Monday, November 30, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
All I knew going into this meal was that you had to call the restaurant prior to the meal and let them know you were being dare devils for the night and that it was a bit pricey (but usual Swiss dining standards). Also knew it had something to do with a big bowl of boiling water and something about having to cook your own meat. Sounds good enough, right?
We asked for some initial instructions. Before you start playing, they drop a bunch of veggies in the water to cook. Gave you a couple dipping sauces and a plate of raw meat. You grab some meat with your chopsticks, put it in the water til it browns, dip it in a sauce, and eat. Add veggies and rice if you prefer. I love foods that are hands on. Very simple. Very healthy.
By the end of the meal, all the meat was gone, veggies were bought and cooked multiple times, and my tummy was full. Add a couple Sapporos, good friends, a Mom, a wonderful husband, and it makes for a great anniversary night.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
In honor of the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I’d like to talk about some stuff that’s pretty great about being an expat in Switzerland.
- The Swiss know how to integrate nature with city life. This means a hiking trail is never more than 5-10 minutes away from just about anywhere. I love that. Now if I could just hike faster than the retirees, everything would be perfect.
- The country is beautiful. I mean come on, even the garbage cans shine. You just don’t see this kind of thing in other countries. Not to mention the lakes that are so clean you can swim in them. Even the dogs here smell nice. Oh, and my gutter is so shiny from my neighbor’s gardening boot camp that I can drink out of it. Talk about a beautiful life.
- You don’t need a car. The train connects to the bus that connects to the cable car that connects to that perfect little mountain restaurant in the middle of nowhere where people are having an energy drink and a bio yogurt. Just don’t get used to it or you’ll find yourself in other countries completely pissed as to why you can’t get to that little farming town of 500 via public transport.
- Location, location, location. Central Europe. You’re in it. I’ve seen most of Europe now, and I love revisiting the places I’ve been again and again. Because then instead of coming to a city all American style with a checklist of things to see, I let the cities come to me.
- Nice work, if you can get it. Those of us that have jobs (or used to have jobs—but don’t worry, unemployment pays too) know that Swiss salaries are good. When you can make as much money at a part-time job that you made working full-time in the States, well, let’s just say it’s going to be hard to leave.
Friday, November 27, 2009
We were extremely surprised when we arrived in Munich that the train station there is SMOKE-FREE. Have I mentioned how all of the Europeans smoke all the time?? Of course, you walk right outside of the station and you can't see or breathe. We checked into our hotel and set off to explore. A few blocks away was the Karlsplatz and it was PACKED with Saturday afternoon shoppers!! We walked amongst the crowds to the Marienplatz and then just wandered and wandered and wandered, looking at churches and government buildings and my favorite, the Viktuelienmarkt (an outdoor food market that was quite interesting). It was so crowded everywhere and just packed in the streets. I guess EVERYONE comes to Munich and shops there on Saturdays. We had a great time in Munich but it was definitely not our favorite city or a city that either of us thought we'd ever have any interest in going back to - unless it was for Oktoberfest (we could put up with the crowds for that)!! Munich seems a little schizophrenic - very old, massive buildings that have been converted to ugly, uncharming stores. Most other cities have also added shops to the ground floors of their old buildings, but Munich did it kind of crassly. The other thing that really hit us was the presence of Polizei everywhere - and lots of them. And in comparison to Switzerland which is sooooo clean, Munich was kind of dirty - trash overflowing in the trash cans on the streets, etc. Even with all of these considerations, we did have a very nice time and were glad that we went - my first time in Germany outside of the Frankfort airport and Deb says that doesn't count.
The most fun that we had - aside from lunch at the Hofbrau Haus - was shopping for Deb's dirndl. You know, Heidi clothes!! The TIGHT embroidered dresses with the little white puffy shirts underneath with lots of cleavage showing and the eyelet apron. She looks quite cute of course. When she tried it on, she couldn't get it zipped up so we asked the salesclerk for a larger size and she just said, "No, this fits," and yanked up the zipper. I think Deb can wear it if she doesn't eat anything - or breathe for that matter. I'm sure she'll blog on her dirndl so keep reading her blog for the post - and picture. Now Josh just needs to get his Lederhosen and they're set for their next party!! That, I want to see. Dinner that night was Italian. When we asked the concierge about restaurants and then told him I needed vegetarian, he switched his recommendation from Bavarian to Italian!! After dinner, we turned on the TV and what was on, but the German version of American Idol - and they were awful! They even have their own version of Simon Cowell.
