Whittner does Swiss Things with Swiss People

The modern scrapbook: Follow the adventures of an American girl, living in Switzerland for almost three years, and her wild Swiss friends in her quest for the quintessential Swiss experience (and a few American ones).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Ballenberg, a.k.a. condensed Switzerland

Among the many experiences I've had while my sister A has visited (including Cinque Terre, Prague, the Zürich Zoo, and a couple of incredibly weird art galleries) is our visit to Ballenberg a couple of days ago.  If you're into historical Swiss buildings from all regions of Switzrland, seeing "endangered" lifestock (such as this lovely rooster), and curious about the history of Swiss barbers and hair stylists, this is the place for you. Even if you're not, it's worth it just for the train ride from Lucerne to Ballenberg and the first few buildings of this open-air museum.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Master Flea Market Wheeler and Dealer

One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday is to check out either the Helvetiaplatz flea market or, in summer, the Bürkliplatz flea market. Since my friend M. was in the market for a keyboard (and ever since Sechseläuten I'd been pining for my guitar back in the States) I suggested we make a trip to Helvetiaplatz.

To my amazement, there was the perfect guitar right as I walked in. The lady said 80 CHF first, but I was really hoping to pay just 50 CHF. Unfortunately, this weird Italian guy came up to us and started giving us unsolicited advice--the lady at the stand was not happy with him....but she'd come down to 50 CHF. Since it was the first one I saw, I wanted to look around a bit more--also, I was a bit undecided if I should buy a guitar at all, since I'm in love with the nabaztag and want to save up for him. So we wandered around a bit more, but none of the guitars were as nice or as inexpensive as the first one. But by the time we'd made the full circle, it was gone!

But then, we found a rather simple keyboard for 70 CHF. The seller even let us try it out, and M. really liked it. Thanks to my "tough" bargaining, we got him down to 65 CHF--ok not much cheaper, but at least we had the feeling we got a bargain. I'm guessing M. is spending the whole afternoon with her new keyboard!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In which I experience Sechseläuten piecemeal, over seven years

Sometimes, it pays to be patient, and persistent.

Sechseläuten is an annual spring celebration in Zürich, centering around the burning of an explosives-filled effigy of a snowman, known as the Böögg, which takes place as the clocks in town chime 6:00 pm (hence the name, which means something like "six chimes").

I first exprienced Sächseläuten in 2001--we arrrived at the Sechseläutenplatz just in time to see it burning. But for the past couple of years, I've joined the festivities a bit later, around 7:00 pm. By then, the huge bonfire under the Böögg is somewhat reduced to glowing embers, just perfect for filling a portable grill and roasting some sausages . There's usually several shovels within the crowd (sometimes with extra-long handles), nearly always kindly lent to other eager grillers, in addition to a brave soul or two cleverly equipped with fireman clothes (it's still extremely hot by the fire) who bravely

But I'd never seen the parade of the guilds. The memebers of these guilds dress up in funny old-fashioned clothes and parade around town, sometimes throwing candy, bread, and flowers to the crowd, sometimes even serving a glass of wine or beer to the lucky spectator. According to E and N, the food stalls around make it great fun to "eat your way through Sechseläuten." Since it's a half-day holiday, and could be my last year in Switzerland, I decided to take advantage of my last chance to experience the culinary delights of this strange day.

I couldn't have picked a worse year to come. It rained like hell and I nearly froze to death. I might also be, these cute and clever Swiss traditions have become so every-day for me that they're no longer as interesting as they once were. Although I did enjoy some garlic bread and egg rolls, and managed to nab some flowers from one of the guilds. I did manage to snap a quick pic of a German baritone-playing colleague of mine who managed to weasel his way into one of the local Guilds. And after I left, I went to T's place to watch the 26-minute burning of the Böögg on TV from the comfort of her living room--in my opinion, the best place to see it.


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