I can finally say Iíve been skiing in the Alps now. Snowboarding, actually. I went with American co-worker to a place called Flims about 2 hours out of Zurich. My legs held up much better than I expected and we got lots of good runs in. It was fun, the sun was peaking through a fair amount, and the conditions were good. I finally realize now that the snowboard I had back at home was completely wrong for me. It was way too large. The rental I had was smaller and narrower and I now know what itís like to be in complete control. I didnít take a camera and nothing very eventful happen so Iím just using this as a jumping off point for a topic Iíve been meaning to write about for a while now.
People in Switzerland hate lines. They donít think the line is there for them. They just view it as an obstacle they need to overcome to get served. Itís so strange. Iíve never seen anybody actually cut right in the middle of a single file line, but we have often seen people just go straight to the front. They will sidle up along to the checkout and then just step up to the counter when the person being served is finished. This has happen personally to Chiz in a book store and almost happen to me at a department store but the cashier didnít let them get away with it in my case. I wish she had, because I was totally in the mood to call her out and ask what the hell she thought she was doing. This was a classic snotty Zurich woman too and it would have been immensely satisfying to bitch her out in English.
In places where actual lines are more amorphous, it is a complete free-for-all. Lunch counters and delis are insane. A dude will walk into a packed lunch spot, march straight to the front and begin to order. Nobody ever says anything about it. Itís just the Swiss way.
The other place this phenomenon is noticeable is in grocery stores when a new lane opens up. In America, the cashier will walk up to the person who is very next in line and tell them they are opening up a lane so they can be first. In Swizerland, the cashier will just open up the lane and the very last person in a different line will run to be first. Nobody seems to think it is strange. On a related grocery store note, the cashiers have this rule that if nobody is actually in line at that very moment, they close the lane completely. The store will be busy and it is clear more people will want to check out very soon, but they will not wait a single second if there is only one person in line. They will grab the ďLane closedĒ sign and put it on the conveyor belt right behind the items and stare you down if you make a move towards them. Then, two minutes later when the line you are in gets a bit long they will show up again from the break room and the last person in line will jump to the front of the new one.
So anyway, it was with somewhat humorous resignation that I let all the pushy Swiss people fight their way past me in the ski lines this weekend.
Got this from a friend, who has visited us in Zurich and loved it so much, she thought you all might also like the experience. It's short notice, but I thought I'd put it out there in case anyone considered coming to see us (or any of the other places on the list) Really great fares right now & you have a place to stay!
PORTLAND/SEATTLE--JANUARY 24, 2006-- United Airlines just
slashed fares from Portland and Seattle to more than 300
destinations across Europe and beyond.
Fares start at $230 each way.
You must book by February 7. You can travel through March
31. We found the lowest fares when traveling Monday-Thursday
and staying over a Saturday night. Weekend fares are
Sample fares (each way):
- Seattle-Frankfurt ... $230
- Seattle-Zurich... $230
- Seattle-London ... $253
- Seattle-Amsterdam ... $279
- Portland-Paris ... $284
- Seattle-Barcelona ... $309
- Portland-Rome ... $362
- Seattle-Cairo ... $449
- Portland-Johannesburg ... $748
Sample fares already include fuel surcharges, but taxes and
fees are extra.
For full details on this sale and to book directly through
United Airlines, click the link below. When you search on
United's site, prices will be roundtrip and include all
applicable fees and taxes.
Not a whole lot going on worth writing about these days. One bit of new news is that Chizzy has managed to squeeze in a couple days off in March and is now coming back to Seattle for the big wedding. Yippee. She will be in town from the 2nd through the 7th I believe.
Nice job yesterday, Seahawks. Although it's hard to verify the victory by reading the Web this morning. I guess the 81 points by Kobe has officially elevated him a couple notches above human. Frankly, I was surprised the ball hog hadn't already posted a number like this, but thankfully ESPN was there to put it in the proper perspective for me; "It will be talked about for decades. Where were you the night the Lakers' No 8 went for 81 points, the second-most in NBA history?" I am already eagerly anticipating the day, decades from now, when a wide eyed child will stop me on the street and ask where I was the night Kobe Bryant scored the second highest point total in NBA history. Iím not a sports nut, but I do enjoy a good Seattle bandwagon when it rolls into town. Too bad for us we canít really jump on it over here. Iím pretty sure they will show the Super Bowl on TV. They did last year. Iíll be watching on the Internet in the worst case scenario and thinking about the excitement. We had a tentative weekend in Paris planned for Super Bowl weekend, which just may need to be scrapped now.
