Zürich and Miss Saigon

I decided that I needed a calmer weekend after several weeks of back to back travel, so I went for a weekend at home. Well, mostly at home. Saturday was full of errands and the Basel Christmas market (tried the fondue in a baguette) and Sunday was a trip to Zürich.

1012-2018-09153722221352894958251388842059872687242.jpeg

This wasn’t just any trip to Zürich, though. I was in town to watch Miss Saigon. It’s one of my favorite musicals. I was almost crushed to know that I was missing the show’s stop through San Francisco, but then I found out that it was going to be in Zürich. In case you care at all, I just re-did my top 10 list for musicals and I’m watching number one on my list.

In any case, I left a little early to explore Zürich, which I realize I have not actually spent any time in since getting here (airport trips don’t count). I had no plan in mind, really, and had just enough time to explore the city a little and maybe grab a quick lunch somewhere. There were small Christmas stalls everywhere (as one days), so I ended up getting hot mead right outside of the Münster and hanging out there for a little while.

img_20181209_1132541462780754678092453.jpg

I walked along the street until I hit the one of the bigger markets in front of the opera house. This one was very food-centric and there were a lot of international food stands. I even saw a ramen stand that I would have considered eating at had I not seen the most beautiful two street tacos I’ve seen in a while.

img_20181209_1212238437359212208713522.jpg

I didn’t actually have much time left before I had to head to the theater, so I walked along Lake Zürich for a little before jumping on the trams to the theater.

1012-2018-09332752222131928736896658586002674138543.jpeg

I made it to the theater with some time to spare, which gave me enough time to find the merch table and my seat (which was pretty good, I must say). The show was fantastic. Horribly sad and emotionally draining, but fantastic. The sets were incredible (the helicopter flew!!!). One minor downside was that the people sitting next time me who were talking, giggling and checking Instagram during one of the most powerful scenes of the musical. For those of you who haven’t seen this musical or listened to the cast recording hundreds of times like I have, the first act closes with the main character singing to her young son about how she’d give her life if that meant that her son could have the life that she wants for him to the backdrop of refugees boarding a boat to escape the country. Milennials, amirite? Otherwise, the show was perfect, but I was missing my theater-going crew from back home.

img_20181209_1304111117281815290554344.jpg

By the time I was out of the musical, it had started raining, which killed my plan of walking around the city a little before leaving. The show kind of exhausts you anyway, so I decided to just walk around the big Christmas market at the train station for a little bit. Between the intense crowds and the killer headache I developed right before the show started, I very quickly decided it was better to get onto an earlier train and make soup for dinner instead.

So, that was my day in Zürich. I’ll be back there, though. At the very least, Chris and I need to make it to the FIFA museum. Which, by the way, is my other announcement. Now that they’ve announced the group stage dates, Chris and I got tickets to see the USWNT in the World Cup in Paris next year. I’m super stoked about it. Talk about bucket list.

Anyway, that’s it for my short post.

0912-2018-05312141498035079771607706808794406771555.jpeg

Luzern and Gansabhauet

I have a 6 am flight tomorrow morning (because why not?), but I don’t want this post to go unwritten, so I will make this post relatively short.

Last Sunday was a bit of a double feature. There was an historic annual event in Sursee that I wanted to attend (more on that soon) and because it’s so close, I visited Luzern in the morning. It was a tiring day, which was also surprisingly warm despite the fact that I actually dressed appropriately for the weather we’d been having for the past few weeks.

img_20181111_1111561325520957119669733.jpg

I got to Luzern around 11, so I really only had a few hours to walk around the city before I went over to Sursee. I started at the Kapelbrucke (Chapel Bridge), which is the covered bridge that you see in most photos of the city. From there, I walked around the Old Town and made my way up to the Musegg Wall. The views from the wall are supposed to be nice and for that reason and the fact that it was a beautiful day, I was surprised that there were very few people around the wall. Turns out that at least the part of the wall that I was at was not open to visitors. At the very least, that hike up the hill would have burned off a small sliver of the raclette from the night before.

