Saturday, October 31, 2009

Favorite Holiday in Switzerland: Christmas

My favorite Swiss holiday has to be, without a doubt, Christmas. I am so unbelieveably bummed that we will be in Australia this year for December, so I will miss all the Christmas festivities - but that does not mean that you have to miss out on them!

Naturally, Christmas is an important religious holiday in Switzerland but most of the Swiss partake in the Christmas celebrations in one way or another. At the beginning of December, the Advent begins, in which families count down the days until Christmas, either with an Advent Calendar or an Advent candle, marking the Sunday's until Christmas with a candle for each Sunday (4 candles total). But Santa actually comes long before Christmas Eve! In Switzerland, Santa, or Samiclaus, comes on the 5th of December and kiddies that have been good get some sweets, nuts and mandarins (and probably some toys!) on the 6th. Those that have been bad get a sack full of coal from Schmutzli - the anti Santa. Otherwise, Christmas is very similar in Switzerland compared to the US or Australia - tree (check), gifts (check), lots of food (check)... but the festivities are very special and celebrated by many families.

Last year I committed the entire month of December to Swiss Christmas celebrations and the Advent count down... There is just so much to love  - the Advents candles, the Apfelchuechli mit Vanillesausethe Zürich Samiklaus Swim, and the Weihnachstpyramide - but my favorite part of the Christmas festivities are the Christmas markets! Here is a list of Swiss Christmas Markets in 2009.

If you time it just right, you can probably hit up at least 4 or 5 Christmas markets, perhaps even some in Germany or France where they are also a big to do.Christmas markets tend to start at the end of November and run through Christmas Eve and sometimes the day after Christmas. Make sure you take some warm mittens and lots of money with you - as you will definitely want to sample some of the Glühwein (to keep you warm of course!) and buy some of the best handicrafts and decorations available.Fröhliche Weihnachten (in October) everyone. Start making those Christmas plans now! Before long, it will be 2010 (wowzers has time gone by!) and you will have to wait another 12 months for Christmas. :)

Now, please check out the Next blog on the World Surf Day Tour - Peterhals in Zürich...

I read this blog often, and know you will enjoy Deb's post. Thanks for stopping by Swisstoryblog and please follow me to get future updates on our adventures in Switzerland.
This post was written as part of the World Blog Surf Day. You can also follow the World Blog Surf Day on Twitter, thanks to our Twitter reporter Karen. Karen is an American expat blogger last seen in Prague. The Wall Street Journal said, "Her blog makes a fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing--and also for anyone interested in visiting the Czech Republic." Read Karen's Czech Republic Expat Blog-Empty Next Expat.
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Zürich Archeological Underground Tour

The group at Lindenhof, where our tour started
with the Roman ruins underfoot.

Last Sunday, I organized a little private tour for the Swiss Expat Bloggers with Zürich Tourism. The tour was called 'Archeological Windows' and was a tour of Zürich's archaeological highlights, including the Roman remains under the Lindenhof, the old city walls, and even a medieval sewage system under the Niederdorfstrasse. Unfortunately, this tour is only run on a private basis, but everyone really seemed to enjoy going underneath the city and seeing some of the hidden jewels of Zürich's past, so I would highly recommend going on the tour if you get a chance. Here are a few of the highlights that we saw:

 Medieval painting
Rosemarie, our wonderful guide that got a few extra keys to places not originally included on the tour, as we opted for the longer 3 hour tour, showed us a medieval painting in a former dance hall/entertainment hall. This painting is inside a private apartment in the Niederdorf area and was totally beautiful even today.

