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Kristi
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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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Aaaaawesome!

Since we have only been in Zurich for 6 months, the Boy and I are still treated to new traditions, holidays, experiences, etc. One of these new experiences is Fasnacht, a Catholic tradition of Carnival, a giant party lasting 72 hours celebrating and/or mourning the upcoming 40 days of Lent. The event culminates with an amazing parade full of confetti, elaborate costumes, human pyramids and cheer.


Historians have been searching for the lost Homer Scepter since the late 90's. Thought to be somewhere in Middle America, possibly hidden in a neighborhood Dunkin Donuts, it actually found its way to Zurich.

1. Confetti: They take their confetti quite serious here. It is rumored confetti was "invented" in Basel Switzerland, the home of the largest Fasnacht celebration. This rumor very well may be true considering I have never seen so much in my entire life. It was everywhere, and still is everywhere, including my apartment floor. Our friend Saskia was doused (assaulted) with the stuff, she may be finding it for years to come:



If parade participants weren't throwing candy at you like Nolan Ryan, they were showering you with tiny, circular pieces of paper. This one parade participant was particularly menacing:


I stayed far, far away from this apparent ring leader. Don't let this child fool you with its "crying", that is how they get you.

2. Elaborate Costumes: The costumes were nothing short of amazing, which is not surprising, the Swiss take great pride in everything they do. Most participants wore Larve, no not thousands of insect eggs (ew!), rather wooden masks that were mostly creepy, but entirely cool:



It seemed their only job was to scare the crap out of unsuspecting parade goers, myself included. One masked dude made me scream like a 13 year old girl who just watched Poltergeist for the first time.


The costumed participants were in groups of similar dress called "Cliques", and this scaring the crap out of you stuff is very reminiscent of the cliques from my junior high days where the cool girls didn't quite accept me. The parade participants were also keeping you at bay by saying "BOO! You don't belong with us".

3. Pyramids: If the parade participants weren't in wooden masks scaring you, they were forming human pyramids. We seriously saw probably 8 or so different groups getting all isosceles:


And sometimes, magic happens as an amateur photographer:


4. Cheer: Everywhere you looked, there were smiling faces enjoying Fasnacht and the wonderful weather. One parade goer in particular was enjoying herself. She took the word "awesome" to new levels:


It is moments like these that make me so thankful the drinking age here is 16. What a golden nugget of awesome.

The Swiss know how to pull a parade off and we will certainly be back next year. Here are some more photos from the day:






Wednesday, February 24, 2010

See Rome Run

So instead of showing you Rome in several blog posties, I have decided to show you our trip in the form of a children's picture book. Enjoy!

See Rome with Friends:


Seated atop our hotel's roof with our friends Chris and Lygia.

See Rome with Dogs:

Doggies checking out the Castle St. Angelo.


Doggies checking out the Pantheon.

See Colosseums, Ancient Markets, Ruins and Stuff:


Ruins in the Roman Forum. I loved this ruined stuff.



Trajan's Market, built in 100 AD. They specialized in organic free range chickens.


View from the outside of the Colosseum. Um, it made my jaw drop.


The Boy and Chris getting a call from Jason Bourne from inside the Colosseum. Saving the world happens at the most inconvenient of times.

See the Vatican City which isn't technically Rome:


We fortunately bought our tickets in advance, and yelled "suckers!" to all the people waiting in a 2 km line in the rain to get in. Just nuts what people do to get in this place.


I thought this particular sculpture looked nothing like me, but the Boy swore up and down it did.


Unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures of Michelangelo's famous Fresco The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel, but there was plenty of other art you could snap photos of. We really liked this Philosopher's hair. Very Flock of Seagulls.

See Fountains, Steps and Views:


A little Trevi Fountain action


Actual steps from the Spanish Steps. Step on up!


Just one of the many spectacular views of Rome.

See Rome on an empty stomach:


Mmmmmmmm....ushroom fancy style served with bone marrow.


Mmmmm...foam on top of something I forget.


Our pre-dessert dessert


Our dessert dessert


Our post-dessert dessert

See Rome and obtain one dirty little secret:


Shame!

And finally, See Rome with Someone you Love:


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Spass mit Deutsch

Roughly translated, this means "Fun with German"...I think. You would think by now I would know this very simple phrase, but prepositions in German are as clear to me as the Hudson River is to a New Yorker. They make a person want to pick up the syringe they found on its shore and shoot up. Depending on the verb they are linked with, they can mean very different things.

Everyday my teacher looks at me and says "this will not translate to English". She then smiles and draws an evil smiley face next to the new grammar or subject matter that won't make sense to me. Her evil smiley faces usually consist partially of giant toothy grins, which mean "this german stuff is going to chew you up and spit you out".

While most days are filled with "What the flip did she just say?" or "How the flip am I ever going to learn this language?", they are also filled with lots of fun and lots of laughs. Well, at least I am laughing. Take for instance last Friday. Friday is test day and there is always a blanket of angst that covers the room. Even though the purpose of our tests are to gauge our progress, test anxiety seems to rattle us all. Lately our tests have consisted of essays and each time they get longer while the time allowed to complete them gets shorter. I was quite pleased with my effort last week and as class was ending, my teacher picked up my paper and read the first few lines. She looked at me strangely and then busted out in a fit of laughter.

