25 Februar 2023

It has been a very busy couple of weeks. Julie has been back to the US to visit her Mom while she is in hospital. Julie made it back on Monday, and Wednesday went in Hospital herself for a knee operation. We have gotten a glimpse of both the good and bad of the health care situation in the US as well as here. The strange thing is how alike the two systems really are, yet they are still very different.

Switzerland is one of the few countries in Europe that does not have (and I am going to use the US word here) Socialized Medicine. Honestly I do not like that definition, but I am not sure how else to describe it. On this side of the Atlantic, people use the word National for describing their health care system. Well Switzerland’s system is National. The difference being that taxes are not used to pay for the majority of health care like the UK system. Here everyone is required to buy insurance. The breakdown is that individuals pay about 80% of the medical cost. The government picks up the remaining 20%. One tidbit I find fascinating is that in the US they are proud that health care is not paid for by the government, yet the government pays for almost 70% of the total health care bill!

Here, the insurance companies are required to offer you a basic level of care. In earlier posts, I have expressed my frustration, that Julie was able to get the “better” insurance, but I am stuck with the basic care. She has coverage when we leave the country. I either have to buy a special insurance plan, or just take the risk. So the Swiss health care system is basically (again using the US terminology) running on the Affordable Care Act. This is exactly what President Obama passed in the US on a more limited basis. Of course the system has changed a lot in the US, but some of the tenants are still there.

Looking at the cost the US leads the way with over $12,000 per person spent on Health Care. Switzerland is second in the world at $10,000 per person. The UK with their system is pretty far down the scale at roughly $6000 per person. Of course there are good things and bad things about the different health care systems, and honestly, I am not going to get into much of that here. I mean there have been entire books written about this topic from learned people. All I have are observations and no scholarly evidence to back anything up! 🙂

One of the things in common that Switzerland has with the US is that Insurance companies really do not like to pay. One oddity about insurance here, is that Julie has two different health insurance programs. Companies pay for what is termed “accident” insurance. Now this is not just a workplace accident. If Julie broke her leg skiing, we would pay for the trip to the hospital, but then the accident insurance would kick in and pay for everything else. This is where some of our drama has come in.

Julie first started having knee problems about 10 months ago. At first it wasn’t that serious, it would just occasionally hurt. Like most injuries though, it kept getting progressively worse. I finally convinced her to go see a Dr. Her Dr diagnosed her injury as an accident; so she had to go back to work, and file the claim. It got tricky, because the first doctor prescribed some physical therapy. The accountant coded the claim wrong, and for the next 5 months we would fight back and forth between our private insurance, and accident insurance paid for by her company. We wound up paying all the bills and then the insurance company would pay us back. As the pain got progressively worse, her original doctor sent her to a specialist. The specialist said that surgery was the only option. So far so good, we were actually expecting that diagnosis.

Of course then the accident insurance stepped back, and said “WOOOOAH!!! Are we really sure this was an accident.” The company interviewed Julie multiple times, talked to the different doctors, but never made a call. It got more tricky, because the accident insurance wanted to do a final interview with Julie and it was scheduled the week before the surgery. Of course Julie had to postpone this because of the unplanned visit back to the US. She was finally able to get the interview done the day before the surgery. Here is where the drama comes in. 🙂

The insurance plan we pay for gives Julie a semi-private room in the hospital. The accident insurance her company pays for gives her a private room in the hospital. We learned there is a HUGE difference between the two style rooms. I would call it comparable to flying premium economy vs business class. Premium economy or the semi private room is comfortable, but pretty bare bones. Business class or the private room is pretty darn luxurious. Julie’s room had a balcony overlooking Lake Zurich. She was given a menu to choose what she wanted to eat, and the food was not the typical hospital type food we have come to hate in the US.

