Friday, October 30, 2009

World Blog Surf Day

Today's post will break away from my long-winded, usual ramblings on which Swiss rule I broke this time or my latest and greatest pub find to be apart of something bigger. Today is World Blog Surf Day. Expat bloggers are linking up today to take you on a virtual tour of our favorite holidays and celebrations from across the world. So, grab your wetsuit and get ready to surf the wave.

Alpabfahrt. Let's celebrate some cows and old-school Swiss tradition. When most people think of Switzerland, this is probably what they picture.

Each Fall a celebration, known as the Alpabfahrt (Alp descent), is held when the cows are bought down from their summer grazing spot in the upper-Alps.

Who doesn't love some lederhosen and cowbell?

To continue riding the wave, check out Swiss Family Mac and get another look at what Switzerland has to offer. Twitter snippets are also being posted at emptynestexpat.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dr. Loser

Finding a doc in a new city can be frustrating and challenging. Now add living in a different country where you don't speak the language and the health care system is completely different. Sometimes you just have to get sick to figure the process out.

The last couple of days I just haven't felt myself. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling terrible and knew first thing in the morning I would be on a doctor hunt. Our relocation agent gave us this binder with a list of english-speaking doctors in the area. She had even starred the doc closest to our apartment. Figuring this was a good place to start, I called and made an appointment for later today.

A couple of bells should have gone off in my head hinting me to look in another direction. First off, the doctors name is Dr. Loser. No joke. Next was when the receptionist asked if the appointment was for a general check-up or for a cosmetic purpose and if I was interested in Botox. I know what you are thinking, but this is a different culture. Felt kind of like going to a dentist in the States and all they can keep talking about is getting your teeth whitened.

I show up at the office (if you can really even call it that) and this is the entrance. Notice the sign at the bottom of the door that says, "Danger. Keep Out"? I should have listened. And, the 1980's colored cubes lining the door frame? The bells were ringing this time, but I just kept telling myself, "all you need to do is pee in a cup, gets some antibiotics, and you are set". Done and done.

The office was like nothing I have ever seen before. My best guess is that they had really out done themselves decorating for Halloween this year or that 1980 had thrown-up all over the place. The walls were lined in mirrors. The waiting room had old airplane seats to sit in. There were small, gold doggie trinkets on the shelves and a disco ball over the tree in the corner. Every free space was taken up with some tacky, dance club-inspired feature. Maybe this was like one of those restaurants that turns into a club after hours?

As I am filling out the new patient paperwork wondering if I should just run for the hills, the receptionist comes to escort me back to the doctor. First thing he says to me is, "Do we have to speak in English?". My guess is that wasn't exactly what he meant to say. After not knowing the words for urinary tract infection in Deutsch, I point and say "schmerzen". He laughs, but understands thankfully and shows me to the bathroom. He tells me basically to pee in a cup. I look around for a cup and don't see any beside the plastic drinking cups in the corner. Sure enough, that is what I peed in. Now, where to put the cup? There isn't the standard small door to place the cup in or even a lid to put on top. I walked out to reception and she is waiting for my cup-o-pee.

Test comes back confirming my assumptions and the doctor gives me a package of powder antibiotics. Powder...hmmmm. My fingers are crossed that it works. I will not be going back to this club/doctor's office for any further check-ups. All this office needed was some techno music playing in the background and Dr. Loser wearing Euro-faded jeans under his white lab coat.

Recommendations for doctors near to Enge?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Puppy Threads

Before moving to Switzerland, we constantly joked around about having to buy a little sweater for Stella once it got cold here. Normally we are not the type of people to dress up our pug in glitter and lace or carry her around in one of those pink, diamond-studded handbags. But, it got cold here last week. Somehow the weather decided to skip right over Fall and head straight to Winter.

What can I say? My opinion changed on doggie clothing. No more joking. We bought Stella her first, sporty-spice winter jacket. It is water-resistant on the outside with fleece-lining to keep her warm on the inside. This jacket probably costs as much as a kids jacket back in the States. Purchasing the jacket was the easy part. Getting her to actually wear the thing was a whole other story.

