A snack with a view

Back in Zurich, more guests to entertain. This time we opted for a trip up the Zürichberg, the mountain which borders Zurich on the east (take tram 6 from the main station). Although less celebrated than the Uetliberg to the west, the Zürichberg can be entertaining, too. The zoo is up there, as are several hiking trails, not to mention some gigantic houses with incredible views of the city and the lake.

A short uphill walk from the tram stop and you’re at the Hotel Zürichberg, a swank place with a snooty restaurant and stylish bar. Both the bar and the restaurant have terraces that boast the lovely lake view. On a clear day you can see all the way to the snow-capped Alps.

We snagged front-row seats on the bar’s terrace and ordered from the extensive ice cream menu. I went with the pear sorbet in williamine, a strong, clear, pear-flavored liquor similar to kirsch. Given how liberal they were with the williamine, the price was actually pretty reasonable, too. Or maybe I’ve just lived in Zurich too long and have lost all perspective on reasonable pricing. At any rate, it was a lovely way to spend an hour on a pleasant Saturday afternoon.

Driving on the left and other notes from Ireland

We had a wonderful week exploring Ireland. The cities and towns were simultaneously charming and rough around the edges; the landscapes were sweeping and beautiful. The weather was intermittently rainy, but we hardly minded since the temperature was so cool and nice. If only they had real, snowy winters, it would be the perfect climate for me.

English-speaking foreign countries play with my mind. I kept having thoughts like “oh look, this place has a menu in English” and “hey, those people at the next table are speaking English.” Actually this happens to me sometimes even in the US these days.

Although Scott took to the challenge of driving on the left like a pro, both of us had problems remembering which door of the car to approach. Over and over and over again. I wonder how long it would take to start instinctively going to the right side for the driver’s seat?

The ‘fresh’ Guinness failed to impress me, but I was delighted with how good the Kilkenny was in Ireland – it had a creamy head that I’ve never seen in other countries. Hooray for ale.

Two things about Irish women: I was surprised and impressed at how dressed up they got to go out at night (especially during the Killarney races, when they all wore fancy dresses and feathery headpieces); and they have bad aim (at least judging by the pee-covered toilet seats I encountered all over the country. Was that too much information?).

I’ve seen the Simpsons movie and you haven’t

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxB6MTS5YBk]

Or maybe you have. But we did get to see it on opening night, which here in Switzerland is a whole day earlier than in the US. International movie releases sure have come a long way since my Germany days, when films were released in the theaters long after they had gone to video in the US (note: video is what existed before DVDs. Remember?).

We had to shop around (online, about a week ago) to make sure we found a theater showing it in English, but luckily that wasn’t too difficult in Zurich. The Simpsons just isn’t the same in translation – in German, Homer says “nein!” instead of “d’oh!” That’s just not right.

The movie was pretty good. Lots of little inside jokes for those of us loyal fans who spent most of our twenties memorizing each and every episode. Stay put for the credits – lots of extra little funny bits are in there all the way until the bitter, pimply end. Oh, and before you see it, go play the games on the official movie website, and make yourself into a Simspons character (like I did).

Zurich plagued by underwear-clad teens

The headline on the front page of 20 Minuten this morning announced Zurich’s latest crisis – Public baths: trouble due to underwear trend. Naturally I snatched up a paper and began reading furiously, hoping to learn more about this disturbing story. Here is a summary of what I learned.

Apparently, it has become fashionable among teenage boys to wear boxer shorts underneath their shorts-style bathing suits while swimming at the city’s numerous badi (public beaches and pools). “Why is this a problem?” you ask? Simply put, “Das ist unhygenisch,” at least according to several of the city’s bademeister (pool attendants). One bademeister went on to explain, “You never know when those underwear were last in the washing machine.” The same boys’ ability to keep their bathing suits (or their bodies) clean, however, was not called into question.

Basel is far ahead of Zurich in fighting this hazard, having already instigated a poster campaign against swimming in the boxers + bathing suit combo. The Zurich officials are just not cooperating, laments one local bademeister, who has decided to take the law into his own hands and eject offenders from his pool on the spot (he also makes use of his “good eye” to distinguish today’s modern bathing suit styles from actual shorts – not an easy task for the untrained, apparently). Until he has succeeded in eradicating all the offenders, though, I can only beg you, dear readers, to inform yourself of the risks before swimming in the badi of Zurich. Or better yet, head to Basel. It’s safer there.

