Raclette Party

IMG_0894So, yeah. We knew we were going to have to buy a raclette machine for our house, and we ordered one with Christmas money (thanks Mom and Dad!), and it arrived last week. We didn’t buy one in Switzerland for several reasons. Mainly because it is very heavy. Also mainly because the European ones work on 240 volts. Also mainly because they are probably more expensive there.

With friends coming over for dinner, it seemed the perfect time to try it out. I waited too long to buy raclette cheese at Trader Joe’s. I learned that it is a seasonal item, out around Thanksgiving and gone by now. No worries, the Cheese Cave in Claremont carries it, and they will slice it for you. That’s a good thing since I don’t have that kind of slicer in my kitchen.

It’s fun to share our new traditions with friends, and we plan to have more raclette parties.



Why We MUST Return to Switzerland

One always thinks there will be IMG_4024time for things, and in the end, there is not quite enough time. I feel as though we did not squander time this year and saw an amazing amount of sights and cities and natural beauty, but as we went along, our list of must-sees kept growing. Like Sisyphys with that rock.

If we do come back to Zürich for our next sabbatical, I think I would like to spend more time in the German-speaking parts of Europe and explore them in more depth. We hardly touched Austria, and I would love to spend much more time there. We only really saw Munich, Berlin and a bit of the Black Forest in Germany (and we can’t forget Wuppertal!).

Here is the beginning of my list for what I would like to see in Switzerland that we did not get to this year. This list is not exhaustive!

In Zürich

Helmhaus and Wasserkirche

The rubber duck race on the Limmat River

Thermal Baths

More museums (after we’ve recovered from this year of museums)

Other museums outside of Zürich

Tinguely in Basel

Technorama in Wintertur

Transportation Museum in Luzern

Rozengart Collection in Luzern

Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern


The Schilthorn and the Jungfraujoch. I am embarrassed to say we did not see these this year. We saw them from below, but we MUST get to the top!

The Glacier Express, or other classic train travel.


Aletsch Glacier. Read about the adventures of the Two Small Potatoes there.

Lugano and Locarno in Ticino

Klangweg – a hiking trail with musical instruments along the way

Klöntal Valley

Mt. Pilatus

That seems a good start to a list, no?

More Fun at the Glasi

IMG_1166While we were waiting for our glass creations to cool, we wandered through other parts of the Glasi complex. Stop one, the picnic table overlooking the lake. Nidwalden is one of the original Swiss cantons, one of the Vierwaldstätter (Four Forest States) and sits alongside part of the Vierwaldstättersee (otherwise known as Lake Lucerne).

One large room at the Glasi houses an archive of many glass products from the plant from the 19th C to the present, and one sign said that the items in that case were not cleaned, I assume because they could damage them. They just wanted to let you know that they were not being neglectful, I suppose.

We skipped over the Glass Labyrinth which requires gloves, booties for your shoes and an additional fee. You can watch their video of it and listen to a little bit of Swiss German.

The Phenomenal Glass section might have been our favorite part. We played with over 70 hands-on explorations of glass, from musical instruments to visual and other aural effects.

Since it ended up NOT raining (our “excuse” for heading to a museum on Saturday), we headed out to the Glasi Park where we were entranced by the marble run made out of glass. For 5 CHF you could buy 10 glass marbles and run them through the maze which made a variety of sounds through the different glass pieces. I tried to find a youtube video of this, but came up empty.

There was also a cool dragon in the park.

No trip to the works would be complete without a trip through the two stores. Store 1 is for prime glass pieces. Store 2 is for seconds – pieces with slight flaws. We don’t particularly want to bring back glass on the plane, so we passed through without a purchase, although these glasses would be an interesting conversation starter.


Glass Blowing in Hergiswil

At this point in our year, some of our weekend IMG_1168plans involve figuring out how to get to the remaining cantons we have not yet visited. First we look at the weather report. Saturday was supposed to have some severe thunderstorms in many places with at least some regular showers, too.

Looking for a good indoor activity, I stumbled upon the Glasi Hergiswil in the canton of Nidwalden. Their website showed that there is an SBB Railaway Deal which includes transport, admission, and the chance to blow a glass ball (under supervision) to keep as a souvenir.

A visit to the Glassworks involves several activities. The first requires an understanding of German, or a willingness to look at things and not understand what is being said. After you enter the museum, you wait for the door to open and go in with a group of people to a dark room where certain things are illuminated and you start hearing a voice telling you the history of glass making. The small herd of people then moves from room to room following the light and learning more about the history of glass making in Hergiswil. At least we think this is what was happening. We understood some of it, but if you want specific details, you’ll have to ask someone else.