We had been invited to watch the OU v. UT game at a friends' place last Saturday. We all bundle up in our winter gear since freezing rain was falling intermittently. Stella got all suited up in her new winter threads but as we start heading to the door, someone wouldn't move. Not even a little. She just looks up at us with these big, puppy dog eyes wondering what the hell we are doing to her now. Somehow we coerce her outside, but she won't budge any further. Fine. You don't have to wear the coat, but when you get cold don't come crying to me.

The coat comes off and it is like she has broken free. We make it to the tram and over to Bahnhof Wollisofen and even over to the bus stop to take us to Kilchberg. But, waiting for the bus was the straw that broke the camels back. Stella started shaking, jumping up to get held. She was freezing. She must get her thin skin from her mommy. I busted out the jacket, slapped it on, and she didn't give me any problems afterwards. She now associates the cold with the jacket warming her up. Fantastic.

Now, once she figures out that she can go potty with the coat on we will be golden. I never said she was the smartest puppy in the pack.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Scottish Pubbing

We decided to break away from our homebody mentality and meet up with some friends last week at the Bonnie Prince Pub in the Niederdorf section of Zurich. I was excited to check out the selection of Scottish beers and Scotch on tap. The ambiance was definitely inviting. The low-lit pub is decorated with red velvet walls, a plaid wallpapered bar, antique style tables and chairs all tucked in closely to one another -- topped off with the light sounds of Iron Maiden being played in the background.

Beers were a flowin'. I blame the cold weather. Nothing wrong with warming up from the inside out, right? Try the Northern Light for a little fruity, lager flavor or the Old English Oil for a darker, more filling beer.

And, of course you have to try the whiskey. I had never seen a row of whiskey bottles on tap before. I am a complete novice when it comes to this hard stuff. I went with a single malt, medium peaty choice of Glenkinchie (12 years old). You get your fancy glass of scotch, a side glass of water, and even a pipet. I learned how adding water brings out the true flavors of the scotch. Who knew? I just thought it was cool having tools for the drinking process.

All I have to say...for a good time, all you need is a little plaid and whiskey.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Internet Famous Yet?

I was surprised to find out yesterday that was featured in my Uncle's blog, South Dakota Straight Talk. This blog usually focuses on the happenings within the political world. Quite a stretch from our beer drinking stories and pictures of cows with big bells hung around their necks. It's great to see that everyone is finding our adventures entertaining. Thanks for the shout out. We aim to please.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday is MY Day

Seriously, people. How difficult is it to follow simple laundry room etiquette or do they not teach you that here in der Schweiz?

We have been assigned the lovely day of Wednesday to get our laundry done. In my mind this means the whole laundry room should be ours to use that day. The washer, dryer, clothesline, blower, folding table...all of it MINE. I can't speak for all the days of the week, but the Tuesday flat doesn't seem to follow the same code as me. It is simple. You wash, you dry, you hang, you blow, you fold, and then you take it all back to your apartment before the next day.

Ever since we have moved in, I have had the pleasure of taking down all the hanging clothes from the previous night. I know what you are thinking. Why don't you just leave a note and ask the person to take care of this small issue? Well, funny that you say that. I went one step even further. My laundry room hogging neighbor, I mean the nice man on the floor below us, was in the laundry room last Wednesday night (not even morning) picking up his clothes from the day before. We hadn't met yet so I introduced myself and even asked if he minded me placing his clothes on the folding table. He looked at me like I was the one that did something wrong, asking, "You are the one that did this?". I played stupid and said "I hope it isn't a problem, but I needed some room to hang our clothes.". You would have thought I killed his first born. Believe me, I don't want to be touching your clothes as much as you don't want me touching your clothes. Jeez.

Thinking that since he had such an issue with me messing with his clothes that this week would be different, was a ridiculous thought. Who does this and then gets pissed at the neighbor just trying to get her laundry done? I am thinking I should start folding his clothes up into the animal shapes like you find on a cruise. I wonder what he would think of me then.

**Just so you know. I went down there this morning and still nothing had changed. Wow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Highlights of Hamburg

Last week we lucked out that some user-testing needed to be done in Hamburg for one of Josh's projects. This meant a week of working for Josh, but more exciting a long weekend for us to experience the second largest city in Germany. This is probably one city that we would have never visited without having made the move to Zurich. Being able to see cities likes this keeps reminding me that leaving Austin for a couple years was completely worth it. Here are some of the highlights.

