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May. 28th, 2012

playground

the kids in our neighborhood have a playground view that's pretty great.
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it's summer! a week and a half ago, it was winter. now it's summer! we have the windows open, the birds are singing, and the sky is bluuuuuue.

glorious.

May. 18th, 2012

ive never had avocado like this! she declared

our friend renata is a seamstress--she went to a super awesome old fashioned couture school when she was a young adult. with the wildly coloured hair and multiple piercings she had at the time, she didnt exactly fit in with the school's setting: a place where pants on women werent allowed until the 90s. the 90s!. one of her professors was super strict and would not even let the students use a seam ripper. last time she was here, i got to pour over her pattern books. most of her previous clients (the school made real clothes for real people) were prim older ladies, but what i really enjoyed was seeing the various fashion eras represented.

renata made a block of my body for me, and designed the pattern for my wedding dress. im doing the sewing, but she's been amazing about helping me with the rest.

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ive made a few versions of the dress bodice (the skirt is a half circle skirt of which im totally confident) already--one with the pattern marks all over it, and one with a curtain overlay just to see how a sheer fabric is going to look, and to practice sewing with a sheer. in return for renata's help, i promised a feast. last night she and her partner came over and i fed them good. real good.

renata also made a few adjustments to the pattern, and brought me my sleeve pattern, so now i get to make a new version of the dress, with the skirt attached and everything, and then we shall do one more fitting for adjustments before i cut into the hemp silk.

first they enjoyed a 7-layer dip (though i must confess to only using 5 layers, omitting the jalapeños i could not find and the shredded cheese for the top) and tequila sunrises, and then some cheese stuffed peppers. i really wanted to make jalapeño poppers... but that just wasnt in the cards. i made a sort of approximation which was tasty but not the same. and then we had dinner: tomatoes stuffed with black beans and rice and spiced with cumin and paprika, corn tacos with zucchini and radish slaw, a household favourite here, and crispy tortilla bowls with black beans and chili lime white fish.

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the tapatío was examined and sniffed and determined to be like ketchup. until it was tasted.
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and then there were two desserts: margarita cupcakes and mexican chocolate cupcakes.
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the chocolate cupcakes have become a real favourite around here, mostly because ive been taking a recipe of cupcakes for 2 and doing various things to them. i am fond of slicing candied ginger into the batter, and i have also baked strawberries inside. this time, i added cinnamon and cayenne, and instead of the frosting recommended in the recipe, i made a ganache with a pinch of cinnamon.

today we're off to join the parents-in-law and meet with the head chef/owner of the restaurant in yverdon where we're having our wedding dinner. the plan is set the menu. tomorrow we're eating with a friend of the family in a small village ive never been to. and then i have some sewing to do :)

May. 15th, 2012

flat rejuvenation

gift cards (THANK YOU!!) from the california wedding helped us transform our apartment--we were able to buy some new cushions and reading lights (although with the change in the season, we now have light from 6am until nearly 10pm), and while we were getting stuff and things, we went ahead and bought some much needed drawer space for our bedroom, and bookshelves for our living room. i think it's funny that a dresser is called a commode (i do not like the idea of placing my delicates in a commode ha ha). we can now put all our clothes away! without creating treacherous stacks in the armoir! and we have more shelf space for all the books that find their way into our home!

we feel so much better about our space :)





hard to believe that in a month's time, my mom will be here, and not so long after that, bestest friend laura and her bearded boyfriend shall arrive, and then soon after, the mister and i will be legally married once and for all. no more of this, well, we got married in calfornia yet it wasnt legal but we feel like we got married even though we "didnt" stuff.

and then we get to go on a HONEYMOON.

first things first.

weather! (why are you so wacky!)



right now, thought, the sunshine is wafting in the window as i sip my morning coffee and im thankful for that.

May. 11th, 2012

some thoughts on politics


a few nights ago, the mister called me over to his computer. "i want to show you something," he said. this was just before dinner. and i nearly lost my appetite. the swiss newspaper declared, without any fanfare, that michele bachmann had become swiss! buhwhuuu?! was my response. after all, one simply does not "become" swiss. it's a rather arduous process, much like anything bureaucratic here in swissyland. even if you are born here, if your parents arent swiss, youre not swiss. this is of course a huge contrast to 'merica, where anchor babies are granted citizenship rights all the time*.


here's what got my goat: i didnt understand how she was granted citizenship. the rules for naturalization are complex and rigid. one simply doesnt "become" swiss**.

the naturalization process is as follows:

  • Twelve years' residence in Switzerland (between the ages of 10 and 20 every year is counted as two years)
  • Integration into Swiss society
  • Familiarity with Swiss customs, traditions and lifestyle
  • Compliance with Swiss law
  • No threat to Switzerland's internal or external security.
(source: http://www.ch.ch/private/00029/00033/00237/00239/index.html?lang=en)

ive since learned that these rules are for regular naturalization. there's also a naturalization process reserved for spouses. the rules are a little different, but still not as simple as a note passed in social studies




the rules state:
"Foreigners married to Swiss citizens can apply for facilitated naturalisation. You must have been in a stable marriage for at least three years, and have lived in Switzerland for a total of five years. The last 12 months must have been spent entirely in Switzerland. Like all applicants, foreign spouses must show that they are well integrated into the Swiss way of life.