Exhibit with the old city walls and
interesting drawings of Zürich in medieval times

Near the city library, we entered a building that has pieces of the old city wall in the basement. It was cool to be under the city and see the hidden jems - old sewer pipes and pottery, too. There were lots of interesting drawings on display as well of how the city used to be set up - and something about deer living inside the moat. Does anyone remember what was up with the deer in this next photo?! Help! :) This deer street is now called Hirschengraben though - get it?! Deer... Hirsch!!! Nice. Anyway, we also looked at this Murerplan a lot - a medieval map of Zürich which shows all the water wheels and how Bahnhofstrasse used to be a cow path. :) (zoomed in version here)

This is just a sign I saw on the tour - the person who this is meant for will recognise it I hope. :)

Medieval Sewers
Another highlight was walking through a tiny, itty bitty door on Niederdorfstrasse, into a medieval sewer. I have to admit - the Zürich Tourism does a great job as all these secret places have great signs and information (underground that is) if you have enough time to read it all. My favorite was an informational sign for the sewer display that said, 'Even in the middle ages, the big question was, 'What do we do with our poo?''... ok it did not say that exactly, but something like that. Oh I loved it. It killed me.

Speaking of which, here is a monk that slipped on some poo and was like, 'Man, I wish we had running water already.' Ok so it did not say that either, but I wish it had! You can see the straw above the loo for wiping back then. Ouch!

Inside the Helmhaus - only enterable by key.
We also went underneate the Helmhaus, the site of Zürich's first church which was built by Karl der Grosse on the site where two of the city's Saints, Felix and Regula, were decapitated, then walked 40 paces up a hill where they then collapsed and were later buried. You can still see a rock down there where the supposed decaptation took place under the Helmhaus!

If you are a history buff like Jace, I am sure you would remember more of the details, but even for a non-history buff like me, it was a fun tour... I did not even mention or show pictures of the Roman baths under the city that we saw or the new stained glass windows open for viewing at the Grossmunster Church... both sites open full time to the public...oh there was so much more. If you also have a post about this trip, please leave me a comment to your blog so I can share your feedback!

Again, thanks to all for coming on the tour and hopefully we can arrange another for those that missed out on the first. If you are interested, leave a comment on the Swiss Expat bloggers network or here.

Archeological Windows Tour - Zürich Tourismus
Private tour run by appointment in your language of choice
Maximum 20 people
+41 44 215 40 88

Also check out the write up on this tour from:

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Must See's/Do's from the Swisstory Fall/Winter Archives

Tomorrow I will have a post all about the great tour we took of Zürich yesterday that took us below the streets and through Zürich's archeological remains! Today, I thought I would feature a few articles from the archives that are relevant this time of year, as I realize that not everyone is Swisstory obsessed and reads the archives. Enjoy!
  • Wine Messe Zürich - it is on again and I highly recommend you plan a day to check out all the European wines on offer and get sloshed... er, I mean, sample them all. The event is on October 29th - November 12th this year. More info available at Here my write up from last year on the Wine Messe!

  • It is raclette and fondue time again! So get your cheese and heat up those burners for some tasty cheesy delights. I got my cheap fondue pot at the Brocki-Land. And stock up on fondue essentials like Fondue packets (we love Appenzeller!) and fondue seasoning at your local supermarket now.

  • Ski Season is coming - save a bundle getting to the slopes with the Snow N'Rail Pass from the SBB. We used this to get to Flumserberg last year for our snowboarding lessons with the Zürich International Ski Club. Signups this year for lessons are (thank God) online. Make sure you sign-up early, because if it is anything like last year (where I had to wait in line for hours...) these spots are HOT! and will go fast. Online Sign-up for Zürich International Ski Club Lessons.

  • Metzgete: I have seen the signs - so I know Metzgete time is coming soon! If you want to try something awful, er, I mean some Swiss offal, look out for the Metzgete. If offal makes your stomach churn, like it does mine, at least try some of the wild meat on offer at the moment - like venison or wild boar. These are tasty.

  • Christmas is coming! And since the supermarkets don't think it is too early, I don't either - it's time to start planning your Christmas market trips. Here are some Christmas market tips from Swisstory readers of the best markets, and don't forget to check out my Christmas Advent from 2008 for some not to miss Christmas events... I am VERY upset that we are leaving just before December, when all the markets really start. Bummer. But enjoy them for me!!!
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

World Blog Surf Day - last day to sign up!

