Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from February, 2012

Handmade Birthday Cards

As in most countries of the world, birthdays are important social events in Switzerland. Usually, there is a big or small get-together where the birthday boy or girl (or man or woman) is celebrated and receives gifts. Depending on the creativity of your friends and family birthday gifts can range from awesome and useful to strange but nice to definitely-heading-straight-to-the-trash-can. But what would birthday gifts be without a birthday card?


A friend has a birthday coming up and I already have a great gift ready. The only thing missing is a matching birthday card. I browsed through the cards they sell at the major retail stores like Migros, Coop and Manor. Nothing exciting to be found there. True, there are some nice cards and some are even classy but they all lacked a personal note. Preprinted birthday wishes are not exactly what I had in mind.

Thus, I decided to dust off my crafting skills and make a nice birthday card myself. Armed with paper, scissors, pencils, glue and a bunc…

A History of Swiss Money

We Swiss are famous for our banks. Whether we like our bank secret or not is a different question. Fact is, Switzerland has been a major banking center for quite a while now.

However, the grand majority of Swiss bank accounts is pretty unspectacular. No secret entrances, elaborate identifying procedures or strange codes. The average Swiss citizen watches the numbers in his bank account grow and diminish and takes out some cash at the ATM; depending among other on the salary that enters the account each month. Some more daring people might invest their money in bonds or stocks but generally having a regular Swiss bank account is nothing like it's portrayed in the movies.
How and why banknotes are changed Money can be very interesting though. Whereas in earlier times money was exclusively an instrument of payment, it nowadays has become through and through elaborated and even a designer object. Safety measures for banknotes need to be renewed every so often. Many countries take that…

Zurich - World's Most Expensive City

Switzerland is expensive. Life in Switzerland is expensive. If you've only thought it a rumor that living expenses in Switzerland are horrendous you are now officially proven wrong! After several years of absence Zurich has reclaimed the throne of world's most expensive city!
Zurich #1 of Most Expensive Cities In 2012, The Economist published a survey that placed Zurich number one on the list of the most expensive cities. Even in front of Paris, London, New York and Tokyo! In Zurich or Geneva you buy a cup of coffee for 5 Swiss Francs. This equals more or less 5 USD, depending on the exchange rate. In other cities of the world people don't spend more than a dollar or two for their daily caffein intake! We Swiss still like to drink a lot of coffee though!
How Zurich makes up for high cost of living That is just one side of the medal. True, Switzerland is more expensive than many other countries but salaries are generally also much higher. Also, the quality of life in Switz…

Wooden Bath Tubs

Several of my friends have recently bought an apartment or are currently renovating their house. As we talk about furniture, appliances and other equipment for the interior, I start wondering what I would put into my house if I ever own one.

Large windows that let in a lot of light are definitely a must. A modern kitchen, preferably with a cooking island, would be nice. And the bathroom. Well, I always thought I wanted a jacuzzi kind of bath tub and some modern shower. I changed my mind.

At work I received the task of looking through tons of websites for research purposes and that's what made me stumble upon this jewel carpentry somewhere between Bern and Geneva. What makes them special is that they make bathroom furniture from wood. Yes, bath tubs, sinks, shelves - it's all made from quality wood. And look at the shape of these things: round or oval bath tubs and rectangular sinks with hidden drains. Beautiful!

I imagine these wooden bath tubs could be beautiful for an outsi…

Putzfimmel or a Swiss Clean Up

Swiss cleanliness and orderliness has been documented, written about, made fun of and even immortalized in the cartoon Asterix in Switzerland. It is truly one of the more stereotypical traits of Swiss people.

It's true that most Swiss people keep their houses and cars very orderly and clean. Also, all Swiss cities, towns and villages are almost always nice and clean. Only after demonstrations, festivities or other big events does the appearance of a Swiss city seem to be a bit less put together. This lasts only until the next morning though, we are surprisingly fast in cleaning things up!

