I’m On Call, To Be There

Vienna, that is. This magical city is where I spent this last weekend, with two strapping travel companions. This is not the first trip I’ve taken with two dudes, though this was much shorter than Portugal. Despite being outnumbered, we really had a tipp topp super time.

The gang's all here!

Jill sent a extensive list of sights for us to see whilst in the city, which was sehr useful. With all the goodies on that list we would have been set for at least a month of “touristing,” but alas we only had two days. When Nick, Adam, and I arrived on Friday night we made it a point to get our rumbling tummies to a restaurant for some legitimate Wiener Schnitzel. We scooted over to a place Jill’s dad recommended, but unfortunately they stopped serving food 20 minutes prior. We hopped around the corner and fueled up at a Bierhof, stuffing ourselves with local brew, schnitzel, and potatoes. We were ready for the next day of traversing Vienna.

 

Our dining companion for the evening

The Graben lit up at night

Invigorated by an impressively early start to the morning, we left our ho(s)tel and set out for more food. Jill name-dropped her favorite restaurant in the city, which happens to be a French joint, Le Bol. It was a super suggestion, and we were fully satisfied with our meal. Not to mention it was the perfect brunch haunt. If we hadn’t been kicked out for a reservation taking our table at 11, we could have stayed there for the rest of the day.

After grub we went out into the bitter cold. It was tremendously cold. I am fully aware I have a teeny tiny tolerance for cold, but this was absurd for anyone. Not only were there frigid temps to combat, there was also a generous layer of snow and slush on the ground from the previous day’s precipitation. It made for difficult walking around, but we managed to visit several sights throughout the day. St. Stephan’s Cathedral, the Rathaus, Graben & Kärtnerstrasse, Parliament, and the Kunsthistoriches and Naturhistoriches Museums were some of our stops. Naturally, we needed to spend some time at the extraordinary Christmas Markets, dispersed in various squares and streets. I managed to pick up a few gifts along the way.

 

St. Stephan's

 

Brrrrrrrr... but schööööön

One of the highlights of the afternoon was a most spectacular snack: käsekrainer. This delicious, artery-clogging treat was the perfect mid-day warm-up. A sausage filled with melted cheese? Served with a side of mustard? Accompanied by a little fork? Yes, please! I could have eaten many more of these, but didn’t want to embarrass the dudes.

 

My mouth starts to salivate just looking at one of these hearty beasts.

 

Rathaus and "cheesy" Christmas Market (according to our Viennese friend)

 

Our trio finally had to wave the white flag and surrender to the cold. We headed back the hotel for a power(cat) nap before the concert. After a wee slumber we were revved up for the show. We met up with a Viennese gal who bought Jill’s ticket (tear emoticon) at the venue and headed in for the concert of our life!! Perhaps that is an exaggeration as we have all been to some pretty great gigs. But, to be honest, this one goes high on my list, simply because I have been waiting so long to see these fellas. But first, we had to suffer through the most horrendous opening band I have ever seen in my entire life (requisite dramatic moment of the post). I mean this. They were terrible. The lead singer actually had a fan in front of his face so his hair would blow back while he was singing in the mic. When he wasn’t enjoying the cool breeze he was swinging his arm like a maniac, pumping out power cords and jumping on one leg, while tucking the other one into his body. Honestly, it was embarrassing.

After that frightening display of musicianship it was time for the real deal. They came out with a bang, “Crawl,” and the show only got better from there. I think they must have sifted through my “Most Played” on my ipod and created the setlist from there (similar to the Band of Horses concert I saw in Cambridge). Favorites such as, “Fans,” “Closer,” “Knocked Up,” “Pyro,” “The End,” and “On Call,” melted my face off as they were performed. Kings of Leon are such outstanding performers. They bring an incredible energy to the show and look like they are genuinely having a good time. In one interview frontman, Caleb Followill, said that when they record a song they do it two or three times. After that, if one of the sound guys (super technical, I know) asks them to do it again they say, “Why? You’ve already got all you’re going to get. It’s not going to change any.” I like this so much about this group. They are what they are; no pretense. And that’s how their concert sounded: genuine, honest, and face-melting good.

