Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Swiss' Lucky Number 13

Zurich Tram 13 - Photo by Gerome (ggerome) on Flickr

Did you know that there is actually a name for the fear associated with the number 13? Oh yes, it is called Triskaidekaphobia.

Now, I don't have a problem with this, being born on the 13th of July (no gifts, please...) I am accustomed to the Friday the 13th birthdays. Nothing seriously has gone bad yet...right? (Ps. If I were afraid of Friday the 13th, I would have friggatriskaidekaphobia.)

But a lot of cultures are scared to death by 13 and its magical powers. For example, I even got used to the lack of floor 13 in South Korea where they take the superstition to new heights. And wikipedia says that lots of cultures cut out the 13th floor and avoid groupings of 13 like the plague. Some Asian businessmen won't even conduct a meeting or business lunch if there are thirteen people in attendance.

All except the Swiss.... I realized the other day, that contrary to most countries, the Swiss seem to have an affinity for the number 13.
All these cultures fear 13, but the Swiss seem to be unfazed... interesting.

I am sure there are more... do you have an example of how the Swiss don't fear the number 13?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Update: Smoking Vote in Zurich

As an update to my Smoking Laws in Switzerland post on the 23rd of September, I am very happy to announce that ' Voters in and around Zurich have voted against allowing people to smoke in cafes and restaurants, supporting an initiative to protect passive smokers.' - source Swissinfo.ch.


As the 'News' paper this morning says on the front page, 'The People are sending smokers into the fresh air!' Clever, clever, and long overdue. Unfortunately, it doesn't mentioned in either of the articles when the new legislation will be enforced... but we will soon be able to breath again (at least in cafes and restaurants in Zurich and Basel!)

Read the full article.

Go on... Guess! What is this Swiss thing?

Three guesses what this is!

A Gnome door? Nope! ... Good guess though. Ok here is some more detail.

A fancy Swiss wind ornament? ... Nope!... Want more?

A drain for excess rain on one's patio? Nope!... Ok... Ok. Stop the crying. I will tell you.

Ok... prepare yourself.

It is a kitty staircase! (Ok... um, you can stop laughing now... No I am serious. Stop laughing. I am completely, 100% serious... thank you... the milk coming out of your nose was not attractive by the way...)

Yes, that is right. Switzerland is definately a Cat paradise. If you are a cat lover and you didn't happen to get a ground floor apartment, don't stress! Kitty can be let in and out with ease by using the ever clever and ingenious kitty staircase. These are very popular and while I have yet to see a cat use one (do they take it slowly or bolt up it? I am dying to know), I know that they do because there are kitties out and about everywhere here... You still have to open up the door, but the rest is up to kitty.

Now, I love kitties, but don't you think it would be hilarious to paint a dog with it's mouth wide open as the opening... like this...
LOL. Oh It kills me. Ps. You don't have to tell me that I have way too much time on my hands!

Ok, just to make sure you know my true intentions, this is what would rather do...But admit it, this is way funnier:
Ps. This is all in Microsoft Paint. So don't be calling the cops on me if some teenage hooligan with a great sense of humor is seen spray painting this genius around the neighborhood. ;)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Switzerland: All aboard for the walk to school!

Here is a quick followup to the post on Sept. 15 - Welcome to Fall - School has started.

An article came across my Google reader that says a whopping 7 out of 10 students walk to school in Switzerland! Wow... compared to only 10% in the US. Of course the geography here has something to do with it - schools are generally closer to home than in the States, and Switzerland is way safer than the US it seems... but still, that number just blows by mind... 70%... get those kiddies some good shoes. ;)

Switzerland: All aboard for the walk to school!: "In Switzerland walking is still the most important mode of transport during the period of compulsory schooling. Seven out of ten primary school children walk to school, compared with only ten per cent of schoolchildren in the United States."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Check out this Amazing Swiss Art

I recently went to the Museum of Art here in Zurich and saw this piece. I love art.Look at this... isn't it beautiful? All the pretty colors. It is really nice, isn't it?
Here is another angle. When I took this photo at the Zurich art museum I thought to myself, "Man, that is such artistry... those colors!" And I knew I had to share it with my blog readers (all three of you, just kidding, I didn't forget you, Dad... all four of you!) ;)

This is another one by the same artist, but during the cubist influence. I think that the artist is indeed Swiss... or artists... yes, I think it was a group piece. I cannot remember really.