The hospital called the night before the surgery, and said there was a problem because the two insurance companies were still fighting over who would pay. They told Julie about the private vs semi private rooms. If the accident insurance would not pay, we would be on the hook for the entire hospital stay. The surgery would be covered by the 80/20 insurance split, but the room difference would be 100% on us. Julie asked the cost difference. We would have been on the hook for roughly $10000 for the one night stay. Again, we would not have to pay the whole room cost, just the upgrade. But the cost went from about $5 grand to $15 grand! Pretty big difference for a one night stay. Julie told the hospital that she would stay in the semi private room, but when we got there she was taken to a private room.

We didn’t unpack or do anything other than ask to speak to someone about the room. Eventually the nurse came back and apologized about the mix up. We were told something we would NEVER hear back in the US. “If the accident insurance does not pay. We (meaning the hospital) will eat the difference.”

The view from Julie’s room.

So Julie was able to spend her time in Hospital as comfortable as could possibly be. The care she got was excellent. The staff was great. The language barrier was not that cumbersome. A lot of the staff seemed glad that they could practice their english with Julie.

I really hope this is our last experience with hospitals while we are here! Julie was able to go for a short walk yesterday, and this morning, she says the pain is a lot better; so hopefully she is on the road to full recovery. We really missed our hikes last summer, and we want to get back to it!

Oh, I almost forgot there was one other big difference between here and the US. Julie made the appointment for the surgery about four weeks ago. That part is perfectly normal, but four weeks ago she was also given her crutches, and the medicine she would need post surgery. No narcotics, but still something like that has never happened in the US. Last time we had a hospital visit there. We had to stop at a pharmacy with young George laying in the back of the truck after his knee surgery! Something like that would never happen here. In fact, when I get my blood pressure medicine it costs me less to get it from the doctor’s office rather than have them call it in to a pharmacy. Not sure exactly how that one works, but I guess the pharmacy has a higher markup than the doctor.

So Julie will be spending the next couple of weeks working from recovering from the surgery; so there will be no travels for the next month or so. Not sure what I will write about next. Anyone have ideas?

17 Februar 2023

This just might be the longest I have gone without writing since we moved here. Since the kids left after Christmas, it has been pretty boring. We have not done much at all. I do have some pictures to share from January. George and I went skiing one day, but that is about it.

I did get a lesson in how quickly government can work. My passport was due to expire at the end of the year. When we renewed Julie’s it involved a trip to the US Consulate in ZĂĽrich. Everything had to be done in person; so we even had to have an affidavit signed by Julie, that she knew I was the one renewing the passport. Covid of course changed a lot. Since I am a GOOD UPSTANDING citizen I was able to mail in my renewal. Just like I was still living the US. Though, the default, is to get it returned a LOT faster. It is only supposed to take 2 – 3 weeks for processing, and the government came through. It was actually a little under two weeks before I got my new passport.

I did wind up having to drive to Bern to get it though. Something had happened, and we were really afraid we were going to be making an emergency trip back to the US; so I contacted the embassy and explained our situation. I was told exactly when the passport would arrive in Switzerland, and they would hold it for me. Saving the three or four days of extra processing to mail it.

I did learn that I think the US kind of has a problem with law enforcement types. The people hired by the embassy here, are rude and on a power trip, just like some LEO’s are back in the US. So as you come up to the embassy, there are two entrances. It is very well labeled which door is for personnel. There was another sign that read US Citizens —> and below that Visas —>. Both arrows pointing to the same place. The problem is that the entrance way had some temporary line guides set up, but there were THREE entry points. No sign saying which row was for what service. So I picked one and entered. It snaked around and made a 30 foot walk into about a 100 foot walk. I got to the end of the aisle, and I was 5 feet from the door, but nothing showing what way I was supposed to go next. So seeing the door, I went under the rope and approached the door. The security guards inside. immediately unsnapped their side arms, and were wildly waving at me. The glass was sound proof so I couldn’t hear a thing they were saying. Eventually they signaled that I was supposed to go my right and back under the rope. So I did, and one of the guards came out. He immediately started yelling and calling me stupid for ignoring the sign. I went right back at him, saying WHAT SIGN? He points to the BACK of a sign. So I go under two more ropes to get in front of the sign. There the sign says to wait here and empty all your pockets, etc…. Like I said, the sign was backwards from the way I came in. There was no way to see the sign.

