29 March 2007

Roman Holiday

Even as I write this, GLH is on an airplane flying back from London. At least he is as long as the flight took off without any delays. I wish Swiss Air would post real-time information instead of just the estimation which may or may not be accurate...

Assuming he gets back in time we are headed for Rome on the night train for a long weekend and my blog will be quiet for a bit. (Yes, we got the private berth instead of the Couchette for 6. We were warned before we purchased the tickets.)

If something unexpected happens and he does not make it back on time, tune in here later today for a very long and unhappy rant...

27 March 2007

Max and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

This is Max.

Max likes to chew things. A lot.

He likes to chew things more than any other cat I have ever known.

Max could put any puppy to shame. In fact, it's possible he is part goat. He chews on, and eats, everything. Seriously. EVERYTHING. Nothing is safe from the Max. We already had one Very Bad Day due to his chewing fixation.

And today we had another.

Max was sick this morning. He was "violently expelling" parts of a toy that he had chewed and swallowed. I realized that one large piece was still missing. As the cats both needed their annual check-up, I crated them and took them to the vet.

It was the first visit with this vet. And Max left quite an impression.

When we went in I gave the vet the run-down of their medical history. When I mentioned they were declawed (in the US well before we even knew we were coming here), the vet said that declawing wasn't legal in Switzerland and is generally a bad idea.

Then the vet tried to examine Max. Max was feeling sick and cranky. Max turned into a snarling, raging, hissing ball of fur. I tried to calm him down, and came away with blood dripping off my hand.

So the vet and his assistant put on protective leather gloves that came up to their elbows. But they soon gave up trying. It just wasn't going to happen.

The vet thought perhaps declawing wasn't always such a bad idea.

I was sent away with instructions of what to watch and told if Max didn't feel better soon I would need to bring him back so he could be sedated and examined. Possibly have a second surgery to remove an inedible object.

Fortunately Max "violently expelled" the remaining piece this afternoon. He is starting to feel better, but periodically has flashbacks and hisses at the remembrance.

He had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day...

26 March 2007

Open for Business

The Global Hotel of Zürich is now officially open for business. And we already have our first two bookings!

The first guests of GHZ will be my parents, who arrive in Zürich on April 4th.

They say they are coming to visit us. But I suspect they just want to get here in time to sample the abundant supply of Chocolate Easter Bunnies that have cropped up all over Switzerland!

Our second guests have booked for September, but we expect more bookings as time goes forward.

I highly recommend you book early. With our travel schedule, it can be difficult to find us at home.

Added 28 March

Since posting this I have received several e-mails requesting reservations at our Bed & Breakfast. It appears my sense of humor doesn't translate well.

We accept "reservations" only from people we already know. Specifically our family and friends. And we generally do not charge. Unless you consider a request to bring things we cannot find here as "payment." (Mom and Dad, don't forget - All Natural Peanut Butter from Costco!)

The cost of living is high in Zürich. But thus far we are still able to make ends meet without taking in boarders.

25 March 2007

Sunday Afternoon at Rheinfall

On Sunday afternoon GLH and I made the trip up to the Rheinfall (Rhine Falls). Located in Neuhausen am Rhein, it is the largest waterfall in Europe. And on a Sunday afternoon in March surprisingly clear of masses of tourists.

The falls are a sight to behold and definitely worth the trip.

You can even take a boat through the mist in order to climb a large rock and see the falls up close. Although I would recommend wearing rain gear if you decide upon that route!

After we walked through the Rheinfall Park, we had a lackluster lunch at one of the two restaurants located immediately next to the falls.

Then we headed to the nearby city of Schaffhausen...

The canton of Schaffhausen is an oddly-shaped bit of land that juts into Germany. An unfortunate geographic fact during World War II when Schaffhausen became the only Swiss city to be bombed by Allied Forces on April 1, 1944. Pilots claimed it was a mistake as the city lies north of the Rhein, which is generally the border between Switzerland and Germany. However, they made the same mistake again on February 22, 1945. Opps.

By 1045 Scafhusen was a thriving market town. It grew rapidly during the 13th and 14th centuries. In 1415 the city, which had come to be called Schaffhausen, was granted Free City status and joined the Swiss Confederation in 1501.

Schaffhausen is known for its ornate oriel windows...

And the murals on many of the façades..

After meandering through the city center, we climbed the hill to Munot, a Medieval fortress which towers over the city.

And what a climb it was!

Once we got to the top of the hill, we continued to climb through the keep to the tower.

But the views are more than worth the effort...

