Archive | September, 2013

Ein Jahr in der Schweiz!, Or One Year in Switzerland!

27 Sep

My resident permit says I arrived in Switzerland on 27.09.2012. It’s been one whole year.

I actually can’t believe that it has been one year already that I packed my house up and moved over to Switzerland. Was I naive? Yes. Did I think everything would be easier than it was? Of course.

There were more than a few times when I thought that I wouldn’t last this long; that the easiest thing to do was to pack everything up again and then go home and start again. But life has taught me that the best things that you do in life are not necessarily the easiest. In fact, I think if they are then probably you have your priorities in the wrong order.

It probably took me at least 8 months before I felt like this was home, but not home exactly just a good place to be. Sometimes it still takes me by surprise when someone talks to me in German so there are things that I still need to get used to. And, maybe I never will get used to them but surely that’s normal?

Before I left someone told me (or maybe it was more like advice) that the first 12 months are the worst. If you can last through the first year, he told me, you can last a lifetime. I can’t believe that I made it. Being away from everything that you know and love can throw your mind into turmoil and make you very vulnerable and self-aware. But I did it!

I learn more about myself, thrown into a country and a language that I don’t know, than I ever would have being sat doing the same job, living in the same place back home.

I’m not sure if I can put a finger on what exactly I have learned, but I now know: I can do it.

CERN and Geneva

20 Sep

Last weekend I went to Geneva with friends. Geneva is about a 3 hour train journey from Zurich. We got the train on Friday night after work and stayed over until the Sunday.

The main purpose of the trip was to visit CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Reasearch. CERN was in the news a lot last year, or maybe the year before, because there were fears that the experiments that they were doing was going to create a black hole that the universe would disappear would into. Obviously that didn’t happen in the end because we are all still here. Most of the research that happens there is to do with particle physics; a little bit too technical for me but interesting nevertheless.

The tour was a little disappointing. We were shown some videos which were obviously out of date (they only mentioned things that had happened up to 2004, so about a decade behind their current research which made the news recently). The main experiments were in maintenance mode while the data that has been gathered over the past few years was being analysed in more detail. The tour lasted a hour and a half. Our guide was actually a person who worked at CERN who volunteered at the weekend to show people around.

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After the tour at CERN (which is in Switzerland but extends to France underground) we headed back to the city to look around.

I have never been to Geneva before. It was very strange that when we got off the train all the signs were in French and there was no German around. It was hard to believe that it was the same country. The feel of the place is totally different too. I’m not sure that I liked it all that much to be honest. Geneva seems to be a bit dirtier than Zurich. Maybe it’s because I have been living in Zurich for so long that Zurich feels like home and anything else feels different.

We walked around the Old Town which was nice and had a seat on the longest wooden bench in the world. We knew this was true because a old man came over to us and told us this. He first asked if we spoke French, we said no, and then he carried on talking to us in French anyway. I managed to understand what he was telling us. Seems like GCSE French was useful in the end.

Geneva was interesting for me because when I was at university my specialist theologian was Calvin who was based in Geneva during the European reformation. There were lots of monuments dedicated to him. There was also a museum dedicated to him, which we didn’t get to see because we ran out of time.

We had a lovely meal at a very posh and expensive Indian restaurant. It was worth the expense as it wasn’t type of place that you would eat on a normal day out and as Geneva is 3 hours away and it might be a while before we go back, it was justifiable!

On the Sunday the weather wasn’t good and I was starting to come down with a really bad cold so we got an early train back home. All in all another great weekend exploring a city I don’t know. There seems to be a lot of things to do in Geneva that we didn’t have time to do so maybe there will be another trip there next year sometime.

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Photo of the Fortnight

19 Sep

Photo of the Fortnight

I couldn’t wait a month to post this as September picture of the month because I like it so much.

This is a picture of me in front (or more accurately at the side) of the Rhine Falls. The Rhine Falls are the largest waterfalls in Europe and are only a 45 minute train ride away from Zurich.

It was a perfect day and this is a pretty perfect picture!

Birthday visitor

13 Sep

One of my good friends from home, Jenny, came over to stay with me for my birthday. It was such a surprise when she asked me months and months ago if it was ok if she came. It felt like a lifetime ago wait until she was here but before I knew it, it was time for me to be a year older and she had arrived.

Here are some of the things that we did while she was visiting.

Zeughauskeller

After arriving at the main station we stopped for a few beers and when hunger hit we moved to Zeughauskeller, which is a lovely, but quite touristy, restaurant that serves traditional Swiss food.

Jenny didn’t need a lot of convincing to join me in trying a Corden Bleu, which is pork, ham and cheese in breadcrumbs with French fries. It went down a treat and so did the mass of beer that we both had. I’ll be honest I had to use two hands to pick it up! We also had a dessert, which was about the size of a UFO to follow. It hit the spot though!

Jenny's dessert!

Jenny’s dessert!

Biking and the lake

On the Tuesday, we hired some bikes and went cycling around the lake. It was the first time that I had been on a bike in a decade I think. I was a bit wobbly at the start of the day but as the day progressed it got a lot easier. Having said that it wasn’t too much fun when I managed to fall off the bike and into a hedge because I was trying to avoid a parked car. My chain slipped off as well because I was messing about with the gears when we were stopped looking at the scenery. I still don’t understand the gears on the bike. It’s a lot easier driving because you can hear when that the engine is struggling and, consequently, when you need to change gear. On a bike I always think that I’m not fit enough which is why I’m finding it tough going and not because I should change down gears!

