Is the second time around as good as the first? A fellow blogger stumbled upon my guest blog post about Swiss signage and wanted to pass it along to their readers. Check it out at This Way Thurs-Way. Exciting stuff.
Last night had to be one of the best nights so far while living in Zurich. My friend Kelly arrived in the morning. So, you already know it is going to be a great day. We ended up being invited to the Chicago Blackhawk vs. HC Davos ice hockey game. Kelly being from Chicago and both of us being huge sporting nuts, what could be better?
The game was so exciting. Everyone around must have hated us by the end of the night...actually more like after the first period. Every time we scored (which was a lot), the lady in front of Stacie would have to put her hands over her ears because of our loud shrills. It was hilarious. We were so obnoxious.
We were seated right in the center of all the action. The Blackhawks dominated Davos winning 9-2. I do give it up to Davos for never throwing in the towel. Their cheering section was about 10 rows behind us chanting and singing the entire game. Even at the very end they were still cheering like it was the first minute of the game.
Awesome, awesome night. We will see if tomorrow's adventure to Lichtenstein and Austria can top this experience.
Side note: The Blackhawks are playing the Zurich Lions tonight in the Victoria Cup. I guess last nights game was just a warm-up.
Ahhhh...I am writing this post from the comfort of my very own, newly purchased, bright yellow Eames rocking chair. I cannot explain to you how ecstatic I am to have a non-IKEA piece of furniture in this place. Nothing wrong with IKEA, just that I am starting to feel like I am living in a dorm room again.
Furniture shopping in the Z, can lead to frustration, some yelling at Josh, and even tears. We have figured out now that we should have just brought our furniture from the States instead of trying to furnish this flat on some sort of a budget. Furniture is just plain more expensive over here, like three to four times as much. And, EVERYTHING looks the same. That same sleek, modern, can't sit on for longer than five minute look. Not my flavor. Plus, there is no middle ground to furniture shopping. Here are your options: IKEA where you still pay twice as much as in the States, second-hand "vintage" shops priced obscenely high, or some designer "fancy-pants" place where the price tags will make you run straight for the doors screaming. We are slowly learning to just accept that this is the way things are over here in der Schweiz.
I should have prefaced this post by saying it has been a very long weekend of exhausting furniture shopping. At least with a happy ending.
For all of you on the edge of your seat, here is the final post for our last day in Stockholm. If you haven't gotten a chance to read the previous posts, check out Del Ett and Del Två.
We started our day off with a beautiful four mile run along one of the many scenic marinas in Stockholm. Remember we are gearing up for the 10k Human Race in Berlin at the end of October. The weather was perfect, not a ton of tourists to navigate through, and the scenery couldn't have been more tranquil. What a way to start the day!
We were given strict instructions from our Swedish connection to pick up a couple sandwiches from Albert and Jacks and find a boat heading out to the Archipelagos. So, we did just that. All we needed were a couple of tickets. We even asked the hotel receptionist where exactly to go, but of course we ended up at the wrong spot and only had 20 minutes to head back to where we came from and find Pier 15. Surprise, surprise...you have to buy the ticket on the actual boat not from the multiple ticket shacks lining the city. Love that no brochure or receptionist had told us that. I'm not bitter though. Luckily, we made it back to the right pier just in time to embark.
It was definitely beautiful, but I think both Josh and I had a different idea of what we would see. We both thought we would have gotten closer to the ocean and had seen a bunch of little islands barely popping up from the water instead of these larger islands. I will say for those of you interested in going to Stockholm and exploring the Archipelagos, go in the summer. This is the best time to take a boat only to one island and then swim, kayak, hike, or just hangout there. This seems to be the more popular thing to do. Three hours on a boat where half of it is just retracing your steps maybe isn't the best option. I really shouldn't complain though. As with everything in and around Stockholm, it was gorgeous.
Royal Palace and Old Town time it is. We leave our sea-legs with the boat and stroll over to the old sector of the city. I had to show Josh the palace statues...I mean guards. I do remember these guys from my previous trip 15 years ago. For some reason I get my kicks from these guys not being able to look or talk to you. They just move their heads from side to side scanning the surrounding area. Don't they ever get tired? I was good this time. I didn't yell any obscenities at them trying to break their trance.
Next stop, Old Town. Just around the corner from the palace. Quaint streets, cute storefronts...these areas never get old. We spent just a little time roaming the small alleyways, peaking our heads into a couple shops, and eating some, always yummy, Mint Chocolate Chunk.
We both found some beautiful hats. Josh wasn't convinced it was the right style for him, but I couldn't resist. Hey. I need to stay warm this upcoming winter.
We even found this little gem in one of the window displays. Doesn't it look like Stella if she were a ram? Hilarious!