As are the details such as this stained glass window...

We both greatly enjoyed our trip to Rheinfall and Schaffhausen.

We've also decided that we will continue to do these quick trips on Sunday afternoons. Because the shops are closed, it tends to be a quieter day with less people to get in our way. (I like people individually. Just not all in one mass.) The museums are usually open on Sundays, so no problem there.

Plus, I hate shopping anyway!

24 March 2007

Profuse Apologies

I'm sorry. I made a mistake.

I'll try to never let it happen again. But to be perfectly honest, I cannot guarantee that it will not.

See, I am still new here. I am trying to remember all of the procedures and rules. But there are so many of them. It is really very difficult to remember everything when virtually every aspect of your life is completely different from what it was before.

Sometimes I forget one of the rules. Even the easy ones.

I am so, so sorry.

But could we please put this in perspective?

It is not like I committed a crime against humanity. No one was harmed because of my mistake. No lives were lost.

I was distracted and fell into an old habit. I forgot to weigh my potatoes before coming to the check out desk.

Yes, I understand that because the clerk has to run back to the produce section to weigh my potatoes that you will all be delayed approximately 3 minutes. I understand you are very busy and want to finish and go to wherever you are going. I understand that the grocery store is crowded and the lines are long.

But is all of the glaring and huffing and eye-rolling truly necessary?

Can't you cut me a little bit of slack?

23 March 2007

Why the Surprise?

Today in Switzerland it snowed.

In fact, it has snowed a bit pretty much every day this week. But as it is Spring and warms up during the day, it melts pretty quickly.

The snow is not amazing to me.

What is amazing is the reaction of most everyone around me. They seem to be surprised that it is snowing in March.


After all, it is Switzerland. And while this has been an unusually warm and snowfree winter, it is still a country that is 60% mountainous. You've got to expect a bit of snow, don't ya?

I remember from growing up in Minnesota that early Spring was the time for large amounts of very wet snow. It only makes sense. The temperature tends to hover around freezing during the overnight hours for most of the month. And as it is Spring, there tends to be a fair amount of moisture in the air. Cold and moisture generally result in snow.

Switzerland is the same. I looked it up. The last several years there has been at least one large snowfall every March. But since it is early Spring, it melts quickly.

So c'mon, everyone. Go play in the snow. Have fun with it while you can. It won't last long. And predictions are that once again it will be an unusually hot summer.

Although I have to wonder - how long before people accept that the climate has changed and a heat wave during the summer is the norm, not a fluke?

Anyone know where we can buy some ceiling fans?

22 March 2007

Inadvertent Train Bandit

Today our upstairs neighbor needed to go to the airport. She is 7 months pregnant and has a toddler. She also had luggage and a heavy car seat. Unfortunately, her husband had to work this morning and was going to meet her there.

I offered to take her to the airport. I didn't have plans anyway. And, after all, it's the "neighborly" thing to do.

We decided to drive the car to the local train station and then take the train directly to the airport. So we parked the car, gathered all the various bags and so on and caught the train. As the train pulled away from the station, I saw a Billette Inspector working her way down the rows of people. I reached for my purse to pull out my annual pass.

And realized I did not have it!

In the commotion outside the car with the toddler, the luggage and the car seat, I had forgotten to grab my purse! No annual transit pass. No identification. No wallet. All I had were some 1, 2 and 5 CHF coins in my pocket. Amounting to a grand total of 14 CHF.

I quickly explained the situation to my neighbor then scrambled in my brain for what to do.

As the inspector approached us, I launched into my hastily prepared excuse. But I knew as I began that this wouldn't work. I had heard that the Swiss Billette Inspectors are notorious for showing a lack of mercy.

But I had to at least try.

I explained that I have an annual pass, but in the rush to gather all the things I had forgotten my purse in the car. Then I said I would get off at the next stop, Zürich Hauptbahnhof, and purchase a ticket. (Fortunately the train sits for 5 minutes at the main station.)

To my complete surprise, all I got was a disapproving look and an admonishment to never let it happen again. No ticket. No escort off the train to the police. No enormous fine that must be paid right then and there. I didn't even get in trouble for not carrying my residency papers, which I was told should be with me at all times.

What are the odds?

By the way, a round trip ticket costs 13,80. Full fare. Because, of course, my Half-Pass card was also in my wallet back in the car. A mere 20 rappens less than the amount I had in my pocket. (My neighbor loaned me a bit of money "just in case" for the ride home.)

And I am also happy to report that my purse was still safely in the car. The car I accidentally left unlocked. In full view of anyone who should happen to walk by.