Small world time. Having bagels the next morning at Coffee Fellows, we met an American who is in Munich working on a project for two weeks. Turns out he used to be a professor at the University of Iowa!! He told us about his book, The Oxford Project. When we got ready to leave, he gave us his business card - Peter Feldstein. I knew it - I'm in Munich, Germany and I find a Jewish guy from Iowa!! Check out The Oxford Project (www.oxfordproject.com). Also while we were there, we saw someone wearing a University of Texas Longhorns hat and another kid wearing a Minnesota t-shirt!
I'm used to clocks everywhere after a few weeks in Switzerland, but in Munich, there are CUCKOO clocks everywhere. Every size imaginable. Deb looked at buying one but I reminded her about the "Cuckoo, cuckoo" that they do over and over again - and make you crazy. The best clock there was on the Rathaus (the New Town Hall), the Glockenspiel. Every day at 11 a.m. it chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century. It consists of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures. The top half of the Glockenspiel tells the story of the marriage of the local Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lothringen. In honour of the happy couple there is a joust with life-sized knights on horseback representing Bavaria and Lothringen. The Bavarian knight wins every time of course. This is then followed by the bottom half and second story - Schäfflerstanz (the coopers' dance). In the 16th century a particularly bad period of the plague hit town and everyone went into hiding. The first people to dare go back onto the streets were barrel makers who performed a big dance to show that it was okay to come out again. The whole show lasts about 15 minutes. At the very end, a very small golden bird at the top of the Glockenspiel chirps three times, marking the end of the spectacle.
We walked and walked and walked - saw Maximilian this and Maximilian that - statues, streets, castles. Ended up walking through the English Gardens. I would describe them as the Central Park of Munich. There was a group of men and women who were surfing in the Isar River. They were great - wet suits from head to toe. Signs saying "Surfen und Baden Verboten" didn't stop them obviously. There are some videos on YouTube if you search for "Munich English Gardens Surfing".
Time for real Bavarian food - and real Bavarian beer! I of course had water but Deb said it was great - and BIG, huge steins of it. I think the stein was about as big as Deb - we figured about 3-4 beers - and little Deborah finished the whole thing. Deb had a platter of brats/weiners and sauerkraut and I had my favorite spetzle. It came with Käse (cheese) and Zwiebel (onions). My treat was a giant, hot, fresh Bretzel (not misspelled - that's what they're called here). The band was playing up a storm (think oom-pa-pa) and lots of people were dressed in their Sunday best - they really do dress like in the movies. You share tables and just have a wonderful, joyful time eating and drinking. This was the Germany I expected. I can't even imagine what it must be like during Oktoberfest. They even have a room where people have their personal biersteins locked up and I understand you have to get on a long waiting list to get one. Hard core beer drinkers in Bavaria.
We decided that we were tired and ready to just sit and have some coffee or tea - and maybe try a German dessert. So off to another Bavarian beer hall, the Weisses Brayhaus. Deb tried to order an apfelstrudel with vanilla ice cream but the very cute waitress in broken English shook her head no and pointed to another dessert. We thought that meant that they were out of strudel. She started to almost faint on the spot telling us in sign language how much better this other dessert was. Swooning was probably the right description. So we ordered the Kaiserschmarm. She was so right! OMG! A caramelized pancake with rum-soaked raisins, split into smaller pieces while frying and served with hausgemachten (a good word to learn to look for - homemade) applesauce. Wow!!! She was so right. (I said that already, didn't i??)
Back to Zurich. Pam went home on Monday morning so we were back to one Mommy at the Peterthals. Monday we had lunch at Google (sound like a broken record??) because Stella the Pug had a lunch date there with Emma the Pug. Deb and I then had the fun job of finding a laser printer in stores with no English. We did it. But then came the shlep to the bus, on the bus, and UP THE HILL. You know how big those printer boxes are. How did they ever get all of their apartment furnished and carried up those hills???