The initial application is examined by the Federal Office for Migration, but both the canton and commune of residence have their own requirements. The fee payable also varies according to the place of residence.

The final decision is taken by the commune in which you are resident. In some places this decision is taken by a panel, in others by a popular vote of all citizens of the commune."

(source: http://www.swissworld.org/en/faq/obtaining_swiss_nationality/)

and according to another source:
"The person must be well integrated, law abiding and not endanger Switzerland’s external or internal security. This rule generally applies to foreign spouses married to a Swiss for at least three years and who have lived in Switzerland for a total of five years, including the year immediately prior to application."

(source: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/Specials/Switzerland:_How_to/Politics/Becoming_a_citizen.html?cid=29288376)

surely, michele bachmann did not meet those requirements... so i started poking around.

the newspapers didnt say how, but just kept repeating the idea that bachmann acquired dual citizenship, which did not make sense to me. feathers fluffed, i was determined to find the answer. and at last, i solved the puzzle. you see, in 1978, when bachmann married her husband, the law stated that a foreign woman*** was given citizenship. because bachmann's husband is swiss, she was granted the right to procure a red passport, not just a blue one.

in her own words, "Even though I have been a dual citizen since I was married in 1978, I have never exercised any rights of that citizenship."
(source: http://bachmann.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=294843)

the marriage was not registered with swiss authorities until now.
(source: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0512/76142.html#ixzz1uY6bhj9j)

this information made me feel better... but i was still a bit irritated. after all, this meant that bachmann suddenly had the ability to vote**** or, my stars!, run for office.

this morning i learned that she has written the consulate and said she wanted to nullify her swiss papers.
(source: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/polinaut/archive/2012/05/bachmann_moves.shtml)

alors, voilà.

still, there is another issue to address. the USAian media jumped all over her for being a hypocrite. swissyland has two things that she abhors: universal health care and gay marriage. yes. but switzerland is also being shown as a socialist nation, and this is something that i think is misunderstood. there are folks in the gov't who are socialist, it's true, but... at the same time, switzerland is conservative.

immigrants are not exactly welcome with open arms. i had to walk by this charming billboard every day during the last election:
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also, dont forget that the swiss voted to ban minarets in 2009

it's really not so easy to classify; this is a complex place culturally and politically.

here's a chart of party power until 2011

(source: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/internal_affairs/index/Party_strength.html?theView=big&aliasBodyPlain=&aliasTitle=Party%20strength&view=popup&cid=31431384)

i know the SVP as the UDC***** (aka the Swiss People's Party. to make things more complicated, the names of the parties are all different in german, french, and English), the nice folks who made the charming billboard about stopping immigration. oh, and this one too:


currently the president is from the BDP/PBD/Conservative Democratic party. another interesting thing about swiss politics--the president is just a figure head. every 4 years, seven members of the Swiss Federal Council (the executive branch) are elected by the United Federal Assembly and a new President is elected from these seven each year. the party in power takes turns! they share!

switzerland might be small, but it's a country that was established when three states got together and said "hey, let's be united because we dont like those other guys." they are very much into autonomy and independence. and they are also very much into letting the people have a say. their electoral system is something to be admired, i think.

ive learned so much since ive moved to swissyland... and i just really want folks to be aware of what really goes on here. this place is neither a bastian of liberalism, nor an ultra-conservative state. it's both. and it's not socialist. in fact, every time i tell that to one of christian's friends, they laugh and laugh and laugh.

*christian's cousin is american. yup. he went to the bank the other day to open an account for his children, ages 5 and 7, and was told he could not open the account because there's a tricky issue with bank accounts and US citizenship. fascinating, no? christian's cousin lived in the US of A until the ripe ol' age of 3. he simply tried to open accounts for kids, and that pesky US citizenship got in the way. i dont really understand the details since i have a swiss bank account (mu ha ha ha), but we opened mine a few years ago when i first arrived.