 

Doodes at the show

Kings of Leon

Kitchen Sink

I happen to be a fan of collages, along with perforated edges and the sound of a can of pop being opened, so in the spirit of putting many things together to make one giant wonderpiece, here are a few things happening now.

  • The other day when I was doing a little harmless shopping on jcrew.com I came across a site on their Links We Love page, which I would remiss in not passing along. If you are having trouble finding a meaningful gift this year I encourage you to take a gander at Goods 4 Good. This site provides multiple ways for you to give back and follow in their motto, “making progress out of excess.” You can make monetary donations in honor of others with either paper or e-cards, find ways to give time and volunteer, and there’s even an option to donate extra or excessive supplies you may have in your office or workplace. Proceeds go to children and families in need all over the world. You donation will provide fabric for clothing, school supplies, hygience products and more. This is a great way to give this year.
  • Little Bean has been on a dress-up kick for a while now. For one week she would wear nothing but a fairy costume with wings. Imagining trying to stuff this outfit into a highchair three times a day. This morning she decided to be a prinzessin. This outfit allows her to prance about the house, dancing at her every whim. It does not stop her, however from picking her nose. Not very princess-like at all.

Tanzen

Check out the shoes, and which foot they're on...

  • In honor of my brother, Matt, who is an avid reader of this blog, I would like to share today’s Stuff White People Like. Matt, I couldn’t help but think of you this morning when I was greeted with this day’s unique interest of millions.
  • ROCK BAND: As you are probably well aware by now, the company of white people is not entertaining enough to sustain an entire evening. You need something extra to make it enjoyable, and white people are always finding new ways to avoid exposing how boring they are: wine, board games, and most recently, Rock Band. Rock Band is a video game that costs a lot of money and come with a fake guitar, fake drums, and a real microphone. White people then collectively look at a screen and do what it says in order to score points while singing a song. Not only does this create a much-needed diversion from talking, but it lets white people live out their fantasies of being in a band. In this situation, you should always offer to play bass. It’s the easiest and least showy.

Brother Starship Commander Matt and his beautiful wife, Courtney

  • As I’ve said before, snow has been showing up a lot lately, uninvited. As of Monday, and definitely last night, it is here to stay. I walked through the door last night at 12:45 a.m. ( I know! Cinderalla was past her curfew) and there was no precipitation and a modest amount of fluff on the ground. I woke up this morning to the sound of a shovel scraping the sidewalk. A quick glance out the window confirmed my suspicion that it snowed significantly last night: just over 4 inches. It hasn’t stopped since I woke up. As the forecast shows temperatures holding steady at a solid 2 degrees or under, I have a feeling this snow is here to stay.

View from my window. Why, yes! I do live in a pink house.

Schööööön

Snow, yo

  • Are we there yet?! Yes, this is the last piece of the collage. For today, that is. I recently acquired the Local Natives album, Gorilla Manor. I cannot stop listening to it. Don’t I say this about every new album I come in contact with? Yes, for the most part. This band has that astounding ability to be a good listen in almost any situation: riding on the train, walking around the city, background soundtrack as I clean my room or fold laundry, ambient sound for the kiddos while they play. This group is the jack of all trades. I highly encourage you to give them a listen. Again I couldn’t decide which single song to share. So here’s a twofer.

 

On My Train Ride Home

When I arrived in Wädenswil this afternoon, the stop where I change trains to get home, I took notice of the stunning scenery. Beside the frigid, unseasonably cool temperature, the day was beautiful. I snapped a few photos from the train as I made my way to my village.

The pond where I spent afternoons laying and reading when it was warm. Oh, the good ole days.

This the view from the top of my street, looking toward the lake.

 

Looking down my street. Check out that decline.

Beginning the ascent toward the train station.

FREEEEEEEEEZE

No, this post is not in reference to the near-arctic weather that has taken over the village. The snow continues to creep further down the mountain, closing the distance between its frosty border and my doorstep. Over the past several days I have been preparing myself for the dropping temperatures. I’ve bought a new winter hat with fleece lining in a shocking purple/blue tone. Today, I picked up some new leather boots, the likes of which I have been searching for three years. Finally! A giant box does not go unnoticed upon entering the house. Of course, the kiddos wanted to see what was inside. When I showed them my loot, Jan announced they were “so pretty.” I’m trusting his judgment. A couple of scarves picked up at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul round out my new winter gear. I’m ready to tackle the weather.