Swisstory will partake in the World Blog Surf Day on October 31st. Today is the last day to sign up if you are interested!!!  Sign up for World Blog Surf Day here
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not just cheese - Appenzeller specialties

Lots of Appenzeller delicacies - but what exactly is glooozbrod?

After having THE BEST Appenzeller mac and cheese at Gasthaus Traube in Appenzell, we could not help but stop across the street and browse the huge selection of Appenzeller specialities on offer at the little market called de blacke Chrömer. I was really shocked to find that aside from the Appenzeller cheese, which of course they had in big wheels, begging to be cut and taken home, they also had a huge variety of other local specialities for sale...

Naturally, there were several types of Appenzeller beer, which I witnessed many of the locals proudly drinking at the cafe that we visited.

Birnenweggen and gwoozbrod (left) and Appenzell Bitter right.

One can also find the Birnenweggen everywhere in Appenzell - these are pastry breads with dark, dense, delicious pear filling. Also readily available (but not pictured) are the marzipan-like filled pastries called Biberbrot, which I love. I have no idea what Gwoozbrod is - and I am not making that name up, see the sign - but it looked very much like a fruit cake. The sign describing it says in Swiss German:
'ii so ees hescht no müd gaad kaa mit dere allebescle Follig - moscht unbedingt probiere!'
Which my friendly translator says this is a spiced bread or 'Gewürzbrot' and the sign says...
'So etwas hast du noch nie gehabt, mit dieser allerbesten Füllung - musst du unbedingt probieren!'
And in English:
'You have never had something like this before, with this amazing filling, you simply must try it!'
So it still does not really explain what it is - but this is a great example of how Swiss German is so.. well... different than hoch Deutsch! Thanks, Andrea!

As for the Appenzeller Bitters - well I am not a big fan of those types of alcoholic drinks, but I have heard that those that like it end up LOVING it. You have to be into the bitter alcohols though which I am not - but it would be worth taking a small bottle home to try, I think.

I have talked about these sirups before, but I have never seen a selection like what they had in this market. There was so many new syrup flavors that I wanted to try - apricot and ginger, lemon and honey, hollanderbluten, raspberry, lime, and a whole lot more. There was one that was even made at a local monastery nearby! I got one that was lemon and ginger I think - and I was told it was the most popular flavor. We mixed it with some sparkling water and had it with raclette instead of white wine. I think it went down a treat.

You could also take a taste of this Appenzeller honey at the store and it was divine. I admit, I never had honey like they have in Switzerland until we moved here. It is not runny like in the States - it is sometimes quite hard and think and crystalized. I love it. You must try it.

And there was so much more that I just did not photograph - we are talking cookies (y mom bought some amaretti cookies, as did my aunt and hers were cappucinno flavored), dried fruit, nuts, cake mixes, tea, cider, Swiss hot chocolate, and lots lots more.

If you do not stop in and buy something from this store when you are in Appenzeller... well, you might as well just cry me a river now. It would be that sad.

de blacke Chrömer

Marktgasse 3
9050 Appenzell

071 787 19 43
Google maps

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Where to get cow bells in Switzerland

The search was on for these babies... well, sort of...

When my family visited in September, we went on the Swiss Tour to take on all tours... visiting Zermatt, St. Moritz, Stein am Rhein, Rapperswil, Appenzell, you name it. We were all over Switzerland. And naturally, my family wanted to take back something typically Swiss as a souvenier and well - it doesn't get more Swiss than a cow bell... however, being my family, it wasn't just a simple cow bell search. Oh no, actually, we wanted horse bells... ! There were horses all over Zermatt with horse bells, so it should be easy in the land of cow bells to find a few horse bells, right?! (Um... Wrong.)

Dog collars - often available at the same place as cowbells... love it.

