Thursday, April 24, 2014

Salon du Chocolat


If you think the title looks like it's in French, you're right! Regardless of the language, the event did take place in Zurich at the beginning of April.


It is a three day extravaganza held in a local exhibition hall. A ticket is required and once inside you are free to roam among the displays of chocolatiers and other chocolate themed booths. There were a few non-chocolate booths -  I don't understand why they were allowed to participate! (dried fruits, for example)


I'd learned from a friend who went last year that I should bring a container for samples. Of course, we ate plenty, but we also brought some home. 

truffle samples

There was a wait before walking along this display - not surprising since you could take some of everything. We waited and when it was our turn, took only the dark samples. When it comes to chocolate, we are definitely racist.

Below is our favorite from the tastings. If you're lucky, maybe you'll have a chance to try them too.

It was fun to see the different sculptures created from chocolate.

cuckoo clock

truffle making demonstration

champagne truffles!

want a slice or maybe two?
tasty chocolate liqueur
This is a display of antique chocolate pots used for hot chocolate. Since we have one from Tom's family, we spoke to the person at the booth. We haven't seen ours since we left NJ, but we do not recall it having a hole in the lid for a wooden stirrer, but otherwise it is very similar. 

The highlight of the event is the fashion show. Yes, a fashion show with dresses made of chocolate! This I had to see. It was nice of them to have the dresses on display before the show. We were able to examine them all closely.

We knew the show would draw the crowd together and we were right. The pictures with the models are all from a website - I take no credit.

this one looked like leather

Would you chew on your nails if they were chocolate? I would.
Oh, I feel ridiculous!

the winner!

I wasn't asked, but this is my favorite - complete with chocolate lollipop.

It was a fun short excursion and is now checked off the list. We're glad we went, but don't need to go again.  (Apologies for any chocolate cravings I may have caused.)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Just an Ordinary Week

Many of my posts have focused on excursions within Switzerland or on travel further afield. This time I'm going to show you what an ordinary week looks like. European calendars and American calendars differ as to which day starts the week. Since I'm in Europe, I'll start my week with Monday.

Monday:  As of February 24, 2014, I am back in the classroom trying to improve my German language skills. It was not easy to find a class that met only twice a week and not in the evening. I am very happy with the choice of school and I think our teacher is fantastic. It is a frustrating and slow process, but it is still enjoyable especially when I can apply it outside the classroom.

Tonhalle - concert hall
Using public transportation, I have the choice of getting to class 20-25 minutes early or 5-10 minutes late every day. I choose to go early and take a short walk before going to class. Can't complain about some of the sights along the way. (Since I don't always walk the same route, I don't see all of these on one day.)

Lake Zurich

pretty fountain

Before long, it is time to go to class. This language school occupies the first floor of a building with other businesses and apartments above. It does not look like a school

front door
Language World

In this classroom, the other four students and I struggle with sentence structure, prepositions and adjective declination, but we also laugh a lot. Three of my classmates are in the picture below: from left, Kelly (USA), Patricia (Spain), Susanna (our Swiss teacher) and Karim (Peru). Anna Lisa (Phillippines) was not there the day of the photo shoot. Wherever I study, I am always the oldest student.

After two hours and our brains are jello, we leave to do other things. The inside of the school door is beautiful with the sun shining through the stained glass - gives us a nice "auf wiedersehen" on our way out. Most often I go home, but other times I take a tram to meet friends or do errands in Zurich. My car is waiting for me near the train station in Horgen. 

The weekly rehearsals for the Posaunenchor I have joined are Monday evenings. We are a brass group in a very small Methodist church in Adliswil (about 10 miles from Horgen). (Through my choir experience, I met someone who attends this church. She learned I played brass instruments and invited me to come to a service and hear the group. Then they invited me to play with them.) If we have full attendance, there are 6 trumpets/cornets, 1 tuba, 3 baritones/euphoniums, 1 horn and 3 trombones - not a bad size, especially considering the size of the church building and its congregation. The director is a volunteer and a trombonist although he doesn't usually play with us. Most of the music is from the Salvation Army Band collection and therefore not my favorite, but it is a wonderful opportunity for me anyway. It gives me an excuse to play my horn (euphonium after many years of mostly trombone playing) and also exposure to the Swiss culture. I am the only non-Swiss in the group. I've asked the director to speak "high" German (as in from Germany or Austria) with me rather than the local Swiss dialect. For the most part, he does and I can understand the majority of what is said. A few of them speak English and my German is improving. The people are all very nice to me so I am having fun even though the music is not a challenge. I would love to have some Gabrielli appear on my music-stand. Fingers crossed.  