In this particular essay, you were to argue for or against staying in school vs going after your dream profession (ie. professional soccer player, famous singer, Jersey Shore character, etc). I of course argued to stay in school but apparently my argument "In order to earn more Hairdryers, you must stay in school" didn't quite translate or get me on the Deutsch debate team. OH, and instead of stating "the economy is bad", I stated that "Science is bad". I have to admit I was a bit embarrassed at first, but there is nothing like a little bit of self deprecation to wash the flushed, red face away.

I joined her fit of laughter because you have to have fun with German, even when at times you are doing it all wrong.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Tawt I Taw a Putty Tat

So not too many German words roll off the tongue all cute or sexy. When I learned that New Year's Eve was named "Silvester", I got all excited and started daydreaming about cute cartoon cats and annoying birds named Tweety. I was disappointed to learn that Silvester was not named after a Loony Toons character, rather after Saint Sylvester, a Roman Pope dude from the 4th century who cured people of leprosy. I suppose if someone stopped my appendages from falling off, I would be grateful too, saint him/her, drink loads of alcohol and shoot off a few fireworks...all in that order.

Historically New Years Eve has felt like one big "Amateur Night". You get all decked out regardless of the temperature, drink as if you just lost a million on the stock market, and go out with the expectation that this time, it will be the best night of your life. You do it over and over again with the hope that one of these years, it will actually be the best night of your life. Now I am not going to suggest that this New Years was the best time/night of my life, but it was pretty close to perfect. Here are the highlights:

1. A very traditional Swiss experience in Herisau: Our friends Hans Peter and Stacie generously invited me, the Boy and 3 of our visiting friends to Hans Peters Parent's house the morning of New Years Eve. They fed us Kasekuchen (yummy cheese and onion pie served warm), Veal sausage and Prosecco. After we feasted, we were treated to yodeling farmers with giant bells. Take your mind out of the gutter, I said BELLS. The town's farmers woke up around 3 am, dressed in festive male or female costumes, masks and elaborate wooden handmade hats, and then went door to door throughout town yodeling and ringing their giant bells. It had been raining that morning, so if you look closely you will see their hats were covered with plastic to protect them, sorta like Grandma's favorite couch. Here, take a look:


You may have noticed in this video Hans Peter's Dad going around
to each of the farmers with a mug and straw. That wasn't water my
friends, rather a traditional wine designed to quench their thirsts and
enhance their amazing yodeling.

Speaking of amazing yodeling, check this out...complete with a neighbor
watching from her window:



We then made our way to Herisau's town center to check out the trees.
The trees were farmers dressed like, errrr...trees. They were the "bad
guys" where the yodeling dudes were the "good guys". I have no idea
if the tree guys battled the yodelers later that day. I can only imagine
what that may have looked like...especially since they all had been
drinking since 3 am.

The tree costumes were amazing and composed of actual tree material.
Take a look at this guy:



Suspiciously some of the trees had stuffed, dead animals on their heads...many resembling, dare I say, SQUIRRELS!!!

Anywho, it was a fabulous treat to witness a very Swiss tradition. We left Herisau feeling warm inside, partly due to the Kasekuchen and Prosecco, but mostly due to feeling so welcome in Hans Peters Parent's home.

2. The 80's Tent: People, nothing brings the "merican" out in an "American" quite like 80's music. When we heard the festivities in downtown Zurich included a tent that played nothing but computer generated synthesized music, we were beyond excited. Our group was actually pretty international so I was totally stoked to learn that nothing brings out the "germ" in German and the "aus" in Austrian quite like 80's music. We were dancing fools, especially when "The Kamisar" came on...none of us had a clue the Kamisar was in town, UH OH...

3. The Fireworks: As a rule, I don't drink and photograph. Bad things happen when I take expensive things out while drinking Prosecco. Unfortunately this means I didn't capture the amazing fireworks display on film, but I can tell you this...they lived up to the hype. Watching world class fireworks over the Zurichsee was pretty amazing and it made me all smiley.

Now to the lone low-light of Silvester. I want to preface what I am about to tell you with this: I am not a violent person. I can only think of two situations that would provoke me. The first would be coming face to face with Bin Laden...I would totally bust a cap in his ass. The second would be self defense.

Well, apparently there is a third situation that would provoke me and it happened while standing in line for the bathroom. It finally came to be my turn, nothing was going to stop me from going into that stall...well except a 5'4", 110 pound crazy eyed chick from some country that produces really strong skinny women. She came up to me as I was about to enter the stall and just stared at me all wide crazy eyed, daring me with her crazy eyes to do something about the fact she was about to not only cut me in line for the bathroom, but a hundred other women.

Well, me and the Prosecco were having none of that. I don't quite remember what I said, but we exchanged what I hope were actual words and much to my horror, she somehow managed to get into the coveted bathroom stall first. Was I not clear when I told her it was my turn? Well, apparently not because I don't speak "crazy"...so when she came out I was ready for war. Technically this was self defense, the defense of my and many other women's bladders, right?

