Friday, October 26, 2012

Touring Rigi

Tom and I have been working hard to get settled into our apartment so we can get on with just living here. Since most shops are closed on Sundays, we worked hard last Saturday and took Sunday off. We took our first local Swiss outing. Yes, we're residents here and tourists too. Some day we may be sharing what we find with folks who come visit (hint, hint).

Here's the level where we parked our car. We planned on hiking to the top. With a noon start and already puffing when we got to the sign that said the hike to the top was an estimated 4 hours, we headed back and bought train tickets. We may try again once we're in better shape for hiking and with an earlier start. There is always the train or cable car option and there is no shame in either. We took the train to the second to last stop - hike of only one hour. It was plenty.
cafe outside ticket office - Lake Lucerne

Cable car only goes part way up the mountain, but these cog trains go the whole way. The cog helps them from gathering too much speed on the way down too. 

There were several stops on the way - people actually live up there with only this means of access other than feet. Can't imagine it. 

No shortage of beautiful views

I had to sit down and  just happened to take a picture of this family out for a hike. The gaiters and lederhosen are so cute!

See the antenna in the picture at right? We're not at the top yet, but we'll get there.

This gives you an idea of the incline of the hike to the top. Red vehicle is one of the cog trains. I thought the building looked like huge Hershey kisses which surely do not belong in Switzerland!

We heard music coming from the final train station and had to go find out where it was coming from. We found this alp horn player. We didn't go close enough to see if he had a basket out for collecting coins or was just playing for fun.

several people chose the spot for para-sailing

The Swiss like red!

There are actually some hotels up on the mountain. They offer pick up at the train station and this could be your ride.

I lost my sunglasses early in the day, but by now Tom had helped me recover them. Since the trains only go up to the top and come back down, we had a chance to ask if anyone found them. So lucky. So why don't I have them on? I have no answer to that. 

Tourist or not, it was a beautiful day and we had a great time. We actually met someone originally from NJ in the parking lot before we left! He saw our NJ license plate. He's lived here for 20 years and loves it. Don't worry - we won't be here that long.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Happiness is....

Receiving the sea shipment. Especially being reunited with my pillow and bed (with sheets and no duvet)

Unhappiness is....

Discovering a few damaged items (Tom's chess table and both bikes)

Happiness is a garlic press! Before we got our shipment, I was doing my best to cook without left overs (no storage containers) using the equipment provided in the rental package. I didn't want to buy things that would be arriving soon. Tom and I like garlic and they do not sell prepared garlic in little jars here. I forgot what a pain it is to mince garlic by hand!

Unhappiness is discovering that the majority of cookware in the sea shipment will NOT work on the induction cook top. We had to purchase an assortment of pots and pans - an unexpected expense.

Happiness is choosing lights for the holes in the ceiling (hallway and most rooms) and finding an electrician for their installation.

Unhappiness is discovering that one of the ceiling fans doesn't work properly and the hallway lights won't fit in the holes.

Unhappiness is losing your sunglasses at the beginning of an excursion on a sunny day.

Happiness is the miracle of finding them!  (Thanks to Tom's ability to ask people on the train on its way back down the mountain.)


Denali's contribution:
Happiness is boxes to explore and being reunited with my condos and scratching post.

Unhappiness is door bells signaling the arrival of noisy men in groups (removing rental furniture, delivering shipment, cabinet assembly, repairmen). So many days spent in hiding!

Where in the world am I? (and by the way, what's the currency here?)

Within the last couple of weeks I've traveled close to home and farther afield. We took our first excursion using the excellent train service to go visit Opa (Gunther Zimmermann) near Cologne, Germany. We went to local grocery stores to buy provisions. (Euros) Now that Opa is a widower, he welcomed me into his kitchen and I cooked for all of us. It's nice to have a relative on this continent. 

Being an empty-nester allows me to travel with Tom as long as our cat sitter is available. He was participating in a panel at a conference in London. I took the opportunity to take a boat ride down to Greenwich. The Cutty Sark clipper ship has recently been reopened to tourists. No alcohol served with the entrance fee, however!


The Cutty Sark is no longer in water. You can walk under it and see its bottom. 
 I had to be the total tourist as long as I was in Greenwich: had to straddle the Prime Meridian. 


I explained (in English!) to the ticket seller in the Underground my day's plan. I thought I had the proper ticket for my day's excursions. (British Pounds) I took the Underground to Wimbledon so I could look around the grounds even if the tournament was not underway. First of all, you have to put your ticket back in the machine to exit. I learned this earlier in the morning when I walked directly into the gate. Ouch! Have the bruise to prove it. We don't have to put the tickets back in to exit the NYC subway. When I arrived in Wimbledon, my ticket wouldn't open the gate. I tried a few thinking the first was broken. Eventually one of the Underground employees checked my ticket and I had evidently traveled further than my ticket allowed. Trapped! She was quite cynical when she said that ticket sellers purposely sell the wrong ticket and then the passenger get hits with a big fine. I don't know if that's true or not, but was very glad to be allowed to exit without a fine. 

