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).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Parallel lives

I got a really great birthday present this year from D. She invited me to Bern to visit the Paul Klee museum and to have dinner with her family. In Switzerland, hardly anyone invites people to dinner, so needless to say, it as quite an honor.

So, Sunday afternoon I took the train down to Bern and headed to the Paul Klee museum. I didn't know a whole lot about Paul Klee before, but he's a very cool artist. We were inspired by his painting called Vorhaben/Intentions. It reminded us of our lives and our work.

D's mother worked hard to think of the perfect "Swiss" meal for her visitor--I learned that D's father is a locomotive driver for the SBB. He loves model trains, just like my dad! Wow! They told me about the trip they made to the US 30 years ago pre-D--similar to some of the trips we took when I was growing up. Parallel lives, hmmm.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ghost walking thru Zürich

So what does a Halloween baby do on her birthday in Züri?

She gets all her friends to come with her on the Ghost Walk of Zürich!

It wasn't quite as spine-tingling as the tour I took in Plymouth, Mass., but it was really hilarious!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

in which Whittner's bus is hit by a car

At approximately 01:07 on the morning of September 15, the night bus in which Whittner was riding home was struck by a small automobile. Whittner, coming home from the concert of a friend of L's (Strange Shape - "60s 70s freaky & psychedelic sounds") was taking the N17 night bus home to the 'Kon when the bus driver suddenly braked and sounded the horn. Nonetheless, the N17 was hit near the front door by a small passenger car. Apparently, the driver of said car was attempting to occupy the bus/tram lane.

As the driver of said car moved his car out of the way, and the bus driver radioed in the accident (after checking that no one was injured) and surveyed the damage. The ZVV arrived on the scene even before the police, took photos, exchanged bus drivers, and the bus resumed its route in 15 minutes or less. Praise Swiss efficiency--on time, rain or shine or bus accident.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tour guide Whitter

Had a nice visit of my sister A and her friend B. They were in Züri for a couple of days and then we flew to Greece.

I would have to say one of the highlights was our day in Appenzellerland. We'd taken the train from Züri to Appenzell, where we had to get around by PubliCar, a kind of taxi service run by the PostBus service (there are, by the way, two 16-seat vans to service the whole area) since there is no bus connection from Appenzell town to the Appenzeller Schaukäserei, the cheese dairy where they make the famously tasty Appenzeller cheese. I can only recommend a PubliCar ride through the winding roads and hills of Appenzell--it's so green and beautiful!

Of course, Greece was great, but too short. The photos speak fro themselves.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Music, religious experiences, and wine near Heidi's valley

My friend D's boyfriend M comes from a small village in the canton of Graubünden, just a couple of villages away from where Heidi comes from. It's wine country there--his mother owns vineyards, and his brother is a vintner/winemaker. So, I was invited to the annual Malans Weinfest.

As we got there, the Salsizartchestra (a play on words--Salsiz is a salami-like sausage from the area, and the band played Latin/Salsa music) was in full swing. After checking them out along with a couple glasses of Malan's best, we went over to the bar that M's gymnastics club had organized. We stood around and D. explained to me all the local gossip (Malans is small enough that I knew it all after about a half an hour). But after a couple of glasses of wine, we were ready to sleep in M's mother's house.

In the morning, I met M's mother, who, in addition to owning vineyards, is a music therapist. She showed us her gardens, vineyards, and fruit trees (it reminded me of the tours my own mother gives me of her gardens). Afterwards, she showed us all her musical instruments she uses for therapy. She'd built a monotone herself--it's a wooden box with a couple dozen strings on one side, all tuned to the same pitch, producing overtones when played--it's very soothing. Since she'd been to Tibet, she had Tibetan gongs of several sizes so we all sat around and played these gongs.

Afterwards, we went to the official wine tasting. They were all very nice--it was difficult not to drink too much--although I like the white wines from that area much better.

Well, if you're ever in Heidi's neighborhood in September, I would definitely stop by....

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Whittner Rafts

This weekend I got to do something I've been wanting to do my whole life--whitewater rafting!

