Monday, January 28, 2013

sprechen sie Deutsch?

Before the big move to Switzerland, I started German lessons in Summit, NJ at the Berlitz school. My lessons were one-on-one (with an Austrian born native speaker, Inge) since there isn't much demand for German in NJ. It was definitely beneficial to have a base of knowledge before coming here, but I was nowhere close to where I want to be. The fall travel schedule didn't allow me to register for any classes that met for a month at a time. I tried two private teachers as a means to keep from sliding backward before January arrived with time for an intense program. I'll leave out the gory details - let's just say neither was a good experience. Do you think I was looking for the Inge of Zurich and she doesn't exist?

I got a very favorable recommendation for a particular language school from a recent transplant from Canada. I heard her speak when we went to the turnip festival and I was impressed. She started 4 or 5 months ago at the same level as I started in January. I don't intend to take as many months of uninterrupted intensive (daily) classes so I won't progress at her pace. I began my classes the first Monday in January. The classes are every day from 8:30 - noon. Unfortunately, the public transportation schedule isn't kind to me. I have to leave the house at 7:00 to get the bus to the Horgen train station, to get the train to Zurich, to get a tram to my class. I usually arrive by 8:10. I once arrived before the teacher and our classroom was locked! The buses from our area run only every 30 minutes. If I take the next bus, I'd be about 10 minutes late every day. The Swiss are very punctual so that would never do. Sigh. It has been quite the adjustment for me to get up at 6:00 and be out the door in one hour. No hanging around in a bathrobe anymore! On the way home, I have to wait about 20 minutes at the Zurich main station before my train to Horgen arrives. I have found some stores to wander around to keep warm during the wait.

I have two teachers. Nora teaches Monday-Wednesday and Claudia teaches Thursday and Friday. It took a while before we had a set number of students. The first week or so there was a different group every day with people entering for the first time or people leaving. We have 8 students, 5 women and 3 men. I am by far the oldest and could be the parent to the youngest two. The other students come from Thailand, Spain, India, Brazil, Turkey, England and Portugal. Most have some knowledge of English except for Suzan (from Turkey). It is actually a good thing that she does not speak any English. It forces us to try to speak German during our break time or risk being incredibly rude. It's hard, but a good exercise.

I was really nervous the first day, but after a very short time I was finished with that. Nora put us all at ease quickly. We all like Nora better than Claudia, but both are good teachers. I like being in a class because we can role play and converse with each other. No student is in the hot seat the whole time. We've actually had a lot of fun and I consider my classmates friends even though they're young. 

Our curriculum is called "Deutsch in der Schweiz." While learning vocabulary and grammar, we also learn about the Swiss culture. (For the Swiss, seeing a chimney-sweep is considered lucky.) From the other students, I've learned bits of their culture.  For instance, the Thai New Year is not in January or February like Chinese New Year. I don't remember exactly when Punyanush told me it is, but I do remember she told me they celebrate by throwing water on each other! I guess it's not so bad because it's always hot there. At midnight at the beginning of a new year, Spaniards eat 12 grapes at once!

Sadly only 4 of my classmates registered for the next month of classes. I understand their predicament. I am lucky that Zurich Insurance Company provides a budget for language lessons. Because this school is much more reasonably priced than some, my budget will last a good while longer. Tom doesn't need the lessons so I have a big budget to work with. My classmates have to pay the $800 monthly fee themselves. That's a lot of money if your employer is Burger King or you are unemployed.

Starting next week, I will have to go to a different location for my classes. I already checked and the commute will still have to start at 7:00. The four of us who are continuing are being combined with another class where six people are enrolled. We will have different teachers as well. I'm glad that some of us will move on together at least. Unfortunately, the one person in the class who is annoying is also continuing.

