J sent me this sweet picture of Zurich he screen-captured while playing around with Google Earth. It's pretty much the coolest map I have ever seen. One thing I hadn't seen before was the ability to rotate and change line of sight. You'll see what I mean if you first get a broadband connection and download this bad boy. One thing you'll probably want to do is to turn on the 3D Buildings layer from the checkbox list. This will combine the whole thing with satellite images of the location so you can see the buildings and streets and all the other good stuff.
Our apartment location is identified on this map too. It's pretty sweet but I'll bet I could get a more scenic one from the Queen Anne house where we lived. I'll post that if I get around to it.
The bulletin board forum is up and rocking courtesy of Mr. Piro. If you were a fan of the old chizzyandbryan site, you will enjoy this even more. Even if politics isn’t your bag, you can chime in on sports, celebrity gossip, or any topic you feel like talking about. Let the good times roll.
This is a story about an actual restaurant, here in Zurich, which serves meals in total darkness. We're talking pitch black, can't see your hand in front of your face as much as you try. It's a bit eerie and you THINK your eyes will adjust throughout the meal, but they don't. You are blind. I’ve read several different accounts on how the idea came about for this dining experience, but all point to the same thing…Reverend Jorge Spielmann, blind himself, wanted to give sighted people the opportunity to experience the world of the blind.
If you walk out of our apartment building and take a right, you’ll find the “Blind Cow” one block down on the right. Apparently this is a world renowned restaurant, though I had never heard of it before. Blindkuh is the name in German and it comes from the Swiss equivalent of the children's game “Blind Man’s Bluff."
Views from outside and inside the restaurant.
Two months ago, the six of us (seven now) sitting in our little office in Zurich, decided that we wanted to try this out, so we booked a reservation for June 21st. When we arrived, we entered a well-lit lobby with the menu projected on one wall. We were instructed to remove all watches, phones and purses (they had lockers for these). There is no place on the floor for a purse and who knows how big the table is. Taking a mental note of what we wanted to eat, we were then greeted by a waitress. We were lucky to have 3 German-speakers among our group, as very little English was spoken by the staff. She guided us into this dimly lit hallway, where we were told to grab onto one another’s shoulders and make a train. When we walked through those heavy drapes and hit the darkness, my stomach dropped…immediate loss of appetite. It was a strange, unsettling feeling, mostly because I just didn’t realize how dark it would be. The hunger came back after just a few minutes and I rather enjoyed the experience of listening to people (even though I couldn’t understand the German). I’ve heard that this place is pretty popular for blind dates, where they arrange for you to arrive and be seated at separate times. You don’t see each other until after you’ve had a meal in the dark, and even then you don’t have to see each other. You can run far, far away before the other one can catch up.
She sat us down one by one and told us where our glass was, took our orders, brought us drinks, told us where the refill water bottle was with respect to our glass, brought our food, and at that point one girl from our group couldn’t take it anymore and had to leave. The Swiss guy in our group called out the waitress’ name a good three times and she finally came over to help our colleague out into the light. We found out later that this girl ate her food at a little kids’ table in the lobby and that the food looked like it tasted – pretty good, not great.
During the meal there were a lot of threats and promises spewing from our table:
“Next time I’m gonna bring Tabasco Sauce and put it in people’s drinks”
“You can’t see me so I’m going to steal your food”
“I don’t want to get anything on my shirt so I’m just going to take it off”
Also, some money on the table for dares:
“I’ll give you 20 Francs to get up and run toward the exit. Ha. Ha. Ha.”
And then just ridiculous laughter about where the exit would actually be. (In the lobby they have a floor plan and you can figure out afterwards where you were sitting).
Another memorable comment was, “what if there was a fire, how could we see where the exit is?”
There was also a lot of eating with the hands and they were nice enough to give us washrags after we were through.
It would be really hilarious to see the infrared video of this meal.
You can listen to NPR's experience here.
