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Showing posts from 2011

A Visit to the Zoo in Zurich

Zurich is Switzerland's biggest city. Yet, compared to New York or London, Zurich seems small with it's half a million inhabitants. Nevertheless, it features a great number of interesting places and fun activities for people of all ages. One of the more interesting places of Switzerland is located in Zurich: the Zurich Zoo. Although I'm personally a bit ambivalent towards the existence of zoos and the keeping of animals in compounds, a zoo can truly be a great place to visit. As a child, I was a frequent visitor to the Zurich Zoo and I remember loving the elephants and the peacocks. The polar bears were another favorite and the monkeys always good for a prank. Plus, there used to be a real long slide for kids which I totally loved. Ape - Dieter / Founded in 1929, the Zurich Zoo is located on one of the hills around Zurich. According to its website, the zoo has been constantly enlarged and modernized over the last years and, today, is the home for hundred

Fear of Dentists

"Dentist" (by Terri Heisele) I should probably count myself lucky to be such a rare visitor at my dentists office. My teeth are usually healthy thanks to my excellent brushing technique. It must be one of the talents I was born with. Yet, even I am not immune to a certain uneasiness before a visit at the dentists office . It's not so much the fear of pain but a strange suspicion that the state of my teeth somehow mysteriously deteriorated over the last year. And even more so, while laying on the dentists chair, I often find myself wanting to please my dentist . An urge to be a good patient Maybe I'm a rare species. Maybe I am a people pleaser. I have no rational explanation for this urge to be a good patient . It might be a leftover from childhood when compliments from a doctor about how well I behaved or how brave I was could light up a day of sickness. Wherever it may come from, this urge for pleasing is still quite strong. If the dentist tells me to ope

7 Keyword Questions Answered

Gerd Altmann  / I've been blogging for quite a while now and overall the experience has been great. The writing is fun and I find myself on the watch for more uniquely Swiss things and traditions to write about. I'm sure there are still plenty out there! Also, like most bloggers out there, I've been checking site traffic regularly lately and found interesting keywords that led visitors to this blog. I decided to answer some of the 'questions' asked directly or indirectly through these keywords. Does Migros sell alcohol? - No, Migros itself does not sell alcohol or tobacco products. This has been the policy of Migros founder Duttweiler because he believed that the sale of health damaging products should not be supported by cheap prices. However, some supermarkets owned by Migros do sell alcohol, for example Denner. Where can I order Rivella ? - If you don't live in Switzerland you can order Rivella (only the red version though) at the 

How to Bake a Swiss Rösti

Imagine this: It's morning in Switzerland and you are very hungry. And - adding to your sorrow - you discover that your fridge is not exactly full. As you go through the content of your fridge you consider possible breakfast or lunch scenarios: Yoghurt with cereal Tomatoes  Various condiments (mustard, mayonnaise, etc,)  Pickles Except for the first option, I highly doubt any of these things will make a good breakfast or lunch. Luckily, most people in Switzerland always have a few potatoes in store and these will definitely help make a good meal. Let me introduce a tasty and very Swiss breakfast dish : Rösti or Röschti (pronounced  [ ˈrøːʃti ]) . Swiss Rösti - w.r.wagner / What is Rösti? Rösti is a tasty dish very similar to potato pancakes or latkes. It is made from grated raw or cooked potatoes and baked in a pan until it is golden and just a bit crunchy. You can add cubes of bacon, grated cheese or even eggs to the mixture to give it some extra tas

Growing up with a Swiss Army Knife

Like many other Swiss adults, I grew up not only with the songs of Mani Matter but also with my very own Swiss Army pocket knife. I remember my dad teaching me and my siblings to carve a branch of a tree into a beautiful walking stick or create a bow with a flexible but strong branch. Although I haven't carved a wooden stick with a knife in a very long time, having done it many times as a child definitely enriched my childhood. The sweat and blood - and sometimes tears - shed to create a work of art with a simple knife were definitely well spent. Yes, I must have cut myself several times, slipping the blade off the branch and into my finger, arm or leg. Luckily, the memory of those cuts has disappeared into a foggy cloud labeled 'childhood forgettables'. Is that a uniquely Swiss childhood memory? Probably not. However, there is a definite connection between good pocket knives and Switzerland. Switzerland and Army Knives I believe the Swiss Army Knife is be the mos