Look how the shapes just meld into each other. It is like they are melting together... like they are fluid... like solid, but fluid... yes, all at once even. Do you know what I mean?

Oh wait! This is not art at all! Silly me! I got my photos all mixed up. Damn Picasa...

This is actually art, just nothing you will see at the Zurich Art Museum. Instead it is art of the chocolate variety and some days it is the most beautiful (and yummy!) thing in the whole wide world. Don't you agree...? And for some reason, I always have room in my budget for this kind of art... ;)

Actually, I wanted to quickly say thanks to all of my blog readers! It has been an amazing (record setting!) month and I enjoy sharing our Swisstory with you and getting to know you all better through your comments and individual blogs. Thanks for checking in with crazy ol' me so often and making living abroad so enriching and blogging such a fun hobby.

Now before I tear up, go grab a toblerone and enjoy the weekend everyone. I know I will! Yum... ;)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Meet some Swiss MEAT!

Today I will recount a recent shopping trip to my local Migros...Allow me to give you a play by play, movie script style.

Enter Jessica.
Scene: Migros Meat Section.


Jessica: La. la. la. Just another day in the Swiss supermarket. Oh, here is some delicious meat. I think I might make Jace a nice steak for dinner - Humm, humm... what do we have here...These look nice and lean.
What a minute! What do we have here?!?! This is not beef?!

How do I know? I know because the Swiss put an animal outline on the packages so you know that it's cow or pig or sheep. Clever, clever Swiss. Oh that and I can read and understand German, duh... Straus it says, now let's see... that is... um... what is that!? Just succumb to the outline, Jessica. . . let go... be a smarty pants some other day.

Woah! That is ostrich! Wowzers. Since when do we have an ostrich section...? Interesting. Well, moving on, how about this one...

This one is not difficult as it is in English already - but HORSE MEAT??! No.. it can't be. I thought they only made glue out those beautiful, majestic show ponies.
Well aw be. That is definately a horse there... how much does horse meat run around these parts? Well CHF 49 per kilo, that's what. Holy bejesus - horse is expensive stuff.

Voice over says:
Wikipedia says, "In French, the word entrecôte denotes a premium cut of beef used for steaks and roasts."

Shot pans out and...
Jessica raises her eyebrows, wondering how much the voiceover dude got paid for this meat gig, as she puts the meat back on the shelf, shakes her head and wonders also why more people are not taking photos of meat at the supermarket... she then slowly pushes the cart away, as she thinks about becoming a vegetarian.


Ps. Sorry to all the feed-readers that thought this post was about hunky Swiss men... perhaps another day. ;)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Six Months in Switzerland - To the Day.

Wow. We have been in Switzerland for six months. It boggles my mind down to the very last ... well, mind particle. (They are very, very small, pretty much undiscovered actually, brain parts, so very, very tiny...)

And since it is very late and my mind particles are obviously not what they used to be - too much chocolate, that must be it... it is killing the mind particles... - I will leave it to the photos to tell our story of living in Switzerland for the last SIX WHOLE MONTHS! Where does the time go... let's ask the mind particles... or... perhaps not.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Smoking Laws in Switzerland

Inspired by one of my new favorite Swiss expat blogs, One Big Yodel (I just love her writing...), I thought I would share my two cents about smoking laws in Switzerland.

Basically, Switzerland is one of the last places in Europe to have such loose smoking regulations. Smokers seem to be everywhere here - at the train station, in restaurants, out the front of the office, on the streets... you name it. And why? Because frankly, they can. As this public smoking map from Budget Travel shows, basically if you got it you can smoke it where you like it in CH.

Oh yes, you are seeing that correctly. Only Belarus and Turkey have smoking laws - or the lack thereof - similar to Switzerland.

Now, I appreciate that smokers have rights too, but when their rights infringe upon those of non-smokers, I have a problem.

