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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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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bat Crap Crazy-Volume 4

I Ran into a Friend Yesterday...on the Street...Randomly

Whoopity freakin doo Kristi. You ran into a friend, want a Swiss made time piece (Swiss medal) or a chocolate bar (Swiss cookie)? I will take the chocolate bar thanks, I don't wear a watch.

So if you are an Expat or soon-to-be-Expat, one of your major concerns is making friends. I liken it to the feeling you had on your first day of school, or if you are like me, first year of college. Crazy questions run through your brain and you have several Stuart Smalley moments: Will I meet anyone? Will anyone like me? Will I have a social life? Will my social life consist of 3 year old American TV re-runs and half a bar of chocolate every night (hey, don't knock it)? Will I have to talk about George Bush all the time because I am American? Can I just say "I voted for Obama" and smooth things over immediately? Why is it snowing so freaking much?

For me, questions like these ran through my brain constantly before and during the first two months of living in Switzerland.

The good news is, making friends was and is easy. Far easier than I anticipated, but they didn't land at my feet like pennies from heaven. I had to make it happen. A future post will discuss this in more detail, but what I found bat crap crazy was what transpired yesterday evening.

On my way home from class, I saw my bus on the horizon. Anytime I see my bus, the one that drops me off a 4 minute walk from home, "Chariots of Fire" pops into my brain and I start walk/running towards it. Just the day before I saw this bus pull away when I was 15 steps away from it. No waving, no jumping, no mouthing of "I will give you a five spot if you stop", was going to stop this bus driver. If I didn't make this bus, I would then be stuck with a different bus which dropped me off much further away and let me tell you people, it is frackin cold out.

So I put my head down, concentrated and made a bee-line until this person started shadow defending me, like Kobe on Iverson. At first I thought it was one of those odd moments where someone coming at you was trying to move out of your way, and you were trying to move out of their way, but you moved in the same direction...only for one or both of you to pull a groin muscle in the process. I then however realized that I knew this person and this person was a friend of mine.

We stopped and chatted and I forgot all about the good bus. After exchanging pleasantries, I slowly walked to the bus stop, and like the day before I witnessed the good bus pull away when I was not but 15 feet away. I smiled as it pulled off as it was a very small price to pay for the realization that I had somewhat made it here. I never thought 5 months into living in a foreign land that I would randomly bump into a friend, a stranger yes...this happens daily actually, but a friend? No. It was proof that the Boy and I are slowly but surely building something here, what that something is, remains to be seen. As I got on the crappy bus, thoughts of the cold walk home exited my brain. I was warmed and amazed by the fact that I could at random, bump into a friend, in the city of Zurich and that dog-gone-it, people like me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lovely Lucerne (or Luzern if your Deutsch)

Oh lovely Lucerne, they should write songs about you. Not because you are lovely, but because you brought my goal of song naming all posts to an abrupt end. I was contemplating "Lucerne in the Sky with Diamonds", but that would insinuate naughty behavior of which I do not partake in. Although one could argue when looking at my pictures below that I was using my "LSD-trippy" lens because the colors were so bright and sun was out, which these days would most certainly be an illusion.

My friend Esther was visiting from Atlanta and our first excursion from Zurich was Lucerne (first of five, we painted Switzerland "Swiss Red"). I had heard great things from fellow expat friends, so off we went. Lucerne is the most populous city in Central Switzerland and a popular tourist destination. I did confirm it was a city because it met the following scientific criteria:

1. Must be on a body of water, preferably a lake or at least 2 rivers...oh, and it has to be water so clean you can drink it.
2. Must at the very least have a view of the Alps, although preferably surrounded by the Alps.
3. Must be cheek pinching pretty, preferably cherubic angel cheeks pinching pretty...clouds part and angels sing on a daily basis.

Hands down most popular site is the Chapel Bridge "Kapelbrucke" and Water Tower "Wasserturm", both featured in the picture above. It is the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe, built in 1333 and host to a series of paintings from the 17th century that seem to be depicting death and/or escaping death and/or Halloween and/or Lucerne history. Back then it was all about death and history:

Lucerne is also host to the Swiss Transport Museum (Verkehrhaus der Schweiz) which came highly recommended by friends. Esther and I were the only adults sans kids, which I found odd because the museum is definitely interesting enough for adults. You could easily spend a day here as there is tons of info on the history of Swiss transportation, which they take VERY seriously and with a great deal of pride. The photo ops alone were worthy of a visit:

My kind of train, it takes you non-stop to chocolate..."Kristi Aboard!".

There is something special about real planes hanging from a ceiling.

This chick sorta creeped me out, which totally made her photo-worthy.