The guard keeps going on about what a privileged American I am to just ignore the signs. I was giving it right back to him. Stating HOW in the HELL was I supposed to know what aisle to come down so I could see the sign? I told him around the corner, someone had set up the ropes; so there were three entry ways into the area. How are you supposed to know what aisle to choose? He still kept going on at me, but I finally just ignored him. This was probably not the right thing to do either, because he wound up frisking me before letting me in, because I could not provide a passport proving I was a citizen. :). I did eventually make it through security, but I was a little worried. The best part, was seeing that one of the guards had at least fixed the entry way while I was getting my passport.

The other interesting thing that happened was watching all of the people renounce their US citizenship while I was there. Out of all the people in the waiting area, I think I was the only one NOT renouncing their citizenship. Now before people get up in arms about this. It is not a political thing at all in most cases. The majority of the people there had the fortune or mis-fortune depending on how you look at it of simply being born in the US. Once their parents left these people had never been back. They were truly citizens in name only. For a lot of people having a US passport is a big problem. For example, in Switzerland, if you have a blue passport there are only a couple of banks that will deal with you. I also think these banks charge more for dealing with US citizens.


In the US we call it Mardi Gras. In many other parts of the world it is called Carnivale. In the German speaking parts of Switzerland it is called Fasnacht. I can’t tell you the literal translation, because I could not find one. However, talking to someone it was explained that fasnacht means “almost night” or “the night before the fasting.” It is that period before Lent starts of unbridled carousal!

Julie went back to the US this week to see her parents; so called a friend and we took the train to Luzern yesterday. The celebration is three days long. It is the Thursday, Monday, and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. I think they take the other three days are off to allow everyone’s liver to recover. On Thursday, the day begins at 5:00 AM with a cannon blast and hundreds of people parade through the streets banging drums and ringing bells.

I found another word that has no translation it is Zögli. I think it might mean roam or meander, because during the Zögli time period, there were small bands and groups of partiers that were just roaming the streets having a good time. There are two parades each day. The parades originally started out with just the guilds participating. The goal of the parade was to make fun of the politicians and other events that happened the prior year.

The mocking of events was something I found strange (as an outsider). There was one float in the parade that celebrated the burning of the KapellbrĂĽcke. (This is the long wooden bridge that crosses the river. It was a HUGE deal and even now the city has not fully repaired some of the damage to the bridge.)

I think for next year, Julie and I are going to have to find some costumes, and head back. It was an amazingly fun day!

Fasnacht 2023 Luzern, Switzerland

It will probably be pretty slow posting for the next few weeks again. Julie was able to get her knee looked at, and she is going to be stuck around home for the next few weeks. Hopefully, it all works out OK. She has been very frustrated to not be able to go on hikes or even walk to the grocery store without pain. We are especially hoping the next treatment works. We have a lot of visitors coming the next few months, and I know she is looking forward to spending some time doing things with friends and relatives!

Enjoy the pictures from FasNacht!

29 Juli 2022

This week is coming to a close quickly. We said goodbye to our guests. I think my sister and nephew had a good time visiting. I believe one of their favorite activities was swimming in die ZĂĽrichsee. Almost every town along the lake front has a public bath. Many of these have beaches to go along with the swimming areas. Our favorite so far has been the bath in Kilchberg. They have a very large grass area where you can pack in hundreds of people and not feel that crowded. The swimming area has multiple docks so you can get in and out of the lake without walking on the rocks. They have floated a couple of resting areas out in the water and they even have multiple diving boards. It was easy to tell that this has been the warmest summer since moving here. The lake is normally a little chilly, but this year it was almost warm. Still refreshing, but honestly on 90 degree days, I would prefer a little cooler water.