The day couldn’t have been more perfect. The sunshine was out and it was about 28 degrees. We cycled from the main train station to Thawil and then got the ferry from Thawil to Rapperswil. In Rapperswil, we stopped for lunch at a nice pizza place that I have been to a few times before. There is also a medieval castle in Rapperswil that we looked round and they have some deer as well. It was idyllic. We then cycled from Rapperswil to Stäfa, where we stopped for a swim in the lake. Swimming in the lake has fast become one of my favourite things to do in the summer; the only problem is that I felt that I didn’t make the most of the lake swimming while I had the chance. I will do next year though! We caught the train back home and dropped the bikes off. I looked on googlemaps and saw that we had cycled about 25km, which isn’t too bad when you considered how long it had been since I had ridden a bike.

It was great fun. We both enjoyed it, even though we were both a little sore the next day.

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Our bikes for the day, parked up as we have a well deserved break at a cafe

 

Night out with friends

After the cycling and swimming, we joined some of my friends for some drinks. I celebrated my birthday at 12 midnight on the dot with tequila! We partied into the early hours of the night and had a fantastic time. I am sure that there are a lot of pictures and videos somewhere but fortunately I don’t have any of them so I can put up a link to them

Exploring the city

Jenny and I spent the next day exploring the city. Again, the weather was perfect which helped our enjoyment of the city. Like most places, Zurich isn’t quite as nice when it isn’t basking in the sunshine. But we were lucky. It was nice to show someone round (and we discovered that I actually know quite a few facts about the city – maybe guided tours could be a sideline for me if I ever need it) and it meant that I was a tourist in the place that I live. I can’t remember the last time I wandered the streets and just had a look around. We went to Grossmünster, which is a reformed church in the Old Town of Zurich, and to St Peter’s Church, which has the biggest clock face in Switzerland.

We also wandered around the shops but it was more like window shopping because of the famous and expensive names on Bahnhofstrasse!

Jenny was kind enough to buy me lunch for my birthday and we found a lovely Italian restaurant that I have never been to before. The food was lovely. And the company was even better!

It hadn’t felt all that long since I was meeting Jenny at the station but it was soon time for her to go. It was sad because Jenny was the first person (apart from my mum last year) to come and stay with me and because she had flown over for my birthday, it was extra special. It makes me realize how much I miss people from home. I hope that she had as much fun as I did.

Jenny also bought me some presents from home; things that you can’t get that easily over here, including about 1,500 tea bags! I have worked out that if I drink 3 cups of tea a day, these tea bags will last about 15 months. So I’d best get drinking!

Birthday dinner

I went to Ascot with Jon for my birthday meal. Ascot is a lovely restaurant in the city and probably my favourite. We went all out and had the surf and turf: a 300g steak, prawns and a lobster tail. It was delicious and perfectly rounded off an excellent few days.

Where we stopped for a swim, Lake Zurich

Where we stopped for a swim, Lake Zurich

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ZüriSee, September 2013

5 Sep

ZüriSee, September 2013

An absolutely amazing day. Cycling round the lake, a stop for a swim and good company. Perfection personified!

Fun Filled Weekend!

2 Sep

I had an excellent weekend, the weekend just gone.  I spent most of it out of my apartment which is always good when the weather is nice.

On Friday night I went to a Japanese restuarant in Zurich. It’s called Sala of Japan and it’s actually my favourite Japanese restaurant. I have only just started to eat Japanese food so maybe my opinion isn’t the best informed. We had the taster menu which was extremely expensive but was worth every penny. It was a nine-course meal and took about 2 hours to complete! Some of the highlights were Sea Eel, which I never, ever thought I would like, a popcorn fritter and tempura vegetables and, of course, Wagyu beef in seasame and spring onions. Here is the menu and a sample of the food on offer…. Definitely a great way to start the weekend.

 

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On Saturday morning I went to Bern. I have been to Bern before and it is my favourite city in Switzerland. Again, like the Japanese food, I have only been to a limited number of Swiss cities so my opinion might not be the best informed. As a city it is a lot more laid back than Zurich is and is just beautiful.

The main reason for going to Bern this time was because last time I didn’t quite have enough time to go to Einstein’s house. Albert Einstein lived and worked in Switzerland (in Bern and Zurich) for a long time in his life but Bern was the place where he made significant breakthroughs and had his annus mirabilis in 1905. The house is a small, inconspicuous place on a small street called Kramstrasse 49 and provided a reall y good insight into his life and work. It only cost 6 CHF for the entrance fee. Well worth a visit. More information is available here http://www.einstein-bern.ch/index.php?lang=en

After the visit to the house, I went to the permanent exhibition housed at Bern’s National Museum. The exhibit was really well put together and had lots more information about the life of Einstein, the harsh political times that he lived in and explantions about the Theory of Relativity. I could have easily spent hours and hours there but unfortunately the museum shuts at 5pm.

 

View from Kramstrasse 49, Bern, where Einstein lived for 2 years.

View from Kramstrasse 49, Bern, where Einstein lived for 2 years.

I will write more about Bern in a separate post. Watch out for an update soon!

On Sunday, I travelled to Appenzell where the famous Swiss beer is brewed. It’s a lovely place situated right in the mountains and isn’t too far away from the German or Liechtenstein borders. Obviously the point of the trip was to visit the famous brewery for a tour and a beer tasting session. There were several beers that we could sample (see below) and the lady who looked after our group told us how they were made and what the different ingredients were. Despite her protestations to the contray, her English was very good, as is always the case with Swiss people.  I rounded the day off with a Corden-Bleu and french fries, which was made with Appenzell cheese which is also famous in Switzerland. Needless to say I fell asleep on the train home.

 

 

beers

All in all, a very successful weekend. I got to see more of Switzerland and have a few beers in the process!