Saturday, January 31, 2009

Stadelhofen beautiful?

Just chilling with the Stumble Upon today, and came across this... never looked at Stadelhofen as a beautiful subway, but from this vantage I have to agree... it is interesting.

Ps. Don't have Stumble Upon? Get it. You will never be bored again.
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Friday, January 30, 2009

Costa Cruise Day 5: Rhodes, Greece

Day 5 of the cruise took us to the island of Rhodes. I don't know if it was the walled fortress or the stone laid streets or the fact that the city is a World Heritage Site or the generous hospitality of the people of Rhodes, but I will come out and say that for the record Rhodes was my favorite.

Rhodes is a Roman city but much of what is seen today was built during Medieval times when the Knights Hospitaller rebuilt Rhodes as the 'European ideal' , and you can tell just by looking at the walled city and the remnants of a city gate that this place was meant to withstand some serious attacks.

Before I continue, I must note that Rhodes is also a cat city. If Athens has gone to the dogs, Rhodes has definately gone to the cats... there are cats EVERYWHERE!

It was both fun and challenging to walk around Rhodes due to the stone layed roads of Rhodes. :) I could not get enough of taking shots of the streets low to the ground.

While everywhere there are small, interesting details that make Rhodes unique, the major highlight of this walled city was the fortress, originally built by the Knights of Rhodes as the Palace of the Grand Master. We happened upon the entry going along the path less taken - that of the moat!

We went round and round until we happened upon a couple of drunk locals. I did some strange hand motions and said 'Fortress?' and the one responded cheekily in English... 'It is right behind you!' and I said, 'I know! But how do I get in?' and of course they responded in perfect English, despite inebriation the location of the entrance. Amazing. I guess that is what happens when only a small percentage of the world speaks Greek - they learn English!

The fortess was pretty huge and very interesting inside, being fully restored and renovated. I would recommend it. Just know that you need both a ticket for inside and a ticket to walk the walls and I think the place is only open until 11... so get there early!

After walking all around the fortress, we walked aimlessly around the city, waiting for lunch, taking in the scenes. The cobbled streets are so narrow that you are constantly dodging the scooters, of which there are many because the streets of the old town are mostly too narrow for big cars and trucks. We did not go outside of the old area, but I assume the newer part of Rhodes is more accomodating.

Tucked in amongst all the streets are little stone and brick houses with gardens and lots and lots of...


The main town square is where it is at to go shopping and grab a bite to eat or have a Greek coffee, but you will save significantly if you eat off the beaten path.

Around the fountain is where all the store keepers and restaurant owners do their best to push you into the shop come lunch time!
The highlight of our visit was going into the city's only original antique shop and buying a big brass fish that I fell in love with. The owners of the store were so hospitable that they offered us Greek coffee and water (always with water!), some cake that the woman had made that morning with pine nuts, and some mixed nuts and seeds. It was incredible. While this was going on, Jace leaned over to me and whispered, 'Um... just how much did that fish cost anyway?!' They were certainly pulling out all the stops and treating us like royalty, but I get the feeling that is just how things are done in Rhodes. Then again, the fish wasn't cheap... :) BUT I LOVE IT! Here is Val enjoying our Greek coffee on the house.

We finally made our way to lunch and succumbed to a place right near the fountain, where Val enjoyed a typically Greek salad - the Feta was TO DIE FOR!

Jace had a Greek pizza (not pictured...) - whatever that is. And I enhaled some Mousakka. Ohhh Mouuuuusaaaaaaaakaaaaaaaa. I think I love you.

Rhodes was definately our favorite. I would like to go back there again in the summer for a chill-out holiday and go swimming and eat Mousakka all day... anyone want to join me?

Two more locations to cover from the cruise - Cyprus and Egypt! Coming next week! Stay tuned.
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Swisstory Blurb Book - Volume 1: 2008

I am officially excited. Why you ask? Well, because over the Christmas break I finished my biggest blurb project of them all - the 13 x 11 inch Swisstory Blog book - made with Blurb (I love Blurb...). With over 350 pages and over 1,000 photos this baby is the mack-daddy of scrapbooks detailing all the ins and outs of our 9 months in Switzerland (which you already know because you are all over this blog like white on rice...). And today I sent it to the printers!

Now, I know what you are going to say... you are going to say what I said when I went to print it and that is... "Wow, that is expensive." But then when you think about it, try and print out over 1,000 of your favorite photos and arrange them in various sizes with your vary own blog write ups and tell me afterwards that you don't think that the price is a BARGAIN. That's right. I thought so.

I will be sure to post about the book when I get it - until then click on the picture below to see a preview of the first 15 pages of the book... so excited! Look familiar? Well of course it does - it is a copy of this blog!