One example of Swiss culture:
I am never the first to arrive at rehearsal. As people enter, it is customary to go around and shake hands and say "Hoy" (Hi) to each of the others already there. I think that's why some get there early. They get to stay seated while the rest come around and greet them. This tradition was actually good for me because I was able to get every individual's name in my head in short order. I did get a strange look the week I sat down without doing it. Oops. I was on my feet and moving along the group as soon as I realized. If you arrive late to rehearsal, you don't do this. (Maybe that's why Dagi is always late?) At the end of rehearsal, there is some hand shaking, but not as much. 

rehearsal starts soon
For the music folk reading this:
The odd thing about this group is that all the parts are written in treble clef. (My first rehearsal I waited until others played before I started so I could determine whether to play the music as concert pitch or Bb.) The only exception is our young member (12 years old?) who plays bass clef "because he's just learning" (as I was told).  The other trombones, euphoniums and tuba are all playing treble clef parts for Bb instruments! Why? I have yet to figure this out. One person told me that they all started on trumpet so Viktor (director) is making it easier for them this way. I need to investigate further. I've never seen a tuba part written in treble clef before. Obviously, his playing sounds two octaves lower. 

Here we are getting ready for a service in the Catholic church where we were invited to play.

Unfortunately, the group's monthly participation in church services doesn't mesh well with my schedule. I won't be here for Easter or their services in May or June! I spoke with Viktor and asked him if he'd rather I not come to rehearsals, but he wants me to come anyway.

Tuesday: I usually go to the drop in Fitness Walk sponsored by ZIWA. The walk takes place in a public park in a neighboring town regardless of the weather. (I don't go if it's awful outside.) One woman leads us on a 90 minute brisk walk around the park and neighboring area. There is a core group of regulars who come most weeks and others drop in when they can. We chat as we walk and the times goes quickly.

chatting while we gather

our leader, Monika, in pink

that's me in the dark pink jacket
Above is an average size group , but we're still waiting for our leaders. Countries/regions represented: England, USA, Ticino (Italian area of Switzerland), Ireland, Italy, Sweden, New Zealand, Germany, South Africa and Scotland. 

This particular day I walked along side the woman in the red jacket (below). She's from Sweden and we discussed Olympic ice hockey, especially the rivalry between Sweden and Finland and between the USA and Canada. Fun!
Monika, our leader, changes the route so we don't get bored - also makes it more difficult for me to learn my own way, but I am a good follower. Sometimes we're in the woods and other times along a farm or a bit on pavement. Here are a few of the sights we have seen along the way:

Baby animals are always fun to see. We were guessing that the lamb was very new and the mom was keeping her hidden. 

signs of Spring

long haired cows are not only in Scotland! Who knew?
I am not the only one in this group who has the gift of gab. Most people stay afterwards for a social time at the cafe as their schedule allows.

Wednesday: reread Monday except for the evening rehearsal

Thursday: Another opportunity to improve my German is attending a conversation class. This is a much bigger group (12 if everyone comes) and the teacher is a volunteer. There is quite a range of  language ability in the class. I'm somewhere in the middle: not the worst, but nowhere near the best. This class is sponsored by a church organization and the teacher is a volunteer; therefore, it is very cheap!  Shocking in Switzerland. Home countries represented in this group are England, Finland, Sweden, Thailand, Malta, USA, Peru, Russia, Ethiopia, Congo and Kenya. One of the things I like the best about the German classes is having classmates from all over the world. We learn about each others cultures as we learn the language. Some of the people in this class are married to Swiss men and are not expats. They are most likely staying here permanently. Others of us are foreigners here as expats for a short or indefinite period of time.  In the photo, you see Christian (Sweden) and Kate (England). Christian is brave - he is the only male. These two have the best command of the language by far. Christian's wife is Austrian so he hears a lot of high German and Kate has been here 20 years. Knowing that, I don't feel too shabby about my level.

Friday: I'm part of a tennis group sponsored by ZIWA. I've been sharing a slot with someone since neither of us is able to commit to being around every week. We play indoors on carpet which was a new experience for me. I really hate getting tiny bits of blue carpet in my shoes every week, but otherwise it is a very convenient location and a nice group of women. 

Deirdre (Ireland), Rowena (England) and Helen (Singapore)

Saturday: varies 
Sometimes we do errands because that's not possible on Sunday (stores are closed). Although we do not have a lawn to maintain, there is more work on the balcony than anticipated. (care of the plants we purchased and getting rid of the weeds that the birds so kindly plant between the tiles) Other days we have field trips.

very small church!

Sunday: again varies
Here's a picture of the little Methodist church in Adliswil, home of the Posaunenchor. We don't go to church every week, but if so, this is where we would be. (No, it is not the leaning tower of Adliswil. I'm just not the world's best photographer.) The prayers, Bible readings and sermon are in high German which benefits Tom and I both. The prayers are the easiest to understand because typically a phrase is said and then there is a pause. Perfect! Gives someone like me an extra second or two to decipher the meaning. There is some social time afterwards and the members are friendly and welcoming. 

This is a typical week. If there are special trips or events that happen on a Tuesday or Thursday, I will skip the walk or conversation class. If the event lands on Monday, Wednesday or my tennis Friday, then I skip the trip. There is plenty of time left in the week for my homework, chores, grocery shopping and of course, playing with Denali! Then Monday comes around again and I start over.