. It's fun how small things are adventures when you're in a foreign place!

2pm - 6pm is usually unplanned... but since I am on the job hunt, I am usually researching or applying for things. If anyone has any hots leads in Zürich for an online marketing specialist, send them my way!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Yes, that is SNOW in April!

When I walked Jace to the Bahnhof this morning, we were dumbfounded that not only was it freezing cold, but that there was snow on the cars, grass and mountains in the distance. Yes, it is April and that is snow. (Click the image to enlarge)
The hills of Zürich's west - covered in snow, in April.

I went out early with him, despite having a cold still, so that I could help him get a new weekly pass. I am feeling pretty confident with my German lately - watching TV shows and understanding the whole plot and dialogue exchange, calling the Migration department to ask a few questions, interviewing in German, etc. But, as oftentimes happens, as soon as I asked for a new weekly pass for Jace, the gentleman at the counter switched to English and pretended as though I had never attempted German... Pet peeve you say? Yes, yes indeed. I would say that.

No doubt they're just being helpful because all Swiss seem to speak impeccable English. But not all Swiss are so. Jace's work actually goes out of their way to make sure that their international staff learn German and learn Swiss culture. Amen to that I say. Jace is really coming along too, and he'll start lessons any day now through work. So far he really enjoys the Swiss culture, for example, here's the exchange we had on Friday night around 11:30 pm.

Scene: Jace rings bell and door opens ajar.

Jace: "Dij jew know that you can drink beer on the train here?"

Jessica: "Um, no, no I had no idea."

(Door is pushed open, coat is dropped, bag is dropped, beer is presented.)

Jace: "Here you want some? Did you know you can drink beer on the train?"

Jessica: "So I hear... "

Jace: "Well, you can. It's not illegal or anything. Everyone is drinking their beer on the trains... I told my mate, 'No, no we can't go on the train with the beer and he said it's ok and then when I got on the ticket guy stared and me an' I waved the beer at him and it was ok. It's not illegal or anything. I love the Swiss.... ' "

(Here's the culprit now!)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Nach Zug mit dem Zug

Literally, that means "To Train with the Train"... But because Zug is also a city (one just 30 minutes south of Zürich), it also means "To Zug by Train." Hence you can understand my predicament when buying tickets to Zug for a recent interview. The gentleman at the train station counter kept telling me that the train (Zug) was small and I was like "Dude, I can see the trains out there, that's not small!" and finally I got it that he was saying the city (also Zug) was small and I could get around it quite quickly so I didn't need to get there that early. Then I said it was an interview and he said, "Well, you can't be late then! No you can't! Go early..." So of course I did.

Getting around is definitely not a problem in Switzerland. The train system is amazing. You can get anywhere you want, quickly, safely, and above all efficiently. The trains always run on time and as our relocation consultant said, if they're late, they'll put a notice in the paper tomorrow, no doubt as both proof (in case you can't convince your boss... "No, really, boss, the train was late.. Yes, I know that doesn't happen in Switzerland but check out this notice in the paper... Yeah, that's right. I told you. It was late." ) and as a potential threat to the train drivers ("You think you're going to finish that ciggie, do ya? Well that means you'll be pulling into the last station 2 minutes late and well, I won't hesitate to tell everyone tomorrow you know... That's right, front page news for the likes of you miscreants.".

Anyway, Zug is very pretty and quaint. It's indeed a very small city, but because it's a tax haven a lot of multinational companies (Siemens is one example) have built their offices there. I recommend a walk around the old part of the city as well as to the church on the hill - great view up top. Here are some photos from our jaunt around Zug after the interview last week.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Temporary Apartment

We have finally moved into the temporary apartment. It's great because we're no longer cramped into the hotel and we can cook our own meals and throw dirty laundry around without feeling guilty. Yes, it is bye bye to the maid but alas no job yet so I've got plenty of freetime.

The temporary apartment is located in Seefeld which is the east side of Zürich and very close to the Zürichsee. (See map below) It's easy to get around the city from here as everything is within a 15-30 minute walk - again Zürich isn't that big! It's really close to public transport, too. So Jace just has to walk down the street about 5 minutes to get to the train station where he takes a 15 minute train to work. And I can get on all kinds of trams if I don't want to walk around during the day and as we did last night, we can always walk along the lake as it's just at our door.