21 March 2007

How Does a Kindergartener Cross the Road?

Earlier today I saw just about the cutest scene ever.

A class of kindergarten students were lined up along the busiest street in our town. About half of them were on one side of the road and the other half on the opposite. Each of them was wearing the triangular-shaped reflectors that children in Switzerland frequently wear around their shoulders as they walk to and from school.

A police officer stood next to the street. It became apparent that today was the day for kindergarteners to learn how to cross the street.

One child at a time approached the intersection and stood on the curb. All of the children began to chant "Stop! Stop! Stop!" as the cars approached the crosswalk.

As soon as the car was stopped, the police officer would motion to the child. The other children would cheer on their classmate as he or she carefully walked across the street with a great, big grin.

Then it was the next child's turn to cross and the entire screen repeated itself.

I've gotten better about carrying my camera, but I was just headed down for errands. How was I to know?

By the way, the Swiss are very good at stopping for pedestrians waiting at crosswalks. I have only once seen a car fail to stop. As I jumped out of its way, I turned to watch it go. And noticed it had a French license plate. Yep, the driver wasn't Swiss!

Although I suspect that even that driver would have stopped, given the two or three police officers standing by...

20 March 2007

Surprisingly Charming: Zug

On Sunday afternoon GLH and I decided to go for a walk.

For a change in scenery we drove twenty minutes south to Zug, a small city on the shores of Zuger See. We thought a walk along the lakeshore would be "just the thing."

Best known as a tax shelter for the über-wealthy (approximately 2000 millionaires from around the world call the Canton of Zug home), we soon discovered that the city has something to offer to those of more modest means as well.

We quickly decided that perhaps a walk around the lake would be cold, windy and wet. Anybody within 15-20 feet of the shore got sopping wet. Best left to a milder day.

Even the swans looked uncertain about getting too close!

So we turned our backs to the lake and headed for the gate to the Old City.

Within the remnants of the Old City Wall lies an amazingly well preserved Medieval town. I almost expected an actor in a tunic and tights to come walking along...

And I really wanted to see inside this triangular house just outside of where the wall originally stood!

But the highlight of the afternoon was the Zug Museum. Located in an old castle tower, the museum was very well done. It had a great overview of the history of the area (in German, French, Italian and English!) as well as interesting displays and interpretative signs.

So the next time you have an afternoon to spare, head down to Zug. It's a quick train ride from Zürich Hauptbahnhof.

We know that we'll go back!

It's a Small World...

This morning I met with one of the employees at the Swiss Library where I am volunteering. She asked me if I knew someone who lives in Kansas City.

I've gotten this kind of question a lot. Especially as most Swiss do not fully realize how large the United States is. Or that even the smaller US cities are larger than any of the cities in Switzerland.

Example: "No, I'm sorry. I do not know your friend in Boston. By the way, Kansas City is approximately the same distance from Boston as Zürich is from Moscow. We were unlikely to ever meet..."

However, for the first time I actually know the person!

Turns out that I used to work with her aunt in Kansas City. I knew my former co-worker was from Zürich. Indeed, before moving here I quizzed her about Zürich and Switzerland on a couple of occasions.

But still, what are the odds?

19 March 2007

A Capital Experience: Bern

Bear guarding Bern on the shores of Aare River.

On Saturday some friends came with us for a visit to Bern, the capital of Switzerland.

Established in 1191, Bern's city center is quiet and compact. After a fire in 1405, wooden buildings were no longer allowed. So the city center is rather imposing with many grey stone buildings.

I have to admit, I had thought Bern would be prettier than it was. But it was still a lovely day and we enjoyed our visit. I do not have a burning desire to return, but I will at some stage as we did not have time to visit the Paul Klee Center, dedicated solely to the artist's works.

Here are some photos of what we did see...

The Prison Tower (Käfigturm) was once part of the city wall. Built around 1256, it was renovated in the 1640's and served as a prison until 1897.

Swiss Mercenaries returning from the Netherlands brought smoking back to Bern. It was outlawed within the city walls, so they hid their habit in the Dutch Tower.

If only that were still true!

Promenade behind Parliament (Bundeshaus) with an impressive view. On a clear day you can see peaks of Eigerm Mönch and Jungfrau. Saturday was not a clear day, but it was pretty none the less!

I did not take a photo of the Parliament Building as it was covered with scaffolding and sheeting. The renovations will not be completed until 2008.