A visit to the Glasi in Hergiswil

Once in a while I have friends from the abroad visiting me in Switzerland. Like any host, I usually want to to show them Switzerland from its best side. At the same time, I like to avoid traveling long distances to get to my destination. That's why I usually take my friends to central Switzerland. Lucerne is only about a 45 minute drive from Zurich and if you climb one of the mountains around lake Lucerne, for example the Rigi or Pilatus, you have an exellent view of the Alps. Also the city of Lucerne is quite nice and always good for a stroll along the river or the lakeside. Indeed, there are plenty of fun things to do in and around Lucerne to keep you busy a day or two. Glas Art by Glasi Hergiswil - Joujou  / Visiting the Glass Factory in Hergiswil A personal favorite of mine is the glass factory in Hergiswil, called ' Glasi Hergiswil '. Especially on a rainy day or in the cold of winter this is a perfect place to visit. There are several fun act

The Sea of Fog

November is almost here and fall is slowly but surely giving way to more wintery days. Clocks have been set on winter standard time and the leaves that are still on the trees are definitely more brown than colorful by now. The fog has arrived in Switzerland and it is foggy almost every morning. Sometimes the sun doesn't come out till noon if it does at all. Fog has been part of Swiss falls and winters for as long as I can remember. Especially in the flat part of Switzerland - an area that is also called ' Unterland ' which literally means 'Underland' - the fog is known to appear almost daily. Two Types of Fog There are basically two kinds of fog here in Switzerland: Regular fog , that "sits" on the ground and bothers you while driving because you can't see far anymore ' High fog'  or 'Hochnebel' in German. This fog is more a like a solid cloud sitting a few hundred meters above the ground, preventing the sun from shining in the

Cats in Switzerland

Taking a Break - Michael Diefert  / Last night, when I walked home a cute black and white cat came up to me and started to follow me around and meow to me. It was really cute and when I saw it had a collar I didn't think twice and started to pet it. The cat responded with loud purring. When I started to think about how clean and neat this cat was and how its owners were obviously taking good care of it, I couldn't help but think it was a very Swiss cat: clean and neat . I also remembered the many stray cats I had seen in the streets of big cities all over the world. I realized that here in Switzerland stray cats are quite rare.  In fact, most cats you can see outside are healthy house cats that are allowed to roam the fields, forests and streets. This thought brought me back to the cats I have had myself. Some sweet and friendly, others cuddly and slobbery, some smart and some incredibly stupid. Some of them brought back mice from the fields, or birds and on

How to Deal with a Broken Heart the Swiss Way

Have you ever had your heart broken? I have. I must admit, I wasn't completely devastated but the feeling of rejection still left its marks on my heart. So, I tried to come up with some creative ideas in order to deal with the situation using the advantages of this beautiful country Switzerland. Here are some of my suggestions. 10 Swiss Ways to Heal a Broken Heart  Eat Swiss chocolate to sweeten your days, for example Toblerone . If you are living in the motherland of chocolate you might as well make use of it. And for those few out there who don't like chocolate other sweets like  Luxemburgerli  or  Vermicelles  are a great alternative. Drink herbal tea to help you relax. Swiss  people are great at drinking herbal teas and you can buy good tea at any supermarket. Take a long train ride , preferably to Geneva or Lugano since those take several hours. You can get a day pass for all of Switzerland at the next train station and simply ride trains all day. Don't forget

Why the Swiss Omelette isn't a Pancake

During lunch with friends, we started to discuss different kinds of food and drink that are similar but different . For example, Pepsi Coke and Coca Cola are similar in look and ingredients but many people find they are very different in taste. Another good example would be the German ' Krapfen ' and the Jewish ' Sufganyah '. Both are round jelly doughnuts filled with jam but they're still not exactly the same thing. At some point during this conversation, we also started talking about a Swiss dish that would fit well into this list: the Swiss Omelette . In a way, this omelette is quite similar to other omelettes prepared and eaten all over the world but at the same it's very different too. What makes the Swiss Omelette different from other omelettes? It is true that Americans and Brits also frequently prepare omelettes. Yet, their omelette is quite different from what we Swiss call an omelette . And although it can be eaten with sweet filling, a Swiss om