Has anyone else been following this obscene public display of 'romance?' I'm not denying they actually love each other, but I can't help but think it's too sappy to be real. If you watched the MTV Movie Awards, you would have raised your eyebrows too when an unbelievable Katie presented an award to her new man. I didn't see the show that TC put on in his Oprah interview, but I can only imagine she was returning the favor when she did this arms in the air, 'I'm a champ' pose. It was just weird. I like Miss Holmes, but I'm a little surprised by her public composure these days. Maybe she's just giddy over this new relationship, which reminds me of the JLO/Ben pairing. Can you believe she went and got Tom tattooed to her chest?
You may have noticed there has been very little activity in the Observations and Fun With Culture categories on this site. When I was picking out the categories, I thought those two would get used a lot. They sounded like they would be the most fun to write and probably to read. It’s been bugging me a bit so I tried to figure out why I wasn’t using them. Sadly, I realized it probably has a lot to do with how relatively little I have interacted with the culture here so far.
I remember when I told my friends we were moving out here, some of them actually went so far as to say the experience might be wasted on me. Sure, I never had the travel bug like most of them, but I figured even I would find a way of enjoying the adventure. For the record, I have been enjoying it a lot… but not as much as I probably could. I’m not an outgoing person in terms of meeting people. This is definitely a city where you have to go out of your way to meet somebody and that just isn’t one of my strengths. I think it’s just a matter of time. The language thing could be big. You will definitely be hearing about the first German conversation I have outside of class. That will be huge.
I asked these bankers to pretend like they were my friends and do a happy pose. They just gave me blank banker stares.
It’s not an oversight that I typed that completely in the first person without referring to Chizzy at all. That is because when I think of the times I am probably not interacting to my full potential it is during the week, when she is at work and I have a pretty good amount of free time. When I say she is busy with work here, I am referring the 12 hour days every day. So, Chiz gets a lot of interaction at work and when we spend time together on weekends we have a great time and I think we are taking advantage of our situation pretty well.
So, even though they are not going to start off as any great social or political insights that I had in mind for these sections, I’m going to try to use them more often. I have started with an entry about the Zurich Trams.
You know how advertisements for housing will say “on a bus line” or “near public transportation”? Except for a brief stint in college when it was a necessity, this has never been a big plus for me. In fact, I usually would associate a nearby bus stop as a possible hindrance to a good night’s sleep. What with rowdy teenagers or mentally disabled people shouting at themselves at all hours of the night. Unless there was absolutely no other possible option, I would never take a bus in Seattle. You can judge me with that information if you want, but then again you are probably somebody I know and I didn’t have any friends who took the bus unless absolutely necessary either. Those who did never liked having to do it. So when I heard about all the great public transportation systems in many European cities, I generally just shrugged and thought ‘whoopdy frikin doo’. Our brief stay in France didn’t do much to change my mind either. With that background in mind, I have to say, the public transportation in this city is great.
I spend about 45 minutes a day on the Zurich trams. It is one aspect of living here that I think I have a pretty good handle on. It isn’t a chore to take a tram or to figure out how to get somewhere. They are amazingly clean and amazingly abundant which means they are not often packed and you can find a seat easily. Many locations in the city are serviced by more than one line and there are numerous hubs which make for great people watching. And, of course, their punctuality is world famous. Not that it would even matter if the tram showed up at 12:26 instead of 12:24 like the timetable says because the next one is only 7 minutes behind it. Unless you are traveling at night or early in the morning, you don’t need to have a timetable at all. Also, the nice color coding makes it easy to spot which tram is heading your way and to read the tram map.
Here is the stop next to our apartment. Chiz is partial to the 4 since it is the purple line, but I'm a die hard number 2 man.
The trams are so popular that one of the ex-pat events I attended (Chiz was out of town) was based around which tram line was the best...Continue reading "Tramtastic"...
