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The Boy, 2 Muttleys and I have finally realized our dream of living 1 mile from the Lindt Chocolate Factory. Leaving Atlanta (the World of Coke) for Zurich (the World of Chocolate) hasn't come without challenges, incredible fun or giggles. Follow along as I chronicle our adventures as we acclimate to this new Swiss lifestyle.
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Got a Question? Want theories on Life?

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Passport Photo - Avoid Irreversible Damage to your Psyche

Last August while preparing for our move to Zurich, the Boy and I had passport photos taken after our friend Art of Geneva suggested they may be cheaper than having them taken in Switzerland. We needed photos for our visas before our departure anyhow and we knew additional photos would come in handy after our arrival, so we each had 4 taken.  We were about to start the adventure of our lives and we were pretty geeked up, so we both decided it would be a good idea to smile in our photos.  The results were quite epic as we resembled the grandparents from Weird Science.

A few days before our planned departure, we had to pick up our temporary visas from the Swiss Embassy in Atlanta.  We had all of the proper documentation and the last thing they asked for were our photos.  We handed them over in the same celebratory fashion that a catholic priest issues communion.  As the Swiss Window Lady took our photos, the Boy and I shared a knowing glance which went sort of like this: "we just blew her mind with our photos...yeah we did...eye high-five!". Then suddenly our secret eye conversation was interrupted with the following:

Swiss Window Lady Who Makes Decisions with People's Lives: "Um, these won't work"

Remicks: "Wait...whuh?"

Swiss Window Lady who Crushes Souls: "Nope, you are smiling in these pictures. You can't smile or show teeth"

Remicks: "What do you mean?"

Swiss Window Lady who Spits Souls Out after Crushing them: "What do you mean "What do you mean?""

Remicks: "So these won't work?"

Swiss Window Lady then stood silent, pausing to mull over what she does for a living.  She can't fathom answering the same questions, from one more dumbfounded American, over insane photo rules, for one more minute.  She contemplates whipping out the gun made of chocolate she keeps in a drawer under her desk and shoving it in her mouth in an act of protest, but then comes back down to earth and responds: "No, you must have photos without smiles or teeth. Those are the rules. Sorry. Please come back with the correct photos or we cannot process your visa"

We left knowing what we had to do.  Find the closest UPS Store to take the frowniest, non-toothiest photo ever:

Eat your heart out Randy and Evi Quaid.  We look more extraditable than you.

The UPS Store Lady handed them over while wincing. She probably expected us to either ask for a re-shoot or demand all the money in the store. The Boy and I exclaimed "Perfect!  We look horrible and terrifying...great work UPS Store Lady".  We all high-fived and then high-tailed it back to the embassy.

At this point, we had taken 8 smiley photos and 8 horrifying photos.  This set us back just under $50 but we figured "meh...it has to be double in Switzerland".  The horrifying photos were sufficiently horrifying for the Swiss Window Lady and a few days later we had our temporary visas.  Not only that, we each had 3 horrifying photos leftover for our residence cards, transportation cards and drivers licenses.  We were set!

We landed in Zurich on August 19th, 2009.  It was 90 degrees outside and we had been on a plane for 10+ hours.  As a result we looked utterly disgraceful but we were in our new home which gave us energy for the day ahead.  Our relocation agent was to take us to get our residence paperwork processed which required horrifying passport photos.  We were so confident in their horribleness that what happened next was almost too much to bare:

Swiss Desk Lady: "I need 2 photos please"

Remicks: "You need two horrifying photos?"

Swiss Desk Lady: "Yes, two"

Remicks: "Ok...check these bad boys out!"

Swiss Desk Lady: "These won't work"

Remicks: "What do you mean these won't work?"

Swiss Desk Lady: "What do you mean "What do you mean?""

Remicks: "But we aren't smiling...look, no teeth!  Oh and we look absolutely horrifying.  That's good, right?"

Swiss Desk Lady then points to the wall behind us.  On the wall is a guide detailing photo rules and upon first glance, it looked like a physics equation.  From your head to the top of the photo must be 5mm of space.  There appeared to be a margin of error of 1mm.  Our horrifying photos had no space between our heads and the top of the photos therefore they didn't meet the most basic of the many photo rules.

In addition to the spacing rules, there were rules such as these:

1. Do NOT raise the roof in your photo

2. Do NOT wear any hats, specifically your "Thirst Aid Beer Can Hat"

3. While a non-smiling photo of yourself will certainly look horrifying, please do not go out of your way to look menacing

4. Vampires are strictly forbidden from entering Switzerland

Our relocation agent proceeded to take us to the nearest train station to take new photos.  At the station were special photo kiosks designed to take photos that met Swiss photo guidelines and for 8 Francs, you received four. Three trips for passport photos and approximately $70 later, we learned the following:

1. Passport or ID photos are cheaper in Switzerland than the US, about 4:1.

2. You cannot smile or show teeth in your photo.

3. The Swiss are really afraid of Vampires.

4. Your hair must be away from your face in your photo.

5. There must be 5mm of space between your head and the top of the photo.

If you are reading this and thinking about moving to Switzerland, hopefully I saved you some mental anguish.  I remember snapping my 24 passport photos as if it were yesterday and hope I prevented the same thing from happening to you.

