Friday, May 28, 2010

Swiss-Red Tape: Lease Termination and Utility Cancellation

Does everyone hate moving as much as I do? Don't you just dread making each phone call? getting estimates? going through every drawer separating out the trash from the keep piles? selling stuff? figuring out what goes with you on the plane, what gets air shipped, and what goes by sea? I am getting dizzy just thinking about it. The list could go on and on...and literally it is. My "moving to do list" has taken on a life of its own. Check one thing off. Add two more. It just keeps growing.

And now just for fun. Throw into the mix of the craziness that your mother tongue is not an official language of where you live. Oh. Such good times! I swear. The reason for me taking all those Deutsch classes has become apparent in the last couple of days. It is not to get you through the day-to-day living, it is to get you through moving out of the country. 

Each lease is a bit different, but for the most part you have to give at least three months notice to get out of your lease. We are a little bit of a special case because we are leaving before the three month period is up, making us responsible for finding a new tenant. Surprisingly, this doesn't scare me too much. Luckily, we live in a hot spot in Zurich with a crazy, huge balcony overlooking Üetliberg and plenty of green space to boot. I hope I am not eating these words later, but I think this challenge won't present many issues.

The hurdle with this step was just in having to contact the property management company. I wanted to make sure I knew exactly what was expected of us and how this process works. So, ich rief gestern. Check that German out! And, die Frau I had to speak to really didn't speak much English. I think she is the first person to actually say no when I asked if she spoke English. Not even an ein bisschen. Somehow I made it through that conversation. We need to send a registered letter to them letting them know our intentions, move out date, etc.

The next hurdle was not in writing the letter, but getting it translated to German. By no means does my little bit of Deutsch school get me to the level of writing a formal letter such as this. I lucked out and got someone on English Forum to help me out. And, to pay it forward, my letter is below (both in English and in German).

This letter will constitute written notice of the termination of our lease on 31.08.2010. We understand there is a three-month notice period under the contract, and - because we will be vacating our apartment on 31.07.2010 - that we are responsible for finding a tenant. Therefore we ask you to quickly send all necessary forms for interested parties, as well as the forms for the refund of our deposit. Thank you for your help.

Hiermit kündigen wir unseren Mietvertrag mit Ihnen zum 31.08.2010. Wir wissen, dass wir laut Vertrag eine dreimonatige Kündigungsfrist haben und - da wir unsere Wohnung schon zum 31.07.2010 abgeben möchten - dass wir verantwortlich dafür sind, einen Nachmieter zu finden. Daher bitten wir um schnellstmögliche Zusendung aller notwendigen Formulare für Interessierte, sowie die Formulare für die Rückerstattung unserer Kaution. Vielen Dank für Ihre Hilfe.

Hopefully, this really says what I think it does. To be on the safe side, I sent both.


This was also fun to do when English isn't an official language. Similar story as before. Somehow I navigated through the voice recordings picking somewhat random numbers to try and speak with someone who at least spoke Hochdeutsch. Only to ask them if they spoke English. Again I lucked out that my Germlish skills worked well enough to get me the answers I needed. I amaze myself sometimes. 

For most companies you will be required to send in a registered letter similar to the apartment notice, but some companies will require your de-registration form that comes from the Gemeide. There is sort of catch-22 with getting out of contracts, not with all companies but with some. You have to have this form, but you can't get that til about a month before you are leaving, and yet there is a three-month notification period. Just realized that you are going to get screwed and budget yourself accordingly.

Here's a list of possible places you will need to call. Make sure to have your account number handy. Cablecom, EWZ, Billag, Swisscom (or other cell phone company). Don't forget about other contracts you might have out there too, ie. health club membership, insurance, doctor bills.

And, here's a sample of my cancellation letters both in English and in German. These ones I sort of hacked together.

I would like to cancel my contract on 31.07.2010. We will be moving back to the States. Our account number is BLAH BLAH. Thank you for your help.