In German there is word that describes this need for cleanliness very well: Putzfimmel! (lit.: obsession with cleaning)

Recently I learned that the cleaning fad of the Swiss has reached a new height: The Swiss actually constructed a satellite that will clean outer space! Maybe we should start with earth and then move to outer space? I guess there simply wasn't enough cleaning to do here in Sw…

Flims, Laax and Falera

In a way, I am hoping that this will be my last wintery post. Temperatures have finally risen above 0 C and the snow is quickly disappearing in the lower parts of Switzerland. It's still quite a while till spring but at least the real hard winter seems to be over. Of course in the mountain area there is still a lot of snow and you can go skiing and snowboarding until the end of March but I didn't want to wait till then.
A Day Off to go Snowboarding A good weather forecast and good snow conditions made me take a day off this week in order to go snowboarding. Some members of my family were staying in the Flims-Laax-Falera region in Grison this week, so I decided to join them for a day. Since I do not own a car, I had to rely on public transportion to get up to Flims. This turned out to be quite convenient since the Swiss Federal Railways SBB offers a special discount for many activities, among them a 'snow ticket' called Snow'n'rail which includes the train or b…

10 Ideas for Valentine's Day in Switzerland

It's Valentine's Day. Even in Switzerland, newspapers and the internet are full of sweet stories and reminders of this day for those in love. This despite the fact, that most Swiss don't celebrate Valentine's Day. We know about the traditions (and requirements) of Valentine's Day mainly from movies and books. For most couples I know, anniversaries and birthdays are far more important than February 14th.

Nevertheless, there are Swiss couples who do celebrate Valentine's Day and of course plenty of internationals in Switzerland who celebrate also. Some will celebrate at home with a nice meal and a gift, others take the opportunity to spend a day or night away with their spouse. If you're not from here, you might wonder what options for Valentine's Day in Switzerland you have. It all depends on your personal preferences. Do you want a classic romantic dinner in a unique location? Adventure and excitement that will make great memories for the two of you? I…

Frozen Cars in Geneva

It's been very cold for over a week now. I've gotten so used to -10 C that -5 C feels warm. Several layers of clothing always protect me from the icy cold outside and sometimes even inside, since some heating systems seem to have a hard time coping with the cold. This is especially important if you're outside doing winter sports like sledding or skiing. So far, I've been successful and all my body parts still function properly - no frozen ears or nose on my part.
Frozen Cars on the Shore of Lake Geneva Some cars have been less lucky. Or should I say, some car owners have been less lucky. It's quite normal for some icicles to form on cars during the night and that rarely affects your car ride. 
However, during these last few icy days, some car owners in Geneva were unlucky (or to put it a bit more bluntly: stupid enough) to park their cars at the windy waterfront of Lake Geneva. Sure enough, they were covered with ice the next morning. The wind, water and cold turn…

Sledding on Mount Rigi

Temperatures have been below zero for almost a week now and -5 C surprisingly feels quite warm.  If you don't consider the freezing temperatures, the weather has actually been quite good here in Switzerland. Most days have been dry and sunny with some light snow in between. This means, if you wrap yourself in warm clothes, cover head, hands and face, you can actually have some great fun outside.
A Visit from Friends & a Day of Sledding When some friends from abroad came to visit me last week, I was worried they would suffer terribly from the cold. Surprisingly, they handled it quite well and so I decided to take them up on a Swiss mountain and go sledding with them.

Since there is no sledding slope on Mount Pilatus I took them up another mountain in central Switzerland: Mount Rigi. The Queen of the Mountains, as Rigi is also called, is 1797m high and a popular destination for tourists and locals and only about an hour from Zurich by car. During the summer, people mainly go up…

Seegfrörni - When Lake Zurich Froze Over

Imagine a weather forecast that predicts it's gonna be cold. Real cold. So cold that the lakes in Switzerland will freeze over. Hard to believe when all you get are mild winters? It hasn't always been this way.

During the winter of 1962/1963 it was so cold in Switzerland that Lake Zurich froze over! In Swiss German this phenomenon is called 'Seegfrörni' which simply means 'freezing over of a lake'. For a lake as big as Lake Zurich (about 88 km2 and 136m deep) that's pretty impressive. My mom was actually living in the Zurich area in those years and the frozen lake is one of the most vivid and fondest memories of her childhood.


Just imagine, instead of taking the boat from Thalwil to Rapperswil you could simply walk, ski or bike there! I found an account from a police officer who was on duty on Lake Zurich during the time of the 'Seegfrörni' and would like to share some excerpts:

"Every morning and every evening we had to measure the thickness o…