**in 1979, there was a comedy made about the naturalization process. ive heard it's very funny. (we have it, but sans subtitles. ive batted my lashes at the mister and maybe we'll get another copy so i might enjoy it as well.)

***yes, woman! that's what the document says! now, keep in mind, this is a country that only granted women the right to vote in 1971 (the last canton approved suffrage in 1991 after a great deal of pressure from the rest of the country)

****here's another funny story. christian has a good friend named arno. arno is german. his family immigrated to switzerland when arno was a baby. poor arno cant vote: without swiss citizenship, he cant vote here; because he doesnt live in germany, he cant vote there. he didnt go through the swiss citizenship process before the age of 22 and now he'd have to go through some serious hoops even though he's lived here since he was a baby. when he and his wife were getting married, he had to prove he was not married in germany, even though the family left that country when he was 6 months old! after an exchange of letters from gov't officials, including a declaration from germany that it's not policy to marry babies, arno was finally allowed to marry his swiss wife.

*****interestingly enough, christian has a relative in the gov't from that party. as the swiss mister explained, it started as a rural party with more traditional values and then wealth got involved and it became the party it is now. funny to think that christian is marrying a foreigner.

May. 2nd, 2012

bébé ours

we went to baulmes as usual this weekend, but christian's mom emphasized that i should have my camera fully charged and ready to go and we should come earlier than usual for lunch. hmm, says me. christian and i made a lot of guesses as to what the surprise would be, but we were wrong on all counts. the surprise was super awesome though. after lunch we packed ourselves into the car and jaunted up and down the mountain road to vallorbe to see.... BABY BEARS. and other creatures as well. but BABY BEARS!

there's a wildlife park not far from where the mister grew up. there they have bears, wolves, a lynx, buffalo, et Les Chevaux de Przewalski (Przewalski's horse). and when i say wolves and bears, i mean they hang out together. isnt that crazy? there's a small door in the bear area that a wolf can fit through. when we first arrived, a wolf was keeping company with a bear.
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that'a wolf by the water, and mr. bear was wandering around. he came over to say hi
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another bear was chilling on the mountainside
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and then... there were babies!
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they poked their little heads out and scampered around a bit, and then mama bear called them back to the cave and, one presumes, made them take a nap.
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everybody in, she says
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the animals are so incredibly camouflaged!

the sly lynx was taking a nap.
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this wolf was doing a funny slideyslide dance down the hill (frog dog!)
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i sat to watch again for baby bears, but they did not make another appearance.
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and across the street, there were creatures happy to accept grass snacks through the fence
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Apr. 14th, 2012

bear hugs!

christian and i went to bern for a day adventure. we wandered around, and i enjoyed the little details on the buildings.

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there are cellars in the center of town with underground shops aplenty.
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i also enjoyed all the bears. bears have been the mascot of bern since the 1200s.
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then at lunch, i asked christian what the plan was. he said, "well, first let's walk to the bears, and then we'll go to the art museum." ok, great, says me, thinking he means a bunch of bear statues, or some sort of other bear motif. i never for an instant thought he was being literal. i did not think he meant real bears. he meant real bears. we approached a bridge and i saw a lot of people lined up. he said "see? those people are coming for the bears." then i looked at the hillside. THERE WERE BEARS.

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someone tell stephen colbert! oh wait. i bet he knows: keeping bears in bern is not new (how did i miss it?!)--bears have been kept in the city since 1513. the bear pit was opened in 1857, but the bears got a much better home, right next to the river, just a few years ago. christian told me the old bear pit was quite creepy. he liked seeing the bears but it did not seem to be a dignified space. the new park is lovely because the bears can roam and romp and catch fish in the river.

mama bear was napping...
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while the kids ran around and played
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when she woke up from her nap, the kids came running to greet her
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and then there were bear snuggles
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i adore bears. in 1985, i was pretty thrilled about the superbowl results (the game was also played in louisiana, the pelican state, so bonus points for that)


yay bears!
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after watching the bears, we went to sit by the river.
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the river in bern is awesomely called the aar (AAAR!!) which inspired me to make pirate jokes.

then we went to the paul klee museum. i had no idea but my friend steve is a dead ringer for paul klee. it was an impressive museum and i rather enjoyed seeing all the art (AAARRRRT!). the current exhibitions included Uncanny. Witches, phantoms and demons in Paul Klee and L’Europe des esprits: the magic of the intangible from the Romantic to the Modern.

we finished wandering about just as the museum was closing. we hopped on the bus and made our way back to the train station where we had an early dinner of coffee and pretzels (yay swiss germany!)

luckily the rain had cleared up for the moment. it's COLD again. and there's snow predicted for this next week. snow.