This is exactly the reason behind upcoming changes in the smoking regulations, and the most urgent includes a vote on September 28th in which the people of Zurich will be able to vote on smoking regulations in public restaurants. So it's not a complete smoking ban a la New York City, but it is a start.

Zurich will vote on two things.
  1. Smoke free dining: Should restaurants and eating establishments be smoke free, and therefore have smoking areas for smokers - separate rooms? Yes/No ... and

  2. As an alternative, should restaurants be able to decide for themselves whether to be smoke free or not - meaning whether or not to ban smoking altogether or have smoking rooms or allow smoking. This counter was created because a lot of smaller establishments don't believe they can afford separate smoking areas, and therefore they would be forced to be smoke free or smoking establishments - thereby losing at least some customers along the way if forced to create smoking areas.
You can read more about the upcoming vote here on the Lung League, (in German): http://www.rauchfreie-restaurants.ch/website.asp

I am hoping that non-smokers will get a bit more fresh air after Sept. 28th.

What do you think? Will they vote yes for the new initiative or no?

More reading in English:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Quick & Easy Fall Fondue

Oh yes, it is officially Fall. If the cooler temperatures and sweater layers didn't give you a hint, just take a look in your supermarket. All of the Fall foods are out. There are displays with sauces and fixings for your favorite wild game (what is with the Swiss and venison, I ask you?) and some very interesting mushrooms...and all this is a sign that the really good eating is to come. Oh yes... it is time to get out the Fondue pot and Raclette grill.

I asked some co-workers about the whole fondue thing last week, and they said not to even try to make it myself... that it can be difficult and the cheese can get all watery. They instead recommended one of the pre-made fondue kits like one of those pictured below.

Basically you just add wine. Everything else except the bread (like the cheese, seasonings, more cheese, spices, and did I mention cheese?) is included , you just need to swish it all together in the Fondue pot and heat it up 'til all nice and gooey... Pretty nifty.

But I am assuming people make up their own delicious fondues, as I also found something called "Raclette & Fondue Seasoning" in the spice aisle. I tried to figure out what was in this, but all I could read was that it is a "Gewuertzmischung" - or seasoning mix. No help.

I cannot wait to dust off the ol' pot and fire up the raclette grill and gain at least 25.4 pounds this winter (because P.S. the Swiss only eat fondue and raclette from September to February. I have been told this by many a Swiss. My coworker even said that the Cheese Federation of Switzerland - or whatever, I just made that up - created a campaign a few years back to get the Swiss to do the melted cheese thing in the summer and they just weren't having it... go figure... so Fall and Winter it is...).

Only question now is... who wants to come to dinner?! ;)

Have you tried these pre-made mixes...??? Are they any good?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Panaché oder Radler?

Summer might be over now, but that only means that I have 9 months or so to prepare you for next summer in Switzerland, and that might not be enough. So let's start now.

One of my favorite drinks of late is the Shandy. For those of you who know it and me, you are probably shaking your head and saying, "Chick drink..." Then again, Jace, I told you that is not nice, and not always true... some men drink Shandys, right? RIGHT?!

What is a Shandy? I am glad you asked. Well, it is half beer and half lemonade, and I love it because it is super refreshing. In Switzerland you can order it using either the French name, Panaché, or the German equivalent, Radler. (Which is more popular in Zurich, I wonder??)

If you are a light weight like me, it allows you to drink along with the boys and hold out longer. Or, if people are far away, it makes you look like a big drinker, because usually the Radler comes in a bigger glass then just beers. Only up close can you see the lightness of the drink and know it ain't no beer. It is great though because once the waitress delivered the beers and I got the big Radler and Jace got a normal beer and boy did he have beer envy, just because mine came in a beer glass that shadowed his! (Insert Home Improvement style man grunts here...Awruf Awruf!)... until I told him it was a Radler at which point the teasing started and has never stopped.

Intriguingly enough, when I was in Vienna last and ordered one of these to go with my Kaiserschmarrn, it came premixed in a bottle. So it must be pretty popular actually. It was good, but I like beers on tap with my lemonade, thank you very much.