The other big lesson is that I never realized how much nicer it is to sleep with air conditioning. I broke down on our last anniversary and bought Julie one of those portable room air conditioners. It does a pretty good job of keeping the bedroom cool during this heat wave. Unfortunately, this past week for two nights I was being a good husband and slept on the sofa rather than in the bedroom. One night I had a conference call that started at 3 AM our time, and yesterday I had to wake at 4:30 so I could start my first Century Ride since college. Julie works hard enough, so I did not want to disrupt her sleep by waking her up hours before she needed to rise.

In other news this week I sent in my registration for my courses this fall. I signed up for one class through the Business School called “IT for Managers.” The second class is offered through the IU Law School it is titled “Information Privacy.” I think they will be pretty interesting. The classes start on 22 August; so I still have a couple of weeks left on break. One thing that will be interesting is that I have a “zoom orientation” next week. It is scheduled to be about 8 hours long. The time zone difference is in my favor, though. It starts about 3 pm so I do not have to worry about being up in the middle of the night!

I went out for a couple of long rides with week. On Tuesday, I joined a friend in a ride around the lake. This is about a 70 km ride. I have a lot of respect for my riding partner. He has an e bike, but he only uses the electric assist after he stops. I am impressed because I let him set the pace, and he hums along at about 24 – 25 kmh. His bike must weigh 50 pounds. I think I would have a hard time pedaling it, let alone cruising along at a pretty decent speed. He really kicks my butt on the hills, but I know he is using the electronic assist for that. 🙂 My second long ride started in the town of Baden, CH. I met another friend, and we rode from Baden to Belfort, France. This was a really fun ride because we went through Germany as well. The total distance for this ride was 172 KM. As I said in the first paragraph. I had not ridden that far since college. My time was a lot slower now, but not am I 30 + years older, I am carrying a lot more excess baggage now! Anyway, it was a good ride, and my riding buddy is going to do a couple of mountain passes with me over the next couple of weeks so I am ready for my big ride in September!

100 miles in 14 minutes

We had talked about going another 50 KM but the temperatures got up into the 90’s and France (unlike Switzerland) does not have the plethora of water spigots every few miles and we wound up a little dehydrated. Well, that, and when we got to Belfort we checked the train schedule and there was a train leaving in 15 minutes. We decided that the Gods were trying to tell us something. So we bought tickets and headed back. One of the most interesting things about the area, at least to me, were the raised canals over other bodies of water in France.

Canal over a river in France

My riding partner was explaining to me that a very popular summer activity is to rent a houseboat and cruise the canal we rode by. I have done a couple of houseboat vacations on lakes in the US. Honestly, they were not my favorite vacation, but I could see the appeal to others. However, I saw no redeeming things at all to do this on the french canals. For one reason, the canals were foul. You would not even think about swimming in the water, and that is at least 1/2 the fun of a boat vacation. The second reason I would never want do this are the locks. There are some pretty good elevation changes in this part of France, so there are many locks. In some places the locks are only separated by a couple of hundred meters. These locks have been in place so long, that many of them are still manually operated. The amount of work required to go 10 miles on the canal would be significant. This is certainly not my idea of a fun vacation. Drive the boat, tie it up, activate the lock, untie the boat, drive 200 meters and repeat the process. Some of the locks are big enough to handle two or three boats at the same time. However, many of the locks are big enough for only one. I mean we go on vacation to leave the rat race and traffic jams. Not experience them on the water!