This water fountain by Swiss realist Meret Oppenheim caused an uproar when it was first put up in 1983. The locals thought it incredibly ugly and tried to force it's removal. They did not succeed. I can only imagine they have become accustomed to it...

View of city and Bern Cathedral from the Kirchenfeld Bridge.

Right next to the Bern Cathedral are some lovely old apartments with terraced gardens. This was perhaps my favorite part of the city!

18 March 2007

What a Beautiful Life!

Is there anything better than heated floors and a sunny spot near a window on a bright, beautiful day?

Max and Tilly don't think so!

16 March 2007


This evening we sat down for a spot of tv viewing.

The channel was tuned to HBO and a commercial came on for the very reason we got Sling Box.

The Sopranos is returning on April 8th.

GLH actually got goosebumps.

I kid you not.

Does Size Matter?

Sometimes it really does...

My washer in the United States was a large capacity washer. You wouldn't believe how much I could put into a single load.

My washer here in Switzerland would look like a child's toy next to that washer. No, it is not unusually small. At least, not by European standards. It is a typical size for here.

Today I did a bit of research and went to the manufacturer's website for each. Just wanted to see exactly what the size difference is.

Let's do a comparison:

Swiss Washer
Height: 85 cm / 33.4 in
Width: 60 cm / 23.6 in
Depth: 59.5 cm / 23.4 in

US Washer
Height: 106.6 cm / 42 in
Width: 68.58 cm / 27 in
Depth: 64.7 cm / 25.5 in

But size isn't the only thing that matters. In the United States, a wash cycle was 40 minutes and the dryer took about 45-60 minutes. Here in Switzerland, the wash takes 1 hr 20 minutes and the dry could take as much as 2 hours.

So I am now able to do half of the laundry in twice as much time.

No wonder it takes me forever to do laundry. And there are only two of us. I cannot imagine how people with children manage it!

When I first came here, I tried to do laundry one day per week, just like in the US. At the end of the day, I still wasn't done.

Then I tried to do laundry two days per week. I still didn't feel caught up AND I lost two days to laundry instead of just one.

What I finally did was to purchase several small, plastic baskets that are intended for carrying groceries home. But I discovered that the capacity of the shopping baskets was pretty much equal to the capacity of the washer. The baskets are lined up in a corner of the room we call the "Closet Room." Dirty clothes are sorted immediately into one of the baskets. When the basket is full, I put that load in the washer.

I usually do a load or two every day. This way I never feel overwhelmed by mounds of laundry.

But I still miss my large capacity washer and the feeling of satisfaction I had when all of the laundry was clean, folded and put away.

Marian Librarian, please give my old washer & dryer a nice pat. You have no idea what a deal you got when you bought them from us!

15 March 2007

Update: Swiss Connection

Last week I posted about the Swiss Consulate in Kansas City. While preparing for our move to Zürich I discovered the Consulate is actually Andre's Chocolates, a business owned by the Swiss-American Bollier family.

When I ate in their restaurant the waitress informed me there is no longer a Swiss Consulate in Kansas City due to an illness in the family.

I am happy to report that the information was incorrect, as evidenced by the following e-mail I received from one of the family...

First of all I would like to thank you for kind words about not only Andre's but also the Bollier family. We always strive for excellence in everything we do.

I do have to make a correction on the information you were given while eating here at Andre's. Marcel Bollier was diagnosed with MS a number of years ago, but is dealing with it quite well.

The Swiss Consulate in Kansas City continues to exist and will continue until the Swiss government says other wise. I do realize this misunderstanding is not your fault. I simply thought you would want to know that Marcel is doing well and again thank you for your kind words.

Rene Bollier (3rd generation)

14 March 2007

But What Kind?

This evening GLH and I ate at a lovely restaurant serving traditional Swiss fare. Along with GLH's entree, he had a choice of several different kinds of potatoes. Two of the potato options were unknown to us.

Our waiter spoke some English. But we think the meaning was lost in translation.

Here is the conversation:

Me: I know that "pommes" means potatoes. But what are "Pommes Williams" and "Pommes Duchesses?"

Waiter: They are potatoes.

Me: I understand they are potatoes. But what else is in them?

Waiter: Potatoes.

Me: How are the potatoes made?

Waiter (pointing at menu): These potatoes are made one way and these are made another.

I gave up...

Your Closest Neighbor...

There is a saying that you always hate your closest neighbor the most.

But I really do not understand why the Swiss Germans dislike the Germans so much. After all, the Swiss French seem to get along fine with the French. And the Swiss Italians appear to be quite friendly to the Italians.