I said more things that I don't remember and then the next thing I knew, she punched me. Before I had time to retaliate, crazy eyed girl's friend dragged her off, probably rolling her eyes because it was likely the third or fourth fight she had to break up that evening. I can't imagine what Crazy Eyes is like trying to buy a drink. She probably pays with Numchuks. Thankfully after the punch there were no Tweety birds circling my head that Silvester night.

I went back to the 80's tent with a few scratches and a barely bruised ego. After a few minutes of dancing to some 80's music with fabulous new friends, all was right in the world again.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bat Crap Crazy-Volume 5

Where are all the freakin Squirrels?

For weeks, I couldn't put my finger on it. Something was missing in Switzerland. All the usual suspects crossed my mind: litter, crime, processed cheese, wine in a box...but nope, I knew those things either didn't exist or I half expected them not to. It finally dawned on me one day after a walk with my doggies, there are no freakin squirrels. In the five months we have been here, I haven't seen one rat in cute clothing. In case you didn't know, this is how the squirrel came to be:

God: We really need a cute rat. Otherwise, how will we spread plagues without people catching on?

God's Assistant: Hmmm, good point. How about the Sloth? I know you were thinking of introducing it soon.

God: Nah, I have other plans for the Sloth.

God's Assistant: Oh yeah, what?

God: You'll see...bwawawawa!

God's Assistant: Well, you don't have to get all scary about it. Well, how about giving the existing rat a big, fluffy tail that sorta curls at the end? People get all gooey when animals are fluffy.

God: You are onto something assistant. In fact I am so impressed, I am going to give you a name. How do you like Darwin?

God's Assistant: Meh, its ok.

So what happened to all of the slightly annoying but sorta cute nut-munchers that would rather move towards a moving car than away from it? Did something sinister happen? Were they victim of a mass animal cleansing campaign? I can totally see the ads:

Save your nuts, kill the squirrels

What do squirrels have in common with cleanliness? Nothing, kill em

Squirrels, the non-essential animal and we don't do non-essential here

I even resorted to asking my classmates in German class about this strange phenomenon. "Know it all chick" had an answer...the reason why Switzerland has no squirrels is because they don't have the "right trees". If there is a place on the planet with the "right trees", it is Switzerland.

Needless to say, I left class that day with more questions than answers.


Monday, February 1, 2010

To Fondue or Fon-don't? That is the Question

I love food and I am no stranger to pots of hot, melted cheese. Back in the States I was famous for "Cheesy Beefy". There wasn't a Remick party without a pot of golden, cheesy goodness which consisted of Velveeta (the cheesy), meat (the beefy), a can of Rotel (the vegetables that help you rationalize the copious amounts of fat and sodium you just consumed) and a secret ingredient. When I learned we were moving to the land of cheese, one of my very first thoughts was "ooooh, I get to try real Fondue!".

Much to my chagrin, after consuming my very first cube of bread covered in melted cheese, I wanted to ralph. We had just hiked for an hour and 20 minutes uphill, in the snow which is hard work, like running in sand. Knowing there was a hot pot of cheese kept me going, precisely the same visual I would use if I were to hike Mt. Everest. What I didn't expect was the Kirsch. The Kirsch sounds like a health condition or a Medieval plague that decimated an entire population:

"Doctor, I think I have the Kirsch!"

"What are your symptoms young lady?"

"Well, I have a really bad taste in my mouth and it burns...my stomach lining tingles and I feel like I have a fever, oh and I feel drunk"

"Wow, that sounds bad. When did you notice your symptoms?"

"Well, I was minding my own business, eating a pot of cheese and then out of nowhere the symptoms came"

"Hmmm...well you are either really lactose intolerant, or you in fact have the Kirsch"

"What do I do Doctor?"

"Well, there is only one thing you can do. Eat the eyes of a toad while hopping on your right foot...oh, and stop eating Fondue"

Kirsch is a clear, colorless fruit brandy derived from Morello cherries. It is not sweet and tastes like fire water. I was sad to learn, the hard way, that it is considered the essential ingredient in Swiss fondue. For me, it completely overpowers the cheese, the supposed star of the show. Afterwards you feel like you just went on a bender with Rip Torn and you consider robbing a bank for fun. You are also highly flammable for 24 hours and it is illegal to be within 15 feet of a gas station during that time period.

To ease the mental pain I incurred upon my discovery that fondue tasted like a 21st birthday party, there was only one thing I could do...break out my lone brick of Velveeta and make some American Fondue. The Boy and I feasted like newly minted vampires for what seemed like 3 hours.


(too bad Warhol is dead and stuff, I would totally commission him to paint this photo)

I want to like Swiss fondue, really...I do. I know some restaurants use white wine instead of the Kirsch, but this will require some research on my end beforehand. It will also require the desire to try it one more time. Since fondue is indigenous to Switzerland, I am sure we will come face to face again. Hopefully the third time will be the charm, but if not, at least I will be drunk.