I’ve completed a bit over a month of German class. After the initial two week introduction, the class size grew quite a bit and now there are more adults. Still nobody speaks English though (including the teacher), which I find odd only because everybody else in the city seems to speak it fine. We lost the gal from Beirut but added a guy from Bosnia, two guys from Brazil, a guy from Italy, and a woman from Portugal. The damn kids are still in there. We got a new teacher as well. He is from Austria originally and looks exactly like you would picture a German teacher to look. He’s really cool though and ends up laughing quite a bit as we struggle through.
The pace of the class has really picked up and we are now in the midst of learning all the good stuff. Having 6 different words for ‘the’ can be confusing to a lad from Lacey. For example, one of the practice sentences would have translated word for word to: Now, open the man the child the door. The meaning of the sentence once you replace ‘the’ with the correct cases is: Now, the man opens the door for the child. Just for completeness for those learning at home, the actual German sentence was: Jetzt, öffnet der Mann dem Kind die Tür. You can see how practical my understanding is so far.
We had a test on Thursday and got the results back on Friday. The scale here, from worst to best, is 1 to 6. I got a 5 which was the second best grade in the class behind the Italian dude. The grades the children got brought them to tears. If they would stop messing around a pay attention maybe they wouldn’t cry like little babies.
Anyway, not terribly interesting but this is pretty much what I’ve been up to (aside from working very hard, J and Steve) so that is what you get to read today. It could be worse. You could be reading about what Chizzy does from day-to-day, which from what I can gather involves a lot of trying to figure out how to get a data storage device shipped from the Netherlands to the UK.
I'm sorry I took that last thread down. You know I never edited or removed anybody's comments on the old site. I do like having content that people enjoy reading and commenting on, but those conversations just didn't seem to fit here and certainly the flat comment mechanism is not a good tool to host that type of forum.
Don't be sad though, because Piro has verbally committed to actually doing something useful with his domain and get a bulletin board going for these very discussions. He said my site is better because people read it, but I think the three of us will be able to find his site. I’m posting this here essentially to call him out and get him going on it. Steve can help you if you want, Piro. Thanks for volunteering, Stever.
I look forward to pointing all my readers to his site when he gets it going.
Finally after 5 months of 60 plus hour weeks, I managed to take a week off. The city of choice was Prague. Carolyn and I managed to get in a lot during our trip. Our itinerary was something like this:
Day 1 – Checked in to the hotel where we had this fantastic view of the Astrological Clock. We had heard a lot about the hourly display so we were happy to have arrived about 10 minutes before it went off. A bell started to ring, the little figures on the side of the clock started making some mechanical movements and then the windows opened up. Several little statues passed by the window, the rooster crowed and it was over. Didn’t live up to the build up, but it certainly was worth it being able to watch the crowds gather every hour and gauge the bewilderment and disappointment, followed by cheers and laughter.
We got our names on our mailbox the other day. This was a huge step for us because having your name on the box is required for apartment living. There are no apartment numbers here. You just have the street and number for an address. We share this building with at least two buinesses, so it's fun to think what would happen if somebody with my name started working at one of them. HAHAH.. . whooo
Having your name on the mailbox means you can order things like broadband Internet access to your apartment. And then that package with the cable modem can arrive, but be too large to fit in the mailbox and you may not be at home because you are at German class so the Brieftrager leaves you a friendly note that you can pick it up at the post office. And then you walk a half block to pick it up at the post office which also doubles as a bank where you may open a bank account with the same nice folks that will mail your packages afterwards. This is the same post office that will not be receiving any mail from your credit card company who has employed a customer service individual who choose SZ (Swaziland) from a pulldown menu instead of CH (Switzerland) when entering your new address and are secretly happy about because you are not even the least bit curious if moving out the country is enough of a barrier for them to stop sending you junk mail. Then you bring the package home by flashing a Washington State Drivers License and can finally network your snazzy new desktop machine that has essentially sat useless without Internet access for four months and update your website with a story that touches a little bit on Swiss living while telling a story about getting your name on a mailbox.