I had hoped that this article would throw some light on the topic. But it does not explain the level of dislike that I have heard expressed repeatedly.

Would someone please explain the animosity towards the Germans? When did it start? Why did it start? Why is it continuing?

13 March 2007

Anybody Wanna Go to Rome?

GLH has just informed me that he will be going on a one-day business trip to London. Leaving early in the morning and returning the same day. It happens to be scheduled for the very same day we are leaving for a 4-day weekend in Rome.

He has assured me there are hourly flights and he will get back in plenty of time to catch the night train to Rome.

I think it is a very, very bad idea and said I wished he would not do such a risky thing. I then informed him that if he doesn't make it back on time, I am going without him.

So, does anyone want to be on-call to join me at the Zürich Hauptbahnhof for a long weekend in Rome? Just in case GLH doesn't get back in time...

Extra points if you speak Italian and/or know your way around Rome.

So Many Books, So Little Time...

Photo taken while I waited for my ride at one of the bookstores I visited.

I was in the United States for 9 days. During that time I made 5 trips to a bookstore. I kept telling myself "Careful. They're heavy. Do not buy too many."

But it was too hard. And so many books beckoned to me in a very enticing manner. I brought back 19 trade paperbacks, 2 hardcovers and 1 mass paperback and 3 Sudoku puzzle books that I simply could not resist.

Fortunately, I discovered that my frequent flier status means that I am given a baggage allowance of 70 lbs per bag (for two bags) instead of the standard 50 lbs.

Although I did need help from GLH to get the bags from the airport to home. He came back two days earlier, but met me at the train station in the airport at 7:30 am on Monday morning. And he had wisely parked our car at the train station in our town. 'Cause dragging those suitcases on and off the train myself and then up the hill on next to no sleep would have been a nightmare!

Here is a list of the books I brought back with me. This should keep me happy for a month or so...


Lover Revealed: A Novel of the Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward

Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie

Sold by Patricia McCormick

Yacoubian Building by Alan Al Aswany (translated by Humphrey Davies)


Berlitz Italian Phrase Book and Dictionary

Between Two Worlds (Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam) by Zainag Salbi

Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today's Pop Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter by Steven Johnson

The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust by Edith Hahn Beer (with Susan Dworkin)

Not So Funny When It Happened: The Best of Travel Humor and Misadventure edited by Tim Cahill

There's No Toilet Paper...On the Road Less Traveled edited by Doug Landsky

we wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch

TRAVEL GUIDES: Places We Plan to Visit in 2007

Eyewitness Travel Guides: Austria

Time Out: Dublin (Scheduled: May)

Lonely Planet: Egypt

Frommer's: France's Best-Loved Driving Tours (Alsace-Lorraine Scheduled: April)

Frommer's: Germany's Best-Loved Driving Tours (Rhein River Valley Scheduled: June?)

Frommer's: Greece

Time Out: London

Top Ten: Munich

Frommer's: Northern Italy's Best-Loved Driving Tours

Michelin Guide: Rome (Scheduled: March)

Rome Made Easy: The Best Sights and Walks of Rome

Global Librarian's Lending Library Policy

Available to people I know in "Real-Time" in Switzerland, and perhaps further afield in Europe if you ask prettily. If you would like to read a title after I have finished it, just send me an e-mail with your request. I will pencil requests in order received inside the cover.

Most books are available for passing from person to person until all who desire have read it. Then they should be donated by the last listed reader to an appropriate library or organization for English-speakers.

Exceptions include Travel Guides, which will not be loaned until after we have finished our trip(s) to the book's location.


This is my brother. It was at the end of a family dinner that took place at a Chinese Buffet in the Twin Cities.

I have no idea why he stuck the chop sticks in his ears. Sometimes he does things like that. But I knew I had to take a picture of it.

12 March 2007

Refresher Course in Snow

Due to the unseasonably warm winter we have had in Switzerland, I thought that people might need a refresher course in snow. Seeing as we haven't had much of it here...

This is snow....

Indeed, this is about 4 feet of snow still in evidence in March.

Snow is cold. It is wet. You can even mold it into shapes.

And if you find a large mound of the cold stuff you can strap pieces of wood to your feet, hold onto some poles for dear life and slide down it.

Even in Minnesota, the Land of the Prairie.

Although it may be difficult to find a hill large enough. And sometimes you even have to make the hill by pushing large amounts of dirt into a single mound.

But at least when you make your own hill for downhill skiing, you can place it conveniently in the suburbs and near the interstate for easy access.