Once I made my way from the airport to our hotel, I got settled in and decided I needed to do a run along the Aussenalster (Outer Alster Lake). I guess it had been raining throughout the week and the sun came out just when I arrived. I am starting to realize that running in each city we visit is the way to really feel like a part of the culture. The lake was breathtaking. Everyone was out with their dogs. All off-leash and none wanting to bite each others heads off. Guess they are better socialized here than in Zurich. Tons of people were out running the same trail as me. It was pretty cool to see someone on one side of the lake and then a half-hour later see them again on the other. This is about a 5 mile loop with multiple marinas, restaurants, and amazing mansions lining the shore. Loved it.

On Friday, Josh got dragged back into work for a few hours leaving me to venture around the city on my own. I think this has to be the first time he let me off the leash. I made my way around weaving through street after street of storefronts. It was exciting to see prices that didn't make your want to run away crying. I had heard things in Germany were cheaper, but couldn't believe it til I saw it.

I turned a corner and this is the building that stood before me. What amazing architecture! This is the Rathaus (City Hall). It overlooks a large, open square where people busily pass by each taking this site for granted. I took my time taking a zillion pictures and then walking through the building to get to the inner courtyard. We went back multiple times, but decided not to wait in the line for a guided tour. Maybe next time. I hear it is worth it.

I saw off in the distance a tall steeple and thought that might be something I should see. So, I wander. Somehow I lose track of the steeple (hard to believe when it jets over the entire city). I come to this parking lot and start to think that it might be a dead end. Surprisingly, I turn the corner and this is what I saw. My mouth must have hit the pavement. Josh had mentioned something about wanting to see the St. Nikolai memorial and somehow this is where I ended up.

This church was bombed out during WWII and never restored later. It serves as a reminder of that time and is definitely a site to see. I even heard that this acted as our point of reference when deciding where to bomb within the city. There is an elevator that will take you to the top of the memorial during the day where you can get some amazing city views. I felt a little bad considering I had just seen two of the places that Josh was hoping to see. I swear it wasn't intentional, just the way my internal compass took me. I was a nice wife though and took Josh back later that night to experience what I had seen during the couple hours he had his meeting. It was just as spectacular the second time.

We made our way down to the waterfront along the Elbe river. I guess this is the third largest port in Europe and nicknamed Germany's "Gateway to the World". It was packed with small tugboats to huge ships that had been turned into museums. We hit it just at the right time when the sun was setting.

Somewhat in the same area is the red-light district of Hamburg known as the Reeperbahn. I guess you could say it was a much bigger 6th street lined with strip clubs, porn stores, bars, and music venues. We could have definitely spent more time here. Maybe when some of the Austin folk make it over to visit we will have to take another trip up to Hamburg. We didn't even get to see where The Beatles first played or Herbertstrasse where the hookers hang out at. Side note to any females wanting to hit up Herbertstrasse. You will get drenched with water. This is a no-woman zone or maybe more like a no-non-hooker zone. Trust me. You won't miss out on seeing the hookers. They also hangout directly on the Reeperbahn. Fanny packs and all. Wish I had some pictures for you, but this is something you have to experience for yourself.

From the Landungsbrücken train station, you can make your way over to the warehouse district. Overall a pretty cool site to see. Beautiful brick buildings that go on forever with water running through the area and a bunch of bridges. It is said there are more bridges here than in Venice if that means anything to you. Nice area to take a Sunday stroll which is exactly what we did.

Our final excursion was a walk through the Botanical Gardens. It was the perfect way to spend the last little bit of time before having to catch a train to the Flughafen. Small pathways in the center of the city lined with trees changing all the colors of Autumn. I don't know the last time I actually saw a real Fall. I know it means Winter is on the way, but makes for some beautiful scenery.

I have to tell you that this has been my favorite city so far...above Paris, above Stockholm. There was just something about this city. I love the different areas all closely situated next to one another. There is a different feel for each part of the city. And, the city doesn't have that old, old look to it. You get some of the old, but a lot was destroyed during the war and in its place are some contemporary gems. I also got to bust out a lot of my German during our stay. They didn't even laugh that hard at me. I did think their German would sound crystal clear to me, but it was still way too fast. But, I held my own. We are definitely looking forward to taking some friends back with us another time. Any takers?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Full Week of Entertainment

This post is dedicated to my puma, Kel-dawg. Your pictures on facebook inspired this post. I had the best time with you and hope you come back to visit again soon.

