Sunday, September 29, 2013

September fly by

September has always felt like a short month to me, and this year was no exception. My parents visited for three weeks, and in that time we managed to see a bit of Germany (Munich), Austria (Salzburg, which unfortunately was a bit of a rained out mess), and Italy (Milan). We also did more tourist-type activities around Zurich than I'd done in my previous 7 months combined, including a wonderful afternoon at the Zurich zoo, a boat trip on Lake Zurich, and visits to three of the main churches in town. We also trimmed hedges, dug up my entire garden, planted various bulbs for next spring, painted a bookshelf, organized the basement storage, picked apples/made homemade applesauce, and my amazing mother hemmed a set of curtains (by hand!). Busy times.

Before departing for Munich, I watched a few lectures from the "Great Courses" (photography) series my parents had bought me before departing Boston - yes, about 8 months late. I was eager to try out my newfound expertise 45-minutes-of-knowledge and ended up taking well over 1500 photos in an attempt to learn more about both photography and my specific camera (a Nikon D3200). And what I learned was - well, I learned I want a more versatile lens. But! I also learned a lot about aperture and shutter speed and how to mess around with them. Good times.

So when we returned, I was all excited about playing around with the photos after the fact and posting stunning photos. Unfortunately, my poor 4-year old MacBookPro has single-digit GBs of memory free (as in, 2 or 3 GB), so I can't download my photos onto my computer. Boo. Hopefully I'll get an external hard drive in the next week and treat you all to magnificent works of art pictures that don't suck. In the meanwhile, I downloaded and am posting just one or two representative pictures from each outing as proof samples.

In other news, my German continues to be spotty (some encounters leave me triumphant, one has left me in tears of frustration), I think that I finally have what the Swiss consider a complete job application package (I'll find out this week if a picture of my PhD diploma counts as a "copy of my certification"), and I took on the position of managing editor for the bimonthly publication of the AWCZ - October, bring it on!

Bavaria, the statue:

Unfortunately this picture gives no sense of her size, but as per Wikipedia, she is 18 and a half meters tall (I originally typed it as '18.52,' but the period doesn't show up well, and I didn't want anyone to think she was near 2 km tall). 

Rainy view of Salzburg:

View of the river Salzach. The large building in the foreground is the Salzburg cathedral.

The (unbelievably enormous) Duomo in Milan:

Nice cathedral. BIG.

View from the Duomo roof back over the Piazza Duomo. An entrance to famous shopping area Galeria Vittorio can be seen to the right. Sorry for the crane ruining the shot. Zurich has the same problem ("Oh, look, what a beautiful cityscape - crap, never mind.") 

Zurich zoo:

Three tapirs and a capybara walk into a bar...

It's a llama! Or an alpaca. But definitely not a vikunya or a guanaco (yes, the zoo had all four). My Peruvian husband had only a 50% success rate in identifying the various types, so I don't feel bad.

Lake Zurich and mountains:

Yep, that's snow. I plan to try another outing on a clearer day (who wants to come visit and go with me?).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


B and I leave tomorrow morning for a week's vacation, and I have many errands and cleaning to do. So, of course, I prioritized a blog post.

Things have been pretty quiet here the past few weeks. The weather is turning cooler and the air has picked up a crispness that I cannot get enough of. The berries are slowly starting to disappear from the supermarket shelves, sadly, but are being replaced with dozens of apples and various gourds. Fall has definitely arrived.

This past weekend, Zurich held one of its major local festivals (the other, Sechseläuten, is held in April) called Knabenschiessen. I had never heard of the festival, and for a beginner's guide, this Newly Swissed article briefly gives its history. Literally translated, it means 'boys' shooting' - an ambiguous term at best (are the boys doing the shooting or being shot themselves? Luckily, it's the former). Apparently, the Zurich canton started the festival back in the 1890s as a way to get boys interested in their upcoming mandatory military service (a service requirement that is still in effect today). In order to participate, boys must be between 13 and 17 and live or otherwise be affiliated with the canton of Zurich (either through parents or school). In 1991, the competition opened to girls of the same age. It's a sharpshooting contest, and the children are scored out of a maximum of 35 points.

The festival starts on Saturday, and students in the Zurich canton are given a half day of school on Monday, the final day of the festival. The main street taken over by carnival rides and vendor tents is the street where B works, so I headed up there on Monday afternoon to take a gander.

A trolley that (I believe) took families/children directly to the shooting range. I chose to go the long route - a choice that resulted in me never actually reaching the actual destination.
 My first impression was that the street fair was much, much bigger than I expected. 'Traditional' street fair booths, such as jewelry, food, and schoggifrüchte (schoggi is Swiss german for chocolate - in other words, chocolate dipped fruit), abounded, but there were also many, many booths that were less traditional. My two personal favorites were a pillow vendor, which seemed rather deserted, and a live plant auction, which was doing a surprisingly booming business.
He had a lot of plants to sell.

I was disappointed to see that this abbreviation has made its way across the Atlantic.
Candy stand. I refrained. I'm so strong.

A textile booth with an interesting mix of traditional Swiss patterns/embroidery (left) and patterns from further afield (right).

An American flag! Selling hot dogs and corn on the cob - the latter, frankly, looked a little withered, to my disappointment.

This booth was quite busy with a young female clientele. I admit, I got one of these in my hair on a high school trip to Montreal. I thought it was awesome. I failed to think about the later consequence of having to cut it out of my hair.

A random geek booth. It had some impressive statues.

Yes, I wanted to buy one of these. ADORABLE BABY DRAGONS, what's not to love?

My second impression was that I was a fish out of water. I was at the fair for an hour, and not only did I hear no English, I also didn't hear any other languages (except German). In a city where 50% of the population are Auslanders, I'd finally stumbled into the Swiss population.

A traditional Swiss organ grinder! Wait, what?
I'm sorry to report that I never made it out of the kilometers of tents to actually witness the shooting competition (I'm not great in crowds). I did, however, treat myself to a skewer of chocolate-dipped pineapple and strawberries and some Chnoblibröt, garlic bread. And refrained from buying a palm tree from the persuasive-even-in-Swiss-German auctioneer, so B is probably grateful for that.

Ok, if you insist.

Garlic bread! The tag line underneath reads "against Vampires and small hunger."
It was greasy, oily, and very, very garlicky. Mission accomplished.