Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day Trip to Geneva

We've been residents of Switzerland over a year and still never been to Geneva. The American Women's Club sponsored a trip to visit the Red Cross Museum and tour the United Nations. I decided to sign up even though it would require an early start. Geneva is about 3 hours away by train.

statue group called "The Petrified"

I like the reflections of the banners

We received head sets and took our own pace through the museum. We learned that what we know as the Red Cross is known as the Red Crescent in the Muslim part of the world. Where the symbol of the cross is offensive, they requested an alternative.

oldest Red Cross flag

the challenges:   natural disasters, asylum seekers, conflicts/war
When prisoners or refugees are in Red Cross shelters, they are very thankful for the help they receive. They make gifts from what materials are at hand to express their gratitude. Many of their creations are on display.


supposedly a symbol of luck - from Turkey


It was impossible to capture the whole wall in a photo. The display went well beyond a normal ceiling height and nearly to the floor. Each is an individual child who'd been traumatized by the violence in their country. Many became non-verbal and the photos were used to try to match the children to family members.

rear of Red Cross building as seen from the United Nations building
I only saw this view of the UN building from the bus so had to buy a postcard. The chair represents solidarity with disabled people.

view of UN courtyard

This statue was made by a Swiss sculptor. Both the mother and child have no facial features to portray that the UN cares for all.
view from UN to Lake Geneva and the Alps - not bad!

At the UN, there are many works of art donated by various countries. Many are behind glass and difficult to capture in a photo. This display of hands was out in the open - and huge!  

ready for a press conference

hall for the conferences regarding civil rights - love the ceiling!
We were told that the colors are cleverly placed on the ceiling. Those in the "audience" see warm colors to help keep them calm. The speakers see brighter colors to inspire them to speak passionately. 

Touring the European headquarters of the UN was very similar to touring the UN in New York City. The gifts presented by member countries are beautiful. It was a long, but fun day. I came home very tired, but having made some new contacts. Next time I go to Geneva, I think I'll stay overnight.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Carrots, carrots and more carrots!

Last year I went to the annual onion market in Bern with the Swiss Festivals group of ZIWA. This year's offering was a chance to go to another fall vegetable market: carrots. Why not? It was certainly something I would never see in the USA. I like to take advantage of these opportunities while I can.  As you might expect, the market stalls were decorated with the theme of the day. 

Look at the lower right of this picture. On top, there is a long squash carved with a heart on the left with "lich" inside followed by the word willkommen. Herzlich Willkommen! It's difficult to read, but the pumpkin is also carved to say Rüblimärt! (carrot market) In other words, we were heartily welcomed to the carrot market!

I like how the u  looks like a smiley face!

5 different color carrots and parsnips

I bought some of every color, but would have bought the ready-made assortments if I'd seen them first. I also bought a bundle of assorted mini carrots. Tom and I did a taste test while they were still raw. There is a subtle difference in flavor. The white is also a little less firm than the others.


The vendors were very creative - so many choices of carrot based products. Most booths had samples to entice customers.

cakes and tarts - not as sweet as American

two kinds of carrot soup
carrot infused cheese
bread in the shape of a carrot!

The carrot cheese tasted like cheese to me - just looked weird. Didn't buy any. I did buy some carrot bread which is not a sweet bread like an American pumpkin bread. It tastes like bread, but has little orange flecks. Mine was just round since I bought it before we saw this clever baker.

Sadly, it was another cold, rainy day in Switzerland, but it didn't stop people from coming to Aarau for their annual event. It was plenty crowded, anyway.

at the edge of the market - umbrellas don't work well in a crowd

a lull in the weather


Even the local shopkeepers jumped on the carrot wagon. These muffins are shown in a shop window. The shop sold liqueurs, olive oil, honey and spices. Why not carrot muffins too? At least the vendor was warm and dry.

fun and creative displays

even the used book booth had a carrot display

minor deduction because hands didn't move
carrot topiary
my first place prize winner for best display  - all carrots except the bunny!

what's a carrot market without Carrotman?
I am not one to go to a market and come home empty-handed. It was a bit heavy to carry the soup home, but easier than eating outside in the rain. Now I have two glass containers leftover too. Maybe the soup wasn't such a great idea. Anybody want the containers? They can be vacuum sealed.

my purchases
Now that I had so many carrots, I looked for some new ways to prepare them. Thanks to the internet, it's easy to find new recipes.

steamed carrots ready for seasonings

finished product - Algerian carrots ready to eat
We were instructed not to cook the dark carrots with the other or they would make everything gray. I agree that gray soup does not sound appetizing. Here I roasted carrots to put on top of a salad. I kept the dark ones separate just in case.