Oh, and before you say it. I know what you are thinking and just stop now. Of course there must be some food rule out there that says "do not eat pancakes and beer" or "Kaiserschmarrn and beer" but let me tell you, on a sticky, sweaty summer day everyone knows there is nothing better than a nice cold beer - mind just happens to be sweetened with a drop of lemonade. Ah, the Radler (hiding top right, below). Give it a go. Perhaps we will have an Indian summer yet, after all this miserable rain, and it will hit just the right spot!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Am I even doing this right? The Recycling Dilemma.

So I believe this weekend is the paper pickup. I really do not even look at the recycling schedule anymore... I just figure that whenever I see lots of paper, tied neatly and tidily arranged in piles on the curb in a fashion that would make any OCD Orderer proud, it is time to bundle up my recycling and get Jace to take it out.

Last month, I forgot to bundle it up (that's it, exile me now!), so I had a bit extra this time and it was starting to fill up my recycling cupboard (a must in Suisse), so out it came, time to be bundled... and to help I sang a happy bundling song while I bundled it all up.

"Bund-le, bund-le, who wants to bundle?!... We do, we do. everyone loves to bundle. Oh yeah. Bundle me up. Bund-le, bund-le, bund-le me up."

Ok, so there was no song but sometimes I wish their were, it would make monotonous work like this bearable. And if you like my lyrics, they are so copywrited so don't even think about it.

The one thing I like about the bundling though is playing with the string . It is like Christmas, but it comes once a month and instead of using the paper to wrap, I am wrapping the paper. Clever, isn't it? I know.

But really, I can't help but think that somehow I am doing this wrong. I read somewhere once that the envelopes have to be separated from the newspapers and that you can also recycle glossies, but all I ever seem to see on the curb is newspaper and cardboard. Can someone please tell me if I am even doing this right?!?! I would hate to be turned in to the Swiss Recycling Police. I heard they make you take out other people's compost as punishment for not following the rules. (Just kidding - there is no Recycling Police - I don't think... tell me there is no Recycling Police!)

Honestly though, do I get a gold star for my Swiss Paper Recycling or not?

.... now if only I could get Jace to more regularly recycle his coke bottles... it's a lost cause isn't it? ;)

(Ps. There are 7... or 8 (?) pizza boxes in there. Yes, that means we ate at least 14 pizzas in the last 2 months. Lord help me. But it is the best frozen pizza in the world - don't we all agree now? Get out there and get it if you haven't yet, just don't don't forget the spicy olive oil... oh and don't forget to recycle... ;)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Specialty Market at the Zurich Main Station

I love markets. Let it be known. I am a sucker for the little stalls and the smells and the idea that everything must be better just because someone behind a little counter is selling his or her wares to the public in a market setting. I would love to think that everything is locally grown, too. Ah the utopia...

After visiting the Burkliplatz Market in May, I really have not been to too many markets around Zurich - not unless you count the Burkliplatz Flea Market. However, while browsing the upcoming events in Zurich on the Zurich Tourism site, I read about the Specialty Market in Zurich in the Bahnhof that is held once a week on Wednesday evenings, and as it timed perfectly with my scheduled trip to Frankfurt last week, I decided to labor around the market with my heavy bags and laptop, taking in the sights and smells of the market as well as grabbing a bite to eat.

There is a bit of everything available for purchase: baked goods galore, cheeses from around Switzerland and Europe, sausages, flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables, chocolate covered fruit, tea, an assortment of olives, and much, much more. (Lots of great photos below...!)

I really liked the atmosphere, too - lots of people zipping around, buying things before catching their train home, and some others relaxing after a rough day with a beer from the beer hall on site accompanying their plate of raclette. (Must be Fall if raclette is out! I hear it is taboo in the summer!)

I bought a fresh made sandwich and a vine of fresh cherry tomatoes for my take along dinner and a sweet nut roll for dessert and it was all fresh and delicious.

I will go back - perhaps even tonight! - as there is a lot that I wanted to get that I couldn't- tea, for sure, as I saw lots of loose leaf, interesting varieties - as well as bags of spices at the same stand, and I think that Jace and I could enjoy some interesting picnic type dinners with some meats and cheeses from the market... not to mention a beer to wash it all down.