Apr. 8th, 2012

swiss easter: salad! and eggs! et croquette!

we had a good time with the egg hunt. the eggs were hidden, sought, found, re-hidden, searched for, located, lost (for a time), and found. the kids hid the eggs from the grown-ups, and the grown-ups hid the eggs from the kids. i cannot remember how many rounds we did. quite a few.
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then we had dinner which was 4 different salads and eggs. there were some meat snacks too, but those were not for me. to eat your egg, first you had to play croquette. not croquet. and not croquette like a fried thing. but a game of croquette: egg battle. and why not? we have jousting peeps. (christian just sang "daavvvvey, daaaavey croquette...")

christian and his granny demonstrate
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pointy side of egg vs. pointy side of egg are smacked against each other.
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the winner is the one whose egg does not crack, or cracks the least

next up, roundy side vs. roundy side
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christian's egg was the victor!
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so granny gets to eat hers.

everyone wanted to play granny. here she is with sasha:
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we had a lovely dinner
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and after, valentin played the violin for us.
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then i tried to play his violin. little violins are hard to play!! still, i think he was amused by my rendition of twinkle twinkle little star. of course in french it's not twinkle twinkle little star. it's three chickens went to a field:

Quand trois poules vont au champ
La première va devant.
La deuxième suit la première
La troisième est la derrière.
Quand trois poules vont au champ
La première va devant.

translation:
when the three chickens went to the field
the first one is in front
the second one follows the first
the third one is behind
when the three chickens went to the field
the first one is in front

n'est pas la même

granny (and the rest of the family) liked the zombie bunny cake.
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happy easter!

in switzerland.... THERE IS NO EASTER BUNNY

shocking but true. this discovery led to a discussion of other childhood heros of lore. like the tooth fairy. here, when kids lose a tooth, it's the little tooth mouse who takes away the tooth and leaves a coin. la petite souris des dents. christian and his sister mocked our beloved fairy, but i countered with, a mouse? please. i am a very sophisticated arguer.

but no easter bunny? "so who brings the easter basket?" i asked. christian blinked at me. who brings it? no one brings it... it's just there. what?!



we've spent the whole weekend here in baulmes.

on good friday, we celebrated granny's 95th birthday. her actual birthday was last week and i made her a crown.
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i had an enlightening chat with christian's second cousin who is 7. i reallyreallyreally want christian to take me to a dinosaur park* here (these mountains are called the jura for a reason: jurasic). i asked the young man if he had visited said park. he said "yeah. pfft. they were fake."

on saturday, i did some baking. i made a lovely lemon cake. i hollowed out six eggs, just enough for the family, and did an experimental run with cake in eggshells. it was a smashing success.

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granny had a look of pure joy on her face as she ate her cake egg.

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i also made a bunny cake, a relic of my childhood. the family watched with great interest as i shaped the cakes and covered the bunny with frosting. we added raspberries for eyes and the bunny turned into a zombie.

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also on saturday, we had fondue. and for the first time ever, i got to enjoy eggs after fondue. i figured i was already overindulging on eggs and sugar and cream and the like so why the hell not. after the browned cheese bits are scraped out of the pot, you pour in some whiskey or cognac and then cook the eggs comme ça.
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eggs cooked in booze and browned cheese. très magnifique!
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sadly, the weather is rather cold and dreary on this easter sunday. i think it's because there is no easter bunny.

and now we're off to the family easter gathering...! should the rain cease, there will be an egg hunt for the little ones. i certainly hope the rain gives us a break so i can take awesome photos of an egghunt in action

...to be continued...

*i suggested to christian that we have our wedding portraits done there. the look he gave me was priceless.

Mar. 13th, 2012

riding the rails: exploring the country

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one of christian's great-aunts gave us day passes for this last sunday--a day pass allows you to take all public transportation in the country: boats, trains, subway, bus. we planned out some food stops, but we knew it would be sketchy because places are rarely open on sunday. i was clever and got my tour guide books off the bookshelf. then i was double super smart and left them on the couch.

before we reached bern, my random castle count was up to 3. the rule was, i could not actively seek the castles, but if i happened to notice one, i made a tally mark. in total, i saw 5 random castles. christian teased me that i should keep a tally of church spires and chalets as well. i maturely stuck my tongue out at him.

prochain arret: bern
in bern we didnt do anything save get yummy pretzels and switch trains. what i like about train travel in switzerland is the shifting of languages on the train. announcements are in french, german, and english only at the beginning and ending of the train's route. throughout the trip, announcements are in the language of the region. here in romandie, the announcements of each stop are in french. it's possible to know when you cross-over to a different part of switzerland simply by how the station is announced.
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nächste halt: interlaken
i have been to the interlaken region before. it was 1992. i remember the region being just gorgeous. i remember the mountain air and just how amazingly clean everything was. during that trip, we didnt stay in interlaken but took a cog rail up the mountain to a small place called wengen. some day i want to go back there.