Tuesday, back to the train station. This time we trained it twice and then took a bus to Vals, spa-land. Ahhhhh.....mineral baths. Hotel Alpina Vals was our home until Thursday and it was a very nice vacation. The snow-covered Alps were everywhere you looked. Charming town. As I told Deb, I could just feel my blood pressure and heart rate slow down. Ahhhhh....off to the baths!
Therme Spa is quite unique in its design. Vals is a very quaint small town that commissioned a famous architect to design a building suitable for their famous mineral baths. The building is built into the mountain all out of local Valser quartzite and very dark and modern and linear, with little nooks and crannies everywhere, all with different temperatures of the waters. We started in 32° C which was like a very nice warm bath. There were also baths in 34° C, 36° C (indoor and outdoor), 42° C and then the ice pool at 14° C (57.2° F) very appropriately named. My toes went in after the Fire Pool (107.6° F) but that's it. Some people actually emerged their whole bodies in it and then went back into the hot bath. There were the usual, but kind of bizarre, wet and dry saunas and even a nude bathing area. Deb wouldn't let me go in - maybe it's because the people who went in right before that were these little old man and his wife. Our favorite was the "grotto" bath at 34° C - a small square secluded, quiet area with nice gentle whirlpool jets. The next day we went back after a nice long walk and also had foot massages in their spa. (Kurt, you are so much better than Jenny was!!!)
Of course I have to tell you about the food in Vals. Our hotel served us dinner and breakfast since we had a package with half pension. We did not expect 4-course gourmet dinners. Wow! Our waitress was the best and so accommodating to make sure my meals were vegetarian, even without us notifying them before we arrived. Our second night there she even had written out the menu in English so she'd get it all correct and had veggie options already selected for me. We had some wonderful pumpkin soup (Kürbissuppe) and apple-pumpkin soup (Apfel-Kürbissuppe). Again, cream and butter...I'm trying to find a recipe and make it "healthy" - oh, and taste yummy too.
On Thursday we reversed our route and walked to the bus stop and took a bus and then a train and then another train and then a tram and then walked up the hills to Deb's and then back down again and back on a tram to a bus and walked to her friend's to pick up Stella (and yes, then back on a bus to a tram to the hills to the apartment)! We had just over 24 hours to recuperate and pack and leave again (and deliver Stella to another friend's to dogsit), this time for a long weekend in Prague. Deb says we're staying put after that.
Next week we are going to try making a few recipes before I leave. Any suggestions??? And still on my list before I go home is Cheese Fondue - so many foods to try; so little time!
Coming home Monday...
Thursday, November 26, 2009
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am thankful that Google has pulled through and is serving up a turkey feast for lunch today. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Think of us when you are gobbling away at your stuffing and cranberry sauce while watching football. Not jealous at all.
*Just so you don't worry about us, Mom smuggled in some Stove Top Stuffing and Oceanspray Jellied Cranberry Sauce from home. Only the good stuff for her baby.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I am working on at least pronouncing the German words correctly. Not an easy language....but learning some of the words that are used over and over again - like Gleis (platform as in train platform) and verbotten (forbidden)! Deb has me starting with counting from one to ten. (That actually helped me know how much my latte was at the museum. Didn't have to ask her to speak in English.) Baby steps...now if I could understand what's HIGH German and what's SWISS German.
Another big week in my adventures in Zurich/Switzerland/Europe. Josh's mom Pam was also here so the Peterthals had TWO mommies to deal with. Lucky Deb and Josh!!
So many interesting events this week. As I read my notes, I see a theme here - FOOD! It just turned out that way this week. Food and TRAVEL!! Lots of travel - and lots of new foods to taste. It's more than just the food, though - it's a way to really absorb the culture - and the calories. Everything here seems to either have milk, butter and/or cream - but made with milk from "happy" cows. Oh, yeah, potatoes are also very big here.
On Saturday, we went to ExpoVina (12 ships docked in Lake Zurich) with wine tasting from all over the world. $20 to get in and all the wine you wanted!! I had water and a Diet Coke!! But I also split a Swiss "cheese pie" called Chäschüechli. I think that means little cheese pie. After going from boat to boat, we went to some friends' house for Mac n Cheese!
