Exhibit – Nach der Ausgangssperre

Last night we went to the opening of “After the Curfew”, an exhibit of the work of three Iraqi artists (Wathiq Al-Ameri, Wamidh Al-Ameri, and Ali Al-Fatlawi) who fled their home country during the regime of Saddam Hussein. After a long and difficult journey through Jordan, Sudan, and Libya, they eventually came to Switzerland and settled in the region around Zurich.

The exhibit, which took place at platform elf, included paintings, mixed-media pieces, video installations, and a performance piece (pictured). The works address the current state of Iraq as a country at war, although somehow in a less graphic way than we expected. I really enjoyed the show, and would recommend it to anyone who has a chance to see it before its closing on May 13th. There will be another performance on May 12th at 20.30.

In search of a decent margarita

Ah, the age of globalization. It means you can get peanut butter in Berlin, Dunkin Donuts in Prague, and fresh mozzarella in Chattanooga, Tennessee. So you’d think it wouldn’t be asking too much to expect to be able to enjoy a decent margarita in the extremely international city of Zurich. I know there are Mexicans here – I saw some in the children’s parade last Sunday, so I know they didn’t all leave the city in protest of their being banned from public transport.

Despite our optimistic thinking, we have only been able to find marginally good Mexican food in this town (the Swiss seem to be adverse to anything spicier than a carrot), and nothing that remotely qualifies as an acceptable margarita. Our teeny-tiny European freezer can only handle about 3 ice cubes at a time (and don’t even bother trying to buy ice on this continent), so having a margarita night at home is all but impossible.

There’s a Mexican restaurant on Niederdorfstrasse that sometimes brags about its margaritas on placards outside its door, and we have made the mistake of trying them TWICE. I think the first time they were so bad that we blocked the entire experience from our memories (that, or our brains failed to file the memory of the drink under the category “margarita,” given its lack of resemblance to what one would expect). The slightly alcoholic, luke-warm mixture they serve resembles instant lemonade with a couple forlorn pieces of crushed ice floating around. Yucky. Our margarita dreams crushed, we went back to drowning our sorrows in weissbier.

So when someone on an expats-in-Zurich site posted about a restaurant that supposedly had the BEST MARGARITAS IN ZURICH, I couldn’t wait to check it out. Last night we headed out to Casa Loca (Seestrasse 30, Kilchberg), a Mexican/Caribbean restaurant which served decent fajitas and… average margaritas. They weren’t awful, but definitely too sweet for my tastes. At least we got a little amusement out of the menu, which listed plain margaritas as “natur” flavor. Ah, margaritas the way Mother Nature intended them to be.

We actually had better margaritas downstairs at the Coyote Bar, where they offered about 10 different flavors. We liked both the plain and the strawberry basil.

OK, so we managed to find decent margaritas. But the best in Zurich? Only time (and extensive research) will tell. I’m on the case.

Old men in fancy dress, marching bands, and brownface

Before the burning of the Sechseläuten Böögg yesterday afternoon, Zurich’s 26 guilds put on an elaborate parade which wound its way around downtown for hours and hours. The parade primarily consisted of older men dressed up in period dress marching, riding horses, or being carried on various horse-drawn carriages.

Women aren’t allowed to be members of guilds, so they participate in the festivities by sitting along the parade route with large baskets of flowers. When a man they know/like marches by, the women run up to him, shove flowers in his hand, and collect some cheek kisses, all while disrupting the flow of the parade.

The Swiss apparently have a very different sense of political correctness than Americans, as the parade contained about 100 Swiss dressed up like Bedouins, complete with brown face paint. Although they provided a break from the monotony of the other guilds, well, I can’t think of a good way to end this sentence.

Do you think that somewhere in the world there are Arabs putting on white face paint, dressing up like Swiss people, and parading through the streets?

I didn’t know that Statler and Waldorf were members of a Swiss guild.

If these guys are here, who’s guarding the pope?

Burn, Bööggy, burn

It took about 10-and-a-half minutes for his head to explode. According to the witches who figure these things out, that’s a good sign for summer. It probably doesn’t count, though, since the whole thing was done with an ersatz Böögg (who was protected by a large security force of both men and dogs before the burning).

Word from the real Böögg, who’s apparently still being held hostage by the left-wing radicals: he left a note yesterday saying he was disappointed that no one wanted to pay ransom for him.

Ridiculous English

Europe is full of Ridiculous English. In advertisements, in shop windows, and especially on clothing, it’s easy to find in almost any country on the continent. In Milan, my husband and I would laugh ourselves silly over the things we’d see on people’s chests or in stores, from a sparkly women’s shirt bearing the thought-provoking “pink pig always smiles” to the t-shirt that enthusiastically announced the wearer’s support for “Sporteam.” I am convinced I could make millions selling shirts that say “I don’t understand English” or “I have no idea what this shirt says.”

For some reason I expected to see less Ridiculous English in Zurich, probably because so many more people here seem to speak Actual English. Surely Ridiculous English would be less appealing here? But alas, it’s pretty popular. At least it makes shopping more interesting, like yesterday afternoon when we found these philosophical gems at Coop.

The Böögg has been kidnapped!

I was shocked to learn about the Sechseläuten Böögg’s disappearance yesterday upon my return to Zurich. I leave for a week and miss all kinds of excitement here!

Before I get into this story, I should provide a little background to those of you who are sitting there scratching your heads wondering what the hell a Böögg is. Sechseläuten is a holiday celebrated on a Monday in April, and is something like the Zurich version of Groundhog Day. The guilds of Zurich get all dressed up in traditional costumes and parade through the city (OK, this part is less like Groundhog Day, but bear with me). This show of guilds apparently harks back to the days when the guild members basically controlled the city by forming the government. (I’d give you dates and other details, but I’m still sick and don’t feel like doing research or getting off the couch to find my book about it. I’m sure you can google it for more info.) Anyway, after the parade, everyone gathers in Sechseläuten Platz (the square in front of the opera house) to watch the burning of the Böögg, a snowman-like effigy set atop a large pile of something burnable. The head of the Böögg contains fireworks and makes a whole lot of noise when it finally blows up. The amount of time it takes for the head to explode tells us how good the summer will be (the faster it explodes, the better the summer).

So back to the breaking news. Two days ago, the Böögg was stolen out of the garage of the old man who builds it every year. The kidnappers left a chocolate bunny behind along with a note declaring that the Böögg was tired of serving the Capitalists.

Since then, the police have searched in vain for the Böögg. Hostage photos have appeared on the internet. But those who are looking forward to the Sechseläuten celebration this coming Monday needn’t fear – the Böögg-builder has promised to have a replacement ready in time to be burnt on the pyre. Let’s hope they hire extra security for the replacement.

Not that I’m condoning Böögg kidnapping, but this is some funny, funny shit. Hooray for political protesters with a sense of humor.

Back from Stasiland

Did you miss me? I’ve been traveling through eastern Germany for the past week. It was a fabulous time, although I sure am glad to be back home recovering on my very own couch.

Having lived there for over three years, I have a particular affinity for the former GDR (aka East Germany). I am fascinated by this area’s history as well as the journey of its people as they redefine their identity and adjust to their new country.

Details of the trip coming soon. Until then, enjoy these lovely signs from Berlin:

More fun with tram signs

“The fashionable ZVV shoe collection can be found at any ticket counter.”

Apparently I am not the only one who is so amused by the signs on the Zurich trams. The free newspaper 20 Minuten reported last week that a vandal (endowed with a particularly large sense of humor) has been gluing new captions under the pictograms. Only two were quoted in the article, but I’ll be on the lookout for others.

“Please pass joints in the direction of travel.”