I was invited by AH, an American girl that I know here in ZH, who was organizing a rafting trip to Lingenau with High5, an adventure sport company. AH, accompanied by her American boyfriend SP, T, L (from Finland), M (from Germany), F (from Switzerland), and
B (from Denmark), and I drove round Lake Constance to cross the border at Bregenz (complete with a McD stop, as per American custom). After the border crossing, we stopped at the Rappenlochschlucht for a short walk thru a tiny gorge (see pics here). We then headed to Lingenau and High5, where a "Mundart" (literally, mouth type, meaning dialect) music festival was taking place (in Austria, as in Switzerland, every valley is extremely proud of their own dialect). After listening to some weird stuff and watching a few drunken guys strip to their underwear v e r y s l o w l y, we went to sleep in a cozy (yet slightly moldy) teepee warmed by a fire.

The next day, we got up bright and early to hit the river. We stretched on our neoprene suits and paired off into two-person canoes. After a quick introduction, we were off down the river. The first couple of hours were pretty tough--we got stuck in lots of rocks, and the canoes weren't all that easy to steer. We capsized a couple of times, and we had to jump out and pull the boat a couple of times, but mostly, it was pure excitement!

We took a break, where some people jumped into the water off a bridge about 25 feet/ 8 meters high. After the break, the water was a lot calmer, but the antics began. We sent one of the guides and another canoer after SP and M--they hadn't fallen out of their boat once. So they took revenge by storming our boat and throwing us out of it. By then I was super tired and ended up swimming in circles (due to the current in a bend in the river) for about 10 minutes until I was rescued. I got in the boat with M, but he's a bit stronger than I am so we ended up going in circles for about 10 minutes until we switched so I was paired with AH, and we could make it down the river. We managed the rest of the way pretty smoothly.

Afterwards, High5 fed us and showed us the photos that they took of us, and made it back to Züri. It was a great weekend, worth all the sore muscles!

Monday, August 27, 2007


So I had the pleasure of going to my very first football game on Saturday. F, a friendly Bernese guy from work, had invited KC and B to the football game, and I invited myself, as I've never been either. So along with DK, a wild German football fan, we went to the FC Züri vs Bern Young Boys game, sitting in the Bern section.

Of course, all my dreams about a wild European football game came true. The stadium was the size of my high school (American) football stadium--we could barely see the scoreboard. Per local custom, we were separated from all the FC Züri fans in a standing-room only section. It was going very, very badly for the away team Bern, and I think I'd never seen such wild and angry fans, screaming, singing, jumping, cussing, waving flags, and swinging scarves. One guy smoked a doobie in my face the entire time, and I feared that another guy would jump from the stands to commit suicide, he was so torn up about his team. KC bravely wore her Zürich Limmatschwimmen t-shirt she'd bought earlier in the day and got harassed repeatedly.

Of course, I watched the game, too.
There was lots of play-acting injuries on the field, unfortunately less playing by Bern. They were down 4-0, but they finally managed to make an "honor goal" (a fan threw his cup of beer on the field in triumphant celebration), and not 30 seconds later, FCZ made yet another goal, making the final score 5-1 Züri. We left at that point, politely greeted the friendly riot police, equipped with shields, who showed us the way to the bus (a bus just for the Bernese to keep the fans from fightin') and we were serenaded by the many drunken fans on the bus all the way from Hardturm Stadium (yet another moment I was sorry to be able to understand Swiss German), who made the bus ride all the more fun by jumping all over the place. It was a great time, but I probably won't be going back to any football games anytime soon.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Limmatschwimmen finally!!!

After a long wait, I finally got to do the Limmat Swim! K, KC, B, and I all got to swim about 1,333 meters in the Limmat, right through the middle of the city. It took us about 40 minutes. Fortunately, Ciccio made some photos for us.

Beatenberg--where the sun always shines

Originally uploaded by wahartung

So my friend E was telling me about her trip to Beatenberg, which is somewhere on the Lake Thun near Interlaken. She said, it's always sunny and above the fog and there are some great views of the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch. So we, (KK, a Singaporean guy from work, KC, an American who's visiting work for a month, and I) decided to go Sunday for the day.

Well, E was half right. Although the weather was gorgeous as we reached Beatenberg, but as we took the funicular up to the highest point, Niederhorn, huge clouds began to roll through the area. We sat for a while, hoping it would blow over, but although it cleared up slightly at the Niederhorn, there were too many clouds over on the Jungfrau side to see the mountains.