Trams vs. Mariachis, round two

This commercial has started playing before movies in theaters around Zurich:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lNS0SFXdLI]

A little background, for those who are not up-to-date on the Zurich Public Transport (VBZ) vs. Mariachis saga: Back in early 2006, Zurich officially banned mariachis from trams with this sign. After numerous protests from individuals and the Mexican consulate, the signs were replaced a few months later. VBZ was out a little money, and had looked a little foolish. And it appeared that the issue was dead.

But apparently someone at the VBZ loves ethnic stereotypes of Mexicans sooooo much that they just couldn’t resist revisiting the topic with this brand new commercial (which, despite how it may seem, is not inviting mariachis to start performing on trams. The VBZ is still firmly against buskers of all ethnicities.) The Mexican consulate is investigating.

What do you think: offensive stereotyping or good clean mariachi fun?

I know who killed Harry Potter

OK, actually I’ve never read a single Harry Potter book, nor seen a movie, nor bought his albums (surely he has albums too, no?) What I do know is that Ireland has gone mad for the new book, which was apparently available starting at midnight. Despite the rain, costumed teens and families were out waiting in line since at least 9pm here in Kilkenny, desperate to get their hands on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows slightly before less zealous fans. When we emerged from the pub around midnight, there were long queues at multiple bookstores around town. Even more exciting than an iphone, I take it.

And the next time I do a “where am I” quiz, I’m going to have to make it much harder. You guys are too good.

Where in the world am I today?

I’ll give you a hint (in case the photo didn’t already give it away): it’s cooler than Zurich, which is finally getting some summer weather. I’m happy to have escaped just in time.

Is your daughter just too gosh darn malignant?

Never fear, there’s a whole line of toys in Switzerland designed to fix that:

I’m not sure I know what this one is (a fake cell phone, maybe?), but the offerings also included make-up sets and princess tiaras. Sweet.

Toodling around Zurich

Can you believe it has been almost a month since I left Zurich last? My travel schedule slows down considerably in the summer, since I’m not a big fan of the heat (or moving around in the heat). It works out just fine this way, since the summer tends to be when other people want to come visit us. So I’ve been entertaining guests and trying to make Zurich look interesting even in the dreary, rainy weather we have been having (which, for the record, I absolutely love). Here’s a sampling of what we’ve been up to:

  • Beer Exhibit at Mühlerama, an old (and still functional) mill in the Seefeld neighborhood of Zurich. The beer exhibit taught me that I’ve got male taste buds. You can pretend you’re a sack of freshly-milled flour and ride down the flour slide. Good times.
  • Barefoot bar hopping – it may have been too cold to swim for most of the summer so far, but luckily the Badi (public baths) around Lake Zurich double as hip outdoor bars at night. They are referred to as ‘barefoot’ bars because you aren’t supposed to wear street shoes inside; also you can sit on the edge of the dock and dip your feet in the lake (but no nightswimming allowed).
  • Up the Uetliberg – this is obviously more fun in decent weather, but the day we chose to do it was clear enough to have a decent view, and we only got rained on a little bit. At the top there’s a playground, several restaurants with great views, and some hiking trails. Take the S10 from the main station.
  • Chilbi – this is the insanely unpronounceable Swiss German word for ‘carnival’ (if I even attempt to say it, I get a sore throat – that initial ‘ch’ requires some effort). Late one evening a friend and I ventured into the one at Bellevueplatz for a quick spin on the big swing ride. Good old-fashioned fun. The roving gangs of teenagers must have been wondering what us old ladies were doing out there in their territory.
  • Swimming! The past couple days have actually been hot and summer-like, which is good in a way because it gave us a chance to go for a swim in the lake, one of my favorite activities in Zurich. The scenery is so perfect it looks like a matte painting film backdrop. And the water is so clean and clear that it feels downright healthy to be swimming around in. Or something.

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