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's in my wallet? - Migros Cumulus Card

So this starts a new series of posts that I thought might be interesting to other Swiss expats - the What's in my wallet? series... and yes, a total Capital One rip-off. :)

What's in my wallet today? Well, I am glad you asked because today I am showing you my Migros Cumulus Card. All of the guide books and forums say to sign up for this baby as soon as possible because you will inevitably spend a lot on food in Switzerland and therefore you might as well earn a bit back. And they are right.

For every dollar you spend at Migros supermarkets or partners, you get 1 point on your card, and eventually you get coupons in the mail that you can spend like cash (see how much you have to spend to get a 5, 10, or 20 franc coupon! in german). You also get special rebate coupons and special offers in the mail - so it is worth it.

To sign up, just go to the customer service desk at your Migros and say, 'Ich möchte eine Cumulus Karte Anmeldung bitte.' That means you want an application. They will then hand one over with a smile and a twinkle in their eye, knowing you are on your way to joining a very posh club where the savings just keep on coming... ok, so perhaps not, but it is worthwhile. Fill out the form and hand it back over to the friendly customer service personnel and in moments you are on your way to FREEDOM!!! FREEEEDOMMMMM!!! Ok... so they will just give you a couple of cards and some stickers in case you want to use those instead... but in any case you are off!

Now you just have to remember to hand over the card each time you buy something! Good luck.

More info on Migros Cumulus Card - in German.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Costa Cruise Day 4: Athens

Sorry for the delay in posting about my wonderful cruise... we now return to our previously scheduled programming... Day 4 of the Costa Concordia Cruise - Athens!

Athens was meant to be a highlight of the cruise, but in the end it came to disappoint us a bit. For starters, we came in the middle of the Athens/Greece riots, so we had to be careful where we went - thank heavens we had an excursion to keep us out of the shady parts - and secondly the Acropolis was closed during our visit due to a workers' strike. So unfortunately, this photo above is about as close as we got to one of the world's greatest monuments.
Instead, we walked around to the front of the Acropolis and down a path surrounded by a beautiful view of the city to the Agora, the Roman marketplace, all the while longing to be up there, on top of the world at the Acropolis. Ho hum. Needless to say, Jace is already planning our trip back.

The tour of the Agora included going into this little church (anyone remember what this is?) and...

then walking around the grounds...
longing to be at the Acropolis... (oh, ok, I'll hush up about it...)

and finally ending up at the Temple of Hephestus, the best preserved ancient Greek temple.

Needless to say, the view from the Temple of Hephaestus of the Acropolis was beautiful... ho hum. (Doh, how did that get in there!)

Afterwards we were let loose in the area nearby the Agora, an area filled with shops and restaurants... and DOGS! I must say that I was really surprised during our trip by the stray animals out and about. Athens is definitely a dog town. Check out all the dogs that were harassing this poor motor cyclist on his way to deliver a potted plant to his sick grandmother... ok, I don't know where he is going, but it sure makes the story better.

After surviving the strays, we settled down to tuck into some traditional Greek food. After the gyro in Olympia were were salivating for more.

I tucked into a Greek appetizer tasting plate and Jace devoured some calimari.

We made our way back to the bus after buying a few things, and then our bus navigated us through the recently restored areas devastated by the riots - what a tour, I tell ya, although these highlights were naturally unintentional - back to the ship.

We will be back for you Athens... despite the pictures above, we haven't gotten a good taste of all you have to offer... oh yes, we'll be back (because Jace will make sure of that!).

Details on day 5, Rhodes, coming this week! Stay tuned!
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bavarian Noodles... YuM!

Overcast grey day? Little cold outside? Don't want to go anywhere but want to have a nice hearty, warming meal...

How about this? (droooooooooooolllll.......)

Ok, so I did not make this myself, but I felt that the dreariness of today called for a bit of a pick me up by means of some Bavarian noodles and some grilled pork. Gotta love the German's affections for the pig, oh yes, you do.

These noodles were the final highlight of our trip a few weeks ago with Val to Neuschwanstein. They are like spaetzli, but more round as if dropped from a height into the boiling water, forming little cupcakes of dough. These were covered with CHEESE and it was heavenly.

Being lactose intolerant... I know this was danger on a plate... but I live on the edge, baby. Oh yes. And every little bite was worth it. Please make yourself some of these tonight - you can buy a bag of spaetzli at Migros and just heat it up in boiling water, drain and melt cheese over top. Yum.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Swisstory on Expatica... woo hoo!

Following in the footsteps of Michelle of The Adventures of Swiss Family Willis, as of today a selection of Swisstory articles will periodically also be published on Expatica, a site for Expats and the international community, in the Switzerland Blogs & photos section.

Expatica is a great site for learning all about life in Switzerland and it has tons of Expat resources, one of my favorites being the Survival guide to living in Switzerland.