You see, my family has grown up with horses their entire life - I somehow missed the horse gene - I love them but I was never really great at riding so the hobby was short lived in my case (sorry Mom and Dad about that trailer you got just months before I decided I was no good at riding!)... In any case, my aunt still has horses and wanted to get a few bells to use or give as gifts. And in the search for horse bells - which we eventually found at the Bürkliplatz flea market, at Bürkliplatz in Zürich on Saturday mornings - we found a lot of interesting places that sold cow bells... the best being this handicraft shop in Appenzell (where the bell straps are actually MADE and you can smell the leather and oils wafting down the street, long before you venture inside).

Just take a trip to Appenzell and on Poststrasse in the main town area this little shop is open from 13:30 pm to answer all your cow bell desires. We did buy some little bells here, although they were for cows, not horses, and you can get a wide array of brass (?) or metal decorations, including dog collars, cowbells, and the decorations used on Appenzeller's suspenders and belts... see the decorations on the dog collars above. Just like those!

I was keen to buy this bell as a souvenier, but for some reason the hundreds if not thousands of francs it cost were a bit out of my budget - plus I doubt I would have made it home with this on the train let alone plane! Nevertheless, I did get a very touristy little bell at one of the other shops in Appenzell. But if you want THE REAL DEAL, this is the place to go:

Kunstgewerbe Dörig (aka your one stop shop for Swiss cow bells)
Poststrasse 6
9050 Appenzell
Google Maps
Open Tuesday - Friday 13:30 - 18:00, Saturday 9:00 - 11:45 and 13:30 - 16:00

(Ps. Want to learn about the difference between 'cow bell' two words and 'cowbell' one word - check this out!)

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Monday, October 19, 2009

I love the Gemeinde. Swiss de-registration woes.

Repeat that 100 times. Then try to believe it. (Ps. if this whole 'we are leaving' thing is new to you, read this post...)

Jace and I went on down to the Gemeinde on Friday, as the good little cititzens that we are. We were going, because every time I call a utlity company or the health insurance, for example, to tell them we are leaving and moving overseas, they insist that I send them some 'Cancellation confirmation' that is approved from the Gemeinde. So basically, they want the proof from our local council (Gemeinde) that we are leaving permanently and not just trying to get out of some contract for the hell of it...

So down we marched on Friday to get this piece of paper... but first back flash to last Wednesday in which I called the Gemeinde and told them I needed this paper and asked them if I could come down and get it now or if I had to wait until shortly before we were leaving when we wanted to deregister. They said come on down, that we can already do the 'Abmeldung' or deregistration now as we are leaving in 6 weeks and that is not too far in advance... So great, I thought - go in... deregister... get confirmation... go to work. No worries, right?


To make a long story short. We filled out the deregistration and then they wanted to cut up our permits or take them away. I said we wanted to keep them until shortly before we left and we just wanted to get the confirmation now so that I could cancel all the services. Well, this lady layed into me then about how I had the wrong form (which they had just given me), how if I filled out said wrong form they would have to take my permits on the spot, how there are 5123 different types of deregistration confirmation forms and the one which I was talking about costs CHF 30/person so I better know which one I needed before I paid for the wrong one, and that I basically am just an idiot for coming in to see them without knowing exactly what it is that I needed.

Um... hello. I thought you guys were the experts and you could tell me. Sorry.

So now I have to call up all the service companies AGAIN and ask them in black and white which form it is they want to see so that I can cancel and I have to figure out how we can get around and perhaps travel without our Swiss permits in our wallets if we deregister early.

I think in the end, we will probably end up getting the CHF 30/person deregistration confirmation papers, BEFORE WE ACTUALLY DEREGISTER (make sense? um no...), and then have to come in shortly before we leave to actually deregister and give up our permits. Believe me though - with the hassles we get at the airport lately, we will have copies of the given up permits and the said deregistration confirmation so that immigration does not give us hell for leaving, thinking we overstayed our visit.

All very complicated. All should not be - especially since they probably want us to leave... make it easy already, eh?... Err... I used to be so proud that I had never had issues with the Gemeinde. The Urdorf Gemeinde is so nice usually... and yes, this lady was just trying to save me CHF 60 if she can... but COME ON! Just give me a break with the 'tude already.

