The Swiss Life – What I Miss at Four Months

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It’s Friday and I am putting my stuff together for my early morning train to Lyon tomorrow. Over the weekend, I will be eating my way around town and will also hit my four month milestone. Now, I’ve spent the last three months reflecting on what each month here has been like, but I think it’d be fun to do a list of ten things (aside from the the obvious friends and family etc) that I miss from home. The list is kind of silly, so spare me the concert of the tiny violins.
In no particular order
1. Carnitas

I could say that I miss Mexican food in general and it wouldn’t be a lie. I am a Californian and good Mexican food is a staple. I miss having a cheap Mission-style burrito and I could really do with some La Vics orange sauce every now and then. The truth is, however, that I’ve found the stuff to cook simple dishes at home and can even make guacamole. And while it’s certainly not cheap, I have located at least one pretty decent restaurant in town (more Tex-Mex than Cali-Mex). Kabobs have more or less also filled the burrito void in my life.

What I cannot replicate here in Switzerland, however, are carnitas. I miss carnitas. If you can tell me where I can find it here in Basel, I will be your friend for life.
2. Target

There’s always something comforting about the fact that if you know your way around one Target, you know your way around pretty much every other one. There’s something convenient about having everything you need there in one place. There are a few stores here that come pretty close to it and I’ve been growing pretty attached to the Migros XXL in Claraplatz (they close late for Swiss standards, too). Still, it’s not quite the same.

An honorary mention here is Costco. There are some things that you just need to bulk buy.
3. Sundays

On a related note, I miss stores that are open on Sundays. Granted, there are, thankfully, stores around the train station that are open on Sundays, but I never realized how convenient it is to have stores open on Sundays until you don’t get them.
4. Boba

I miss boba and I miss having many boba options. There are at least five boba shops within a two mile radius of me back home, which made late night boba runs or mid-errand boba breaks so easy. The good news is that I found out via one of the three Basel ex-pat communities I’m in that they just started selling boba at one of the restaurants in town. Haven’t been yet, but I will. Hopefully, it’s good. The boba I had in Amsterdam was just okay.
5. Hulu

We don’t have cable at home, so I actually watch most of my TV shows on Hulu and most of the good shows that have dropped off of Netflix are also there. I have my fair share of media on Netflix, but I’m also terribly behind on a lot of the fall shows because Hulu is only available in the US. The same applies to the HBO app. I know I can watch the recaps on YouTube, but I miss our Sunday John Oliver nights.
6. Takis

They’re messy and give you disgusting red-stained hands, but they’re so good.
7. Korean Food

As with Mexican food, I’ve found some workarounds for this one that has made this a little better. It helps that I brought a giant container of gojuchang with me here and that I’ve found a store that sells pre-made kimchi. I can cook some of the dishes that I need to satisfy these cravings or at least wait until Chris is here to make anything remotely complicated for me. Nevertheless, there are still are some dishes missing from my life and no Korean restaurants in Basel to fill that void. Given the recent drop in temperature, I’ve been especially missing the comfort of a bowl of sulungtang these days.
8. Amazon

I guess this can be the year that I break myself of my awful Amazon addiction. Shopping on Amazon is a little harder here in Switzerland. There are workarounds (mine being to stockpile things from Amazon for when Chris comes here), but I am missing the convenience of being able to order almost anything and get it in a day or two (or even the same day). I will say, however, that there is something liberating about not having a constant pile of open Amazon boxes lying around the house.
9. “Bad” Cheese

I know, cry me a river. Not only am I living in a country known for its cheeses, but I am also living a stone’s throw from several other countries known for their cheeses. Look, do not get me wrong. I love the cheese situation over here, but sometimes you just need a bag of cheap shredded cheddar to throw into your food. The good thing about living in a country known for its cheeses is that there are some solutions. There are a few cheeses I’ve had identified that have somewhat comparable flavor profile. In a spark of creativity, we even got a bag of fondue cheese for our chili one night.
10. Halloween

Halloween is more of an adopted holiday here and is (probably rightfully) more geared towards kids. It’s not really like we do much for the holiday and the prevalance of incredible chocolate here means that I’m not really short on candy, but it was sad not to dress up in the office or carve pumpkins this year.

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I still dressed up, though, because it’s Halloween. At some point I searched for indoor rock climbing gyms here in Basel to get a spidey picture of me climbing. I talked myself out of that idea, though because 1) even at my best, I could not boulder to save my life and 2) I have no one to belay me. I’m also pretty sure I don’t remember any of the knots…

In all seriousness, though, as much as I whine and as quiet as things got after Chris left, things continue to be good in these parts. The cold is officially gone and there are some pretty cool weekends currently in the works.

The most fitting way to end this post is with a Halloween picture of the stinkiest individual that I miss:

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Also, if you’re in the US and haven’t done so already, go vote. Seriously.

Herbstmesse in Basel

It’s fall, so the days have gotten shorter, the skies have gotten darker, the weather has gotten colder, and the Herbstmesse (Autumn Fair) has hit Basel. The fair started on Saturday and will be in town for the next three weeks. The fair spans different parts of the city. Each section of the fair has its own flavor and attractions. There is the big ferris wheel in Münsterplatz, the drop ride in Messeplatz, the markets of Petersplatz, and so on. With the bright lights of the rides all over the city, it almost makes the sky line look like a low key Las Vegas. Okay, maybe very low key.