Don't worry... you will always hear the stories here first. But sharing these snippets with Expatica readers will also share the Swisstory love. (Come on now... there is plenty of me to go around...Welcome to any new readers!)

Thank you Expatica and thank you Swisstory readers for reading!

Read the full Swisstory article on Expatica>>
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Want to be a local spotter? Me too!

Spotted by locals is looking for Spotters to start a new section for Zürich... I am going for it... are you interested? If so, post a comment with your email address (I will not post your email address on the blog as as I moderate it first...) and I will send you more details:

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meet Juanita & Go to the craft fair!

Psssssst. Did you know that Ms. Juanitatortilla will be selling her AWESOME crafts at the Hand and Hand craft fair this Sunday from 11-16:00. It is at the Stadthofsall in Uster. Details here!

Related post: My blind date to Lucerne's Cheese Festival with Juanita :)

Größere Kartenansicht

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Snow N'Rail Pass - savings on the slopes!

They go together like peanut butter and jelly... like a horse and a carriage.... it's... The Snow and Rail pass. Ok, excuse the cheesy intro, but this is important so please try pay attention and read on. Let's try again... Do you want to save money when you go skiing if you take the train to the slopes?! I thought so. Read on.

If you are planning on hitting the slopes this winter and you intend to get to your destination by train, you can save a bundle by purchasing your train ticket and lift ticket together as the Snow N'Rail Pass.

I have purchased this pass twice already, and by purchasing my lift ticket with my rail pass, I save about 30% off the total price. I know, it's super cool. These passes are available at all train stations - just ask for them - and they are available for over 39 ski resorts in Switzerland, including where I take my snowboarding lessons, Flumserberg.

The tickets you receive are shown in the photo above. The ticket on the right is my round-trip train ticket - including travel up the gondolas to the lifts. With this baby you even get 15% off rentals at Intersport.

The ticket on the left is what I exchange at the Flumserberg Kasse/Cashier or Lift Ticket Office for my lift ticket. Easy peasy, money in the bank.

I only get a 1 day pass, but there are 6 day passes available and also options for youth and children. And it goes without saying that you can use the half-fare card which also gives you... well, half-off (your train travel, not the lift ticket unfortunately).

Details from the SBB Site for the Flumserberg Snow N'Rail Pass:
  • Discounted return rail and postbus travel (30%) to Unterterzen or Flums (Ask for this when purchasing your ticket)
  • Discounted 1 or 2-day ski pass for the whole region incl. the 8-person Unterterzen–Flumserberg cable car or the Flums–Flumserberg postbus (Vouchers may be exchanged at Unterterzen, Tannenheim or Tannenboden valley stations)
So get out there already - only 3 more months of ski season left. See you on the slopes.
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Want more tips and tricks? Read Living and Working in Switzerland, 11th Edition: A Survival Handbook

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Palatschinken Pfandl - Wien Restaurant Review

Last week while in Wien, I went in search of some really amazing food. I did a search on Google and as if by fate alone I was directed almost immediately to a restaurant that will from here on out be known simply as heaven on earth - Palatschinken Pfandl.

Having a heritage that originates in the Tirolean Alps, we have a soft spot in our family for Palatschinken- a Central European pancake, says Wiki, but it is more like a crepe. And after seeing the menu online, I was sold...

The restaurant does both savory and sweet Palatschinken, and while I had dreams of the little ones filled with sugar and spice and everything nice, I was easily swayed by the waitress' lunch recommendation - and by God, I might have to marry that woman.*

I had Menu 6 - "The Original Wiener Pfandlrostbraten."
Roast beef with a cognac pepper sauce, fried roast potatoes topped with fried onions and sour pickles. My breath stunk for hours - as testified by Jace upon my return home that night - "What did you eat?!?! Wheewwoooooooooo." But boy was that baby worth it.


It was one of those meals that you keep telling yourself to stop because you want dessert but you cannot help yourself. It is just that good.

After... salad intact, the rest in me belly...

I sacrificed the salad for the sake of the sweet palatschinken coming my way for dessert. And it was worth it... oh boy was it worth it.

As part of the menu, you get to choose two different Palatschinken - oh goody! I chose one with cherries and marzipan and another with bananas and chocolate sauce. Repeat after me... "Yummmmmm." You better believe I licked the plate clean. There is NO SHAME.

I highly recommend Palatschinken Pfandl. I cannot wait to go back to Wien and stop in to try one of the other delicious lunch specials. And, will I be saving room for dessert again? Um...what are you talking about?! I've started saving already. Bring it on, baby!

* This is only a figure of speech... don't worry!

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Things you probably did not know about Switzerland...

1. The Swiss mint a 1,000 CHF note...
I know, because the other day in line at the grocery store, an obviously rich woman tried to pay for 12,45 CHF worth of groceries with a 1,000 CHF bill - and guess what, they WERE able to make change. Unbelievable. Such wealth, not even on Bahnhofstrasse.