This is a really nice part of town, our relocation consultant Suzanne said, and apartments usually rent out for about $3000 per month for even just a one bedroom. This apartment is owned by Jace's company so we get it 'gratis' or free for 60 days. We'll probably only stay for 30, depending on when our stuff arrives, as we have already found a place in Urdorf that we're going to rent out starting May 1st.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Week 1 in Zürich

Hotel du Theatre in ZurichOur temporary apartment wasn't ready for the first week of our stay in Zürich, so instead we stayed at the Hotel du Theatre near Central station in Zürich. It was lovely and I'd highly recommend it. Just watch out as the breakfasts are incredibly tempting but not free like complementary breakfasts at US hotels! (We only ate there once since it was 14 fr/person for breakfast in the hotel!)

From the hotel, we were able to walk all over and really experience the best of Zürich - the Bahnhofstrasse with all of it's fancy shops and stores, the river and see area, the Zoo, the Kunsthaus (Zürich's art museum), and the lovely downtown area in general. And boy did we walk all over! I would highly recommend that you experience Zürich by foot. It's not at all a big city and even if you need a bit of help the trams are all over Kreis 10 (the downtown area - literally section 10) and you can always hop on and off if you have a Tageskarte (daily card) that costs only 7.80 fr.

We had some lovely days to explore and get orientated in Zürich... and it also gave us plenty of time to find out where we wanted to live as well as work... more soon!
View of Zurich's east bank
A Swan on the Zurichsee
Grossmunster ChurchJessica and Jace by ZurichseeLooking over the Zurichsee towards the Southeast

Getting the Swiss Visa

I have to start by saying that the move to Zürich so far has been unusually easy. We've moved a lot, and this has by far been the easiest, probably easier than any cross city move we've done even. A lot of that has to do with the fact that my husband's company has provided us with a relocation consultant to help us with the move - Touchdown Relocation Services AG. Basically they've organized everything for us, from the visa to hiring a mover and then also everything on Swiss soil such as finding an apartment and getting registered. Let's just say, they've been more than great.

The most important item that you'll want to take care of before you leave is your Swiss visa. As in our case, once the Swiss government approved my husband to work in Switzerland, they sent (through his employer) a letter that said that he and I could apply for a Swiss visa. This letter is then used to send off or take to the consulate to apply for the visa. We had to send this letter, our passports, a completed application, a photo, an SASE (we did a return Fedex envelope) and I believe $50 per applicant (check the Swiss Consultate website) to get our visa. It took approximately 10 days to receive our passports with the new visas inside back in the mail... it's fast! And if you have questions, call the Consulate. They were helpful and easy to reach.

The new Swiss visa in your passport is then used to get you into the country as well as register you in your canton. Within 8 days of your arrival in Switzerland, you need to register with your canton so that they can start the application for your long term residence permit. Go to the Cantonal Office within your municipality where you'll live in Zürich with your passport and visa, the letter from the Swiss government referenced above that says you can work there, approximately 20 fr/person for registration, and just in case the following: marriage certificate, birth certificate, police clearance and a bit of patience. We did not need all this in the end, but depending on your canton, you might need this and more.

Afterwards, we were given a temporary permit that we need to carry with us at all times until we receive our permanent permit, which will last up to one year. We'll also have to unregister in the old canton and re-register in the new canton if we move cantons at any time. All in all, painless. We got to the Cantonal Office at 8:30 am which surely helped as there was absolutely no line! Now, we're ready to live and work in Zürich (or at least Jace is, more on that later...)!

(By the way, depending on where you're coming from, these steps could be different. But in the US, this is what we did...Please do not use this blog as your only reference - perhaps I just need to say I won't be liable for any mistakes you might make if you don't get professional assistance!)

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You're moving where?... Switzerland?!

My husband and I have always wanted to live in Europe. That's the last stop in our travel adventure and we have been looking for an opportunity to go - and alas, the right opportunity came our direction and we grabbed it. So a week ago we moved to Zürich, Switzerland to start our next chapter.

We liked the idea of moving to Zürich because it's continuously well ranked as one of the 'best quality of life' cities in the world... actually it was number one in 2006. It's close to everything Europe has to offer... actually right smack dab in the middle of it all. And it's got everything - water, mountains, hiking, biking, big name companies to work for, excellent roads (very important to my husband!), awesome public transportation, security and safety for all, socialized health care, and of course delicious chocolate!

I will document our stories in Switzerland and in Europe here for family and friends to keep up with our adventures and for new friends alike that may be moving to Switzerland or just want to know a bit more about the area... here is our Swiss Story.

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