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I ended up spending the weekend at home, despite the fact that my initial plan was to go to Montreux for the weekend. I ended up canceling that plan because of the rain and because I’ve realized that I’ve been going kind of non-stop for a while and needed a break (something I realized while I was in the online queue to get Hamilton tickets in SF). Also, I had a cold. Maybe that was the main reason. In any case, between the cold, the self-imposed break, and the rain, I spent most of the weekend indoors.

I did drag myself out on Saturday to get groceries and, despite the aforementioned rain and cold, took a small detour to explore some of the fair. I had some sausages and also realized it’s officially mulled wine season(!!).

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Saturday was otherwise low key. Sunday was not as rainy and I was feeling better, so I dragged myself out for a long walk and to explore more of the Herbstmesse.

I grabbed dinner the Barfüsserplatz location, where I had more sausage, mulled wine, and chocolate. This spot is was a little more children’s ride oriented, but it was fun watching the crazy ski lift ride.

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From there, I climbed up to Münsterplatz with the intention of going on the big ferris wheel. There were many more rides up there, a lot of games and a whole lot of food. I ended up talking myself out of doing the ferris wheel, mostly because that seemed like a sad thing to do by myself.

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I also dragged myself out to Peterplatz tonight in an effort to not sit at home all night. I also heard that’s where the markets are. This has probably been my favorite part of Herbstmesse so far. It’s a maze of food stalls and shops. There’s even a ceramics market there, where I did some “window” shopping.

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I had a lot of fun exploring Peterplatz. I’ll probably end up back there because I was too full from fries to try the pastel de nata (!) that they had there. I also want to go back to the ceramics market.

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The fair will be here for a few more weeks and there is more of it to see, so the Herbstmesse explorations aren’t over. I may even talk myself into riding one of the rides.

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Wandering Basel: The Tinguely Museum

This weekend has been a quiet one. Chris left very early on Saturday and after another month of back-to-back travel, I figured I was due for a weekend’s worth of hanging around Basel. Next week is the start of the Basel autumn fair, so you can see pieces of the fair being assembled around town, including an enormous blink and it appeared ferris wheel.

Today, I decided to continue my ongoing tour of Basel and made a visit to the Tinguely Museum. In full transparency, I was going to do the zoo, but the penguins don’t come back until December (according to the website). In any case, the Tinguely Museum is dedicated to the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely, who is known for his moving metallic pieces of art.

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You see his art work scattered in different places throughout the city, but this one has many more. It walks you through the history of his work, starting with his biography and early work and ending with the absolutely haunting Mengele – Dance of Death, which is one of his later works.

The museum is also moderately interactive in that there are buttons that you can press to make the machines move. The machines are a little slow to react and don’t always respond. I think that’s intentional so people don’t wear out the machines, but they are pretty fun to watch.

There are also some scattered videos, including footage from the self-destructive machine he made in New York.

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The machines of the museum vary quickly from fanciful to creepy to delightfully steampunk.

The big machine at the center of it all is a giant machine you can walk in and out of. This one did go off when I was in it and it was absolutely delightful.

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Tinguely did a lot of machines where you could attach a felt pen and have it draw something for you. For 3CHF, you can buy a blank piece of paper, a coin, and the two very fun minutes where you get to make the machine move and draw something for you. Obviously, I had to do it.

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The end result looked like a scribble, but it is my Tinguely scribble.

In any case, the Tinguely Museum is a fascinating museum and well-worth the visit.

The Swiss Life: Reflecting on 3 Months

We hit the three month mark a couple days ago and it’s still crazy how fast time flies. The days are starting to get shorter, the skies are turning more gray and I think the number of people floating down the Rhine has gone down to zero. I guess it’s officially fall.

The past month has been good, with a number of trips both within and outside of Switzerland. Things like the trash system (which should post about at some point) that once seemed so different have become normal. And it doesn’t hurt that I’ve had Chris here for the past couple of weeks.

I’ve been taking German lessons and have been on the painfully slow self-imposed quest of reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone in German.

And yet, despite having lived in a country on the metric system for a quarter of a year, I still cannot do the Fahrenheit-Celcius conversion. Ask me again in three months maybe 🤷

The Long Train

Since we’re still on our train to Zermatt, I’d figured I can kill the time by posting about the second half of our trip home last Sunday. You see, when I wrote about the Disney run on the way to Strasbourg, we really didn’t know our adventure was about to begin. Okay, it wasn’t an adventure but let’s back up to the race.

After the race, we wanted to eat at the restaurant at our hotel. Except, but the time we got home, cleaned up, and packed up our stuff, the restaurant closed until dinner. We were too tired to walk back to Disney village to get food. We considered the shuttle, but then realized that if we hustled, there was a a possiblity we could catch the earlier train.

So, we called a taxi and the combination of waiting in line to catch the taxi and waiting for the actual taxi ate up almost all the time. We did make it before the train left, but didn’t have enough time to swap tickets.