What to do? What to do when you have family or friends coming to visit you? You want to make their time in Zurich/Switzerland/Europe the best ever. This is a lot of pressure. So, for all my ex-pat groupies here is a synopsis of how I kept my girl entertained. Hopefully you can use some of these ideas with your next visitors.

Take a stroll around the Zurichsee. Hiss back at the Swans.

Drinks at Jules Verne Panorama Bar. Enjoy the view over very expensive drinks.

Attend a Swiss sporting event. Be the loud, proud American.

Introduce her to some Swiss. This way she understands the jokes. Just kidding.

And then meet the ex-pats for comparisons. Enjoy a "Black Velvet" (Guiness and Cider) at an ex-pat hangout, Paddy Reilly's.

Freitag shopping trip and Zurich view.

Hike up to Uetliberg. Don't take the train. It takes about an hour and a half. Just enough time to burn off some of those beers.

Enjoy some Rösti at the top. It's the best.

Hit up Bodega Espanola in Old Town. Great tapas downstairs or make reservations upstairs with larger groups. Kelly liked the monopoly money.

Get some schokolade from Merkur. The presentation is like nothing else.

Take a train and venture outside of the city. Hitting up Lichtenstein and Austria is a great day trip and a fun story to tell friends.

People watch on the Bahnhofstrasse. Enjoy a cup of Kaffee and keep your camera out.

The list could go on and on. The options are endless. These were just some of the highlights while Kelly was visiting.  Can't wait til the next round of visitors. Any other good ideas for what to do with my mom who is visiting for the month of November? I see a lot of day trips in our future.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2 For 1 Special

How does having lunch in one country and then drinks in another sound to you? This is the whole reason we moved here. It is just too easy to hop on a train and leave the country for the day and be back home in time for dinner that night. Nothing can beat this.

Kelly came up with the great plan of having lunch in Lichtenstein and then drinks in Austria last Wednesday. We both knew nothing about either country. Just that we could get to Lichtenstein in about an hour and a half and we figured it couldn't be that difficult to jump over to Austria from there. Some friends had told us to see Vaduz, the capital of little-o-Lichtenstein. Who am I to say no? We did just that. We caught a train to Sargans and then a bus over to Vaduz. Easy cheesy.

Once we arrived, we walked the streets taking in some of the sites. From the main drag you could see a castle overlooking the city. We figured this was a must see.

We wandered through some of the old coblestone streets finally making our way to a path labeled "Schloss" (meaning castle in German) with signs pointing up the hill.

With turrets and all. Pretty spectacular. Come to find out the Prince actually lives here in all 130 rooms. I guess that makes sense why we couldn't go inside. We admired only from the outside and then made our way back to the center of town to be the "ladies that lunch" in Lichtenstein. Who really does this? Kelly and me!

I do have to point out that along with visiting the castle in Vaduz, there is also a winery nearby. We didn't get a chance to check it out this trip, but it gives me another reason to go back. There were the most beautiful vineyards lining the roads on our way out of the city.

Next stop, Feldkirch, Austria.

We really didn't have a good reason for going to Feldkirch. This just happened to the be the spot where most buses from Vaduz drop you to take the trains into other parts of Austria. I wish I had a better story for you. It took us about a half hour and 3.5 Euros to make this leg of the trip.

I don't know if I was overwhelmed with this city at the time, but now that I look back at some of the pictures it was amazing to see all the art in this city. From graffiti lining the streets, to paintings on government buildings, this city has some hidden charm.

Like usual, we took off wandering the streets somehow ending up in the Old Town and ending at a river. This seems to be a reccuring theme with every town we visit over here.

Following our plan, we found a quaint neighborhood bar next to the water where we grabbed a couple beers to enjoy the scenery. I even busted out a little German for the bartender. I had to show him my skills.

Mission accomplished. Two countries in  one day. Who else is cool enough to say they have done this before?