Still, this did not spoil the fun. We impatiently watched a paraglider wait ages for the right "thermal" and finally throw himself off the mountain, and we had a nice walk down to Vorsass through a very interesting part of the forest. We eventually took the boat on the Thunersee all the way to Interlaken, watched the paragliders land, eat some pizza, and go back to Züri. It was a very, very nice day.

For some more pics, check out KC's Picasa pages or my flickr page.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cupcake Extravaganza!!!

A while back, I'd made some cupcakes (using a vegan recipe published a while back in the New York Times), and she thought she'd died and gone to heaven. More recently, D. passed her Cambridge English Proficiency Exam, and when I asked her what she wanted to do to celebrate, she said, "Cupcakes!!"

So last Thursday she, E, the newly-moved-in K, and I all set out to make three types of cupcakes: Vanilla Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream Icing, Vegan Cream-filled Devil's Food Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache, and Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing. Five hours (and three bottles of champagne later) we had made and iced about 40 cupcakes, the only problem being that the red velvet recipe made about twice as many cupcakes as it should have, and I only have 12 silicone cupcake holders (I'm pathetic, I don't even have a muffin tin!!). We poured them into three or four of the paper liners, but they still flooded all over the place, so we had a few very ugly holders. But anyway, we had a great time, and we fed them to the people at work the next day.

Friday, August 3, 2007

S comes to Switzerland

Originally uploaded by wahartung
My long lost friend S somehow found me and came for a visit. Fortunately for her, it was the week of the national holiday, August 1. We spent the first day of her visit eating Gipfelis, seeing all the sights in the old town, and doing some seriously needed catching-up, since we hadn't seen each other for about seven years. August 1 we spent a couple of hours walking from the Üetliberg to Felsenegg, on the way finding an incredibly charming tea hut with traditional Swiss sausages, apple juice, and tea. That evening, to celebrate August 1, we went all the way to Fallanden to see A, her Musikverein (as S and I were also musicians in another life) and enjoyed the traditional bonfires that dot the landscape. Of course, we couldn't believe all the children we saw playing with fireworks, nor the fact that the only safety measures taken for the big fire were just a couple of firemen with a small bucket of water. Finally, on her last day, we watched the Simpsons movie and eventually met up with J and Notorius Dorius for a chat. It was a great visit and great to finally see S again!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Quebec in 7 days or less...

Originally uploaded by wahartung

This post has next to nothing to do with Switzerland or Swiss people, but I just got back from an amazing trip to Quebec to meet my family, who drove up from Ohio. We spent a few days in Montreal--there is so much to see and do there, we didn't even scratch the surface. We were also in Quebec City for a few days--it's one of the oldest cities in North America, and one of the most beautiful by far, with the Chateau, amazing views of the St. Lawrence River.

All through Quebec, people are very proud of their French roots. They speak to you in French if they think you have an inkling of what they mean. The food has a decidedly French flair, and everything proceeds at a slightly slower pace than other places in North America. I couldn't believe the churches--in Kentucky, where I come from, there is a church on every street corner, even way out in the country. In Quebec, there is a cathedral on every street corner! I definitely hope to make it back one day.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Gurtenfest 2007!!!

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the world famous GURTENFESTIVAL!!!!!

What, may you ask, is the world-famous Gurtenfestival? It's a festival that takes place once a year on a hill in Bern, and it seems that if you are from Bern, and you haven't been to the Gurtenfestival, there is something seriously wrong with you, you are probably not any fun. So, I was invited by K, my soon-to-be roommate, along with A and another A. A grew up with K--it seems that the Bernese are very good at keeping life-long friendships, and we went Friday evening.

The weather forecast was not very promising, although everyone (including E, who, being from Bern, goes every year) assured me that it never rains at the Gurtenfest. Yet, as we stepped off the bus, it promptly began to rain. We quickly ducked under an umbrella (in vain, as it turned out--the umbrella merely slowed down the rain). Anyway, that was the story of the evening--ducking into a tent with a lot of
incredibly inebriated music fans, going back out as it let up, and ducking back in again.

Nonetheless, we had a great time. K and Bernese A were constantly running into people they see every year at the festival, we ate some excellent Indian food, found some funky t-shirts, and it did dry off enough to see Lunik, a Swiss pop band, and the Scissor Sisters, both of whom were really great.