On Sunday after a run/walk on the Sihl River, we all went to Korperwelten, the "Body Worlds" exhibit (since almost nothing is open here on Sundays). Really interesting and so much fun to read all about the workings of our bodies in either German or French. Again, my French came in handy but it must have taken me at least an hour longer than it should have because of my time needed to translate. They just don't teach you the words for "stroke" or "menopause" in French class. Dinner was as Swiss as you could get - Zeughauskeller for Kalbsgeschnetzeltes (sliced veal and mushrooms in a creamy white wine sauce) served over rösti (like incredible hash browns), kind of. I had spinach and ricotta tortellini (not too many vegetarian choices on the menu).
On Monday, we all (Stella included - Switzerland is VERY dog-friendly) bundled up and headed to the tram to go to St. Gallen and Appenzell for the day. We got to the tram and Stella, even in her nice warm jacket, started shaking and shivering so Deb stayed home with her and Josh took both of the mommies for a day trip. I told Deb it wasn't nice of her to get Stella all wet to make her shiver - she could have just told us that she didn't want to go! St. Gallen was nice - didn't really have much time there. But Appenzell was just so very charming - as my Dave described it, right off the Swiss Mix box! This is the Switzerland that everyone envisions. But it was eerily quiet as we walked along trying to find Hotel Traube for their famous mac n cheese. It finally hit us that no one was out and about and everything was closed so I guess Appenzell shuts down on Sundays AND Mondays. We found a place for coffee and after finding a cheese shop and sampling a few (and buying three), we found a Bäckerei that was open. We ordered Käse Zweibelkuchen (cheese/onion quiche) and grün salat (green salad) and wonderful Warme Schokolade (hot, actually warm, chocolate) and latte macchiatos. And to top it off, we had to have some of their special lebkuchen (gingerbread with almond filling) and apfelkuchen. We scoured the few stores that were open for a cow bell (read Deb's account of the cow bells) and then boarded a train and then another train to return back to Zurich. Great day. BEAUTIFUL part of Switzerland. Thank you, Josh, for being such a patient son/son-in-law.
Wednesday, Hausfrau Day for Deb. Laundry day. So I took over as the tour guide for the day. My first true test of my knowledge of the city and how to get around. We met Josh at Google and he walked us to the train station and saw us off. We took the S4 to Selnau and then changed to the S10 for Uetliberg. Piece of cake - except the S10 only went as far as Triemli. So we got off and waited for the next S10 to continue up to Uetliberg. We had been waiting for a clear day because from Uetliberg, you can see all of Zurich. It was really gorgeous. After that, we took the train back to the main train station (the HB) and walked down Bahnhofstrasse and through winding little streets in Old Town to see the Chagall stained glass windows at Frau Münster. They are beautiful and we had to take advantage of the sunny day. I found our way to "the best bratwurst stand" in Zurich and we ate with the locals. Back to Bellevue and we took the tram to the Kunsthaus (Art Museum). Then back on the trams to the apartment. I had done it! Gotten us there and back and everywhere in between. If you can read a time schedule and system map, you can figure everything out. Luckily, I can do that. Back to home and clean clothes!
Thursday was Google lunch (#3 or #4??) and then the grocery store and then Pam made her famous veggie lasagna. Google had a special "Daughter's lunch menu" so we had fish sticks, hot dogs, spaghetti - very cute to see some of the daughters there for lunch with dad/mom. We took Pam to Freitag to buy a bag made out of all recycled materials - truck tarps, seatbelts, and tire tubes. Cool place. We also went to a great little funky antique shop with the coolest old giant clock from a train station. Deb is trying to figure out how to get it home and wired in the States. All four of us went to the Opernhaus that night for the opera "Madama Butterfly". What a treat. The opera house was built in 1891 and is as you would imagine it - ornate and beautiful (but not designed to see very well from every seat we found out). Imagine it - being at the Opera in Switzerland watching an opera set in Japan about an American soldier and sung in Italian with German subtitles!!! I had advised Deb to read the synopsis before we went - that was very good advice!!
