28 July 2010

Sorry to my readers!

Dear all,

I have not written in a while. My private life suddenly went all wrong, so I needed a break to find my balance again and look at life and Zurich with open eyes and the usual bit of amazement. I shall be on holiday in August and then get back to you in September!

Hang on! I'll be back!


18 May 2010

Vive Montreux!

I've been very busy lately! My mother was here in April and then my brother for 2 weeks. My cousin is arriving later today, so I'm enjoying a 5 minute break! Just about! Anyway, just to say that I've played tourist in the last month or so and really discovered great things about Switzerland. One of them was re-discovering Montreux.

Since my arrival, I've been a regular at the Monteux Jazz Festival. The atmosphere is great, the concerts as well and the view is just splendid! I am now boycotting though as the prices have become just ridiculously high, e.g. Phil Collins' Concert rates at 140/320/380, the first price being the price standing and the others seating. I just don't like crowds, so it would cost for 2 a minimum of 640 CHF for one concert, and then you need to get there, get a hotel room and eat out. Sorry, but for that price, I could get all CDs and DVDs from his concert. Or better get myself to Prague for a weekend!

Anyway, enough motzen, as the Swiss say, and let me get to the point: I went to Montreux last weekend, off Festival season, and discovered a very nice place! I had booked a cool jazzy (whatelse!) hotel called Tralala in Les Planches neighbourhood. I was so surprised to discover the old town of Montreux where it was located!

It was a lovely little village up on the mountain. So cute and quiet! It's small, but very enjoyable. I could not believe that I always had walked the same stretch along the lake and never this typical part of town. I had two restaurants noted down for the evening and the hotel clerk sent me to the first one on my list called Le Caveau des Vignerons (sorry no website!). Nothing fancy, quite rustical actually. We had a breaded tomme cheese on salad as an apetizer and then a big steak that you grill yourself on a hot stone. This was so great! It came with homemade French fries and a mustard sauce. I just saw the second restaurant on my list in the May edition of Monocle (isn't it the greatest magazine ever!), so here you are: Le Museum, famous for Charbonnade too!

On the next morning, we went up Les Rochers de Naye with the train. It's an almost 1 hour up the mountain above Montreux, so you have agreat view in the Lake Léman (or Geneva if you prefer) and behind, direction Jura as well. It's at 2'042 m of altitude and the view is great! As it was May, there was still snow so we could not go hiking around. I would recommend going later in June. Here are some views:

We finished the day with the traditional visit to the famous Château de Chillon. Switzerland is not a country of castles like France or the UK, but this is really THE castle you should visit in Switzerland. It's location is magnifique and it's truly a beauty.

So I hope you will visit soon and enjoy yourself as much as I did!


02 May 2010

A great magazine…. And it’s free!

If you have been in Switzerland for a while, you know that nothing is free. After the first time you were at McDonald’s and asked for ketchup after payment and the cashier asked you for more money for those tiny bags of ketchup, nothing amazes you more than real free things! At least, it impresses me.Le Shop and Coopathome have started sending samples with your order. It was inconceivable in Switzerland just a couple of years ago, but now, it seems to be a new- welcomed- reality here too.

Some years ago, I discovered the Credit Suisse Magazine called Bulletin. It’s released in German, French, Italian and English. They have great themes, among them my favorites to day: north, oceans, breakthroughs and Switzerland (of course!).

They always have a broad orginal approach to their theme. For example, the March/April edition has “Neighbors” as a theme. There were some articles about the Canadian city of Standstead being divided between two countries (there really is a line dividing the city, quite amazing). So far the kind of article you would expect from such a theme. Then there was an article about residents committee in Japan because people were alone and dying unoticed. Further an article about bacteria: aren’t they our closest neighbors? As you can see, they take their theme a step further and it’s always very informative and entertaining. I can highly recommend a subscription. Enjoy!

24 April 2010

Kunsthaus Zurich: The Bührle Collection

Last week, I went to the Kunsthaus to visit the Bührle Collection. This collection used to be housed at their private museum, but they got robbed in 2008 and decided to close the museum. Two major pieces by Cézanne and Degas are still missing.

I had never made it to the old museum so headed up to the Kunstaus to see some 180 exhibits of that collection. Let me tell you that the security was no joke to them. If your purse was too big, you had to leave it at the coat check. In the entrance fee, a pricey CHF 18.- quite usual to the Kunsthaus, the audioguide was included (D/F/E). I really recommend taking it or joining a guided tour: you’ll just learn so much more about art in general, the painter, the painting, the era, etc.

The exhibition is very famous for its impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. It includes, amongst others, Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Cézanne, Manet, Monet, Degas, Gauguin, Signac, Picasso and Braque. But it also comprises older works from the Middle-age- a series of Gothic sculptures- and some paintings from the 16th to 18th century. Even though I did not fully appreciate this first part of the exhibition, I understood the need of Emil Bührle to include it in his collection to demonstrate the origine of the Impressionist movement. So I just went through quite quikly and headed to the next part.