Moving to Switzerland and need to save money so you can afford a kajillion passport photos?  Getting a Swiss Calling Card is a great place to start.
Thursday, October 28, 2010

8 Is NOT Enough

I know, I appear to be obsessed with the fact that I am a child of the 80's, but I am strangely proud of my generation's music and television.  When the Boy and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary, we shared a toast where he proudly and cutely declared that "8 years isn't enough".  If you don't know the television show "8 Is Enough", then A. You don't get his toast  B. You are sadly unaware of the Bradfords, a family consisting of 8 children that brought feathered hair to a whole new level and C. You aren't privy to the magic of 1980's TV and its impact on my marriage.

In celebration of our anniversary, the Boy took the day off from work and I took the day off from being, well...me.  We hopped a train for Lugano, a city located in Switzerland's Italian region of Ticino.  We figured it had to be warmer than Zurich (which it was) and it had to have better pizza than Zurich (which it did).  It even had these donut thingies stuffed with marinara and mozzarella cheese.  I forget the name of the donut thingies but I am pretty sure it ended in a "la" and made me go "mmmm...donuts with cheese".

We strolled the shores of Lake Lugano and allowed the sun to blind us with its science:

After sufficiently burning our retinas while taking the photos above, we decided to further test our love by hiking the Monte San Salvatore - a 2,992 foot mountain located to the right of Lugano facing away from town.  The hike was pretty brutal for us both but more intense for the Boy since he was carrying his laptop and 10 pounds of German homework in his backpack.  It was worth a little pain to see the following views:

We were pretty limited with our time and didn't do a proper job of touring the city itself.  Not only is 8 years not enough for the Boy and I, 1 day wasn't enough for Lugano.  We will be back you little Italian nugget of pretty!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hang 10 DUDES - Surfing the Eisbach

Going to Oktoberfest reminded me of being at a convention - I was in a different city, there for a specific reason, and had little time to do much else than what I was there specifically for. With the free time we did have while in Munich, the Boy and I checked out the Englischer Garten.  It is Munich's main green space and to give you an idea of how large it is, it is bigger than NYC's Central Park.  How bout them big apples...

Gardens are great for ambling about and we ambled.  After we got bored ambling, we decided to find the famous surfer dudes who surf a standing wave located on the Eisbach river - a man-made river that runs through the garden and feeds the Isar River. If you aren't familiar with a "standing wave", it is a wave that remains in a constant position. What was particularly freaky about this "standing wave" is how it was created.  Underneath the water appears to be giant cement steps.  The varying heights of the steps and the fact they never move, results in a wave that remains constant and the perfect setting for mini-surfing. Mini-surfing on standing waves with cement a few feet underneath makes for quite the dangerous hobby. If you have a hankering to try this out, just know that there is a sign which states "only experienced surfers are allowed to surf here".  This is obviously an adequate preventative measure for dumbassery.

Can anyone spot Owen Wilson's stunt double?  Guy on the far left looks like he should be guarding a castle tower circa 1461.  

This guy was talented.  As he surfed, he also made dog hand animals for all the children looking on. I thought that was a lovely gesture and he was quite the crowd pleaser.

I call this photo "I Pray For You All and Hope I can Get this Chick's Number because Praying is Hot"

"Oh shit, I think I left the iron on..."

I know you all want to see the real deal so here is a video of these crazy peeps. These guys were totally rad, wicked, dope and any other word used to describe people who like to cheat death for the fun of it:

Friday, October 15, 2010

In Heaven There is No Beer...

That's why we drink it here...

"Here" being the Hofbrau Haus Tent in Munich

and when we're gone from here...

all our friends will be drinking all our beer...

We can't have that!

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit...der Gemuetlichkeit!  Ein Prosit, Ein Proooosit, der Gemuetlichkeit...

Ein, Zwei, Drei, Peas and Carrots...zigga zagga zigga zagga OYE OYE OYE! 

Why thank you Mr. Wall

My Grandfather taught me three things:

1. The above drinking song
2. A passion for cured meats
3. Alligators live in basements (even in Western New York where they aren't indigenous)

Our recent trip to Oktoberfest fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine to sing this song with 10,000+ drunk people, all of which appreciate and celebrate it as much as I do.  For me, it symbolizes a family tradition and while at first glance it may have seemed irresponsible of my Grandfather to teach his Grandchildren a beer song before they could walk in a straight line, it was one of the few traditions we had...and I loved it. Little did we know that learning to sing it while walking in an infant-like diagonal was childhood imitating adulthood.

Minus the insane crowds, the grabby guys and piles of spew, Oktoberfest was the biggest and baddest (bad as in good) party I have ever been to.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Amsterdam - 7ish Years Later

My first trip to Europe was in March of 2003 and included the cities of Bar-tha-lona, Paris and Amsterdam.  I was a rookie traveler and relied upon the rumors that Amsterdam was nothing more than a drug paradise with crappy food.  This of course begged the question "what the hell do people do there when they get the munchies?".