Had plans to go skiing this past weekend, but they fell through and have been pushed back to this weekend. I shall soon experience what a year of muscle atrophy feels like. I imagine it really really hurting.
Chizzy, however, had no problems following through with her plans of a girls shopping day. I managed to score a couple shirts out of that deal.
Finally had to join a guild in World of Warcraft a while back since I now have a level 60 character. There is simply nothing to do as a solo character when you reach the final level. The entire game now consists of joining into parties of 10 or more to fight for two plus hours to reach bosses that drop random equipment. On the off chance something drops that your character can actually use, you then have to randomly beat out anybody else in the party who needs it. Itís still amazingly fun though. I have now personally been to the site of the famous Leeroy Jenkins fiasco and it makes the video even funnier. That room they plan so carefully to enter can simply be walked through if you donít step in the wrong places.
Saw Memoirs of a Geisha this weekend. Liked it quite a bit. Saw that Dick and Jane movie the weekend before that. Unbelievably awful second half. Saw The Constant Gardner the weekend before that. Pretty good, pretty good.
Actually managing to forget more German than I am learning. I may have already told you that.
Up to about 14 cups of coffee a day. Joking. 12.
Playing the piano daily and actually using the Coldplay and Keane sheet music that I got as Christmas gifts.
Going to Tornio, Italy for the Winter Olympics in a few weeks. Have secured tickets for the ski jump finals and the womenís half pipe events. That should be freakin incredible.
Giving up on pronouns.
The on again/off again cycle of raman noodles as primary dietary sustenance is most definitely on again.
Still no visible signs of becoming European that I can see, but then I probably wouldnít be able to tell if they were there. Canít say the same for Chiz. Any day now I expect to see her sporting the Ďboot roll-upí or the Ďshe-BOPí. These are names we have given to the knee high boot fashions here that involve the rolling up of the pants and tucking the pants into the boot (Boot Over Pants = BOP), respectively. The Ďhe-BOPí is obviously the male equivalent and is an extremely rare and exciting event. I have only seen it once and the boots and pants involved were both shiny black leather which required a very keen eye and a double-take to verify. I consider it to be my finest fashion spotting moment.
I was thinking more about it and it seems like a reasonable top 10 list to pull together would be to rank some of the cities we were lucky to have visited in 2005. We actually were able to hit a fair number of places this past year and my memory is fading fast so Iíd better get this recorded before I forget whether I liked a place or not. You will be able to tell from this list that Chizzy and I are strictly tourism travelers and we havenít strayed outside the safety of Europe yet. We were not roughing it in any sense of the word so you wonít see any tucked away secluded villages on here. Many of these cities we just hit on a weekend jaunt so my ranking is mainly just a Ďfirst impressioní kind of thing. These are my rankings in a countdown, excitement-building format. Iím sure Chiz would have a different list.
10 - London
I like big cities in general. The crowds and activity just suck you in. It is great to stand on a street corner and have all four directions look like they hold something interesting. I was really looking forward to England because we wouldnít have any language concerns, but ironically most people in the service industry didnít seem to understand me or speak good English at all. Might have ranked higher if our hotel room wasnít disgusting.
9 - Munich
Iíve wanted to check out Germany since sixth grade when I chose it as the topic of my country report. As with most of these European cities, the history is what makes them interesting and the WWII connection here was the highlight. We also got to see a fair number of traditionally dressed Bavarians drinking from enormous steins so we got our stereotypical view as well. Aside from a few bits of history and men in short pants, this pretty much could have been any medium/large US city.
8 - Vienna
Had high hopes for this city when we put it on the travel agenda for my folks visit. It certainly had the great feel of a European city with the outdoor dining and old buildings, but it was all just a bit too spread out and the amount of construction (while probably a great economic indicator) sucks for sight seeing. If you are into museums, opera, and classical music youíd probably find this place more interesting.