With two hours to spare at the train station and zero desire to stand or walk, we decided to find a place to sit down and actually eat a French meal. Problem was, the only sit down restaurant we could find in the train station wasn’t serving anything other than pretzels. We got pretzels, wine and a marks and Spencer sandwich we could split to hold us over until we got home to Basel and could make dinner.

Our train eventually came and the trip to Strasbourg was mostly uneventful. We stopped for an extended period of time somewhere because of the storm, but otherwise made it just in time to jump on a train on the other side of the platform directed to Basel.

Well, after forty minutes, the train still didn’t leave. At some point, they started saying something in French and a bunch of people got up and left the train. People looked panic and we were confused. The most we could muster was someone telling us that if we wanted to get to Basel, we would want to leave the train and find another one.

We took that to mean that the train we were on was broken, so we got off and went down to look at train times for the next train to Basel. As we stood there, we also heard the train we were on leave and cursed everyone. We found the next train to Basel and got on. At some point, they said something Colmar and terminus, which we understood as we were only going to be able to get to Colmar. We figured we could figure something out after that and didn’t want to do the same thing with this train that we did with the previous one.

Somewhere along the way, we found out that the rails between Colmar and Mulhouse were blocked and started panicking a little. We looked into a number of alternatives : buses (unlikely), trains to places we could get to Basel from, and a taxi.

We were a few minutes from the Colmar station when the train stopped. They said something about what was going on, but it was in French. We stayed there in the dark for probably an hour and a half, during which time we became painfully aware of 1) the broken door that kept opening and 2) the fact that I was quickly developing the cold that had been looming for the past week. We were also hungry and already ate our sandwich, so we had to dig into the pretty puny RunDisney snackbox I had in my back pack. They were missing the fake cheese, my favorite of the Run Disney pack.

After 90 minutes, the train did move, but it moved ten minutes in the opposite direction. We stopped again and waited for at least another 30 minutes. At some point, they did say something about Basel, so we were happy to hear we would be getting home that night. Of course, given that neither of us could understand French, they could have also told us we were definitely not going to make it to Mulhouse, St Louis or Basel that night.

We eventually did make it to Colmar and were elated when the train left the station. It meant that the tracks must have been cleared and we could make it home. We got to Basel around 11:30 and made it home just before midnight, 3.5 hours after we were supposed to get home.

Having made it through that series of delays, I guess it could have been worse. We made it home that night and didn’t have to spring for a taxi to either Basel or St Louis from Colmar. I’m pretty sure that the Colmar terminus situation was the reason someone suggested we get off the train. We probably would have had to cab from Colmar or find some other solution if we had stayed on the train because I would imagine the tracks would have still been blocked. So, I guess that worked out. Also, it certainly did not top the hell that was taking Frontier Airlines back from Orlando after the Dark Side race. That was truly miserable.

Slow Up Basel

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As I was walking home last night, I noticed some barriers and road closure signs, the tell tale signs of a road race. I looked into it to see if it was something I’d be able to join last minute race and learned that there is an annual event called Slow Up Basel where some of the streets in Basel and the surrounding area are closed off to cars for to use of bikers, runners, etc. The paths would make my Sunday long run a little easier.

I set out this with the intention of starting using the route that runs by me. I immediately identified that the event was geared towards bikers and not runners despite what the site said. I tried running along the sidewalk alongside the bikers, but there were unfortunately bikers on the sidewalk too. I then tried to veer away from the course but somehow managed to find them. I found a happy medium for the next couple of miles. Eventually, I grew tired of dodging bikers while running and just walked the last three miles.

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So the long run was a semi-bust (kind of), but I also racked up a lot of miles on Saturday so I think I’m okay. If I had gone my initial route, I probably would have run into similar crowds anyway. The event is pretty cool, though. There were so many bikers and there’s also supposed to be course entertainment and food. I didn’t see it, but I didn’t get that far into the course.

Otherwise, it’s been a pretty lazy Sunday.

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Wandering Basel: Japanese Festival

I spent this weekend in Basel. Well, I did a day trip to Solothurn on Saturday, but Sunday I stayed around Basel mostly. The timing worked out well as there was a Japanese festival in nearby Münchenstein today. They had performances, workshops, and a karate workshop, as well as shops and (most importantly) food. You got free admission to the event of you dressed up (they were accepting kimonos and cosplay). No, I did not throw something together.

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I actually initially planned on going in the afternoon after my long run, but somehow didn’t feel like going for a two hour run when I woke up. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the festival, I missed a lot of the big demonstrations. I think I just missed the karate demonstration. I did have a lot of Japanese food, which I now realize that I haven’t had since I got here. There were a lot of options, but I ended up getting some yakisoba and karaage. Finished everything up with some matcha.

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It was a good way to spend the early part of the afternoon, but I couldn’t linger around for the afternoon demonstrations and performances. I did ultimately have to drag myself out on the aforementioned run and do some German practice for tomorrow’s class. The run ended up not being so bad even if it was hot. I ran to a big park that was recommended to me, so a lot of it was shaded.

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Not too bad for a somewhat lazy Sunday.