This particular mound of dirt and snow is Buck Hill in Burnsville, Minnesota. Yes, it is pathetic. But at least the snow is fresh and ready to go. And they arrange for a new layer of powder every night before the first skiers arrive in the morning!

And it cannot be all bad as the St. Olaf College Ski Team trains there every year. And they are really quite good.

Although their success may have something to do with the fact that the ski team is primarily comprised of the Norwegian exchange students...

10 March 2007

May I Help You?

There is an aspect of the United States that I really miss...

Being greeted with a smile and "May I help you?" when you walk into a store, restaurant or business.

While it does not happen every time, it certainly happens far more than not. And it is not just an empty greeting. It will be followed through with action. In most cases, employees will do what they can to ensure that the customer leaves happy and that any issues are resolved immediately.

Although there are notable exceptions -- the US banking and airline industries immediately come to mind!

Regardless, just in the past week I have seen numerous examples of excellent customer service.

For instance, very early on Monday morning we were awakened by garbage trucks emptying the dumpsters outside the hotel. This happened at 3:30 am, to be exact. There were three dumpsters and the noise continued for 20 minutes while they emptied them. Shortly thereafter, the morning deliveries in the loading dock area started.

The next morning I went to the front desk and asked to be changed to another room. After I explained why, the hotel desk clerk immediately apologized for the issue, even though it is not the hotel's fault as the city decides when garbage is collected. Not only did she move us to a larger, corner room on the other side of the hotel that was further from the street level, but she also gave us points in our frequent stay program for two free nights stay at one of their hotels anywhere in the world at a future date.

Here's another one -- one morning GLH and I went to a typical "All-American" diner for breakfast. GLH's slice of ham had a lot of fat in it and he couldn't eat most of us. When the waiter returned to the table for one of his frequent "Is everything alright?" visits, he noticed GLH had not eaten the ham. When he discovered the reason, he immediately offered to bring a new slice. When GLH declined, he discounted our bill to make up for the poor quality of ham that was served. All of this without us complaining or asking to speak with the manager.

Here is one final example. In Switzerland most stores are extremely proud of the two year guarantees that are offered. When you purchase the item, you are told to keep the receipt and if anything should happen during those two years, it will be fixed or replaced. The Big Finn recently shared a story about how things tend to break for him shortly after the two year anniversary. (Look for posting entitled "Swiss Quality" from 6 March.)

How about this? My niece recently noticed the zipper on her winter coat was broken. Her father took the coat back to the store, without a receipt, and showed them the broken zipper. He thought the coat had been purchased about a year ago. Because they keep electronic records, the clerk (in Minnesota) was able to find the original purchase information (in Vermont) and discovered that the coat was actually purchased more than three years ago.

No problem! He was given the choice of either having the coat sent in for repairs. Or he and my niece could walk over to the coat rack and select a brand new coat at no charge.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Switzerland is wonderful on many levels. The efficient public transportation, the cleanliness and the extreme natural beauty springs immediately to mind.

And there are aspects of the United States I am happy to leave behind such as high crime rates, strip malls and dangerous pedestrian crossings!

But I would love to live in a Utopia where I could have instant access to US customer service, Swiss efficiency, and Italian shoes. Given time, I sure I could create a much longer list!

Too bad you cannot meld all of the good things from around the world into a single location. And remove all the bad things.

Swiss Connection

(Photo from the Andre's Confiserie Suisse Website.)

When I first learned we would be moving to Switzerland, I had many, many questions. Some of those questions could only be answered by the Swiss government. So I looked up the Swiss Embassy information online and was surprised to see there was a Swiss Consulate in Kansas City. I immediately called the telephone number listed.

"Andre's Chocolates. May I help you?"

"Um. I was trying to contact the Swiss Consulate? I must have the wrong number."

"No, this is the right number. Let me get him for you..."

Turns out that the Swiss Consulate in Kansas City was Marcel Bollier, the son of Andre and Elsbeth Bollier.

Andre and Elsbeth are natives of Basel, Switzerland. They emigrated to the United States in 1955 with the dream of starting their own Suisse Confiserie. The dream was realized in Kansas City, where Andre's grew from humble beginnings to a large enterprise with franchises in California, Colorado and Texas. The management team now includes three generations of Bolliers.

While in Kansas City I met a friend for lunch at Andre's, surrounded by a Swiss Chalet setting and eating traditional Swiss food and followed by a fabulous chocolate dessert. I was relating the consulate story to her when our waitress arrived. She overheard a bit and I explained the rest.