After the introduction, you spill out onto a viewing platform above the glass factory floor where about 12-15 men are blowing glass. We probably spent a good 15-20 minutes just watching them, as they have quite a rhythm going for each item they make.

Also housed on the platform is the place where visitors may blow their own glass ball. Our Railaway ticket included this little extra, so we waited in line, watching other people to see what it entailed. If so inclined, we could pay an additional 5 CHF to have a photo and a youtube video made, but we thought we would shoot our own photos. This video is of one of the girls who went just before we did.

You could choose if you wanted a ball with striations or just plain, and we chose one of each. The friendly professional did the lion’s share of the work, sticking the glass in the furnace, rolling it, scoring it, etc. and when it was your turn, you got to puff into the tube about three times. At one point he kept telling me to do something, and I could not understand it until H told me that I was supposed to hold the tube with my hands. Ah.

Then he showed it to you to see if you approved (isch guet!) and then put it aside for at least 20 minutes before you could pick it up. After we got home, I read the instructions, and it said (in English) that because these don’t cool the best way, they may break within a month or a year, or maybe not. So we’ll see if these even get packed to go to the US.


Tomorrow: More Fun at the Glasi

Laughing with Sylvia Day

On Friday the American Women’s Club was treated to a little comedy improv by Sylvia Day. Sylvia is an American Expat in Zürich since 1995 and is promoting her upcoming IMG_5879show, Summer of Love.  For our Friday Coffee Morning she had each of us write down a line from a movie, a song, a poem, or something and put it in an envelope.

She proceeded to choose someone from the audience with whom to improvise, and their prompt from the audience was that they were sisters sharing an iPhone.

They would pull out phrases from the envelope to incorporate into their dialogue.

IMG_5877After I got home, I looked her up on youtube and found this sketch in which she plays an American, then a Swiss, and finally a Brazilian who are in a competition for Miss Sales Associate of the World. I thought that the Swiss Sales Associate was so funny. It starts at about 3:49 in the video.

I have heard stories about not being able to return items to a store here in der Schweiz. I have not tried to return anything, so I can’t say for sure, but I would believe it. I have also heard a story that if you want to return something because you change your mind, all you have to say is that your husband doesn’t like it. Wow.

Under the Big Top: The Circus Knie

Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 10.30.01 AMI’d never been to a circus. I watched Bozo’s Circus on tv as a child, but after I read Gentle Ben by Walt Morey in grade school, I decided that I didn’t want to see trained animals.

However, Switzerland’s biggest (or is it only?) circus, the Knie is in town, and my friends convinced me to experience a piece of Swiss culture. So we plunked down our 20 CHF each and went (on a school night!) down to Sechseläutenplatz to be entertained.

The Circus Knie, founded in 1803 by Friedrich Knie (in Salzburg, Austria) is based down Lake Zürich in Rapperswil and goes to 38 Swiss towns throughout the spring and summer until October. They’ve been in Zürich for about a month, but in other towns they may only stay two days. I can’t imagine the amount of work it takes to move the whole shebang. It’s a lot of shebang. Over 200 people work for the family-owned company.

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This poor-quality photo shows the intimate size of the arena.

As for animals, there are many, many horses and three elephants. No lions or tigers. The horses were particularly beautiful, and at one point there were about 40 of them in the small ring, all choreographed like a marching band. One of them looked like an idealized My Little Pony with long, long white locks. Some of the manes were braided. Some just very long and silky. The miniature horses were adorable.

I was torn about watching the elephants, hoping that they get a good chance to roam in a bigger space when they aren’t performing. Such intelligent, magnificent creatures.

The acrobatics took up the bulk of the show and since the tent is not huge, we felt as though we were up close and could see just how much strength, skill and grace the performers possessed.

There was only one clown, and he did not wear face paint, but did a good job of interacting with the audience. The ventriloquist was funny, and I liked the live orchestra/band music.

During the intermission one could purchase a variety of snacks, including beer, but no cotton candy or peanuts. We remarked that this felt Swiss to us in that everything was very clean and that it didn’t have a run-down feel to it like small circus’ in the US (like I would know….)


In the end, I was entertained and am glad we went.

Biking Around Zürich

IMG_5688When you borrow a free Züri Rollt bike in Zürich, here are some of the fun places you can to show your visiting family.

Ride along the lakefront and see some of the sculptures.

Go to the Botanical Gardens.

Have a Mövenpick Ice Cream Cone.

Go into the parking structure underneath the Opera house and look at the archaeology exhibit.

Where do YOU like to take your guests in Zürich?