Hiermit möchte ich zum 31.07.2010 meine Vertrag im wegen meines Umzuges kündigen. Wir sind aus dem Land zu bewegen. Unsere Kontonnummer ist BLAH BLAH . Vielen Dank für Ihre Hilfe.

The next steps for us are getting this apartment listed everywhere I can possibly think of and to start selling most everything in this joint. More helpful steps to come. Aren't you wishing you could be going through this too?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Letting the Cat Outta the Bag

Secrets are the worse and I am horrible at keeping them. Ask Josh. Like when I finally find the perfect present for him (which is next to impossible to do) and I am just so excited he barely has to look at me and I am all like, wanna know what I got is soooo good! And, before he even has a chance to say yes, I am already pulling it out of the bag and showing it off like I was Vanna White.

You all would be so proud of me. I think this is the longest secret I have kept...maybe ever.
Are you ready for the secret?


Say what? Oh yeah. You heard me.

This all came as a pretty big surprise to us. We hadn't thought we would be back until maybe next year at this time, but sometimes opportunities present themselves and you just have to roll with it. This decision was a true test of our equilibrium muscle. I now believe this is a real thing. We would be dead set on not leaving Zurich and then, BAM!, three-hours later we would do a 180 and be dead set on heading to Austin.

There is a lot of change getting ready to happen for us. Oh crap. What the hell are we thinking??

Wish us luck through this transition. We are going to need it. Just imagine all the Swiss-red tape there is to get through. Plenty of details to come for any expats ever planning to move back to the States.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Appenzeller Land

It's been a while since the whole family got to take a day trip somewhere together. This past weekend we packed up and ventured out to see Appenzell, a small town on the East side of Switzerland. The weather has been so dreary in Zurich since about October of last year. We were so excited to finally see some sun. So, with cameras in hand and Stella on the lease we caught the train and waved goodbye for an afternoon of cheese, dog collars, and cowbells.

I am sure I have said this before, but East Switzerland is awesome. This is the really traditional part of the country where things haven't changed since way before your time...ok, maybe more like they haven't changed much. It has that small town feel where everyone walks the streets smiling, saying "Grüezi" like they actually mean it. Plus, its got those rolling hills that go on forever, with cows grazing on the greenest grass you've ever seen, and then the Alps in the background still with a little snow at the very peaks. Sehr schön.

First thing to do was to make sure and grab lunch before 2pm when everything magically closes until dinner time. We of course order from the section "Appenzeller Spezialität". I end up with a plate of cheese, a piece of bread hidden under all this käse, and an egg on top. I am not complaining. How could a plate of cheese not taste good? Josh got the standard Appenzeller Schnitzel mit Butternudeln, again smothered with a hunk of cheese.

Afterwards, we waddled the streets window shopping looking for these special, handmade dog collars that are from this part of Switzerland. We found the greatest store where the owner was hammering away at the metals cows that line the collar. Too bad they didn't have a pug-sized collar with a narrow width but a longer length to fit around their chunky necks. No fancy, Swiss collar for Stinky (insert frown here). She would look so cute in one. I should have gotten her a little cow bell instead or a pair of suspenders from Joshie.

Also on my list of cool Swiss things to own is an authentic cowbell, like one of the huge ones we saw at the Alpabfahrt last year. All worn and crazy heavy with the colorful leather belt. Too bad we stumbled upon a store after they already closed up shop at 4pm. Yep, 4pm on a Saturday. Now that is Switzerland for you. Who cares about making a sale. Gotta get home to the family.

Even without bringing any souvenirs home, it felt good to get out of Z-town and discover something new. This is definitely the life of an expat. Gotta take in every minute that you've got here!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Turn That Frown Upside Down

I am missing the "30 Days of Flowers" too, people. I figure the second best thing is a picture of a puppy, right? So, to help ween you off the pretty pictures, here is our Stella Bella (as my nephew insists is her real name) after her first date with some nail clippers and bubble bath...almost three years ago.

Expat adventures return next week. Schönes Wochenende.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

30 Days of Flowers - Day 30

And, last but not favorite...