How to Find a Job in Switzerland

I am privileged to have lived and worked in Switzerland for a large part of my life. Despite the complaints and troubles with the banks, the Swiss economy and with it the Swiss job market has been very stable over the last few years. True, Switzerland has very high living expenses and some of world's most expensive cities are in Switzerland . Just try and go out and buy a cup of coffee, you'll be surprised at how expensive it is!  Thankfully, salaries are generally high and make up for the high cost of living. High salaries are one of the reasons Switzerland is an attractive place to live and work for many people. Currently, there are over 2 million foreigners living in Switzerland and at least part of them came for work. Team meeting - Gerd Altmann  / Now, the big question is: how can you find  a job in Switzerland that would allow you to rent an apartment or house, buy a car, go out, travel and more? With a bit extra that you can put aside for saving?

Magenbrot, a Swiss Treat for your Stomach

Can you tell that weather has been getting colder and rainier here in Switzerland? It seems that people are generally more interested in food, especially warm and sweet food, during the wintery season. Maybe its simply that time of the year, where you are drawn to experiment in the kitchen rather than wanting to go outside and get muddy - although that can be fun too . When it's cold outside we Swiss like to drink and eat warm stuff.   Cheese fondue and chocolate fondue are winter classics as are hot roasted chestnuts . Another popular Swiss snack or treat is Magenbrot . What is Magenbrot? Magenbrot are square sized, chunky pieces of pastry that contain cloves, cinnamon, anise and nutmeg. It is usually sold on street fairs or Christmas markets during fall and winter time. The two biggest retail stores Coop and Migros are now also selling Magenbrot in half-kilo bags. Magenbrot - lichtkunst.73  / Supposedly, the spices used in Magenbrot are good for your tum

Gotthard is not only a Swiss Mountain

While I was thinking about what Swiss thing to write about next, I was contemplating famous Swiss musicians. I already wrote about Swiss troubadour Mani Matter  but now I was looking for a Swiss musician who was or is well known outside of Switzerland as well. I didn't find any. There is ' DJ Bobo ' who has earned some recognition in a few European countries but is far from famous abroad. There is also Celine Dion who won the European Song Contest for Switzerland in 1988 but she isn't really Swiss. So, instead of writing about a musician who is already famous abroad, I decided to take a chance and write about a great Swiss band that is very well known and loved in Switzerland but barely heard of outside of it.. A Swiss Band called 'Gotthard' Gotthard, named after a famous Swiss mountain, is a Swiss hard rock band from the canton of Ticino, which is the Italian speaking southern part of the country. They recorded and produced several hit albums in

A Swiss Beer Called Feldschlösschen

If you ask anyone to name a European country that is known for its beer drinking culture, then most people would probably name Germany, Ireland or Denmark. It is true that compared to those countries, Swiss beer culture is small and Swiss beers are almost entirely unknown outside of Switzerland. It's a pity because there are many good Swiss beers . Especially the small breweries are making a comeback in the Swiss beer market with their quality brews. Despite the recent success of the micro breweries, the most popular and most sold beer in Switzerland remains the Feldschlösschen beer. Since 1876 the Feldschlösschen brewery has been brewing beer in Rheinfelden in the canton of Aargau in northern Switzerland. 'Feldschlösschen' literally means 'field castle', a name that matches the architecture of the main brewery building that looks much like a castle or fortress. What kind of beer does Feldschlösschen produce? These beers are some of the Swiss populatio