From there, I made may down and crossed the Spreuer Bridge (another covered bridge in town.

img_20181111_183108_9444615404389757961377.jpg

By this time, I had somehow taken up just about half of the time that I had in Luzern so I had to make some decisions about how I wanted to spend the rest of my time there. I found an Vietnamese restaurant that Yelp told me was open and even though it was significantly warmer than I expected, I have really been craving pho. The restaurant was also conveniently near the train station, so I could hop on the train to Sursee right after. So, I set up a quick itinerary that would end near the restaurant.

I started by walking through Old Town and made my way to the Lion Monument. I saw the monument last year when I was in Luzern for some meetings, but I really like it. I sat in the park, where for a brief moment I took in my peaceful surroundings. It was a very brief moment because a tour group rushed in and there was chaos everywhere. I left.

img_20181111_1223444277381786776166286.jpg

From the monument, I walked along Lake Luzern towards the restaurant. Unfortunately and despite what Yelp told me, the restaurant was closed. I was still craving soup, so I ended up going to a nearby Japanese restaurant and had soup. The wait took forever, though, so I had just enough time to eat and get to my train.

img_20181111_1155596155720431148155794.jpg

The trip to Luzern was short and the city was as lovely as it always is, but to be honest, it was just the opening act of the day. You see, I was on my way to Sursee to see Gansabhauet, an annual tradition in the town. Every year on Martinmas (St Martin’s Day), they hang a dead goose from a platform in the middle of the town and young men and women try to knock it down while blindfolded and slighted disoriented. I guess it’s like a Swiss version of a piñata?

When we arrived into Sursee, the town was incredibly quiet. After walking into the city center, I realized that pretty much everyone was waiting for the event to start. I should have known that there was a lot of food at the event. The wurst smelled good, but I really only had space for a cookie.

img_20181111_143645936759977758629927.jpg

The event started at about 3:15 and the crowd was packed as a procession walked through the town carrying the goose. I have to be honest, though, I felt a little bad for the guy when I saw him (or her?).

img_20181111_1510539170634705843260328.jpg

They hung the goose up on the platform and we waited for the contestants to get prepared. Each individual is blindfolded, wears a mask, and is spun around a little to disorient them. This means that each contestant spends a few minutes getting re-oriented to try to figure out the best angle to knock the goose down.

img_20181111_1517153346779987984529508.jpg

Typically, it takes quite a few people to take their shot at the goose before the goose is knocked down. This means that there are other games that children can participate in in the meantime. This year, it only took three tries. The first person didn’t get much on the goose. The second person almost knocked the goose down and the third person got the goose down pretty easily. Of course, I didn’t realize that knocking the goose down meant decapitating the goose (poor goose), but it was absolutely captivating and I kind of wish there were a few more rounds.

img_20181111_1523304558909527023228987.jpg

img_20181111_1523567196881452210078696.jpg

There’s more to the festival after the goose, including a lantern parade and more food. Given that the competition didn’t take too long, it would have been a few hours wait until the parade, so I headed home and made myself some Kfood for dinner.

The event was admittedly a little surreal and I don’t think I would have ever expected to watch an event like this, but I’m certainly glad that I did.

And with that, I go prepare for my painfully early flight.

img_20181111_1243037816469736753522293.jpg

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.

img_20181028_1724088741805674517007385.jpg

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(!!).

img_20181027_1326467270963638377712853.jpg

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.

img_20181028_1707575925909490121584363.jpg

img_20181028_1718313823646281665647877.jpg

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.

img_20181028_1726117525191365849245746.jpg

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.

img_20181030_1907336929324936528617804.jpg

img_20181030_190549666230517277656131.jpg

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.

img_20181030_1925325171842816516628310.jpg

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.

img_20181028_1727277182712879003167255.jpg

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.

img_20181021_1209227829280601458501294.jpg

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.

img_20181021_1245343858328623823010877.jpg

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.

img_20181021_1249543803331481349273694.jpg

img_20181021_1251566626290043122929133.jpg

img_20181021_1248561189881192286687558.jpg

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.

img_20181021_1303563223342962935712424.jpg

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 🤷

Weekend in Zermatt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Happy Mean Girls day. We spent the past weekend in Zermatt, which is where the Matterhorn is. That, in addition to the fact that the town is picture perfect, means that we essentially spent another weekend in Disneyland.