Today is the last day (you frown here). I was hoping it would at least be a little sunny outside to help me with the transition, but Spring is still hiding behind the clouds here. On a brighter note, Josh will finally get his chance to publish his photos from Keukenhof Gardens probably in the next couple of days on his flickr page.

Click here for a slideshow of your "30 Days of Flowers".

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Way to my Heart definitely through my stomach!

Look at these beauties, from all angles. I couldn't resist. Someone must love me to have brought me back 30 boxes of assorted Mac & Cheese. Who thinks there is something wrong with having macaroni for breakfast? Not me. It might be even better than brinner!

*I shouldn't have to explain brinner because it is one of the best meals of the day, but for those of you who are a little slow on the uptake, it's when you have breakfast food for dinner. Yum. Warm pancakes before bedtime.

30 Days of Flowers - Day 29

Just one more.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

30 Days of Flowers - Day 27

We are in the final days. Enjoy the last few pictures.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cinque Terre: Eat. Drink. Hike (Follow-Up)

Ever since last year when our good friends, Stacie and Hanspeter, took us hiking in East Switzerland, Josh has been on a mission to get into Swiss hiking shape. We aren't going to be huffing and puffing behind HP this time as he's taking his leisurely stroll up the mountain, checking his watch, wondering how long it can really take people to get to the top. Nope. Not this time.

Just another reason Cinque Terre was right up our alley for the perfect Peterthal vacation. I mentioned before that Cinque Terre is connected by hiking trails. There is the standard trail that runs along the coastline from city to city, but then there are these less traveled, more strenuous trails that head out of the tourist frenzy and up to the top for some unbelievable views. And, since both of us like to get a little sweat on and take photos, we set off on foot our first day in town.

We strolled along the Via dell'Amore from Riomaggiore to Manarola where we broke off the coast trail. We took the #6 trail from Manarola to Volastra hoping to find a wine coop of some sort.

This was a REAL hike. The kind where you don't see anyone else on the trail (if you can even call it a trail). At the beginning it had these wonderful red and white striped markers with the number six painted every so often....painted on walls, painted on little signs stuck in the ground. And if there wasn't a striped marker, there would be these nice white arrows on the ground, making sure you were going the right direction. How thoughtful of them. That's until you hit the forest-like area where there is no where to put these much needed signs. There were times that I would be five feet in front of Josh but the brush would be so thick he couldn't see me. Seriously. We only had to turn back a couple times to double check the last marker and make sure we were on the right path. There was no longer this nice trail. We felt like we were walking along someone's property line with a rusted fence on one side and forest on the other. And, all this time we just kept going, up, and up, and up.

Somehow we made it through. I am pretty proud of ourselves. At certain points normal people would have turned back, but us outdoorsy (aka crazy) people (ha!) just kept trekkin' on. There was even a point where we had to open a gate to stay on the trail. Still no idea why the gate was closed. And, then a bit later we ran into a bunch of trees that had fallen over the trail. Now normally this would mark that the trail was closed, but in Italy I guess this just means you go under or over them. So we did. Finally, we make it to Volastra in hopes of this wine coop.

Let's just say the map wasn't the greatest by any stretch of the imagination. That wine coop could have been anywhere in or around that town. We still don't know if it exists. We never found it.

So, from Volastra we took the #6d trail to the #7a trail into Corniglia. After the pretty much all uphill trek from Manarola, we were looking forward to cruising through some vineyard trails. I have never before actually walked through vineyards. Like I could have stuck my hand out just a bit and, BOOM, vine....BOOM, another vine. It was awesome. Unbelievably gorgeous. It felt so good to be experiencing not only this area of the world, but a part that even people visiting Cinque Terre might never see.

Truly the most painful part of the hike was hiking DOWN into Corniglia. During that 30 mins or so as I was watching every footstep like it could be my last, I was just wishing we could be going uphill again. I could actually hear my 30-year old joints swearing at me.

Thank goodness the views were worth it and luckily, no ankles were sprained.