I quickly learned that Amsterdam was much more than what it is infamously known for and upon my return home, I promised myself to never rely upon rumors and to always do my due diligence when planning a trip.  When I learned the Boy and I would return, I was curious to find out what a 30 something year old's perspective would be in comparison to a 20 something year old's.  As you will see, age and a shift in one's priorities can influence an experience.

Amsterdam's Beauty

20 something's perspective: Wow, Amsterdam is pretty...hiccup...oh look, a coffee shop we haven't tried yet.

30 something's perspective: Wow, I think I could live here.  It is quite possibly the most beautiful city I have been to in Europe, especially at night.  Then a gust of wind not only interrupts that thought, but also my desire to live there.  Think of standard European weather with the addition of gale force winds.

Amsterdam's Bike Culture

20 something's perspective: How do they ride their bikes here when they are high?

30 something's perspective: How do they ride their bikes here when they are sober? (I LOVE how bikes are so prevalent in Amsterdam but I have to admit that it looks like a scary place to ride one...but I am a wimp, so there.)

Amsterdam's Museum and Art Scene

20 something's perspective: The Anne Frank House is the most amazing museum ever.

30 something's perspective: The Anne Frank House is the most amazing museum ever.

20 something's perspective: Wow...there are lots of museums filled with Dutch art that makes me want to stab myself.  Let's go get high.

30 something's perspective: Let's try something a bit more modern and light this time. There are only so many Dutch self portraits with black backgrounds I can take (they also wore a lot of black clothing back in the 15th Century, making everything seem, well...even more black).  

Our 30 something's need for some art circa 1980 paid off as the Boy's and my name will forever be inscribed on the wall of Amsterdam's newly refurbished Stedelijk Modern Art Museum. Can you pick out our names?  Can you guess how the locations were picked?

Amsterdam's Food

20 something's perspective:  I heard the food sucks in Amsterdam, therefore it must suck.  Minus accidentally finding an amazing vegetarian cafe, it did suck.

30 something's perspective:  There has GOT to be good food in Amsterdam.  Let's do a little research and ask around, shall we?  The Boy found a great food blog called Dutch Grub and it was spot on for all of its recommendations.  In addition we asked our friend Deb for suggestions as she just returned from a trip in May.  The food we had was outstanding and Amsterdam has either improved their food scene, or it always existed and I was too lazy to discover it back in 2003. I was a little bummed that I no longer smoked the Pot because the munchies would have been conquered on this trip by the likes of this nugget:

What you are seeing is NOT a pizza.  Again, this is NOT pizza!  This is a dutch pancake with inlaid bacon and covered in syrup.  I about died and went to heaven after this tasty treat.  I still dream about it in fact.  

So I am not going to compare the 20 something and 30 something perspectives on coffee shops.  The Boy and I were lame this time around.  Nothing high-larious to report.  I love Amsterdam and look forward to another visit from yet another perspective.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Just Plain Nasty

I had every intention of blogging about our recent travels to The Netherlands or the insanity also known as Oktoberfest in Munich.  I got derailed from writing about the fun stuff because I have that all too familiar sore throat and heaviness in my nasal cavity.  People, I am getting sick and you want to know freaking why?  Because the coughing season has commenced in this town.  Everywhere you go someone is coughing up God knows what and the whole city is taking on an ominous fluorescent green glow from all the bacteria and viruses floating about.  There are different types of "coughers" and I thought I would list them for your reading displeasure:

1. The Hack - This implies that this cougher is an underachiever.  Quite the contrary I am afraid.  This is the person who coughs 365 days a year due to a nicotine habit that would make Joe Camel blush and Philip Morris want to sue themselves.  While you can hear this person bruise a lung any day of the year, they still add to the total amount of coughing that you must listen to during the coughing season and make you wish you packed a gas mask.

2. The "How Are You Even Alive?" - And secondly, why aren't you home in bed? This person is dressed professionally and maybe even put on a little make-up, but no amount of make-up or polyester will hide the fact that they are infected. I sort of get it...I have felt "calling in sick" guilt and once upon a time I had deadlines to make too. Think about logically though.  If you come into work and make others sick, you end up costing the company more in the long run.  Stay at home. You aren't that important.

3. The No Hand in Sight - I hate this guy.  This is the person that doesn't even bother covering their mouth.  They look capable enough - no noticeable muscle atrophy or lack of coordination in their upper torso.  They just don't bother which makes you want to meet their parents so you can run them over with a car for not teaching them basic manners.  Well, at least it makes me want to run their parents over with a car.

Using public transportation makes coughing or any type of expulsion from the body so much more noticeable and disconcerting.  It wasn't as if our former home of Atlanta was cough-free. We commuted in our own little car wombs - protected from other people's saliva bits.

When someone coughs on the bus, tram or train, you can see the Boy scurry opposite of where the cough originated, as if it were somehow more sanitary. It is self preservation in its most organic form and I could picture a Discovery special documenting it: Watch as the Boy turns his head in disgust.  A cough was just expelled by a competing organism.  He turns, mutters something indiscernible and retreats to the other side of the bus compartment.  This is nature in its purest form...cut to a Tide commercial.