Friday the 13th, Josh took off another day from work for another day trip. We started the day with Pam making us Swedish pancakes! All we needed were fresh lingonberries. Again all of us set off (Stella included) for Luzern and then on another small train for Alpnachstad. We bought tickets to ride the steepest cogwheel train in the world and went from 1450 ft. to 7000 ft at a 48% incline. Read Deb's blog for comments and pictures. Stella did great until her feet got wet in the ice. So Deb and I headed in for lunch. What did she have?? You guessed it - mac n cheese with a twist, called Alpine Macaroni (mac, cheese, potatoes). I had the first of many bowls of suppe in Switzerland. The soups are wonderful and after looking up some of the recipes, I found out why - cream and butter!! Very funny that our train was five minutes late and Deb started going crazy!! I guess she has become more "Swiss" than she thinks. That evening we met a bunch of Deb and Josh's friends to celebrate their anniversary - at a Japanese restaurant having "syabu syabu".
Back to Zurich just in time to pack for a weekend in Munich!! Week 3 update coming soon (we leave for Prague tomorrow morning for four days). Tschuss!
*Stephen (aka Dad) has decided to blog a response to my letters, sometimes even before I write the letter! Read his responses at http://stephenrosenthal.blogspot.com/
Saturday, November 21, 2009
problems. You would think after 6 months of living here I would know
which trains take me to the Flughafen, but I guess you would be wrong.
After racing with suitcases in hand and Mom almost spilling coffee all
over herself we made it to the train we thought was going to the
airport. Luckily I noticed only two stops too late that this train was
actually going to Nowhereswil, Switzerland. We switch trains heading
back to Oerlikon only to get stuck taking a bus that makes a billion
stops with the oldest, slowest people ever on its way (finally) to the
Again we race with suitcases in hand (no coffee this time - one less
obstacle) to get to our gate just in time to find out it is delayed.
Gotta love that.
I guess my complaining did the trick! We are boarding. Looks like we
are going to Prague after all.
Friday, November 20, 2009
What's all the excitement for? Just made me think of all the reasons we purify our water.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
(pause for you to catch your breath)
I only got to stay outside for about a half a second since our princess of a dog started shaking uncontrollably. Poor mopsli (little pug) doesn't like the snow.
Monday, November 16, 2009
A few days ago, I was preparing for a radio interview and one of the
questions was, “Is Switzerland an easy country for expats?”
My answer? Yes and no.
Yes, because it’s easy to find support groups of other expats and make
friends through the expat community.
Here are some of them:
Swiss Expat Bloggers (http://swissexpatbloggers.
International Men’s Club Zurich (http://www.zimc.ch)
British Residents’ Associate of Switzerland (http://www.britishresidents.ch)
Zurich Comedy Club (http://www.zcc.ch)
Zurich International Women’s Association (http://www.ziwa.com)
But I also think that Switzerland can be a hard country for expats
because the Swiss culture doesn’t make it easy to feel a part of. It’s
hard to make friends with the Swiss people because they are so
private—I’ve learned from the few Swiss friends I do have that even
the Swiss have trouble making Swiss friends. It’s not just us. It’s
the way the culture is. So don’t feel bad. One of my Swiss friends
just started a new job in Zurich and couldn’t believe no one talked to
him the first few weeks he was there. No one said, “let’s go to
lunch.” He had to ask first. This is typical. And he doesn’t like it
Another reason Switzerland can be difficult for expats is because of
the language. Especially in the German section, the language can be a
barrier no matter what version you learn, because you can’t win. You
learn High German and change every der, den, das, dem, denen, and des
into a “duh”, but you’re still labeled as a outsider no matter how
good those duh’s get. And correct me if I’m wrong, but Swiss German
seems like a hard language to learn because it’s not written at all.
So take your choice—be able to read your Swiss mail and your Swiss
newspaper and communicate with all of Germany or Austria, or learn a
Swiss dialect and be able to talk to the 2,000 people in your town but
not be able to read and write. Hmm.
But enough about what I think. Do you think Switzerland is an easy
country for expats to live in? Why or why not?
Chantal Panozzo is a writer and blogger. Besides keeping her own blog,
One Big Yodel (http://www.onebigyodel.com) and Writer Abroad
(http://www.writerabroad.com) she also blogs for a new expat community
affordable calling cards in Switzerland
information about living in abroad in Switzerland and many other
Thursday, November 12, 2009
After a few days of playing hausfrau, we decide to venture out and do some sightseeing in Rapperswil -- of course having lunch while we are there. It is at the southern edge of the Zurichsee about a 40-minute train ride away.
