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.

BÖÖGG

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 Zürich 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 Zürich. 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 Zürich came up with a solution. Each spring the Grossmünster started ringing the bells at six pm to signify the end of the work day. So now the day is a festival in Zürich. 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 Zürich 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.