Anyone else love their Gemeinde?
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Friday, October 16, 2009

Marroni Zeit! Sweet Noodles of Chesnut

Maroni cake - Seasonal speciality in the Swiss Fall

I am tempted to write all about my bad run in at the Gemeide this morning... but instead, let's enjoy our Friday and share in the sweet, sweet pleasures of living in Switzerland and not the bureaucratic crap that one must endure sometimes in order to do the right thing...

Instead, allow me to tell you what the right thing to do this weekend would be that would bring pleasure to you and everyone you know... you ready for this gem of advice.... ? Ok...


Go forth and eat lots of cake this weekend, and if you know what is good for you, you will seek out the seasonal delights with Maroni (or sometimes spelled Marroni in Switzerland). Maroni are chestnuts, and in Switzerland they puree these little babies into a paste and squeeze the sweetened spagehetti strands of goodness all over cream laden cakes and pies. More about Maroni in English and German. . .

At first, I was not a fan of this brown puree, thinking it was a little too bland for my sweet tooth. But I have found it depends on the cake and this one above from a bakery in Appenzell went down a treat... and don't get me started on the meringue garnish on top. HEAVEN.

And well, if you don't like cake, I am sure you will find some other option during these days quickly grown cold... perhaps something traditional and warm and apple-y... hhmm... not sure exactly what... but I am sure you will find something. :)

Apfelstrudel also from bakery in Appenzell
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's ok. You can 'du' me.

I love speaking German. This we know. But sometimes, the rules of German just make me CRAZY. For example, the other day at work, someone was talking about how she had reached a point with a client that she can talk to her 'per du.' This was a BIG DEAL. She was excited about it. It meant she had broken the barrier and the two were on informal terms... they were officially on 'du' terms. No longer on 'Sie' terms... What is all this du and Sie mess? Well, this is one of the biggest differences between English and German (besides the three genders and the four cases) -allow me to explain the phenomenon that is German formal speech.

Say I run into an old friend at the store and we used to play naked in eachother's paddle pool (direct Bridget Jones reference for any fans...), I would greet this person in informal German:
'Hallo! Wie geht's?' or 'Wie geht's dir? Hast du Zeit?'
But if I ran into a complete stranger or a new client at work, and we have never played naked in any pools together, let alone never met before, and we are not on a first name basis, I would greet him/her in formal German:
'Guten Tag, Herr XXX. Wie Geht es Ihnen? Haben Sie Zeit für mich?'
So in German, when it is informal and you know the person well and are on a first name basis, you can go per 'du' and 'dir' and the accompanying verb forms ('hast du, or bist du, etc) without worry. In formal German, you have to use the formal tenses (haben instead of hast) with Sie or Ihnen. Sometimes, neighbors and work colleagues are forever on Sie terms. They never cross to the dark (albeit friendly) side. It is just not going to ever happen...

I mix up my 'du's' and my 'Sie's' a lot. It is the crux of being a non-native German speaker. I speak 'du' with colleagues at work. It is an American company - so we are naturally all friendly and open and work 'per du.' :) Then in the real world, I naturally 'du' everyone and screw up my whole intro and have to go back and 'Sie' the crap out of the conversation so the person knows I know what I am doing and wanted to give them the respect they deserved...

So on one hand - it is great to have this respect thing built into the language - but on the other hand, I think the German speakers should just give up this whole 'Sie' thing. I think it keeps them at a distance, it keeps them cold and at arms length. I have had conversations with Swiss that are oftentimes confused - 'Well, she du-ed me in the email but I don't think we are per du yet, as she is always like 'Sie' this and that on the phone. What should I do?!' OH THE PAIN OF THE DU- SIEs!?!' To du or not to du. That is often the question.

Well, here is your answer -just 'du' it already, I say... it will make the world a better place and make German easier for us non-native speakers.

Here - I will take the first step. You can all du me.