We rounded out our day by taking a walking tour of the Old Town. It was cobbly and cute and full of fountains and stuff. If you don't believe me that it was cute, just take a look at the name of the store behind this fountain:

Now who wouldn't want a MusikHug? No one, that's who...ok maybe Satan, or someone with a really bad case of Eczema or third degree burns.

I really enjoyed Lucerne; it helped I had the opportunity to enjoy it with a great friend during great weather, but it is genuinely beautiful and charming. It is worth a look-see and I plan on going back with the Boy soon but we will wait until the trippy weather returns as he needs to see it when it looks like this:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Do You HAVE to Let it Linger?

So word on the street is the Swiss stare. I can't confirm that the Swiss in general stare, that would be like saying all Americans are fat. Only 68% of Americans are fat. What I can confirm is an older gentleman was squeezing my zits with his eyes yesterday on the bus...ok, that was too graphic, I agree, but I want you to understand the gravity of this situation. Perhaps he was a dermatologist or facial technician and I was his muse. I can tell you this, whatever he does for a living must involve looking at stuff, because he was very good at it. And no, it wasn't a "hot for teacher" stare, you did see the "me love meat" picture below, right?

In the States this behavior would warrant a call to the coppers or at the very least it would lead to this particular chain reaction of events: get all wide eyed (cuz someone is staring at you), do a military about face and forward-hut the frack out of there, all the while grabbing hold of your rape whistle and/or pepper spray, just in case.

Does it make me uncomfortable? Hell yeah it makes me uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable for so many reasons, even one as silly as worrying that this guy was about to get a bad case of dry eye. I have heard that it is quite a horrendous condition. Will I get used to this staring bidness? Highly unlikely, but at the very least I do recognize it to be a rather benign behavior here.

Finally, if you hadn't noticed a trend with my post titles, well then you were born after 1989 and/or your family didn't own a radio. I take great pleasure in the fact that at least half of you will have the Cranberries song "Linger" stuck in your head for the next week or so. Oh and yeah, I am going to do my best to song title all my posts. The 80's were good for something.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'll Tumble for Ya

Over the holidays we had three sets of friends visit us from the States. All flew from Atlanta to Zurich, all arriving on different days at 7:45 am. As indicated in a previous post, the Boy and I believe the only way to get rid of the jet lag hangover is to treat the first day as a real day. No nappy naps, no sitting on the couch relaxing and above all, no whining. Chris and Lygia were our third set of friends to arrive so we figured there was no better way to keep them awake than take them sledding at Rigi.

Rigi is a mountain in the Alps and it is referred to as "the Queen of the Mountains". I am not sure why it gets this moniker, but I believe it has to do with the stunning views of 4 lakes including Lake Lucerne. We got a couple of the lakes in this pic, but don't ask me which ones...I am directionally challenged and can barely find my way out of a paper bag.

The weather that day was less than optimal for sledding. As you can see in the above pic, there wasn't any snow at lower elevations and we were informed they were experiencing "April Weather". The term was immediately unsettling as it was still frackin cold out, but more so for the fact it meant a portion of the sledding runs were closed. This was a bummer, but we couldn't be stopped. We needed to go down an Alp, on pieces of firewood, at break neck speeds, STAT!

For those who don't now know me, I am a certified, grade A wimp. I promised myself I wouldn't let my inner wimp stop me from trying new things, sledding included. To quiet the fear, the Boy and I rented a larger sled and went down as a team. The moment we hit the sledding trail and started to go, I quickly reverted to my 8 year old self. I giggled, howled, guffawed, screamed and made all sorts of other guttural noises...but while doing so, I had the time of my life. Here, take a look-see:

As you can see, the moderately slushy conditions slowed us down a bit but at times we did generate enough speed, granted these were some rather steep hills which I elected to not video for obvious reasons. I believe the Boy and I crashed 5 or 6 times, each time with the sled somehow knocking me in the head...but I felt no pain, just joy. The next video is a little lengthy, but it consists of a solo run featuring the Boy. It contains an ending that is equivalent to a Mary Lou Retton dismount, circa 1984:

No first day with friends is complete without a trip to the mountain restaurant. We felt obliged to feed them fondue, cured meats and beer. As you can see, the meat was the star of the show:

I know what you are thinking, not the best look for me. I suffer for my blog art you see, oh and I really like meat. Chris and Esther were taking a photo shoot of not me, but the meat as well. It truly was the star of the show, complete with paparazzi outside ready to snap a pic.

I bet those who have yet to visit are now starting to wonder what we have in store for you on your first day. What will the Remicks do to you to keep you awake? If there is a country full of thrills, this is the one...bwawawawa!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bat Crap Crazy-Volume 3

The Art of the European Greeting

For us Americans who are used to handshakes or hugs for our greetings, saying hello or goodbye in Europe can be as messy and confusing as a Jackson Pollack painting. I can't remember the last time I have shaken a hand but I have experienced quite a few awkward hugs and inadvertent head butts.