Monday is one of the few Holidays that Julie actually gets to take off this year. It is Swiss National Day. This is similar to the 4th of July in the US. The biggest difference is that it celebrates the unification of the country, not independence from a foreign power. To show you how slow things tend to move in Switzerland. The day was first celebrated officially in 1891. That sounds like a long time, right? Well the signing of the federal charter that is celebrated happened in 1291! To demonstrate even more how slow the Swiss Govt can move. The day did not become a National Holiday until 1994. It seems so strange that the celebration of the founding of the country did not become a national holiday for over 700 years!!!!!! The holiday will be celebrated a little differently I think. Usually the weekend is full of fireworks both town wide and household. This year, though, due to lack of rain most of the fireworks displays have been cancelled, and in some areas setting of fireworks is illegal. We are going to celebrate by driving to Strasbourg, France and exploring a new town.

Last note for this week: WE GET TO SEE THE PACKERS PLAY IN OCTOBER! The Packers are one of the last teams to play a game outside the US. This year they are coming to London, and I got tickets today! Hey, Matt Moore! If your season tickets cover this game, come on over, and we will have a party in London! This should be a good time. I am hoping some friends coming over this month from Wisconsin, are going to be able to bring us some cheesehead hats. Though I do not know what the good people of London will think about us wearing the hats on the tube while we are traveling to the game. Just wearing green and gold, they might think we are some crazed soccer fans, but the foam cheese head hats might be a little extreme!

I hope you all have a great weekend. Talk to you next week. Enjoy the pictures. I do not have many this week, but hopefully will have some good ones from Strasbourg.

2 June. 2022


Elevation image of hike

This is only the 3rd time our son has been able to be here in the warmer months. The first time really doesn’t count, because he was only here for a few days, and his main task was to move his Mother out of the hotel and into our apartment. This time he has decided he wants to try some hiking. Last weekend he and Julie went on a lovely hike from our home to Uetliberg. It is a fun hike of about 9 kilometers. You hike over one ridge to a nearby town, take a gondola up the next ridge, and then it is a fairly level walk the rest of the way. He and Julie took the hike, while I went for a long bike ride. His second hike he wanted to do in the mountains. He decided to visit Seealpsee and Ebenalp.

I read up on the hike, and found that this is one of the most popular hikes in the country. At least the hike to Seealpsee is. Now most people doing this hike, take the graveled trail from the train station up to the lake. If people are doing the entire hike, most people take the gondola up to Ebenalp and then hike down. Not my son. He wanted to be Swiss. We drove to the train station, and then started going up, and up, and up. We got to the top of the first ridge, and I was “OK, that wasn’t that bad. It was hard, but I didn’t die. We will have a nice level walk to recover. Have some lunch, and since we are halfway up I should be OK.” Then I looked across the valley. As you can see from the elevation map when we leveled off, we were not 1/2 way up, we were only about 1/3 of the way up the mountain. We have some good pictures, but I also hope you enjoy the video I made by splicing together a bunch of TikToks. Ignore the heavy breathing toward the end of the video. I was EXHAUSTED!!

The hike was even harder because the day before I went on a pretty hard bike ride, that had over 1500 meters of climbs. My legs started tired, and they were pretty shaky at the end! If you look at the elevation picture, where the climb was the most steep I was only able to walk about 25-30 meters at a time. The trail at that point was nothing but steps and switchbacks. I basically went from switchback to switchback and took a two – three minute rest at each turn. The strangest part of the hike was near the end. You can see the restaurant we stopped for a breather. The restaurant is built into the side of the mountain.

I was a little concerned about how we were going to get from the restaurant up the top of the mountain. The trail started as a bridge built off the side of the cliff. I was a little worried that was going to be how the hike ended. I stumbled and fell hundreds of feet down! However, after a few hundred yards the trail came to a cave. You actually hike through the cave to get up to the field at the top of the mountain for the gondola ride back down. The change in temperature was very striking. We were very comfortable up to the point we left the cave. I think the temperature was a good 15 – 20 degrees colder up at the top of the mountain versus the bottom. Thank goodness there was a building to wait for the gondola, or we would have gotten hypothermia.