This trip couldn't have ended any better. We met back up with Michael for one last night out on the town. Grabbed some wonderful pasta from a small, neighborhood restaurant and said our goodbyes knowing that we would see each other again soon...and not 15 years from now.
Or maybe a quick-fix remedy to make this swelling go down? I got the pleasure of waking up this morning to a swollen right eye. My best guess is that it came from a bug bite, but I haven't completely ruled out Josh or Stella smacking me in the face last night. I swear these things only happen to me. What bug bites your eyelid? Why me? And, don't say it is because I am just sooooo sweet -- the bugs just can't resist me.
Sunday rolls around and we get picked up around noon to go explore the city further with our personal tour guide and driver, Michael. We usually just stumble around exploring, having little to nothing planned. Somehow it always works out, but it's always better to see a city with someone who really knows where to take you.
First stop is Rosendal Gardens located just outside the city. It couldn't have been much more than a 10 minute drive from our hotel and we were staying smack in the center of Stockholm. One minute you are in the city, and then next you are out. Quick as a blink of the eye. I think the land that the garden is on is still owned by the royal family. Absolutely gorgeous.
Rosendal gardens is a very cool spot to grab lunch and probably one of those you wouldn't find on the normal tourist path. You walk in and out of glass greenhouses filled with plant after plant, stroll through rows upon rows of flowers. And, everything served for lunch is made right there. Everything is organic, grown from seed to plant. Delicious. You can even cut flowers to take home in their expansive flower section if you want. Loved it.
With stomachs full, we head back towards the city to hit up one of their many viewpoints, City Hall. There is a tower there that must be talked about on every online travel site. A must see for Josh. Here are a few more glimpses of this beautiful city.
After Josh finally finishes taking a gizillion pictures and we almost go deaf from the bells ringing, we still have enough time to rome around downtown and do a little shopping. I wish I could remember all the very Swedish shops we went into.
I think this had to be the highlight of my shopping experience. There were these amazing light bulbs at Orrefors. I guess a very famous Swedish glass company. I know what you are thinking. How can light bulbs be that exciting? You just have to trust me. You may be seeing a few of these back in Austin one of these days. Very Josh and me. Not sure where they would go, but they are just too awesome to pass up on and we will always think of Stockholm every time we flip the light switch. I can find an excuse for anything.
After all of this running around, of course we worked up an appetite. Michael pointed us in the direction of restaurant Sturehof. Again, just around the corner from our hotel next to the Stureplan (center meeting spot in Stockholm). I guess since I hadn't gotten enough seafood from the night before (haha), Josh and I indulged and ordered this massive seafood platter. Lobster, crab, oysters, prawns...awesomeness. Paired with some white wine and the best seat in the house. The day couldn't have been better, all thanks to our Swedish tour guide. Thank you. Thank you.
Yesterday was a day of many firsts. We joined a couple friends out in the east side of Switzerland to witness the yearly celebration of the Alpabfahrt. This is the time of year with the herders bring in their cows from the upper mountains. You would just be driving along and all of sudden there were be men dressed up in traditional Swiss gear and a pack of cows strolling down the street. So very Swiss. I would say it was worth getting up at 6:30am on a Saturday to see.
Cows with massive bells attached to their necks. Swiss men wearing funny hats and smoking cigars. You don't get to see this every day.
When most people think of Switzerland, this is probably what they picture.
Along with seeing the Alpabfahrt, we had been invited to experience some real Swiss hiking. We were being taken up to Wasserauen in the Alpstein (foothills of the Alps), being told that this was an easy hike. I think they even said, "Oh, this is one of the easiest hikes in all of Switzerland. It will be a piece of cake". You should be aware that when a Swiss person says something is easy, it will be a challenge. I went in with the assumption I would be gasping for air the entire way up and our Swiss friend would end up carrying me a third of the way to the top. Somehow we made it one piece, but I wouldn't say it was easy.
Notice how our friend isn't even sweating. This is after an hour and a half uphill to Äscher. Just a Saturday stroll for HansPeter. My motivation came from knowing there would be Rösti and beer at the top of this mountain.
Rösti goodness with some Käse und zwei Eier. Good to the last bite.
If the day couldn't get any more Swiss, these ladies busted out some true yodeling while we ate overlooking the Alpstein. Such a beautiful area in Switzerland. So much to see and nothing like we had experienced before. Next trip maybe we check out the Seeaplsee or even get crazy and do a multi-day hike up to the peak, Säntis.
Don't really think I need to say anything more than this picture for this post...but, of course I will. Thought you were going to get lucky, huh. Isn't it gorgeous?!