6 Fun Things to do in Konstanz

Usually, this is a blog about Swiss life, Swiss food, places and people in Switzerland . I will make an exception to the rule for the wonderful German city Konstanz . It that lays right on the border to Switzerland and is so close to Switzerland one could almost call it a Swiss city. In fact, there are probably more Swiss people visiting Konstanz every weekend than Germans themselves. Konstanz is located on the shores of beautiful Lake Constance, one of the biggest in Europe. By now, the German city has pretty much merged with its Swiss neighbor Kreuzlingen. If it weren't for the signs, you almost wouldn't notice when you actually cross the border. It has a beautifully maintained medieval center with lots of old houses right at the lake front. There are many fun things to do in Konstanz all year round, with shopping probably being the most popular for Swiss visitors. During the holiday season and in the summer months there are special events that draw even more people to th

A Swiss Macaron called Luxemburgerli

Most of you probably know the sensation when it seems you need to eat something sweet. For some people this is just a hunch, for others a definite craving. What sweets we eventually reach out to in this state of sugar craving depends largely on what is available in your country, region and - at the very moment - in your home. In my experience, people have favorite sweets just like they have favorite savory dishes. These treats are many times what we phantasize about in our hypoglycemic state. For many it is chocolate in its different forms: classic chocolate bars, special chocolate bars like Toblerone  or pralines. For others its wine gums or licorice and still others prefer a piece of carrot cake or a good brownie. Almost everyone reaches out to a familiar candy or sweet food when they get the sugar craving. Here in Switzerland, chocolate is the most likely solution.  Yet, there are also other very Swiss candies and pastries that work just as well for a sugar rush. One of them

Schwingen: Swiss Style Wrestling

The Swiss form of wrestling called ' Schwingen ' has been part of Swiss culture for centuries. Competitions in Schwingen  were first described in the 13th century and are still held throughout the year these days. Many Swiss practice this interesting sport and the national competitions are sure to draw a big crowd every year. The important competitions of this sport are called ' Schwingfeste ' or ' Schwinget ' in Swiss German . This basically translates to 'Swiss wrestling festivals'. These can be regional, cantonal and national competitions with higher honors and prestige given to winners of the national events. The most important Swiss wrestling competition is the Eidgenössische Schwing- und Älplerfest ('Swiss Wrestling and Alpine Festival') which takes place once every three years in changing locations. The champion of this festival receives a young bull and is crowned 'Schwingerkönig' ('Swiss wrestling king'). Other

7 Reasons Switzerland is not Sweden

Swiss House - manwalk  / Have you been to Switzerland? And have you ever visited Sweden? If you've been to both you probably know that Sweden is very different from Switzerland. To an English speaker the names of these countries and their inhabitants might sound a bit similar - Swedes and Swiss - but they are culturally, geographically and on many other levels quite different. 7 Differences between Switzerland and Sweden Switzerland does not border the sea . In Switzerland the only big waters are lakes and rivers . Sweden has an extremely long coast line and a lot of sea islands.  The highest Swedish mountain is 2'111m high and called Kebnekaise. Switzerlands highest mountain is the Dufourspitze which is 4'634m high. That is more than twice as high! The Swedish people speak Swedish and the Swiss people speak either Swiss German, French, Italian or Rumantsch . Yes, Switzerland has four official languages ! Sweden is about 10 times bigger than Swit

Why You Should Shop at Migros Supermarkets in Switzerland

Migros is for Switzerland like Walmart is for the US. It's big retail and supermarket chain that has branches in almost every city and town. If you want to buy groceries or other basic necessities then Migros is usually the right place. But it hasn't always been like that... History of Migros Supermarket Migros was founded by Gottlieb Duttweiler. His idea was to sell his products directly to the consumer, avoiding any intermediary trade. This way he was able to sell basic goods like rice, sugar and coffee over 40% cheaper than the competition. Duttweiler was also involved in politics where he pursued social justice and a ' human capitalism '. In 1925  Duttweiler started selling groceries in five Ford trucks. One year later he opened the first store in Zurich. During the next few years Migros branches open all over Switzerland: St. Gallen (1929), Bern, Lucerne and Basel (1930). During the same years, Duttweiler starts producing the first Migros products: apple c