It is not immediately obvious when you exit the station where the tennis stadium is. I eventually found pedestrian walking signs. It estimated a 30 minute walk! I was not expecting that. I knew it would close shortly after arrival, but since I had ridden the train (partially for free) that whole distance, I decided to walk as quickly as I could. I arrived at The All England Lawn Tennis Club 15 minutes before closing! Phew! Too late for a tour, but I was inside the gate and of course, I was allowed to browse briefly in the gift shop. 

Next time I come, I want to see some matches!

Fred Perry - maybe one day there will also be a statue of Andy Murray  
Returning to London, I made sure to buy a supplemental ticket for the extra distance. Use the new ticket to enter the Underground, but the old ticket to exit. Are we trying to make it easy?

I had another morning in London to myself so I decided to go to the "Eye" which is new since my last visit. After I stepped in and it started to move, I said to myself "what did I just do?" I am not a fan of heights and I was now inside a giant glass ferris wheel. The views were great, but I didn't step too close to the glass.
passenger compartment

I'm near the edge, but I'm holding on - brave?
view from the "Eye"
cute London cab

We left in the afternoon for the next conference in Chicago. This conference was a company event with optional activities planned for the spouses and partners. Tom and I had just been in Chicago in March when we toured the Frank Lloyd Wright house, but I went again. I didn't have anything else to do anyway. (We had a whole day before the first conference dinner to shop - US dollars).

One of the other activities was an architectural bike tour. Here's our tour guide and some of the other participants. I didn't realize we would actually be riding on the streets of the city. As long as you are a group of more than three, you can take over a lane of traffic! Because of the traffic lights, there was a lot of starting and stopping, but we saw buildings that we wouldn't have otherwise. I can now say I saw the original Playboy mansion and where Oprah lives. 

I enjoyed the last part of the tour the best:  riding along Lake Michigan.
Unfortunately, we didn't have the same clear weather for the architectural boat tour. 

Here is the CEO's wife, a very friendly person. I look forward to seeing her again. 

It eventually started raining harder and we went for cover. Here is one of the few buildings we could see from below. You don't have the full effect here, but the towers look like giant corn cobs. They are all inclusive residential buildings. Shopping on the lowest levels, then layers of parking and apartments/condos on the top floors. The parking is open to the outside (with a guard rail). We noticed that all the cars were backed into the parking spots. I know people who don't like backing up - they wouldn't be fond of these parking arrangements.

I met lots of Zurich employees and spouses from all over the world gathered in Chicago. Some of them have lived in Zurich for much longer and they were able to give me advice for living here. It was very strange to realize we were talking about places in Zurich while in Chicago. My head was spinning. Now we're back in Switzerland and using Swiss francs. My wallet is glad to only have to accommodate one currency again. (I actually had a few pouches with me to keep the currencies separate.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Before the sea shipment - Ziegelmattstrasse 29, 8810, Horgen, Schweiz

I already posted pictures of the views from our apartment. Now I'll let you have a look inside. Since Tom took over the apartment in mid-July, it has been furnished very sparsely with rental furniture. Our container is being delivered tomorrow. Before the apartment is loaded with boxes (cause of another very stressful day for Denali), I’ll show you how it looks now. 

This door goes to the elevator. I had obviously “called it” and that’s why the button is red. The phone to the left of the door has a screen so I can see whoever rang the doorbell. I’m getting better at opening the door properly although people still don’t realize they can go on the elevator once I’ve sent it down for them. They insist they need the key. They are wrong. We’ve tested it, but I don't argue with them. 

Apartments and houses are usually equipped with very few built-in lights. (above shows one of the many holes in the ceiling waiting for a fixture to be installed) Also, there is no air conditioning here (in residences) and they do get some hot days.  So one of our first weekends here, we rented a car in order to do errands including light shopping. See the blue box in the first picture?  We opted for combination ceiling fans and lights. We’ll save on floor space and eliminate the risk of a playful cat knocking over stand fans. Fans installed today. Unfortunately, one makes a rhythmic thunk on every spin. The electrician took it back down. We will have an adventure trying to return it.  

Connected to the foyer is the “great room” for lack of a better term. It will have two seating areas eventually and the eating area. Now, it has a very uncomfortable couch and a table that arrived sticky and still is! Yuck.

The glass table is really a desk – at least that’s what we ordered. This room will be transformed into a combination guest room and office. (sleeps two - and has a pretty spectacular view)

This is where I’ve been keeping myself out of trouble. Horns came over in the air shipment and gave me something to do - only during daylight hours since there is no light in this room. This will eventually have Alicia’s bedroom furniture in it. (sleeps two and has the same awesome view)

As you may have noticed by now, all the rental furniture is from the furniture capital of Ikea! Another of our errands was to go to Ikea ourselves. We ordered "closets" since these bedrooms lack built-ins that Americans take for granted. They will be delivered and assembled next week. 