7 - Bern
Just a short train ride away from our home base here you will find number 7 on my list. The capitol of Switzerland. You probably couldnít even kill a weekend here, but this city is just unlike anything I have seen before. The geography of the town is really unique with the river and although the main street is high above the water, you feel like you are walking through a valley with the unending wall of shops. At first, I thought it was a bummer that the trams just barrel down that main street, but after a couple more visits I think it really adds to the uniqueness.
6 - Tallinn
Our most recent destination. This city just came out of nowhere from my perspective. Chiz had visited here many years ago and though it would be a bit of a unique place to spend our first anniversary. It didnít disappoint.
5 - Brussels
This was one of the very first cities we decided to visit which might be why it sticks out as so great. It was the first place that I realized the whole European feel of sidewalk cafes, narrow and winding cobblestone streets, and sweet looking old buildings were really a lot of fun. We worked the food correctly here too. The mussels in Brussels are amazing.
4 - Zermatt
Another Swiss city. More like a village really. A mountain village. A ski village. A ton of fun with J and CM here. And the Matterhorn? Come on! The Matterhorn! I owe a proper post on this place.
3 - Stockholm
Stockholm is fantastic. Itís got everything. Old city. New city. Fresh water. Salt water. Islands. Amusement park. Pippi Longstocking. It was great.
2 - Rome
Major debate between Rome and number 1 for top honors. Hands down, this city is far and away the best place I have ever been in terms of seeing some incredible sights. Absolutely incredible.
1 - Paris
Also some incredible sights to be seen here, but Paris wins out mainly because it is a city you feel like you could spend a lot of time in. In fact, weíve been to Paris more than any other city on this list and I canít wait to go back. Itís huge and crowded and very spread out, but it just doesnít seem to matter here. You can just walk around and get lost and always feel like you are having a great time. I wanted to hate Paris, but itís just not possibleÖ itís the winner.
Weíre still here. We wish a super-happy-fun 2006 to anybody who is reading this. Anybody who isnít reading can just have a mediocre year for all we care. They had a pretty impressive firework display down at the lake. For some reason, the fireworks looked different than the kind I am used to seeing. Not sure how to describe it. Less circles, I think. Or it could have been the alcohol. You can drink outside so everybody brought bottles of champagne down there and some cups to toast. It worked out pretty well. Beforehand, we had a few peeps over from Chizzyís work. She was in hostess mode all day long and did a ton of great appetizers. Nobody touched the stuffed chilies, but the stuffed mushrooms were a bit hit. Also, we put the Starbursts out that the Montgomeryís sent us to add a bit of American flair, but nobody commented on them. I donít know why I am telling you any of this. There isnít even a punchline.
We hope your Christmas was also good (unless you arenít reading this in which case it could have just been average for all we care). Did you know that the Santa Claus figure here also has an Ďevilí counterpart that travels alongside to scare children into being good? Itís true. Children are legitimately scared of this fellow. He is called Schmutzli and dresses in a black robe and even paints his face black (yeah, I knowÖ wouldnít fly in the US). Itís no wonder they are scared of him... look at the legend:
...if a child had been bad, Schmutzli would put him or her in his sack and carry him into the forest to be beaten. Other accounts speak of Schmutzli actually eating children for misbehaviour or tossing them into a river.
I hope nobody got hurt in the War on Christmas back there. There is no war here. Everybody seems to happily call it Christmas (or Weihnachten). The big debate was all about the fancy new lights they strung down the Bahnhofstrasse this year. Here is a very bad photo of them.
They just look like lame fluorescent tubes hanging side by side, but they actually were pretty fancy because they were rigged up to do light shows along the length of the street. Think downtown Vegas to get an idea. I guess the lights are normally more traditional.
I had big plans to do the whole 2006 prediction thing or maybe a top 10 list of 2005, but that isn't going to happen. Don't know why I'm telling you this. There isn't even a punchline.
We also use the calendar year to roughly mark the date that we came out to Europe. So, for those not playing along that would make it one full year that we have been here now. Time is so strange. It seems like such a long time ago that we were living in France or even the Attic, but it doesn't feel like a long time ago that we were sitting out on the patio at Nectar telling our friends we were coming here. Iím coming back in mid Feb. to ramp up for the culminating Lewis wedding on March 4th so that should be fun times. Chizzyís contract has her on US holiday benefits still so she wonít be able to join. Nobody here believes two weeks a year is a normal vacation benefit in the states. Lazy mugs.