Pressed cakes - what are the names of these anyway?

Cheese glorious cheese! Here goat cheese.

Tessiner Berkäse, Alpen Gruyere and more Bergkäse... CHEESE.

Chocolate covered fruits.
Homemade or handmande pasta and noodles and dried sausages.

This was probably the busiest stand of them all - the bakery. They had all sorts of wonderful, delicious looking pastries, breads, and buns.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Anyone go to Knabenschiessen?

So yesterday was a (half-day) public holiday in Zurich called Knabenschiessen. Literally, the name means 'boys shooting' and as the German wikipedia says, "the holiday goes back to 1889 when over 5000 boys between the ages of 13 and 17 competed in a shooting contest in which the prize was a place on the King's security squad, with the title of Schützenkönig" or Protector of the king. Since 1991, girls can also compete (yes!). And I love that wiki goes on to say that "the entry fee to compete is CHF 16 and includes amunition... and a bratwurst." What are you waiting for boys and girls - go claim your prize and get your free sausage!

I told my co-worker that I was really excited to go and check out the event. I asked if he ever went and he said, "Nope" or at least the German equivalent, "Neiiiin." I told him that this was the opportunity of a lifetime." I really dragged it out... I told him, "I am so excited to participate in a holiday that is all about boys (and girls!) shooting at things." And after I laughed and he chuckled, he looked at me quite seriously and said:
"But why? In America, don't all the boys have guns there and they shoot each other every day?"

"Touché, my friend,Touché." I said... then I chuckled and changed the subject... fast.
Because let's just say, I am SO NOT FUNNY and I am not even touching that topic. After living through Columbine as an exchange student in Germany, I am done with trying to explain American brutality and the right to bear arms. Done. There is no point... because it makes absolutely no sense.

But back to the Swiss, you got to hand it to them for having some of the most unique (half day -that in itself is unique... don't give them a whole day - GOD NO! just half, just half) holidays. In the Spring you can watch them set a snowman effigy alight as they celebrate the end of Winter, and right as the weather changes again, they all take to the streets to celebrate a century old tradition (that happens to include shooting) and eat a wurst. Gotta love this country.

Unfortunately, just as I was about to head out to check out Knabenschiessen action, my brain kicked in and I checked the schedule for the day's events, only to find out it was all done by 3 pm. Darn it! The Chilbi, or fair activities, were still on as they went throughout the three day weekend, but I was not up to it. Next year I am so there though-for the competition, the rides, the wurst, you name it. I might even make a "Kiss the boys and make them cry" button and cross out "kiss" and write "Shoot." Well, then again, maybe not. I might just get myself into more trouble...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Welcome to Fall - School has started!

Schulanfang! Achtung Kinder!
(School is starting! Watch out for children!)
Summer is officially over, as is marked by the start of a new school season. There are these signs up all over Urdorf and similar posters all over Zurich, reminding everyone that school has started and that drivers especially should be mindful of all the kiddies going to and from school. At first I thought this strange, but then again, more kids here are apt to walk to school than in the States. For example, I have yet to see a school bus driving about, probably because public transport takes care of that, too. Ahh I miss the big yellow buses...

I had to laugh the first time I walked to the bus stop and I saw a few little girls, no older than 4, with big, HUGE backpacks on that were probably three times bigger than their entire torsos, making them look more like mini-backpackers than kindergartners. Add to this that I think all children bring a change of clothes with them to school everyday for gym, which they carry in a string taught bag on their fronts, and these little ones are completely out of balance, waddling to class.

The kindergartners are actually pretty easy to spot, considering they wear bright orange, reflective vests. It is especially cute when they go to cross the street, too, because the signs do work and drivers are very careful to stop for the wee ones.