Becoming accustomed to European duvets and down pillows does not make me hate them less. I so look forward to my own bed, sheets and pillow! (yes, we have the view too!)

Once we have our goods from NJ, we can start making this apartment feel like our home. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

planes, trains and automobiles.... or should I say trams, trains and buses (with the occasional ferry)

We have yet to receive our sea shipment which means we don't have a car yet. Our apartment is within a 5 minute walk of the bus stop. Tom takes the bus to the local "bahnhof" or train station. From there he goes into "the city" (Zurich) and walks a block or two. All told, it's between 30-40 minutes door to door. A big improvement from the 90 minute one way commute from Westfield to NYC. 


Train interior - just like NJ Transit? Not. 

Double-Decker trains which are the kind NJT has gradually been bringing into operation

I've learned my way around Horgen by way of the bus line. At first, I walked to town to get my bearings, sometimes riding the bus home. Now that places are becoming familiar, everything seems closer. I still walk sometimes for the exercise. 

Once getting into Zurich, there are loads of trams criss-crossing the city. I've ridden some of them, but I still need to repeat the venture to feel comfortable with which line goes where. 

One thing is consistent among the trams, trains and buses: the doors do not automatically open when the vehicle comes to a stop. There is a button that you must push to make them open. On buses and trams, you also need to communicate to the driver via another button that you want to exit at the next stop. If you forget, it will take you longer to get wherever you're going!

Tom bought an annual ticket that lets him ride any of the public transportation within the Zurich region. I have a monthly ticket for our side of the lake up to Zurich. After we get the car, I'll decide what kind of ticket I need to continue. I am told that parking in Zurich is difficult so I will probably keep some kind of frequent passenger ticket.

Our village of Horgen is directly across the lake from Meilen. Ferries cross the lake at regular intervals. They accommodate cars and pedestrians. People use the ferries to avoid driving all the way around the lake and also just for amusement. There are plenty of tour boats and party boats visible from our balcony. 

So much of the public transportation is based on the honor system. There are no conductors walking the aisles checking tickets. There is the occasional check and I believe a steep fine if you do not have a ticket. Swiss people like rules and they obey them.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Grutzi! (This is the greeting that the Swiss exchange on the street, in shops, etc.) It’s been a short time since being transplanted. As the saying goes, "bloom where you're planted". I'm working on that. My roots are barely in the soil, but I'm gradually feeling more at home in Horgen. It feels a bit like camping or playing house since the apartment has so little furniture and what we do have is rented. We have to pay attention to how many glasses we use, for instance, because we only have a few. 

We are living in the only apartment on the top floor of a three story apartment building.  The elevator goes up to our floor only with our key or if we “call it” from inside. Learning how to answer the doorbell was a necessity. Hear the doorbell? Pick up the phone by the apartment door and speak to whomever is standing by the outside door and visible in the camera’s view. My first day alone, the doorbell did ring. No one said anything when I spoke in the phone and no one was visible in the screen. So, what to do? Nothing. I ignored it. Moments later, the doorbell at our stairs entrance rang. I had to grab a key and figure out how many times I had to turn it to get the door open. Then I was greeted by a delivery of an orchid from Tom’s office. Very nice of them and totally worth getting the door open! 

view from the kitchen 

One of the attractions of this apartment was its amazing views. I don't know which would appropriately be called the front or back. I will randomly assign the view of Lake Zurich as the front and the farm, the back. To either side are other identical matching apartment buildings. I have had the pleasure of seeing beautiful sunrises and sunsets already. I haven't tired of the views and suspect it won't ever get old. 

Walking the area to try to orient myself, I see and hear some familiar things: cars, shops, trains, and airplanes overhead. I also see and hear things that were not part of my daily life in Westfield, NJ: farm machinery cutting back corn stalks, orchards, cows and sheep with their different pitched bells, goats, the drum directing the crew of rowers on the lake, boys learning how to balance on surfboards in the lake, serious stacks of firewood, and birds on the top of the bathroom skylights. (The last one was a very scary experience for Denali.)

Sorry for the amateur video, but here are the neighborhood cows outside their gate. Who knew cows could run? The farmer (and drivers) were not pleased with the cows going in the street, but it made for an entertaining morning.

got firewood?

Within the last 18 months, Tom and I hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park, Yosemite and Peru. Now we can walk out of our apartment and go hiking. Here's a view of the lake and our apartment from a hike. We live near pirates. See the white building? You can't see the Jolly Roger pirate flag from this distance, but believe me it's there! Pirates, for sure. Our building is the second to its right, a safe distance.