We took an extended weekend trip to Stockholm for multiple reasons. 1. This is the number one destination ex-pats love to visit. At least from my experience. I can barely get the standard question of "What city is your favorite to visit?" finished before they are saying, "Stockholm". 2. Josh's family comes from Sweden and he has never been. 3. To visit my other brother, Michael and his family. My family had a foreign exchange student when I was growing up from Stockholm. I haven't seen him in about 15 years and figured this was a good excuse to catch up. Who needs reasons though. If you are debating where to visit next, pick Stockholm. Go quick though. It is starting to get cold.
After the long day of traveling, I just wanted to get to the hotel and get settled in. Have a few minutes to breath before Michael came to pick us up for dinner. Such a simple desire that got thrown out the window when we went to go check in. Somehow I had made reservations for the wrong hotel. We were supposed to be staying at the Elite Hotel Stockholm Plaza, but I guess I made the reservations for one of their other hotels, the Elite Hotel Stockholm Palace. Hard to imagine someone could make that mistake. Luckily, my Swedish brother was able to sweet talk the receptionist by making up some bullshit story about having a friend who knew the hotel owner, blah, blah, blah and presto, we have a jr. suite with our name on it.
We went back to Michael's apartment for dinner and to meet the family. A lot has changed since he lived with us a million years ago. We sat down for a traditional, summer meal of crayfish, cheese pie, some sort of salty fish pie thing, a special Swedish caviar with toast, and butterscotch pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. I could live on this stuff.
And, of course he had to bust out the scotch. We sat around reminiscing about the good ol' days in Sioux Falls, SD. Looking through pictures of him and our family. Hearing his recollections of trips made to Fort Worth with my dad. Of putting my underwear on our dog for kicks. All too funny. It felt like I had seen him just yesterday.
We made our way back to the hotel with our bellies full and ready to get some shut-eye. Tomorrow we were being taken around the city with our own Swedish guide. Del två coming soon.
RyanAir. I love you. I hate you. Why do low-fare airlines always have to be paired with this "Black Friday" mentality? You know what I mean. Day after Thanksgiving, waiting in line, adrenaline pumping, ready to rush the door at 5am just to save a couple of bucks on the latest and greatest holiday gift. This is exactly what it is like waiting in a RyanAir line before the flight departs. Passport and ticket in hand, elbows out ready to withstand the crazies behind you, your eyes on the prize...
Unlike Southwest Airlines, RyanAir has a strict baggage policy. And, when I say strict, I mean it. You line up 45 mins before your flight primarily because each passenger has to show that their one carry-on fits within the given limits.
The best part is watching each person push and shove their bag into this tiny space with all their might. Everyone kept getting their bags stuck. Men had to help women get their bags unstuck after they "fit" in this box. We learned a solid way to cheat the system. You must turn your bag upside down, wheels up, to get your regular American-sized carry-on to fit. If your bag doesn't fit it is an extra 50 CHF (30 Euro, $50 dollars). Hey, whatever works, right?
Finally we make it on the plane. The bags easily fit in the overhead space...of course.
Next up, we find out how RyanAir stays so cheap. For the next two hours of the flight, the flight attendants continually walk up and down the aisles selling something, anything. The first item that caught me off-guard was their smokeless cigarettes. The "healthy" alternative to get you through this rough couple hour flight. When I heard them say this on the intercom, I had to do a double-take. That couldn't have been what they said. But, just as I thought that one of the flight attendants comes walking down the aisle showcasing just that.
For your food and drink selection...doesn't that look tasty. Or you can be smart and bring something edible on the plane with you.
But, don't expect a pocket to put it in.
Are you understanding my love-hate relationship yet? I can't say I will never fly RyanAir again, but the price will have to be right. I am starting to realize we can't wait til the last minute to make plans. Thankfully the next trip planned is to Berlin and tickets have been already been bought on Swiss Air.
The Peterthals have been taken to a whole other level in the blog-o-sphere. I was given the opportunity to write for a fellow ex-pat-er's blog. Check out our first guest blog appearance on OneBigYodel.com with "Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign".
We are gearing up for our next big trip out of Switzerland and on to the beautiful city of Stockholm, Sweden. This should be an interesting trip. Not just exploring the city and seeing old friends, but also experiencing one of the cheap "Southwest-like" airlines of Europe -- RyanAir.
The last few trips we have gone a bit over budget and we knew that Stockholm wasn't going to be cheap. So, we decided to do our best and watch our pennies this trip. Starting with the flights. We booked the flights about a month ago when RyanAir was offering a $0 ticket from Basel to Stockholm. What? Huh? How is that possible? You say. And, if you know anything about this airline, you know nothing is free. They charge for everything and you had better read all of the small print when buying the ticket. Here's the breakdown of how our $0 ticket turns into $100 for each of us:
0.00 CHF Total Fare
144.78 CHF Taxes, Fees & Charges
32.00 CHF Passenger Fee: Web Check in
32.00 CHF Passenger Fee: Handling Fee
*208.78 CHF Total Paid
The next catch is that we aren't flying direct from Zurich to Stockholm. The route is actually from Basel to Skavsta. First we take an hour and twenty minute train/bus ride combo to the Basel Flughafen. Fly to Skavsta. And, then bus it for an hour and a half into Stockholm.