The girls said, "What bad luck!! It never rains at the Gurtenfestival!!" But it didn't matter so much--we still had an excellent time. My only regret is that I don't have a picture of us soaked to the bone!!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Getting old at the ZüriFäscht

Unfortunately, I'm getting old.

When I was a mere lass of 22 back in '01, I went to ZüriFäscht (Zürich's enormous tri-yearly party) and had the time of my life.

This year, I realized how old I was, sitting with A in the midst of the "Teenie-Saufen-Zone" (Teenage-Getting-Hammered-Zone), I realized, I'm too old for this. Bad loud trance music everywhere, drunk people pushing me from all sides...

K, you were right--uuvieue Bier, uuvieue Lüüt!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Independence Day!!!

My friend T had a really amazing 4th of July party yesterday. Even though it was raining and cold, but it didn't matter--it was the first 4th of July party I'd been to since 2001! Chicken wings, margaritas, brownies, an amazing pecan pie (actually, it was Kentucky Derby pie, which is of course all the better) was as much like home as a cold rainy Zurich day could be!

I brought along, of course, my (Swiss) friend D, along with her good friend (and my future roommate) K. D was impressed how un-patriotic we all were--complaining about the government, the war. And they both had a great time. E raved about how cool D is and asked if it would be possible to have two favorite Swiss people, D and K!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ah, the market!!

The farmer's market--a feast for the eyes and the palate. And yet, a danger to the wallet...

This is one of the best things about living in the 'Kon--I mean, practically at my doorstep, twice a week, there's a big market selling fresh produce, meat, cheese, flowers and plants, simply gorgeous! The produce, especially in summer, is only a bit more expensive than in Migros or Coop (and you know that more of that money is going to the farmers, rather than the Swiss mini-corporate giants).

The problem is all the stands selling Greek and Italian specialties. I spent CHF 7.50 on 1/3 kg of tiny delicious Sicilian tomatoes. I spent CHF 20 on two different types of cheese, and another CHF 20 on some olives and hummus. It's all amazing, but what am I going to eat for the rest of the week?

Lesson of the Day: Never go to the market hungry, or with a CHF100 bill in your pocket.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Great Eidgenössiches Turnfest!!!

I was fortunate to be invited by D to The Great Eidgenössisches Turnfest, which is a Switzerland-wide gymnastics festival that only takes place every six years (what luck!!). D brought along A and me to watch her boyfriend M compete. He's part of a "Turnverein", which is simply a gymnastics club--the members of the club prepare a couple of different routines (M's team had a mixed floor/parallel bar and a ring routine), which are set to music. It was really impressive to see that people in their 20s and 30s could still move just like the teenage gymnasts we see in the Olympics! M's team was definitely one of the best teams we saw that day. M's team also competed in a 80m running relay.

But that wasn't the only things going on. There were such feats of physical prowess such as throwing balls through hoops and doing aerobics in silly clothes.

D was surprised to learn that we don't have such things in the States. I told her, "American men are just not willing to wear tight, short, shiny shorts." I saw more man-leg than I ever thought possible.

Anyway, we ended up having a few beers afterwards. I got to talk to some locals and we even did some quite accidental networking--we met a highly-ranking person at a big company, even.

You never know who you'll run into.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Backpost--Pilgrimage to Trub!

This is the event that's inspired the blog...

Several months ago, a few friends of mine (all from Bern) and I went to see a Swiss movie called Die Herbstzeitlosen. It's about a couple of old ladies who live in a small town in the Emmental, a rather conservative area, and they start a lingerie shop. The townspeople are somehow in an uproar over this. Anyway, it's a very cute move, all in Bern dialect.

So they all decided that we should make a pilgrimage to Trub to check the place out. We took the train one sunny morning to Trubschachen, and had a nice hike to Trub. On the way, we met a real live Swiss Mountain Man, saw lots and lots of cows, and we even found a silo with K's namesake on it. Finally, we made it to Trub, where the actual store front is a furniture/kitchen shop instead of a lingerie shop. But there was still a small package in the window from "Petit Paris" (the fictional lingerie shop).

We had a couple of beers in Trub, as well as an amazing strawberry tart, and moved on to E's apartment in Bern for a really nice dinner.


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