Due to an illness in the family, there is no longer a Swiss Consulate in Kansas City. It is an unfortunate loss. For my dealings with Marcel were far more positive and informative than any I have had with either the Swiss Consulate in Chicago or the US Embassy in Bern. Marcel did not have immediate answers for all my questions, but he quickly researched them and called me back.

Although the Kansas City Swiss Consulate is no longer, the Bolliers remain just one example among many of the Swiss immigrants who moved to the United States and succeeded through hard work. And they continue to give Kansas Citians a taste of authentic Swiss Chocolate.

Thank you!

09 March 2007

Kansas City Experience

Kansas City is a Food Town.


In no place I have ever lived or visited have I found the same quality, quantity and variety of restaurants that serve consistently great food at a reasonable cost. There is so much competition in the restaurant market that subpar establishments quickly go out of business.

And yes, I am comparing Kansas City to New York, London, Paris, Chicago, San Francisco and New Orleans. Kansas City can stand toe-to-toe in the restaurant category with any of them. Seriously.

Kansas City is best known for it's Barbecue. And that is Barbecue with a Capitol "B." Kansas Citians take their Barbecue very seriously. After all, is it the home of the Annual American Royal Barbecue Competition. Now in it's 28th year, the event will take place from October 4- 6. Make your flight and hotel arrangements now. People come from all over the world to compete. And sample the competition, of course! During the American Royal Barbecue Weekend, the city is full.

Although I tended to go somewhere else that weekend. Let me put it this way - imagine that many people all eating barbecue for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for three straight days. The flatulence that can cause is mind-numbing...

But let us not forget that Kansas City is also the Original Cow Town. From the long time locals-in-the-know favorite Golden Ox to the high-end dining experience of Capital Grille, you are sure to find a top-notch, perfectly prepared steak in any price category. And in any dress category from casual jeans and sneakers to Armani.

But do not think that Kansas City is for meat-eaters only. Vegetarians and Vegans can also feel at home!

I would be remiss if I did not write of Kansas City's African American cultural history. The corner of 18th and Vine is the center of KC's African American history. After a visit to the American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, stop in at the Peachtree Restaurant for "soulfood with elegance!"

Do not discount the ethnic food category, because Kansas City always has been and remains home to a large population of immigrants. Your food choices are incredibly diverse! From its early days with a booming Italian and Irish population, to the current day influx of people from Africa, Southeast Asia, India and more!

Not to mention, my must-have of Mexican at Dos Reales!

But no trip to Kansas City for me would ever be complete without a trip to my personal all-time favorite restaurant: Lidia's. Not coincidentally, also the place where GLH proposed on April 16, 2005!

So with all these fabulous options, why isn't Kansas City a major tourist destination? Well, 'cause the city falls down the ladder a bit when it comes to other attractions.

For while the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is world-class and free to boot, it cannot compare to the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Nor can the musical abilities of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City compare to the New York Metropolitan Opera. And let's be honest, even the often mocked Euro-Disney outside of Paris is a substantially better visit than World's of Fun in Kansas City.

But still, if you ever happen to be in the Midwest, be sure to swing by Kansas City. You will not go away hungry!

08 March 2007

Life Experience?

Expat Traveler had posted her results on her blog. I decided to see what mine said.

I actually find this slightly disturbing. I'm 36 years old and I've already experienced 96% of life? I have no new experiences to anticipate? Just "more of the same?"

According to the survey, the only thing I haven't experienced is divorce. I do not intend to ever experience that.

By the way, one major thing I have never done that most people do is have children. Yet that question is not even included in the survey. There is a whole host of other experiences also not included.

This survey is just plain wrong on several levels...

You've Experienced 96% of Life

You have an amazing amount of life experience. In fact, you've seen and done more than most people.
So congratulate yourself on what you've done so far. The future is only going to be more of the same!

What Do You Have?

Airport Shuttle Driver: Let me help you with your bag.

He grabs the bag and tries to lift it. Then positions his hands better and tries again. This time he manages to swing the bag into the back of the van.

Airport Shuttle Driver: Good God! What do you have in there?

GLH: Books and bars of soap.

Airport Shuttle Driver: Huh. Wouldn't have guessed that...


If my bag had been even a single pound heavier, I would have had to pay an extra fee to check it.

Am I good or what?

Guess I'll have to buy another bag here in Minnesota. 'Cause I'm getting more stuff...

02 March 2007

We're Off

GLH and I are leaving tomorrow for the United States. We'll be back on Monday, March 12th.