The Swiss Way: The Swiss greet each other with three kisses on the cheek while lightly grasping the other person somewhere on the arm region. I remember on one social occasion that all this kissing made all my facial muscles hurt. I had to kiss freaking 10 people 3 times each. Doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that is more kissing than a porn star does in one shift. I was quickly corrected on my form after complaining that my face hurt. You aren't actually supposed to move your mouth or kiss, you are just supposed to touch your cheek to the other person's cheek. Making a fake kissing noise is optional.

Just as my confidence in this fake kissing greeting was peaking, I learned that the Swiss way isn't the only way.

The Every Other European Except for the Swiss Way: Fake kiss twice while holding the other persons arm region loosely.

The American Married to a Swiss Way: Go in for the fake three kiss thinking that they converted to the Swiss way for their spouse, then find out they would rather hug the crap out of you because they are still American and still love to hug.

The non-Swiss European Who Has Lived in Switzerland for Less than Three Months Way: Fake kiss twice as they did in their Mother country, then watch as they awkwardly remember they now are supposed to fake kiss a third time, head butt each other in the nose, apologize profusely and blame it on the really good beer you are both enjoying.

The non-Swiss European Who has Lived in Switzerland Longer than Three Months: They have successfully adapted from the fake two kiss to the fake three kiss. By this point there are typically no more inadvertent head butts or awkward pauses between fake kiss two and three.

The Americans Greeting Other Americans Way: Hug each other as if it were your last day on earth and whisper to person you are hugging "I love to hug, just let me hold you".

The Dude Way: You can fake kiss other dudes and in the words of Jerry Seinfeld, "there is nothing wrong with that" here. A handshake is acceptable however.

There are so many combinations of the European greeting sometimes I feel like I need the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring from "A Christmas Story" to figure out what to do in each situation. Each greeting situation has its own code and its very own result.

I am happy to report that the results are getting less and less embarrassing and more consistent. I now only average one head butt per week and/or awkward transition. Much like the second language learning curve, soon I will be able to greet anyone without thinking about it first and without incident.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Aw, Me So Hornli...

What do you do with guests who just flew 10 hours from Atlanta and landed in Zurich at 7:45am? You take them on a hike of course. You want to keep their jet lag demons at bay and there is no better way to do this than with some fresh air, snow and fondue. Art of Geneva, the Boy and I took our victims, err friends, Trevor and Megan to the popular hiking/sledding spot Hornli to exercise their demons. Can I get an amen? Holla!

We chose to take them to Hornli based on a recommendation from one of the Boy's co-workers. We hopped a train from Zurich and arrived in Steg, a tiny town approximately 30km due east of Zurich. I am not sure if Hornli is classified as a mountain by the Swiss, hard to gauge what they consider hills vs mountains here, but for us...it was all mountain and it was all snow. I haven't seen this much snow since my days in Roch-cha-cha (Rochester NY) and I couldn't believe how easy it was for me to adjust. I guess you can't take the lake effect snow out of the Western New Yorker.

We arrived to clear skies and "pretty" slapping us in the face every direction we turned. I just love the contrast between freshly fallen white snow and super blue skies, sorta like we were living in a Bob Ross painting.

Hey thanks Bob! (actually, thank you for your hair. It helped me out of some low points in my life)

It was a 1 hour and 20 minute straight shot up the hill-mountain, not for the out of shape I am afraid. Of course there was a restaurant at the top. Any hill-mountain worth their salt has one at the top, feeding weary hikers with bubbling hot pots of cheese and quenching thirsts with gigantic beers.

I had just enough beer to agree to sled the way down but unfortunately for us, all the sleds had been rented that day. During lunch the clouds rolled in all Stephen King style (fast and freaky) and we were informed by a friendly neighbor in the restaurant to start making our way down as it starts getting dark at 4pm. Yes, I said 4pm.

The hike down turned into short cut butt sledding which was all sorts of fun and of course more picture taking. At the end we were greeted by a family of gnomes just chillin. It isn't a Swiss hike if you don't see gnomes.

A great day with amazing friends thanks to Hornli. Hey Hornli...we loved you long time. (come on, you knew that was coming).

Monday, January 11, 2010

This Blog is Back in Bidness

I probably should have warned you all, but the Boy and I have been entertaining out of town guests and traveling our buttocks off since the weekend before Christmas. As a result, no bloggie posties from me. Hopefully I haven't lost my readers in the process. I can promise you this, I have a lot of shenanigans to share, so stay tuned!

Hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season.