Mind you that we haven't done any research about what to do in Rapperswil. I had read one short blog post on my one-stop Swiss travel blog, Swisstory about the city, but we were basically going in with our eyes closed. Another fun thing to do when living here. Just jump on a train and go. Mom is really getting the full experience.
*Dad, I hope you know Mom is getting pretty used to this lifestyle. Not sure she is coming back home.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
You have heard me say over and over again that Switzerland is so ridiculously expensive. Well, going to the salon is no exception to the rule. The place down the street from my flat charges between 135-165 CHF just for a cut. So, since we have moved here almost 6 months ago, my hair hasn't been touched. For some reason this feels like my way to keep control over our expenses. I feel like I have some sort of power over the system. I know this sounds lame, but now that I am a hausfrau, this is my little way of "paying" for our next weekend excursion.
Next, we had to decipher the instructions. It almost felt like breaking a code. We were dying laughing at ourselves. Mom would be interpreting the French, me the German, but when we get to a sentence in bold, red lettering with the word "Achtung!" next to it we broke down and used the old trusty Google translate just to verify our guess. I think it took us about two hours to get through one page of directions. But, we did it!
For any expat with similar hair needs and tight wallet strings, I have included our translation of the instructions. Just know, these are for those individuals who have NOT colored their hair in over three months. We used L'oreal Casting Creme Gloss #323 Dunkle Schokolade -- the same shade as Penelope Cruz.
Put gloves on. Cover exposed area around you.
1. Take casting creme gloss tube and mix into the the white "milch" tube.
2. Put applicator tip on.
3. Shake it.
4. After all mixed up, take off cover on the tip.
Application (if haven't colored hair in the past 3 months):
1. Wet hair. No shampoo. Towel dry.
2. Apply strand by strand the mixture through the tube applicator (duh)
3. Distribute all over. Use all the gunk.
4. "Impregnate" or massage into all the hair.
**Have a glass of wine and wait 20 minutes**
1. Add a little lukewarm water and work it through your hair.
2. Rinse til it runs clear.
3. Massage a generous amount of the Royal Jelly.
4. Wait 2 minutes.
5. Rinse with lukewarm water completely.
6. Save extra Royal Jelly and use as conditioner to prolong coloring.
If you think you did a crappy job, go buy your natural color and do it again!
Monday, November 9, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Love to all. Auf wiedersehen!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Directly behind this part of the wall was the Topography of Terror exhibit. I don't know if it was quite what I expected, but something touched me here. Again, it was really just one small part of this memorial. Surprisingly, it wasn't the pictures of the Jews being forced out of their businesses or the constant humiliation they had to undergo day in and day out, but this one diagram depicting all of the cities that sent Jews to the concentration camp, Auschwitz. Just writing this now makes my eyes water. I must have stood in front of this picture forever. It just reinforces my need to visit Auschwitz. Pushing Poland up the list of must sees before moving back.
Germany has been a surprise. Berlin has such an interesting culture and so much history. We realized before going that we wouldn't be able to squeeze everything in this round. I see another trip in our future. I do have to say the area of town we stayed in and our hotel were awesome. Highly, highly recommend. Anyone thinking of going, check out The Hotel Circus off us Rosenthaler Platz (How can you go wrong with the name Rosenthal!). Not in the touristy Mitte. Great food and entertainment at every corner.
Monday, November 2, 2009
I was so worried about my music list before I left. I laugh now. I barely even heard what was playing. The race went by so fast. On my final stretch back to the Gate, I was thinking how quickly this race seemed to pass by. I couldn't have been running for an hour. No way. With all the craziness at the start, somehow this was a great run for me. I realize I didn't come in under an hour, but being able to just finish the run was an accomplishment for me. I am not a runner by any means.
The crowd of runners was definitely a distraction, but the people lined up along the streets cheering all of us on was a huge boost. This race did teach me something. I think I need to run something further. Don't you? Can you see a half marathon in my future? I am not making any promises, but if anyone knows of a solid beginner half in Europe...let me know. I may be interested.