i noticed two other places i want to visit. one is Brienz, and the other is Thun. the castle in thun, built in 1190, is so disneyland-esque. my little nose was pressed up against the glass as we rolled into town. thun is also where the military court is. i learned this because christian was explaining the only time he had been to thun was when he had his trial after he refused the mandatory military service.

we passed through Brienz and the lake was just magnificent. it's where we should have stopped to get amazing views of the lake instead of interlaken.

we wandered around interlaken feeling a bit let down. you see, although interlaken was beautiful, we both assumed one could easily get to the two lakes it was in between. not on an hour stopover, we couldnt. we walked along the river and were disappointed that there were no boat rides.
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the water of the streams, rivers, and lakes in the alps is such an incredibly beautiful colour. it makes me annoy the person i'm with by saying "would you look at that water colour!? can you believe that? look at the water!" over and over again
the closer to a glacier one gets, the milkier it is. sometimes the water is like a labordorite gemstone, and sometimes it resembles a nice copper patina. in interlaken, the river was a deep peacock green.

here's the best photo i got of the lake from the train
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all aboard! next stop: lucern
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this train was my favourite, with its wooden seats and happy ticket takers. rather than rolling the drink cart in the aisle, they went seat to seat asking for drink orders. it was a regional train, and one got the sense they all knew each other. the ticket taker was sharing a sandwich with the guy behind us.

the more the train crawled up the mountain, the more snow there was to admire. well, i was admiring the snow. someone took a little nappynap
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at the top of the mountain, i noticed some passengers switching seats. it was like a dance. christian offered to switch with me, as i like to sit facing the direction the train is moving, and i realised it was because the train was simply going to go back down the mountain. we swapped places and i continued to watch the landscape.

we passed a reservoir
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once we reached lucern, we decided to make a stop for lunch. while eating our picnic lakeside, we watched the swans.
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swans, as i think i've discussed before, are such territorial assholes. they fascinate me.
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christian bought some postcards for the family at the station, and we settled into our seats. the language switched again, and we heard some italian via the train announcement. our next destination was schwyz, which, christian told me "is switzerland." the original three cantons formed an alliance in 1291 to thumb their noses at the austrians (well, there were battles fought too) and declare independence. all the important founding documents are in schwyz. switzerland gets its name from schwyz as well--once the alliance was formed, the three cantons were known as schwyzers, and the place became known as schwyzerland.

this is also the place where swiss army knives came from. we didnt see any founding documents or penknives. but we did see a lot of fancy sports cars driving way too fast on twisty cobblestone streets.

the town itself is a few kilometers from the train station, so we took the bus up the hill to see what we could find. this is what we saw first:
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we wandered around but heard no romansh and saw no folks wearing traditional mountain clothes. dang!
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we did see a pretty awesome mansion.
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i liked the door of one of the outside buidings connected with the mansion
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and we watched some children play hide-and-seek around this building dating from 1287 101_9393

we sent the postcards on our way out of town
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then we took the bus, packed with folks in ski-gear. the floor of the bus was slippery because of the snow melting off the snowboards and skis. i was entertained watching the people walk with ski boots on.

the mountains, viewed from the schwyz station, were gorgeous
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we took the train to zurich and i soaked in all the deliciousness knowing that soon it would be dark and i wouldnt be able to see the landscape fly by.

in zurich, while we waited for the train home, we had drinks in the awesomely painted station restaurant
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i love the ceiling
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suddenly, we realised we had to run to catch our train! the waiter yelled at me for using the wrong door. christian had made it through the door without a tongue lashing. well HUMPH.

we boarded the train and the sunlight was gone. even though it was a double decker train, it was difficult to find a seat. it's not so much that there were folks in every seat, but more that people had stacked their bags on the empty seats and were not keen on moving them. i swear we walked the whole length of the train looking for a place to sit. we finally decided to just sit separately because we werent going to find two seats together. i sat down and the couple i flopped next to said, oh, wait, are you two together? and i said yes as i watched the swiss mister try and find a seat just ahead of me. they moved their bags and i called christian back and we all lived happily ever after.

i never really thought much about moving my bags. i always do that when i see a huge crowd boarding the trains. it's just the right thing to do! and it struck me as odd when, during our entire trip, folks kept thanking me over and over again for such a simple gesture. at the end of our journey i understood why. it seems people dont always do that.

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