How to Bake a Swiss Zopf

Zopf, a Swiss braided bread - tokamuwi  / It is a beautiful Sunday morning and there is no better way to start a Sunday than with an extended Swiss breakfast . In Switzerland, there is one ingredient that cannot be missing from a Sunday morning meal: fresh plaited bread, called ' Zopf' . This bread is absolutely delicious with honey or strawberry jam or just about any other topping! Since there is quite a bit of butter in the bread we sometimes refer to it as ' Butterzopf ' as well. Zopf is a bread made from slightly sweetened yeast dough. It actually is quite similar in shape and taste to the Challah bread that Jewish people eat on Shabbat. Most people buy their Zopf at the local supermarket but some still bake their own plaited bread. My mom used to bake a big Zopf every Saturday afternoon so it would be ready for breakfast on Sunday. If you're not living in Switzerland you have no choice but to make your own Zopf if you fancy one for your breakf

Why Everyone Likes Roger Federer

Just a few days ago, Roger Federer turned 30. He might just be the best known Swiss person ever. Everyone knows that he is one of the worlds best tennis players and some might say he is the GOAT. I must admit that I am not much of a tennis expert and have never been very much into watching tennis on television but if Roger is playing I make sure to at least have a look. More often then not I'm rewarded with an interesting match. Despite stardom and the enormous amounts of money Roger earns every year through tennis, add campaigns and more, it seems like he remains a very likable and Swiss person . I've thought about it and figured the following could be some of the reasons why. 5 Reasons everybody likes Roger Federer He speaks Swiss German with a Basle accent  and English with a Swiss German accent.  He keeps his private life private and if he decides to publish some private moments he does it through his Facebook site. So far, I haven't seen him sell the pictures

A Visit to the Rhine Falls

Its been a bit of a cloudy and rainy weekend. Not exactly the weather to go outside and take a trip somewhere. Instead, I went on a trip through my collection of pictures and discovered this beautiful photo of the Rheinfall (the Rhine Falls). Rhine Falls The biggest waterfall in Europe is very impressive and definitely worth a visit if you are in the area! It is part of the Rhine river and is located between the Swiss cantons of Zurich and Schaffhausen. They are 150m wide and 23 high  but the size isn't the most impressive part of it all. What gives the Rhine Falls an aura of grandeur is the sheer amount of water falling down over the rocks: about 250 m3/s in winter and more than 600m3/s in the summer months with peaks almost double that. In the middle of the falls there is the now iconic rock of the Rhine Falls. It seems to withstand the masses of water rushing by its side without a problem. You can get there by boat and climb up the steep stairs to the top. It's a

A Triangular Chocolate Bar Called Toblerone

I recently booked a flight for my next vacation and as I thought of traveling through airports again, I remembered the heaps of Swiss chocolate that are being sold in duty free shops all around the world. The most famous of these chocolates is  Toblerone . In my opinion it is not the tastiest of the Swiss chocolates available but it certainly is the one best known all over the world. This triangular shaped chocolate bar  containing honey almond nougat. It has conquered the airports and supermarkets of the world and many people's taste buds and recently celebrated its 100 year anniversary. Reason enough to look back through the history of Toblerone. A Short History of Toblerone 1900: Theodor Tobler takes over his father Jean Tobler's chocolate business near Berne, the "Fabrique de Chocolat Berne, Tobler & Cie" 1908: Toblerone is invented. The name Toblerone is a combination of the name Tobler (the chocolatier) and Torrone, the Italian word for honey almon

How the Swiss Celebrate 1st of August

Swiss Flag - berggeist007  / Yesterday, on the 1st of August 2011, Switzerland celebrated its 720th anniversary! The celebrations included many fireworks and even more cook outs and they inspired me to look into the history of Switzerland and it's 1st of August celebrations. Here are some of my findings. 10 Facts about Swiss 1st of August Celebrations Traditionally, it is assumed that Switzerland was founded on August 1st in 1291 but the true birth date of Switzerland is unknown . Think about it for a moment. Switzerland is so much older than the US or France that both gained independence in the end of the 18th century. The first 'version' of Switzerland included only three of todays 26 cantons : Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden . They took an oath to cooperate and assist each other in the quest for political autonomy from the Austrio-German Habsburgian rulers . This oath allegedly took place on the Rütliwiese , a grassy hill on the shores of Lake of Lucerne.