Growing up on a cattle farm, I am still impressed with how the Swiss cows live on the mountains. When you look through the photo gallery. Look for a picture of 3 or 4 cows on the side of the mountain. The next picture is zoomed out to normal, and you can see the whole hillside. The cows actually make little terraces as they walk across the hill finding what little grass is available. It seems so strange to me, that the cows are able to find enough nourishment on the mountains, but I guess they have been doing this for hundreds and hundreds of years, so what do I know?

This weekend we are heading to Luxembourg. So I should have some more travel photos for next week’s post. Talk to you soon.

27 April 2022

Well according to the city and canton of Zürich winter is officially over. Based on the cold temperatures in the morning this week I think someone forgot to tell Mother Nature! I was able to head down to the Operaplatz (renamed Sechseläutenplatz for the weekend) to see winter being blown to smithereens. No one knows exactly when the Böögg became the symbol of the spring festival, but it has been awhile.


Sechseläuten goes back to the middle ages. It was the start of the summer working hours for the guildhalls in the canton. The workday used to be from sunup to sundown, and they were paid a daily wage for their labor. This, of course, was a raw deal for the working person for about 8 months of the year. During the spring, summer, and fall the laborers put in a lot more work than they did during the winter. Sechseläuten is Swiss German for Six O’Clock ringing of the bells. This was the symbol for the workday to be over. It meant these workers had some time off with sunlight; so they could do some work of their own, or just simply visiting with family.

When the festival first started it was a neighborhood party. There were multiple parades around the town, and boys would set off fireworks and other LOUD celebrations. At some point boys being boys someone decided to burn winter in effigy. Hence the Böögg was born. In the US we would call this the Boogeyman. From different stories I have read the first Böögg was set aflame in 1902 as an official part of the festival, but reports go back to the 17th and 18th centuries in regards to fireworks and burning winter in effigy. It has been done every year since with the exception of 2020 when the event was canceled due to Covid. 2021 saw another first because although the Böögg was set on fire, it happened near the city of Andermat. The city government moved the display because they did not want people congregating again because of Covid. So 2022 was the big return.

I knew it was going to be big; so I went down about four hours early. I took a leisurely stroll through ZĂĽrich from the train station down to the Opera. The festival goes the entire weekend ending on Monday. There are many different neighborhood festivals going on with food, games, and fun. About 4 PM the parade of guilds begins. The different guilds have bands, floats, and many parade walkers in period costumes.

One thing I had not done, was visit the Lindenhof. There is nothing very special about this place, but it is the sight of an old Roman Castle. The views of the river are very pretty, though.

The Limmat Fluss (River) from the Lindenhof

I learned that Swiss crowds are no better behaved than crowds anywhere else. I was kind of surprised by this. So again, I got down to the festival grounds very early. I knew I was not going to be able to get very close; so I wanted to find the best possible spot to watch the show. I was so early, that literally there was no one else just standing around; so I did get a great spot right as close as possible. The crowds starting pick up with about an hour and a half to go. I found myself having to defend my spot on the fence fairly aggressively. Everyone wanted that spot. I kept one hand on the fence; so as not to get pushed away, but one point a woman wedged into the 6 inch space between another person and I. A hand grabbed the back of my jacket and pulled me away from the fence far enough the lady could get in front of me. I was really mad, but not mad enough to start a fight. 🙂 I really started getting upset when 15 minutes before everything really got going the woman’s son came and tried to climb the fence in front of me. Then about another 6 kids magically appeared. I get the festival is really for the kids, but darn it. I had scoped out that spot, and been standing there for HOURS. I was not about to let these kids climb the fence and ruin my sight line. So I stood there grabbing the fence above the woman’s head. The kids were able to climb up enough they could see, but not high enough they ruined everyone else’s view. It was a good thing I do not speak Swiss German, because I am sure I was being called a lot of names! Next year, I think I skip the fire, and just go down to watch the parade!