Well, that was a bit of a tangent. What I originally intended to share with you was a five minute segment of my Saturday afternoon. My friend Nicole alerted me and some other au pairs to a Freezemob that would be taking place in Paradeplatz. For those of you unfamiliar with the activity, it is essentially a gathering of people that “freeze” all at the same time in a large, public space for five minutes. At the end of five minutes people disperse and carry on like it’s any other Saturday at 3:00 in the afternoon. For those not in the know it can be a confusing spectacle to come across. I chose to not be an (in)active participant, and instead watched from the side and enjoyed the amused and confused looks from uninformed patrons. Paradeplatz was an excellent choice of location as several trams converge here and the foot traffic is heavy. People exiting the trams were at first annoyed to find people standing right outside the doors and then bewildered as to why no one was moving–anywhere. People walking into the square had equally furrowed brows and side-stepped their way through clumps of “frozen” people. As a bystander it was very entertaining. You can check out the video here:

Let it Snow, Let it Snow…What the Heck?!

It’s official. I’ve spotted my first snow here in the village. I was standing with my friend Crystal this morning at the train station, waiting to head into town, and asked her to confirm the appearance of snow just up the hill. She said, “Actually, I think that’s frost.” Upon further inspection, I have decided it is undoubtedly snow (Sorry, Crystal, I don’t mean to call your meteorological skills into question.) If further proof was needed, perhaps the mountains just past Rapperswil could be called into evidence. They have a healthy level of snow covering their peaks, as do the mountains further on.

This snow is about as welcome as Christmas music on November 1st, which to be honest, I am so happy to be missing this year. As I type this it is freezing-raining outside and a fine layer of ice is accumulating on my bathroom skylight. This is actually a pleasant coincidence, as this window provides a perfect porthole for the neighbors behind our house to view me showering. Why the host parents never put a shade or at least a “frosted” effect on this particular window, I will never know.

I suppose these are the realities of living in der Schweiz. It still doesn’t make it any easier to be slammed with this, as Courtney would say, “sick-nasty” weather.

Too Wild

This week I had a chance to catch up with mom, dad, and Courtney– all three at different times. Each one told me about the spectacular weekend spent in Manhattan in each others company. The football game was great (GO CATS!), the required Little Apple Brewery dinner was fantastic, and everyone had a solid time. Minus one little intruder, Mother Nature. Apparently a behemoth storm blew through Kansas and postponed the game and put people in a mild state of panic. Why? This was a most intense looking storm. Dad said it was nuts and he hadn’t seen anything like it. Mom said it was a big one, but she was napping during the game, so who really knows. Courtney said she had “never seen the sky like that in my whole life.” This one sounded fierce. I was obviously intrigued. Courtney then sent me a link to the Kansas City Star so I could check out a photo of this sucker. Sure enough, the sky looked as if the world was going to end.

Cut to later in the evening when I am on the train headed into town for a concert. I’m flipping through the Blick am Abend, a daily paper that features stories of interest as well as important truths like horoscopes and Singles adverts. Naturally this paper is written in German but I still like to flip through it as I can decipher about every sixth word and, more accurately, like to look like I fit in with my Deutsch sprachen comrades. The best part about this paper is the photo spread in the middle. It always features extreme or wild and crazy pictures from around the world. Since photos conveniently speak every language I can understand them. I think you can guess where this story is headed…

I flip the paper open to the photo spread and there it is!!!

The caption for the photo likens it to a scence in "Independence Day"

My university town made the news in Switzerland! I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to run around the train and tell everyone that that was where I went to school. Of course, I would probably be immediately deported due to insanity, but still. This is was so cool. Obvious Nerd Alert: I cut out the photo just so I could show it to you. And the Kansans who read this little blog can be proud that we are making world news, one wall cloud at a time.

As for the concert, it was tipp topp super. We saw Junip, a three-person band from Sweden. They’ve been together for over ten years, but took a little hiatus, during which time lead singer, José González, completed a couple solo albums on his own. It was a great show. The venue, Exil was perfect– small, intimate, and listener friendly. And the band was excellent. They worked so well as a unit and managed to sound clean and put-together, which are sometimes absent in a live show. One could tell they’ve spent a great deal of time together perfecting their craft. It’s an indie-rock sound with none of the pretense that sometimes follows such bands. I would definitely recommend checking them out.