Jace told me about a little girl, again maybe four (guessing though, but she was wearing the orange vest!), that stopped on one side of the road and waited for the coming car to stop, but then she didn't move. Although there were no other cars coming in the opposite direction at the moment, she waited a few seconds until a car did come and as soon as it stopped she looked both directions and only then did she cross. And guess what, the drivers didn't even move or wave her on or get frustrated as the cars lined up behind the first. They just waited. Isn't that great? I love how smart she was, too. They teach them well here! Then again, she probably was reminded to stop by helpful hints like these below.

These little footprints are really little, kid sized feet, and they are on both sides of the street, in strategic points on the way to school, reminding kids to stop and look before crossing. I especially love the painted reminders that are of bare feet, but I have yet to take a photo of those.

Welcome to Fall everyone. Welcome back to school Swiss style.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lindt Dark Chocolate 70% Cherry & Chili

When I reviewed Frey's Lemon & Black Pepper Dark Chocolate, I asked for some other hot tips on your favorite chocolates, and hot it was as three of you commented that you liked the Lindt Chili... and I have been on the lookout, but to date the only Lindt chili chocolate I could find was this - Lindt's Cherry & Chili with 70% Dark Chocolate solids.

And I have to admit, while it was good, I was expecting more heat, more kick. I kept saying to Jace, "It is not hot at all..." and he kept saying, "It is CHERRY and Chili" it is meant to be a bit sweet, I guess, but I wanted my tongue to tingle.

Despite the lack of tongue tingling, it is a nice chocolate with a nice cherry jelly filling and a hint of spice... I will keep looking for the Lindt Chili as I am sure it will make my Swiss Chocolates Top Ten, a list in the making, but I have to drag it out you see or else you will know what a true glutton I am! :) Thanks again to edimork, susan may, and naechstehaltestelle for the recommendation!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

You dirty, dirty See (Lake) you!

Jace and I walked along the Zurichsee two weekends ago, and we were perplexed by all the scuba divers on the lake and the garbage laying around the promenade. Then we realized that it was an organized cleaning, and there were hundreds of volunteers both on, under and by the lake cleaning up the mess made by Euro and Street Parade visitors as well as everyday summer sun seekers on the Zurich Lake.

Here is a wee movie I made using the latest Picasa 3 Upgrade. I highly recommend Picasa for organizing photos.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Austrian Kaiserschmarrn

WARNING: Reading this entry is going to make you extremely hungry and will make you want to go cook up some yummy pancakes or
even your own Kaiserschmarrn.... Don't blame me.
You have been warned!

While I was in Vienna last week, I went on the hunt for one of Austria's most popular desserts (or dinners, if you are like me and believe that "Breakfast for Dinner" is an entirely appropriate excuse to eat pancakes all day long...) - the Kaiserschmarrn.
According to Wikipedia, this dish is literally the "Emporer's Mishmash" ("Kaiser" + "Schmarrn"). I love the other translations for "Schmarrn", including "a mess, crumbs, a trifle, a nonsense, a fluff or even as a mild expletive." But let's just say there was only one expletive I kept repeating while eating this baby... "Damn... this is good."

I must clarify though, that while Wikipedia says that Kaiserschmarrn is a "pancake", and I agree that it looks a bit like a pancake, it is in no way, whatsoever a pancake.. no I mean it, REALLY it is not.

For starters, the Schmarrn is really eggy. It does not taste light and cakey when you eat it like a pancake does - instead it is dense and doughy, it sticks a bit to places you need to pick clean. Plus, when they are making this delectable treat, they split the sucker into pieces just before it is done and they fry it up a bit, so all the pieces get that nice crunchy crust all around... THIS IS PURE GENIUS.

You will see a lack of maple syrup with this dish, and although I missed that sticky nectar, I think it would not have fit the dish. Instead, Kaiserschmarrn is usually served hot (check) with powdered sugar (check), cinnamon (check), and apple and plum sauces (check). It is a really heavy dessert, so in the end I am glad I ate this as a meal on its own (just don't tell Jace I didn't get my meat and two veg!).

I got this beauty at the Mozart Cafe on Albertinaplatz 2 in Wien. I had to hunt it down, but I am glad I did... and the walking before and afterwards was probably a good idea in hindsight! :)

Next time you are in Austria, enjoy some Kaiserschmarrn and tell me what you think.

Bon Appetit!

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