There ... one down. :)
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Last Chance - Vote for Valentina!

This is the big day. 5 Points Worth! Please Vote for Valentina and if she wins today, we will see her present the upcoming Switzerland vs. Israel soccer match!

Please vote today and tell your friends! Thanks for your support!
Vote here!!!

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What will you do with your garden?

That is the other most asked question I get now that I am leaving...'What are you going to do with your garden?' I fear that I have become a bit of a green thumb during my Schwebergarten (allottment garden in German) period here in Switzerland... we all know it.

The good thing though about the system here in Switzerland is that I just rented the garden. I rented it indefinitely and would have paid for another year come Spring if we were staying, but as fate would have it, we are not and I will be handing the land back over to whomever the next lucky person on the waiting list is. I will give up my key, and my soil, and get my deposit back... but leave with a lot of good memories...

When I get back to Australia, I have big gardening plans, so stay tuned on the new blog. I love Australia native plants and I intend to go to town in the backyard, creating my own little (dog friendly - or rather dog proof if that is possible!) native oasis... And I intend to get a colorbond/aluminium raised garden bed to try my hand at some fruit and veg in Australia, too. It all comes down to the dirt in Australia - it is really sand - so you have to bring in the good stuff (compost rich and dark), preferably in its own area or pot, which I will do, to make a success of it... and WATER A LOT!

Until then, let's remember the good times, with a few photos of the last weeks of the garden - also when my brother was here and he let me use his fancy macro lens to capture a few shots. Thanks, Nate! A lot of these photos are his. So please contact him if you would like to rip off his work. heheh :)

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Someone please take my apartment so I can stop showing it... please?!

Ok, here is the deal. I am annoyed. It is not Wincasa's fault, and it would be easier to blame them, but I won't. Yet, I am still annoyed. Allow me to explain.

We handed in our notice to Wincasa about... oh 8 weeks ago now. Yes, we have a four month notice period with our current apartment. I would say that is INSANE... but really it is BEYOND INSANE, although I have heard of some notices that can only be given on the night of a full moon when the temperature is 24 degrees. Ok, not really, but I have heard of some where you can only give notice like in September or May, or two months of the year. I know - INSANE. Anyway, so we have known for awhile that we would be leaving the apartment, and so has Wincasa.

And when they confirmed our notification, they wrote a nice line in the letter about how great it would be if we could 'cooperate' in terms of them finding a new tenant. Sure, ok, no worries. I will cooperate. You wanna show someone around - go ahead - you have a key...

Oh, what? You don't have a key?

Oh... I see... I will just leave it in the mailbox and you can show them on in. That's cool. I trust you. I know where you live.

Um... oh... what's that? You require that we are here when you show people our apartment? Ok - so you don't require but you prefer that we are here? Oh, I see. So you want me to be here while strange people go through my fridge and peruse my underwear drawer and why don't I show them the washer and dryer in the basement, too...??!! Sure... ok... COME ON DOWN...

So I have complied with this little ruse and I have made myself available for not one but TWO open nights so far in which I sit here and watch people go through my home and shake their head about how it just won't work... or get all excited about the place, but knowing in the end that ultimately no contracts have come. I know it is not my place and I should not be attached - but hell, it is my place right now and I should not have to witness this abuse.

Then I get another email today... "Um, no contracts yet... when can we come again?"


Does anyone else think that this is insane? I know that this is how things are run in Switzerland and like no one owns their own home but why do they have to make it so no one can own their own privacy too!? Of course I will do the right thing and say come on over with bells on next week so that I can watch some more strangers make mental notes of all the things they would like to steal or how there is no way they would put the TV in that location... but I am only doing it because I like the Wincasa lady and she complimented my gourds... the quickest way to my heart, I tell ya. But I still say that I just wish it were like Boston where the apartment is showed during the day when I am at work or after I move out perhaps?! ERRRRRRR.