If I have time while I am away, I may do a post or two...

01 March 2007

Fondue Tram!

Last night was the much anticipated ride on the Mobile Fondue Feast through the streets of Zürich.

We had reservations for the 5:30 pm tram, which left promptly from the Bellevue tram stop. After all, the Swiss transportation system always leaves on time. We were warned to be there before the scheduled departure or it would depart without us. We heeded the warning and arrived by 5:15 pm.

We were seated quickly and given our welcome drink of Orange Juice in champagne glasses...

Then the tram was on its way.

The route kept to the central part of Zürich. At first we were a bit disappointed as we had expected more of a tour of the city. However, we realized that with food and drinks on the tables, not to mention an open flame, perhaps going up and down hills was a bad idea! Once you take out the hills, you are limited in how far you can roam.

I had first tried to get reservations for the 8:00 pm fondue tram as 5:30 is a tad early for dinner. However, the Fondue Tram is a very popular ride and all other dates and times were already booked. But in the end I was glad it worked out the way it did.

First off, fondue is quite a dense meal. You end up with a large lump of cheese solidifying in your stomach. You want a fair amount of time between fondue and bedtime to digest as much of it as possible.

But the other reason we were glad is because it was huge fun to ride along the streets crowded with people hurrying home after work on a cold and wet day. The looks on the faces as we rode by were priceless! Truly.

In the past I have blogged about the Swiss habit of staring. On the advice of Ms. Mac and Greg I have started to smile and wave at the people who stare at me. (I highly recommend it. It's fun to see the reactions. Especially when you are on a train or a bus.) So GLH and I waved at all the people staring at us. For the most part, there was a moment of shock when they realized we were actually waving at them. But most laughed or smiled, and a few even waved back.

We did have one surprise. I was expecting it to be mostly tourists with a mixture of languages spoken. However, we were the only English speakers present and everyone else seemed to be speaking Swiss German. At least it was a form of German we could not understand and all of the announcements were in Swiss German. We were the only people who needed to ask for a separate translation after the announcements were finished. And I was very glad we did or we would have missed the information about the restroom break!

I suspect that it would need to be more locals than tourists as it is not advertised much except for one website and the Fondue Tram itself with a telephone number written on the side. People who are not from the area are unlikely to have heard of it.

So what about the fondue? It was quite delicious.

As you can see, we finished our pot...

...including the cheese that hardens on the bottom. Which I have to say was quite delicious on a bit of bread. They did offer to bring a second pot, and many tables accepted, but one was quite enough for two people.

For dessert they served a very simple dish of fresh pineapple with a lightly sweetened sauce. We have to remember that one as the acidity of the pineapple works very well as a digestive.

I would highly recommend the trip on the Fondue Tram. But you are out of luck right now as the last ride for the season was last night. It will not start again until next November.

However, I will post about it when they are taking reservations again in September or October. Perhaps we could get a group together for a Saturday evening ride! Anyone interested?

Visiting Rodin

Zurich's Kunsthaus (Fine Arts Museum) is the proud owner of one of the eight casts of "The Gates of Hell," a monumental sculpture based upon Dante's The Divine Comedy.

Sculpted by Auguste Rodin, the work includes "The Thinker" and "The Kiss," two of Rodin's most widely recognized works.

The piece, which has been part of the museum's collection since 1947, was recently restored. After a limited tour of Europe, in collaboration with the Musée Rodin in Paris and London's Royal Academy of Arts, it has returned to Zürich. An exhibition including additional works loaned by the Paris and London museums will be at the Kunsthaus until 13 May.

I highly recommend you find some time to visit the exhibit before the loaned parts are sent back to their museums.

At the invitation of a friend in Zürich, we had a Ladies' Lunch followed by a visit to the museum yesterday afternoon.

Here are 5 facts I did not know about Rodin before I went...

  1. "The Thinker," originally entitled "The Poet," was modelled on Dante.
  2. Rodin applied, and was rejected, to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris three times. He studied at la Petite Ecole.
  3. His work, The Age of Bronze, caused a scandal when it was first exhibited. It was wrongly thought to have been cast from a living model.
  4. Rainer Maria Rilke was Rodin's secretary for 7 months.
  5. Although he had many mistresses throughout his lifetime, Rose Beuret remained faithful to him from 1864, when she was 20 years old, until her death in 1917. They had a son together. He married her two weeks before she died.

By the way, I had to "steal" the photo of "The Thinker" featured above from the Kunsthaus website. The Kunsthaus is yet another museum in Zürich that does not allow photography...