I went to another concert last Friday that was just as great, but a completely different experience. Joanna Newsom passed through Zurich as a Switzerland exclusive. Any chance to see someone play the harp and I’m going to take it. It’s such an impressive instrument, especially in this case as Joanna is a tiny, elfish girl. Her sound is completely unique and defies what it means to be a 20-something singer in the 21st century. Accompanied by five other members playing varying instruments from the violin to the banjo to the drums, Joanna and company performed what felt like more of a recital than a concert. Still, the control required for her to manipulate her voice in her special way as well as handle the harp with such grace was wonderful to witness. I had only heard one song of hers (the one noted below) before going, and now I am definitely a fan. A peculiar sound indeed, but again, worth a listen or two or nine…

Nature

Fall is amongst us; I fear it is about to take over and drive away the idyllic, mid-70s temperatures. Today’s weather was perfect for a walk and I knew just what to do with my free time this afternoon– this was also a way to continue to “get my fitness on.” After a special Skype sesh with Courtney (who arrives in 18 days, not that I’m almost wetting myself with excitement) I caught the PostAuto bus to take me to the base of a trail leading to Etzel. I had been told recently by my new friend Crystal, also an au pair in my village, that this was a must-see location. Etzel sits 1,098 meters above sea level, which is roughly 400 meters above my house. I set off this afternoon with my ever-increasing sense of adventure and almost Lewis-and-Clark-level enthusiasm.

The peak in the distance is my final destination

Currently, I am sitting at the table in the dining room, drinking a Hell Quöllfrisch Appenzeller Bier (Hell means “light”– get your mind out of the gutter), and feeling my muscles get progressively sorer. I feel my pictures can do a much better job, at this point, telling you about my afternoon.

On the road again...

Getting started on the trail

The trail quickly turned into an "off-roading" experience

Must be sure to follow the yellow diamond road... Doesn't have the same ring, does it?

Hopp Schwiiz! Cool flag along the trail

Upon reaching the summit (can I even call it that? I might be exercising my poetic license here) I turned around and much to my Shock and Horror, uttered an expletive. One that often follows “Holy,” which it most surely isn’t. I was just completely blown away by the scenery. I had been hiking for an hour at this point with only my playlist to keep me company. I had been stuck in the trees, and as cool as it was there, I didn’t have much chance to look around. “Wildcat” by Ratatat was playing as I reached the top (could there have been a more perfect song? I think not.) and I was truly amazed at how beautiful it was. I knew I would be able to see a great chunk of the Alps from here, but I was still taken aback. I kept snapping pictures in the hope of capturing what I was seeing, but as is the problem with landscape shots, they just never seem to turn out right. The visibility wasn’t 100%, so this also lent to the problem. Below are a few samples of what I saw, but just know they don’t do the view justice. It was just an absolutely perfect afternoon.

The joyous reception at the top.

Aerial view of Rapperswil

The reason the picture looks completely manipulated is because it is. I had to adjust it like crazy for you to see the awesome mountains in the background.

Ditto on the manipulation bit.

This is my village, settled in the mountain.

Check out the Hot Air Balloon in the corner.

On a completely unrelated note, my friend Pei Wen left Switzerland today and returned home to Canada. I met Pei Wen at my first meeting, and to say it was strange would be an understatement. She had just finished purchasing an absurd amount of candy for a party for one her charges and had (smartly) filled a bag for herself. She then proceeded to give away the pieces of candy to the little kids at the meeting in exchange for a kiss on the cheek. She was essentially paying for friendship… from three-year-olds. I knew this girl was one to keep my eye on. From then on, however, I found her to be an amazingly great friend. She is one of the most open-minded and adventurous people I know. She knows no boundaries and lives to explore– waaaaay more than I do. She has a great, infectious laugh, and one can’t help but feel at ease in her presence. I never tire of her travel stories and always have a good time hanging out with her. I will miss her tremendously. Looking forward to seeing you soon, Pei Wen, as I am positive our paths will cross again.