So... if you want a great 4 1/2 by Swiss standards apartment in the roof in a quiet neighborhood in Urdorf, just say the word. I will personally show you around... not because I want to though... but because I am a sucker that cannot say no to a lady that knows a good pumpkin when she sees one...
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Rose that is Rapperswil

In the distance, the Capuchin Monestary in Rapperswil

We went to Rapperswil when my family was in town, and I have to admit... I loved it. I thought it would be bit too small - a bit too boring. And while it was small, it was far from boring. This little village at the end of the Zurichsee is honestly delightful. I can't imagine why we didn't visit it sooner - oh yeah, that's right - because Jace thought it would be small and boring. Note to self - Jace doesn't know what he is missing... all he knows is that Rapperswil is fun to say... "Rappers - veeelllll!"

Rapperswil castle

The highlights of the town include Rapperswil castle (now the Polish Muesum is housed inside as well as an über-expensive restaurant)...

... the wooden bridge to Hurden, one of the longest wooden bridges in the world...

Wooden bridge in the distance

... and the picturesque alleys of the Altstadt. The town is also famed for its multiple rose gardens, one of which I stumbled upon with a few open blossoms before Fall hit...

Align Center

... not to mention the Capuchin monestary on the hill - seen in the first picture, and the vineyards surrounding it are below.

Whether you come via train or boat, I would recommend Rapperswil for a lovely little weekend outing or daytrip from Zürich. There is a lot more to see than you would expect, and the size is just right for photo lovers or familes. Enjoy!

Want more?

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Traumjob gewinnen : VOTE FOR VALENTINA!

Hey everyone - one of my friends has applied for a dream job to be a sports moderator, and if she wins, she will get to moderate during the Swiss vs. Israel game coming up and get a whopping CHF 5.000! Please vote for her every day from now until next Monday the 12th and help her realize her dreams. (Only those that live in Switzerland can vote, so please tell your friends!)

PLUS- if you understand German, her video is super cute and definately the best!

GO VALENTINA!!! My hero! ;)


Thanks everyone.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

We are moving back to Australia!

This is the post I thought would never come, but knew was eventually inevitable, such is the life of an expat. Jace and I, after much thought and deliberation, have decided to move back to Australia. Due to several factors, the timing is right. And while on one hand we are both sad to close this chapter of our cosmopolitan lives, on the other we are really excited to open the next by returning to Jace's home of Perth, Australia and trying our hand at planting some roots...

Let's cut to the chase though as you must have questions, and I have prepared some answers to those questions that we seem to get a lot of now that the word is out.
When are you leaving?
We will be leaving at the end of November. That gives us a few more weeks to enjoy Fall in Switzerland, tie up our professional lose ends, and pack a lot of stuff.

Can I have your stuff?
Nope. Sorry. We are taking it with us... it was a big (expensive) decision which I question daily and will no doubt chronicle here, but no, this is my toaster and I am taking it with me.

I want to live in Switzerland... can I have your job? your apartment?
Um, as for the job, it is on I have no influence in who gets it, but I can highly recommend it. As for the apartment, I believe it is still available and in Urdorf. We loved it and can highly recommend living in Urdorf... As for living in Switzerland in general - I recommend you throw your hat in the ring if you get an opportunity to live abroad. It is a wonderful experience, and if you don't try, you'll never know... so just do it !

What is going to happen to the blog? Who will write it now?
Well, that is a good question. I definitely cannot write a "Swiss" story blog from Australia, but my blogging days are far from over. I have a few ideas in the back of my head for a new blog (Note to self - need cool new blog name...suggestions welcome...) and let's face it - it will still be an Expat blog (me being American and all- or an Ami as the Aussies say). I am hoping all of you will come along and join me for the virtual ride. This blog will remain online so that future expats can still benefit from the wealth that is Swisstory. And the Swiss Expat Blog Network will stay, too, and I will no doubt be checking in although I will obviously be taking a less active role.