We got into Zermatt late Friday night after a three hour train ride from Basel. We got in so late that they had to leave a key for us at our hotel so we could check in. The cool thing was that it was just dark enough that you could see the outline of the Matterhorn even at midnight.
Day One

After waking up to a perfect view of the Matterhorn and the sounds of the Valais sheep hanging outside of our window below and then immediately causing a ruckus at breakfast (99% me), we made our way into town to catch the cogwheel train up to Gornergrat. It’s about a forty minute ride up, during which you essentially make your way up the mountain and winding your way around the Matterhorn. Once you get all the way up, you get spectacular views of the Alps. You’re also high enough that you can see snow. You expect to see it, but it’s still kind of weird.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We climbed up to the observatory for a little bit to take some goofy Instagram-worthy photos of each other with the great views behind us. You even a get view of what I am now calling my okapi pants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After our mountaintop photo shoot was completed, we did a somewhat impromptu hike down the mountain. We weren’t really wearing the right shoes, so we lasted about an hour (ish) of the hike. Chris was wearing worse shoes for the hike than I was (I was at least in running shoes). The views were spectacular and I was sore from this hike longer than I was sore from the half marathon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We made it to the next train station down the mountain before deciding that it was time to call it a day with the hike. I saw a lake a little further down the mountain and could tell it was a good photo op, so I made the very painful hike down the mountain while Chris waited up top. I think Chris missed out on the amazing view of the Matterhorn reflected in the lake, but I guess he also didn’t have to hike back up that portion of the mountain and he certainly didn’t almost fall into said lake while trying to take the photo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We dragged ourselves back up to the train station just in time for the train to get there. It was almost one by that time and we were pretty hungry. We saw a few restaurants the next train stop down the mountain, so got off there. Unfortunately, those restaurants weren’t open since they were closed for off-season. We knew there was a restaurant at the top of Gornergrat, so we got on the next train up to try to eat there. Unfortunately, the ticket only works once, so we had to turn around and get back on the train down.

We were about one stop away from the starting station but ended up going on a truly impromptu hike. The problem was that I had been reading about some great restaurants in Findeln, which is a little higher than Zermatt. I got the names mixed up and dragged Chris off the train stop at Findelbach, where there most definitely were not restaurants. We decided to just hike down to town instead of wait for the next train. It didn’t look that far, at least. There was a nice waterfall and the views of Zermatt weren’t too bad either.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eventually, we did make it down to Zermatt. We were pretty tired and hungry by that point, so we ended up at a pub of all places for lunch (Brown Cow). A lot of people seemed to rave about the burgers there. We both got the Zermatt burger (cheese and bacon), which was quite delicious. Between the burgers, the beer, the fact that they were playing Tallest Man on Earth and the soccer on TV, we were quite happy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We dragged ourselves back up to our hotel and recovered from hiking for a while. We also tried out the sauna at our hotel, which reminded me of the height of the summer here in Basel. It felt pretty nice though and, somehow, worked up our appetite for dinner, where we went back into town for Swiss food. We got fondue, of course. I’ve also found out that it’s not gross to eat the crispy cheese at the bottom of the pot (Chris and I call it the cheese nurenji), so I felt somewhat vindicated. At least, that’s what the internet says.

img_20180929_2033454085396001397875513.jpg

Day Two

Our initial plan for Sunday was to try out the mountain carts, so we could channel our inner Mario Kart characters. We ate breakfast, checked out, stored our stuff in the train station lockers, and made our way up hill to what we thought was the station that would get us up the mountain to the mountain carts. Unfortunately, we found out when we got to the cable car station that we went to the station on the wrong side of town. We were hit by a wave of laziness mixed with the soreness from the hikes from the day before and just decided that we would take a trip up Klein Matterhorn instead.