We have visitors coming this weekend. If you have read my blog for a while you have met Gabby (my son’s significant other), well Gabby’s sister is studying in Europe this semester; so she is coming tomorrow to spend a few days in Switzerland with another friend. I admit I am a little nervous. The last time we had college students stay with us the entire world shut down two weeks later! Hopefully, this will be like the burning of Böögg and signify the end of the covid pandemic. I am not going to hold my breath, but I will remain hopeful!

In other news, when Switzerland announced they were going to put economic sanctions on Russia over invading Ukraine a lot of people questioned that. The feeling seemed to be that Switzerland could not stay neutral and still put sanctions on a country. Well this week the government was able to demonstrate what military neutrality means. Germany wanted to send some anti aircraft weapons to Eukrane, but the munitions are made in Switzerland. Switzerland’s policy is they will sell arms, but only if there is no active war. So if Germany wanted to ship the material six months ago there would have been no problem, but now they cannot based on Germany’s agreement with Switzerland. Switzerland takes the equipment thing very seriously. They have blocked shipments of helmets, footwear, and protective vests. The government here has even blocked shipments of medical supplies, because there is no guarantee they will only be used in civilian hospitals. On the surface it seems kind of harsh, but the more I think it does make a lot of sense.

Not a whole lot of pictures from this last week. The weather was awful, so outside of Sechseläuten I did not do much other than ride my bike on the balcony, and go to the grocery store! I did get a pleasant surprise today, though. A month or so back I told you all about the Alpenbrevet. This is a ride through the Alps. I signed up for a 100 KM ride that goes over three mountain passes. I got a package today that had a new bike jersey! I think it looks awesome.

I hope you have a great week, and as usual enjoy the pictures.

21 April 2022

I remember when Kaylee was looking to spend her senior year of high school in Argentina. Julie and I, of course, were a little worried about our baby going so far away, and other than the surprise trip to a hospital we really did not have much to worry about. The one thing I remember from the preparation was a quote by an exchange student that had already returned. “I decided I was going to make my exchange year the year of “YES.” As long as it was not illegal I told myself that no matter what someone asked me to do, I was going to say yes, and enjoy the experience as much as I can.” Of course there is a difference between being an 18 year old vs someone in their mid 50’s. We probably have not said yes as often as we should, and we spend far to many Sundays recovering in the apartment instead of being out exploring, but we are trying.

One of the ways we have expanded our horizons the most is in food. Whenever we go someplace new, we make sure to order what we think is the most strange thing on the menu. (Seriously though, the fresh octopus we had in Portugal has been one of the best things we have ever eaten.) One big change is that we almost never buy pre-made meals any more. This is primarily because since I am not working I have time to cook, so about the only thing we buy pre-made is Rösti (a local take on hash browns) and Pasta. Well the pasta is going to be cut down a lot in the future.

Pasta Maker

Julie had a gift card burning a hole in her purse; so we hopped a train to Zürich last Saturday and went to Globus. Most of you have never heard of Globus, but think high priced department store and you are on the right track. We almost never shop there. Everything is priced significantly higher than any other store. However, since Julie had the gift card we decided to check it out. As we were walking around the store, Julie saw this and said how she had always wanted to learn to make pasta. So on the spur of the moment she picked up the machine, a spaghetti attachment, a drying rack, and some kind of ravioli contraption. The ravioli thing looks like a cross between a pizza cutter, and one of those tools used to put screen in a screen door. 🙂

We brought it home, and decided that since Monday is a holiday, (Does anyone in the US get Easter Monday off? That is actually a thing here, but I did not realize it until this year, because the last two Easter’s we have basically been shut down due to Covid.) we would use the afternoon to try and make fresh pasta. The recipe is pretty easy. You buy a specific kind of flour and then mix a little olive oil and 1 egg for every 100 grams of flour. I also added a little salt based on some of the things I read online. Mix everything up well. Roll the dough into a ball, and let sit for about an hour while wrapped in plastic wrap. Flatten the ball with a rolling pin, and then start running it through the big rollers on the pasta maker. It takes a total of about 18 trips through the roller and then you roll it through the attachment on top of the machine to make the shape. I actually made a video of using the machine, because WHAT ELSE DO I HAVE TO DO? 🙂

My first attempt at making pasta from scratch!