30 Days of Flowers - Day 22

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Remember those days back when you were a teenager when your folks kept shoving rules down your throat just like the nasty canned spinach they always made you finish. Didn't they realize that I just spit it into my napkin every time? Is it really that hard to make broccoli instead? Or maybe just try the fresh stuff?

The Kreisbüro (government office) here is making me want to revert back to my rebellious ways. Everyone knows that Switzerland loves their rules, but I am ready to pull my hair out. I am sick of jumping through hoops and trying to read in between the Deutsch lines of jargon. There is always a hidden rule when it comes to renewing permits, getting a bank account, applying for a Swiss driver's license, you name it. Basically anytime you need to go to the Kreisbüro, you had better be ready for shenanigans.

Josh and I just turned in our renewal paperwork for our permits. That all went smooth (at least so far)...thankfully. I then go to pull out my driver's license application and the woman "helping" us just looked at me an laughed. Ok, maybe not exactly, but she might have well as. That condescending you idiot, you have to apply for this when you still have THREE months left on your permit. Duh. Are you fricken kidding me? Everything that I have read and heard says that you just have to apply before you have lived here for a year. Simple enough. Too bad what they actually mean to say is that you have to apply before you have lived here for NINE months, leaving you with THREE months left on your permit.

I think this is how they entertain themselves over at the Kreisbüro. It's like a game to them. Each time you get to roll your eyes and make an Ausländer feel like a complete moron you get a point. The one with the highest score at the end of the day, WINS!

30 Days of Flowers - Day 21

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cinque Terre: Eat. Drink. Hike.

View from our apartment in Riomaggiore.
It has taken about a week but I think my calves, liver, and stomach are finally back to normal after our long-awaited trip to Cinque Terre, Italy. Some of you might not be familiar with this area of the world, but as soon as you become an expat in Europe, Cinque Terre is one of those places everyone talks about. It's right up there with Paris, Rome, Barcelona. Either they have been there and can't stop talking about how insanely awesome it is or it's high on their list of must-see places.

Cinque Terre is comprised of five cities lining the Italian Riveria coastline in Northern Italy. The five cities (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) are connected by hiking paths where tourists spend their days drinking, eating, and hiking their way through each town. If you were to walk from Monterosso (the "first" city of the group) to Riomaggiore (the "fifth" city), it's close to 11km and would take you a little more than half a day.

Enough geography lesson. This place was made for me. If I had to wrap up exactly the type of food I love to eat, the type of wine I love to drink, the scenic views I would never get bored of seeing, and then throw in a place that you can be active...this is the perfect spot for me. Hands down.


Being the Rosenthal that I am, I had already mapped out some restaurants in each of the towns to try. I do my research when it comes to eating. We have learned there is nothing worse than not knowing where to eat when you are hungry. And, we are in Italy! The best food in the world is here. I don't want to waste any bite on some just ok, tourist trap place in Monterosso. I want the secret hole-in-the-wall local joint in Manarola away from the foot traffic where the clams had been caught that morning by the owner on his tiny, two-person fishing boat.

Spaghetti alle vongole.
Fish stew.
Fish cartoccio.
Black pasta made from squid ink.
We ate SOOOO much. Both lunch and dinner of each day we spent eating pasta and seafood. I guess I hadn't realized the difference in food between Northern and Southern Italy. Northern Italy has lighter sauces, less meat, tons of seafood. You don't really see lasagna, but instead you order linguine with lobster or, my favorite, spaghetti with clams. I swear I could eat that stuff twice a day, every day, for four days...and, pretty much did.

Anchovies delivered fresh.
Menta e stracciatella.
Other very local things to eat here are the pesto, olive oil, anchovies, lemons, gelato. Never thought I would have an anchovy in my life, but we actually had them multiple times. One time wrapped around olives. Another time soaked in lemon juice. Gotta admit...not too shabby.

Oh....the food...