The tickets to get up the Klein Matterhorn are not cheap (thanks, Half Fare Card), but half of the adventure is the trip up. It takes a cable car and two very pack gondola rides to make it to the top of the mountain. Along the way, you pass by Gornergrat and realize how insanely high you actually are.

img_20180930_1056592766844248626312197.jpg

img_20180930_1118156270408961682804618.jpg

We were a little light headed by the time we got to the top. We also very much underestimated how cold it’d be on top and were probably not adequately dressed for it. We managed, though. We spent a minute or two in the cinema space, where you can watch videos of the area while sitting in little eggs, before we made our way to the observation deck. Unfortunately, the clouds had come in to cover what would have been a fantastic view of the Matterhorn, but it didn’t cover all the views.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Klein Matterhorn was a little more focused on skiers, which neither of us are, and the glacier attraction was closed, so we didn’t end up spending too much time on top. We hung around the gift shop and walked around a little more before heading back down to Zermatt.

We made it with enough time to take the train back that we wanted to take, so we grabbed some kebabs from a local kebab shop and made our way to the train station.

img_20180930_131907712264360674908753.jpg

This time around, we got to enjoy the views on the train between Zermatt and Visp that we missed on the way up to Zermatt, which meant more cows, sheep, and mountain views. The downside of the train ride is that it’s a little rickety.

img_20180930_15085110114851789303370.jpg

All in all, our trip to Zermatt was kind of fantastic. The town truly is like a little Alpine Disneyland and things aren’t cheap there (even in off-season), but the views were quite spectacular. It’d be nice to see the area covered in snow, but I appreciated the mild crowds and the bearable weather at the end of the day.

img_20180930_1152454432728906710600457.jpg

Feeling the Bern

Hello. Happy International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Sorry to disappoint, though. This blog post will not be in pirate.

oi0001407514869085029616762.jpg

One of my colleagues from Indianapolis was in town last week, so we did some exploring  while she was here (including a trip down the Rhine). The two of us went to Bern over the weekend, but were warned that there was a large protest in town the same day. We tried to plan accordingly.

We got there pretty late in the morning and ended up getting a little lost (or as lost as you can get in Bern). Bern is the capital of Switzerland and is kind of an adorable city. We circled through the Parliament area, crossed a bridge, and walked through some pretty residential area before we got to our actual destination, the Bear Park.

oi0001526377813816874110097.jpg

The Bear Park is a bear pit in the middle of the city that is home to several bears. They just hang out and do their thing and have room to swim. It’s not a bad gig and it’s the thing I was looking forward to seeing the most when I was in Bern. When we first got there, they were hiding from us. So, we ate at the gastropub overseeing the bear pit and they eventually came out. Pretty good food and drinks, too.

oi0001485013305329525131543.jpg

After hanging around the bear pits a little longer, we crossed over the big stone bridge and wandered the old town for a while. We looked at the cute boutique stores, saw city hall, and explored the Munster (Cathedral).

oi0001463702966956484300382.jpgoi0001455092768536384279922.jpgoi0001427570324590335005707.jpg

As we started walking along the streets in Old Town, we started seeing an increasing number of police in riot gear preparing for the protest. We figured the protest probably wouldn’t get too bad, but we were also kind of glad that we got a heads up about it. Otherwise, we’d be probably a little more confused and scared. As we got close to the train station, we did find a group of counter protesters who were carrying balloons and drinking coffee. It was pleasant, but we thought it’d be better to not test the waters and headed out back to town shortly after that.

All in all, glad I finally got to see Bern. It’s such a beautiful and charming city. What I’m sad I missed out on are the bear-shaped cakes, but I can save that for another day.

oi0001515476647243892120231.jpg