Making pasta is a lot more work than buying a bag of stuff in the grocery store, but honestly the results are worth it. The taste and texture is so much better than anything we have bought in the store. One thing we have learned here, is there is a big difference between regular pasta and premium pasta in the grocery store. Well the fresh stuff makes the premium stuff seem second rate. I highly recommend it. The other benefit is that until I do this enough to really figure out the machine, it is a great way to cook together. If you watched the video, the pasta maker is a lot easier with two people than only one. Now, maybe if we had bought the PREMIUM pasta maker that had an electric motor instead of a crank…… but that will be for the next gift card!

Pasta on the drying rack.
The finished product with a homemade sauce as well!

I think I am going to have a fun time experimenting with this. Just like I have really enjoyed learning how to bake bread. My next bread adventure BTW is to make Julie some English Muffins. The two stores that used to carry the muffins, locally, stopped carrying them, so Julie needs to find an alternative. Our recent trip to Munich found Julie searching through the grocery stores, where she picked up a month’s supply of muffins, but that is running out quickly!

THe BööGg

Sechseläuten is the name of the Spring Festival in ZĂĽrich. The translation of the word is “The six o’clock ringing of the bells.” This goes back to medieval times when the work day was from sun up to sun down. That scheduled worked fine in the winter, but starting in the spring and then through summer it meant that the workers got the shaft because they were paid per day, and all of a sudden sun down meant a much longer work day. So the guilds in ZĂĽrich came up with a solution. Each spring the GrossmĂĽnster started ringing the bells at six pm to signify the end of the work day. So now the day is a festival in ZĂĽrich. The festival ends with the burning of the Böögg. At 6 pm next Monday the pyre is lit, and the tradition is that the faster the Böögg’s head explodes the better the summer is going to be.

The festival has been called off the last two years due to covid. In fact, 2020 was the first time in recorded history the festival was canceled. Last year the festival was canceled, but the burning of the Böögg was moved to Andermatt. (See the video below.)

Burning of the Böögg

Next Monday, I will be downtown ZĂĽrich for the parades, and to watch the head explode live!

According to Wikipedia. The fastest time has been 5 minutes 7 seconds, and longest time is 43 minutes 34 seconds. I am hoping for a record, because I really want a good summer!

language success

I know I have talked many times on here about trying to learn German. I had, for me, a major success this week that I wanted to tell you about.

Each year, Julie and I have to renew our visa. Honestly, it is a pretty easy process, but it is kind of a pain. We are supposed to surrender our Aufenthaltstitel (residency permit) and then wait 4 – 6 weeks for the new one to show up. Normally it is not a problem to be without the card. If we are going anywhere, we simply use our driver license and passport. This year, though, I did not want to surrender the permit card, because we will be traveling back to the US before the new one would arrive. Not having the card does make it hard to get back through customs at the airport. Without that card, the border agents, give us a lot of grief about exceeding the 90 day policy as a tourist in Switzerland. So my success was that not only was I able to do the whole transaction in German. I was even able to ask about keeping the cards until the new ones arrived since we are going to be traveling internationally in the next few weeks.

What made the transaction even more special to me, is the town clerk realized I was trying valiantly to do this in German. He kept replying to me in English and then he would stop himself and switch to German! This almost never happens. The normal thing is that once the Swiss person realizes that I am not fluent, they immediately switch to English, and everything from that point on is English not German. It really does make it hard to get better.

I hope you are having a fantastic week. I will write again next week with hopefully some good pictures and video of the festival.