The impressionist and post-impressionist paintings were the most important part and most enjoyable part of the exhibition to me. They had masterpieces everywhere and the audioguide comment were very interesting. It was just so impressive to be amongst so many masterpieces at the same time. I particularly like the Signac and the various works from Toulouse-Lautrec. The Nympheas from Monet, part of the permanent collection of the Kunsthaus, but a guft from Emil Bührle, had been relocated to this temporary exhibition too. There always such a pleasure for the eyes! Hard to believe that these cost almost nothing as their format is huge and they were seen as under-work back then.

So, I highly recommend to visit before it’s too late! It’on until 16 May 2010. afterwards you will have to wait another five years to see them back at the Kunsthaus Expansion.

03 April 2010

Geschmack: an exhibition about taste at the Mühlerama

I just visited the exhibition “Geschmack” at the Mühlerama, located at the train station Tiefenbrunnen. It was such a great experience! You go through the show blind (with something over your eyes) and an iPod. There is a railway guiding you through the various stops. At every place mat, you need to stop and listen to various people telling you their story about food. There is a blind lady saying how she cooks and shops (well she can’t!). Some scientistst talk about how taste works or how the industry works with (too much) aromas. We also get to hear a famous chef. Sometimes to make their point better understood, they will have something to touch, to smell, to drink or to eat. I don’t want to spoil your experience, but the slow food comparison was so great. I think it really helps that you don’t see a thing, as all the others senses really take over.

Unfortunately, the narration exists only in German / Swiss German. It is not my native tongue. In fact, German is my 3rd language, but I understood most of it. But I’ve been here for 12 years now, so you need to know if you will be able to understand. Perhaps it’s worth a try with the iPod, being blind and being able to really concentrate on the voices.

The Mühlerama has a very interesting store too. They sell kitchen items, spices, food postcards and fresh bread (or flour) made on site. I higly recommend taking some bread home. Have a look at their website for opening hours, admission fees and other visitor information.


21 March 2010

Switzerland has a place called Bitch!

Well it's spelled Bitsch, but the pronounciation is surely Bitch!

Now we all now about Schmuck standing everywhere on Bahnhofstrasse, but do you know of any others? I would love to start a collection of those...


13 March 2010

Is it possible to eat cheap in Zurich?

A reader has asked me for cheap places to eat in Zurich. Well, well, I have been thinking about it for more than a week now and that is a problem because Zurich is not a cheap city. Not for the normal tourist, not for the normal employee.

In the summer, one can go to the Migros or Coop, grab some bread, cheese, cold cuts, salad and fruits and have a picnic along the Limmat, the lake or in a park. Another option is to go to any good bakery and grab a sandwich, a salad, a müesli or a quiche (Wähe) and have it somewhere around. I like the Bäckerei Stocker down the HB. Finally you can as well go to a butcher shop, e.g. the one right next to the train station on Bahnhofstrasse 102: Metzgerei Traiteur Kauffmann and get something warm or cold, e.g. a Wurstweggen (sausage in a dough) or Canapé. It’s still very cheap, quite good, but you will have to stand somewhere and eat it which is a problem in the winter.

Now a lot of people will get a great sausage (don’t forget the Bürli- the bread) at Vorderer Sterne at Bellevue. The line-up is long, you still have to eat outside, but at least you are doing it with a lot of people. I can highly recommend it!

Cheap restaurants in Zurich will include the ones from Migros and Coop (e.g. Migros City next to Löwenplazt and Coop City on Bahnhofstrasse). Their food can be quite good and fresh. Another option would be to go to the University Mensas http://www.mensa.uzh.ch/ .But then it is not centrally located. As a guest, you will pay between CHF 10 and 16 for a meal.

For around CHF 15, you will get several Asian menus all around Kreis 4 and 5. The closest one to the HB would be Chiang Mai Thai on Josefstrasse 13 (see this post from the Blog Half the Sugar Bowl: http://www.halfthesugarbowl.com/2010/03/asian-grocery-stores-in-zurich-part-3.html). And then for about CHF 14 you will get a big sandwich (grosse Pide) at Manta Bar, Bahnhofstrasse 42. Prepare for a line-up, not much space inside to eat it (they have tables outside in the summer), a waiting time to warm up the sandwich, but it’s fresh and tastes great. My favorite one is the chicken and pesto. They always ask you if you want some chili oil in it, so be careful what you answer here!

If you like Japanese noodle soups and are around Stauffacher, you could try Ooki: http://www.ooki.ch/ at Bäckerstrasse 39. The place is very small, so you need to be ready to wait for a table, but the soups are great and cheap. There is not much more than soups though (some giozas and onigiris- which can be very filling as well!), so you need to like them. Drinks are expensive, but so are they everywhere else in the city. You can always ask for tap water. Some waiters are rude enough to give you a mean look, but usually it’s fine to ask.

Hope that helps Aaron and some others! If you have any other cheap spots you’d like to share, please do leave some comments.