I can sum this up in three short words. Dry. White. Wine. This is another local specialty. There are vineyards everywhere. And, when a restaurant menu says "Vino della Casa"...that seriously means their house wine. Not like the random wine they have loads of in the back, but their actual HOUSE it is made from their own personal vineyards, comes with their own personal label. Awesome.

One funny fact. I don't think you could even order just a glass of wine. I don't think that was even an option on the menu. It's either a half bottle, or bottle, unless you are really lucky and they offer a liter. Somehow we drank a bottle at lunch and another bottle at dinner. Not sure how we were able to function, but it didn't kill us. Maybe it was the slow pace. You take 2-hour lunches, 3-hour dinners. Heaven.

Grappa (left). Sciacchetrà (right).
To top this experience off (like it needs to be), my favorite restaurant, Trattoria dal Billy in Manarola, leaves you with a couple bottles of the areas famous after-dinner liqueurs and two shot glasses. We were given strict instructions that the Grappa was for the man to drink and the Sciacchetrà was for the lady. Both packed a punch. Also, a must try is the Limoncino.

Oh...the wine...

Stop me now. I could talk for days on this topic. You are probably wondering how we didn't have to roll ourselves back to Zurich after all of that. Remember I mentioned something about hiking between cities before? More on that tomorrow.

30 Days of Flowers - Day 20

Up close and personal.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

30 Days of Flowers - Day 19

A special flower for a special Mom. Awww. How sweet is that?

Happy Mother's Day, Juanita Chiquita Mamasita. Love you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

30 Days of Flowers - Day 18

Hopefully I got this one posted early enough so Mom doesn't have a heart attack like yesterday. What is she going to do when the 30 days is up??

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Taking Care of Business

You may be wondering if I will ever write up another blog post again. I have to admit that I have been enjoying the "30 Days of Flowers", but per my brother, I was told I am being lazy. What's the harm in taking a little vac-ay from the blog-ay?

Honestly, things haven't been slow around here. We are coming up on our 1-year anniversary of living in Zurich and along with that comes a lot of paperwork.

Permit Renewal Time. Yay! So excited about that. My sarcasm should be oozing out of your computer. Not sure how up-to-date everyone is on the whole permit situation over here, but it is bad. I don't want to get into all the details, but just know that permits that would allow me to work over here have been cut in half from last year. There is a huge stink happening to try and reverse this, but nothing quick enough to affect me. If only I was EU or married to a Swissy. Any who, we are filling out our L-permit renewal paperwork as we speak. Let's keep our fingers crossed there aren't any hiccups during this process.

Driver's License Time. Again, super excited! Notice the sarcasm?! You have one year to apply for a Swiss Driver's License after you move here without the penalty of taking a test. This seems pretty straight-forward. Fill out some paperwork, get an eye exam, and mail off my beautiful Texas (yee-haw!) license. The downside of this is the cost...of course. I have heard it will cost 175 CHF for the two of us. Gotta love that. I swear it used to cost $8 to get a South Dakota license and maybe $20 for an Arizona license that lasted 40 years.

Foreign Account Declaration Time. We have to notify the US of our foreign bank account every year. Yep...every year. Just more paperwork to add to the pile.

Re-renting our Austin House Time. It just gets better and better! Thankfully, it looks like we can almost cross this one of the list. The lease was sent off today and we should have it signed by the weekend. Keep your fingers crossed.

What else? I think that pretty much catches you all up on the exciting Peterthal life. Well, besides the fact that we just got back from the most amazing vacation to Cinque Terre, Italy on Sunday and I am already looking at flights for the next trip hopefully to Barcelona.

So, Dave...I guess you could say you were right. I am just oh, so lazy! Stories from Northern Italy coming soon.

30 Days of Flowers - Day 16

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

30 Days of Flowers - Day 15

Half-way point. Still 15 more days to come!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

30 Days of Flowers - Day 14

The transformation of Day 13's flower. What is this?

Monday, May 3, 2010

30 Days of Flowers - Day 13

Lucky number 13. See what this freak of a flower morphs into tomorrow.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010