Monday, January 21, 2013

xc skiing in Einsiedeln

Since Tom and I enjoyed cross country skiing in Norway during our Belgian stay, we decided we would give it a try in Switzerland. We wanted to find out whether we could still do it 10+ years later and whether we still liked it. Einsiedeln is less than an hour drive from Horgen and with a higher elevation, it has snow when we don't. We went a week earlier to find the trails and where equipment could be rented. The weather cooperated and a fresh batch of snow came the night before our planned outing. The sky was also a beautiful blue and the temperature wasn't too cold. 


This is where the tracks start and end. The trail here wasn't too long - a good length for us. The terrain here is flat enough for xc skiing with gentle inclines. 
Tom is ready.

And there he goes....

Scenery along our way:

I got nervous every time we had to go over one of the little bridges with a creek on the side. Getting wet would have been very unpleasant, but luckily did not happen.

In case you're wondering, xc skiing is a good workout. We certainly weren't cold - we were drenched. We learned that yes, we can still do it and it was fun too. We didn't push our luck and stay on the skis too long since we knew we'd be aching later - and we were!

That's me on the home stretch. After we returned our skis, we decided to take a walk into the village and we were pleasantly surprised with what we found.

The snowfall added a nice touch to the town.

A friend had told me she had visited an abbey in a town starting with an "E". When we headed out for skiing, I had no idea we were going to the same place. It was just luck that we decided to take a walk and found the abbey.

Gazebo in front of the abbey from either side 

  I think the snow makes this statue look quite funny.

They don't allow photography inside the abbey so I had to buy some postcards. The interior is surprisingly ornate. We have since learned that it was renovated very recently - last year there was scaffolding inside.

view from the back - pulpit on right

cherubs on organ pipes are playing instruments


another way to explore the town

Rathaus is the town hall

Farewell Eisiedeln! We'll be back.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

day trip to Liechtenstein and Appenzell

While Alicia was here with us, one of our goals was to make sure she visited at least one more country besides Switzerland (Austria = done) and also one she'd never been to before. The capital of Liechtenstein, Vaduz, is a short drive away from Horgen. 
Welcome to Vaduz, Liechtenstein - city center with creche
There isn't a lot in Vaduz other than the "schloss" or castle. We parked at the bottom and walked up to the castle. We learned later that we could have driven most of the way, but exercise is a good way to burn at least a few of the chocolate calories we are consuming.

Along the way, we were rewarded with beautiful views and some interesting sights. For instance, this building that looks like it has chimes around the outside. It appeared to be an artist's studio. Wow, what inspiration around them!

part way to the castle
Alicia on the path

I can never get too much of views like this.

we all like to take pictures - and yes, Tom is sporting his NJ Devils hat

"Turn around, Alicia!"

almost there

Since the royal family still lives there, we didn't get to go inside. 
How rude not to invite us in!

is this view wasted on royalty?


We walked back down to our car and drove to the ruins of the old castle. Guess what we saw along the way? If you guessed more beautiful vistas, you're right!

The car is now parked and we are following the Schlossweg.

Entrance to the ruins

Liechtenstein's flag - memorize its appearance for your next trivia game.  

 Mischievous or Angelic? You choose.


Goodbye ruins

on the road to Appenzell

After Liechtenstein, we drove back into Switzerland to visit the village of Appenzell before returning to Horgen.
Are we in Lancaster? No, mountains are a clue.
Appenzell's claim to fame besides cheese? It practices the most pure form of democracy. There is an annual meeting with elections of the town in this center square.

Many of the shops and businesses had these cute signs that indicate what you'll find inside.

The Three Kings

Appenzell also has a lot of cows. In the fall, there is a festival when they are brought down from the mountains for the winter. I don't want to meet the cows that are big enough for these bells!

 Lots of the buildings have painted facades or other decorations, like cows and sheep!


the animal parade was longer than my camera could capture

See the angel? This one is for my mom!

Of course, in Switzerland there is always cafe. Pure decadence: cappuccino with chocolate sprinkled on top and two truffles. Yum.

There is also always a church. I was surprised by how ornate this small church is.

 We were rewarded on our way home by watching the sunset.