Both new recipes were very tasty. All I have left to cook are the parsnips.

As we move towards the Christmas season, I'll leave you with something you may want to consider in your holiday decorating.

Merry Carrotmas?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

'Til the Cows Come Home!

I think we've all heard "til the cows come home" plenty of times. Living in Switzerland, I finally understand this reference. The cows go up to alpine pastures for the warm summer months. In the autumn, they "come home" to the lower elevations where it will be more temperate in the winter. All over the country, there are special events welcoming the cows home! Who knew? We missed seeing any of these last year and made it a priority for 2013. We were lucky enough to find events when we had visitors in town so we could share some of the local color. 

Before the date of the "alpabfahrt", I was sitting with my in-laws having lunch outside in the cute little town of Appenzell. We heard a noise getting closer to us. Since I'd spent many years in marching bands, I thought I heard drums. Then it dawned on me: cowbells! The cows were coming home right through the center of the little town! I jumped up and ran to get a few pictures. People were in traditional costumes, but the cows only had on their bells.

Heading home, we ended up in slow traffic. We realized it was because more cows were being led from one field to another down the street! This is the first time I ever took pictures from behind the steering wheel. Don't worry, I was completely stopped. 

rogue cow needs encouragement to follow the group

I am the first car behind the group at this point

Finally, the day of the alpabfahrt arrived. We opted for train travel because of expected crowds and lack of parking. We definitely made the right choice. 

We knew to expect the cows to be dressed up, but the spectators were also dressed for the occasion. The blue shirt with the edelweiss is the same one we saw worn by so many at the schwingen (wrestling) tournament.  This shirt can also be yours for about 90 CHF.

Tom will never have a beard this long!

While waiting for the first family with their cows to parade through town, we were entertained by various yodeling groups.

the men

the women

co-ed group

Very cute kids accompanied the yodeling clubs.

Alphorns came next. They had to stop to perform. Afterwards. the mouthpiece was put in a pocket and they carried their horns to the next stopping point. I haven't had a chance to try one yet, but I hope to before we leave Switzerland.

It was very wise to have the yodeling clubs and alphorns parade before the cows. Later, the street was very messy.

Finally, it was time for the cows. The families were announced by way of a placard with the family name. Does the shirt look familiar? They come in ALL sizes beginning with baby onesies!

I'm not sure how many families paraded before us, but each group had their cows dressed up differently.

Even some other animals were included in the festivities. 

cows start small

that's a huge headdress!

the end of the family or clan
 Time for lunch! Raclette from alp cheese, of course.

making raclette
street cleaner immediately following parade

cow bells for sale - expensive!

we were right about the crowd
We had so much fun participating in a real Swiss festival. Of course, we weren't the only "tourists" there.

A few weeks later, we were hosting my sister, Karen, and niece, Colleen. We found another special cow event during their stay. This one was called Kuhrennen or Running of the Cows! Sure sounded like something not to be missed and we were not disappointed.

first a  cable car ride up to Flumserberg

not all cows will be running

Cows are calmly waiting in the field. Later, they'll be wearing those bells.

Step right up and place your bet for your favorite. Really!

Cows and riders are introduced to the spectators. There seemed to be much more talking than necessary - what's to say? 
same edelweiss shirt in short sleeves

beautiful spot

All afternoon there was live music. There were two men playing accordion, but the individual here was amazing. He is playing banjo with both hands. He is also blowing into the tuba and using his feet to move the valves. The coordination required is incredible. I've never seen anything like it before and probably never will again.

spectators ready for the race
Cows don't normally run or race. In order for this to work, each cow and rider also have a person on foot to "encourage" the cow to go. This includes whacking the cow or twisting its tail. This person must also keep the cow from running into the spectators.

here they come!

We were lucky enough to hear another alphorn group. This one was accompanied by a few flag throwers. The throwers didn't seem very well choreographed, but it was fun to see anyway. 

Now that we're at the end of October, I think all the cows are home. Until next year.....