2. Public displays of affection are few and far between in Switzerland...
I know, because the other day on the train I felt flush and ashamed watching a couple of teenagers sharing a harmless kiss - when I thought about why I was reacting so unusually, I realized it was because I have only seen people kissing in public just once in 10 months...

3. The Swiss do NOT know what chocolate fondue is.
Hard to believe this, but I know it is true because when I asked for a kit, like the cheese fondue kits, at the supermarket a few weeks ago, the lady took me to the chocolate pudding. She could not understand what on earth I wanted to do with the world's best chocolate ("Ich moechte Fondue machen, schokolade Fondue, nicht Kaese, Schokolade!"... no understanding, whatsoever...). I politely smiled and said thanks and put the pudding back. Within minutes the woman had hunted me down again in the store, apologizing, realizing only too late what I was intending to do, pleading with me that the pudding was not the right thing and that they did not carry any kits. Lesson learned. Make it yourself.

(Note: BTW-This is a tricky one, as I do recall seeing fondue pots for chocolate, with strawberries and chocolate bars graphically printed on the pot... but it is not a typically Swiss thing...after checking with some colleagues, they also know what it is, but have never tried it... pity.)

4. The Swiss have a rivalry with the Austrians...
I know that the Swiss and the Germans have a "thing," but now I know that the Swiss and the Austrians have a "thing" too. Paramount to the relationship between, for example, the US and Canada, and Australia and New Zealand - it is endlessly fascinting to me that rivalries exist between friendly, neighboring countries.

Interesting stuff, eh? :)
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Neuschwanstein - A Must See in Bayern!

Val, my mother in law, wanted to see Neuschwanstein while she was visiting us and naturally we wanted to go with her! Just after New Years, we took the train up to Fuessen, Germany, the closest city to Neuschwanstein and about 5 - 6 hours from Zurich by train. We realized only too late that it would have been much easier to rent a car and drive, but then again with the inclemental weather we were glad that we suffered through the transfers & waits with the train.

Neuschwanstein was built in 1868 by Ludwig II of Bavaria and is one of the most famous castles ever built- so famous in fact that the Disney castle is based upon its design. And during our trip, we all agreed that it certainly was something special - if only it weren't so DAMN COLD during our stay, we might have been 100% content - instead we just had to live with 99.9%.

We stayed at the foot of the castle, at the Hotel Mueller. It was lovely and very German somehow - the restaurant was also amazing (we recommend the steak). We arrived on a Friday, just in time to take in the foggy scenery, including a quick visit to Castle Hohenschwangau, then on Saturday morning we went in search of our main destination - Castle Neuschwanstein.

(HOT TIP! The only reason we got into the castle on Friday was because I BOOKED THE TICKETS IN ADVANCE. Because I made reservations online, I got to skip to the front of the line and pick up and pay for our tickets within minutes instead of bearing the long line - OUT IN THE COLD!!! So be smart, book in advance!!! It only costs an extra 1.80 Euros per person and it is the best money you ever spent. Trust me. Another story that verifies that here...)

Because the roads up to the castle were covered with snow and ice, our only options were to walk or to go with the horse drawn carriage, and because the average temperature was FREEZING COLD we opted for the horses. I am glad we did as it was a nice rustic touch and the South German Cold Blooded work horses did the job beautifully - even with a flat tire! We were the first to enter the castle that morning (no reservations this time, but first in line!!!), so we stopped for a hot chocolate to await our castle entry time... and to warm up from the bitter cold!

When it was 15 minutes before our tour time, we walked up the remainder of the path to the castle, taking in the amazing snow covered view and surroundings, as well as the breath-taking views of the castle.
I have no idea what the temperature was, but I do know that I could barely feel my feet by the time we were due to enter the castle... again, another poor shoe choice!!! How do I manage to constantly do that? Here we are waiting outside the castle for our entry time - FREEZING! There is a nice little bridge in the background and if the weather had been better I would have pushed to take a photo from that side. Looks like it would have been the best view.

Unfortunately, photos are not allowed inside the castle, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the decor - it was much more colorful and somehow modern in comparison to other castles we have visited in Germany and Austria. I really love the fact that the castle was dedicated to Wagner and his operas as well - there were so many beautiful murals and paintings of Wagner's operas and thousands of swans - the namesake of the castle, since Neuschwanstein literally means "New swan stone."

And the best part of the entire castle was not even insides - but the view out... what I wouldn't pay to have this view everyday.... WOW.

I highly recommend a trip to the castle. I felt that it would be overly touristy - and it was - there were hundreds of people in line for tickets even though it was FREEZING - but in hindsight it was for good reason - the castle and surrounding area are charming. A must see. ;)

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