I am a bit nervous for how all of this will turn out, but I am willing to give it a shot. What I know so far is that since I didn't pay for a bag, I am allowed only one carry-on bag. This includes a purse or laptop bag. Guess the Freitag bag is going inside the roller-bag. Just a couple hoops to jump through. All to save a buck. Actually, more like $250 bucks a person.
The REAL football season has started back in the States and Josh and I are scrambling trying to figure out our best option for watching games. This might just be the hardest, and most important, problem we have faced so far. Luckily, our ex-pat friends from Atlanta are also feeling the pain and went the extra mile tracking down American bars that would be showing a game or two.
So far it looks like there are only two bars brave enough to broadcast some ESPN here. However, Swiss soccer trumps all other forms of sports. Wow. My true colors are showing. Did I really just say soccer when referring to EU fussball? Good thing only ex-pats and family read this blog.
Are you chomping at the bit in anticipation of where we went? I don't know if I can even bring myself to tell you. I blame it all on Switzerland. There is no way we would have gone here if we were back in the States. It is so embarrassing...but, so necessary. We even had to make a reservation.
Ok. I am just going to say it. We went to HOOTERS. And, more surprisingly the place with packed. Look what Switzerland is forcing me to become -- the things I will do for a little football. Kristi and I had to be the only girls in there that weren't wearing tiny white tanks, teeny orange shorts, and 80's legwarmer-looking socks.
Hopefully you are getting a feel for the beautiful ambiance. After the soccer game ended (the Swiss won if you were curious) and David's cries for Georgia football were finally answered, we got to watch a little ball. It almost felt like our own bar. The rest of the bar filtered out and only a few stayed but weren't paying any attention to the screens anymore. What a weird sensation. College football without an entire bar grunting and groaning in unison. We got loud and obnoxious, cheering and booing, enjoying every minute of our time at the H.
Here's David doing a little Bulldog cheer or more making fun of me doing his "woof woof" chant.
And, Kristi sporting the Georgia black and red in true Bulldog fashion. Needless to say, good times were had by all. We did only get to see about half of the game since we had to catch the last bus at midnight. But, for all the effort spent researching where we could watch the game, calling for reservations, and taking one for the team by ordering scary hot wings...we thank you Kristi and David. Let's not go here again!
I am still trying to figure out the excitement surrounding these "Baderhäuser" here in Zurich. There are bath houses all along the Zurichsee and Limmat River. We walk by them constantly, occasionally poking our heads in and around the trees to catch a glimpse of exactly why people come here. Instead of continuing this guessing game, we decided to join some friends and experience Seebad Enge first hand -- our neighborhood "Bad".
Let me try to set the scene a bit. We show up at the bath house, pay our 6 CHF and enter the co-ed bath. There is also a "Frauenbad" that is only for women on the other side, which is a whole other post that I will save for a rainy day (however, I am not sure those pictures are blog appropriate). We make our way in to see what big party awaits behind that concrete wall only to find people doing what you can do for free in the grass or on the pier right next to the bath house. I am being a bit harsh, but this only perked my curiosity more to figure why the obsession with these places.
There was a smaller semi-shaded area away from the lake, next to the bar that was lined with people. We luckily wedged in with some locals next to the bath. Notice how no one is actually in this water. Also another question of mine.
Everyone was either laying out, catching some rays or taking quick dips in the lake. After having a little glass of Prosecco, I finally had enough liquid courage to venture out into the water. I figure it is just one of those things you have to do when you are here. As I walked over to the edge, I realized that there could be no screaming. Swiss are so used to the water temps and it was so quiet in the bath house. I was just going to have to jump in fast and keep my mouth closed. I was literally in the water for maybe 45 seconds before I jumped back out. Let's just say it wasn't the warmest water I have ever been in. That's for sure. But, at least now I can say I did it.
I do have to admit it is a beautiful spot on the lake. Sailboats cruising around, kids riding the paddle boats, huge fountain in the background...not too shabby. I have also heard rumors about a sweet sauna over on the Frauenbad side that I may have to check out in the winter. Even though I jest a lot, this is something to experience at least once. It may not answer that underlying question of "Why?" and it may even stir up some new quandaries, still just something you have to do. My next experience with these baths is going to have to be at night someday soon before it gets too cold. Some of these bath houses turn into little clubs at night, all lit up with twinkly lights. Just another thing to add to the list.