Are you sad to go?
Yes. Of course. Living in Europe was a dream come true for us. I still have a long list of things to see and people to do... scratch that, reverse it... but let's face it, we are still in our 20's. We have some time, right?! ;) I see retirement cruises in the Mediterranean in our future... if not earlier vacations/adventures!

You just got the handle on your German and now you are leaving?!
Well, I know. That sucks doesn't it? Or should I say, "Das ist total doof, oder? Es macht mich auch verrückt." But that is cool - I am already taking applications a la Paris Hilton for my new Super Cool German Speaking Aussie Best friend. Please contact me for details. ;)

What are you going to do in Perth?
I am looking at online marketing/digital roles in Perth. If you have an opportunity for me, let me know. I am available to rock your digital world as of December 2009. Otherwise, we will be living it up in our house that has been waiting for us these last few years - albeit in the hands of what I hear are clean freak renters (thank you, we love you), dreaming of our future labrador puppy whose name I will spare you for the time-being, and no doubt Jace will be keeping my long list of Asian vacation plans in check.
Got another question - post it in the comments and I will answer it here.

So that's it. We're leaving. Ho hum. But -until we leave and probably even into 2010, I will continue to blog about our lives in Switzerland and the process of returning home... after all, the blog has to come full circle eventually and the harmony in that gives me good Chi and Zen and super Shui feelings simultaneously.

I thank you all for following us in our expat adventures, especially those of you who have taken the time to connect via email, comments, in person or on the network, and I look forward to sharing our new adventures down under with you in a new blog soon. Until then, let's continue our Swisstory adventures, shall we? ;)
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Stein am Rhein? More like total GEM!

(A few weeks ago now...) on Wednesday, we took off for a place that everyone seems to love as I have read and heard a lot about it - Stein am Rhein, which literally means, Stone on the Rhein. The Rhein is a major river in Europe and it just happens to border Switzerland to the north. However, I think that this village was totally jipped when it came to names, as this is no stone on the river, but a priceless jewel, a wonderful little village (albeit tourist swamped) which after visiting I would 100% recommend as one of the best day trips from Zürich on offer. (By the way, the only historical evidence I could find of why it was named Stein am Rhein was that there was a stone bridge here during Roman times...)

We arrived at Stein am Rhein in a round about way - a route recommended by my sister in law, Sarah, who visited a few weeks before us. We took a train to Schaffhausen first, being sure to sit on the left side of the train from Wintertur to Schaffhausen, as instructed by our helpful SBB ticket agent, so we could see the Rheinfalls out the window. Stunning!!! Then when we arrived in Schaffhausen, we took a bus to the river (2 minute ride, or 10 minute walk) and then took a scenic boat to Stein am Rhein. (All in all, took about an hour and a half to get to Schaffhausen from Zürich, the boat ride was 2 hours from Schaffhausen to Steim am Rhein and worth it... then we trained back from Stein am Rhein. Simples.)

The boat is run by the SBB as well, so if you have a GA pass or Swiss pass, like my family did, you're covered! I got a special day pass that got me great savings on this trip with my half-fare card. Enquire at your SBB ticket office.

We got on the boat around 11 am and arrived at Stein am Rhein at 1pm - just in time to be famished and devour a few delicious crepes at the creperie recommended by many (thanks again!) on the main street... the street is tiny, so you cannot miss this quaint creperie quite near the ice cream parlor.

The highlights of Stein am Rhein are the medieval city walls and gates, ornate painted houses - especially those on the main street...

...and the medieval castle up on the hill, which you can see in the distance from the main street... not to mention the lovely vineyards and Rhein river surrounds.

The medieval city streets are also pedestrianized, meaning no cars - so considering that and all the beautiful features of the city, I would say Stein am Rhein is a photographer's paradise. My mom and brother really loved it. I could not keep them with me for a minute longer after lunch - they were off shooting every nook and cranny within seconds.

So if you need a great weekend getaway or a dose of Swiss architectural beauty, check out Stein am Rhein. I am glad we did, and I even got a few photos myself. ;) Check out my slideshow.

Next on the agenda... Rapperswil!
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