Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why The Frau’s great laundry bag is not so great

The Frau’s mother-in-law gave her something for Christmas that she thought was really great.

It’s called the Sort a Sack. It’s a laundry backpack. You sort your whites and darks in the bag’s two compartments and then you wear it down to the laundry room.

It’s really great because it allows The Frau to easily carry both her baby and her laundry down from the fifth floor to the third sub-basement where her neighbor may or may not be washing clothes. But not to worry if she is because the Sort a Sack also makes it easy to take your laundry and your baby back to where you started.

If you look at the Sort a Sack closely, you realize it was primarily designed for American college students who are living in dorms. There are instructions on how to wash whites and darks right on the bag.

So here’s the problem with the bag: The Frau is not in college. In fact, she’s more than a decade out. And that is why The Frau’s great laundry bag is not so great. Because she is still living in a situation to think that it is. That is all.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sunny with a 0% Chance of Downhill Skiing

When most people think Swiss winter, they think downhill skiing in the Alps. 

But what if anything even slightly vertical gives you vertigo? 

What if ice at an angle just gives you cold feet? 

Welcome to The Frau’s world. 

Although you might not guess it from her name, The Frau is a native of the very flat Chicago, USA. Sadly, she has endured many snide remarks from Swiss snowboarders for taking the ski lift with no equipment but a camera. But guess what? It’s possible to enjoy a Swiss winter sans downhill ski. Because Switzerland is made for cross-country skiers too. 

Below the Frau lists four amazing options for enjoying the flatter side of Swiss winter that she has personally tried, fallen down on, and approved. All trails listed are suitable for either classic or skating.

The cross-country trail between Disentis and Trun
In this fairytale Romansh-speaking area of Switzerland, you can enjoy a 15k prepared cross-country ski trail of medium-difficulty. It runs between the villages of Disentis and Trun, and you can ditch the trail at various intervals via train if you want to shorten it. Don’t be put off by the fairly steep beginning of the trail—it soon flattens out about 2k after Disentis. Bonus: this trail isn’t too well traveled, giving you a full appreciation of your Swiss winter wonderland.

Cross-country ski through 12 picturesque villages in the Goms Valley on an easy 18k prepared trail from Oberwald to Niederwald. If you get tired halfway though, you have many options for a hot chocolate break and it’s simple to take a train ride back to where you began.

Einsiedeln has a lot to offer cross-country skiers of various levels. There are many kilometers of trails in this area. The last time The Frau went here, she did a fairly easy 10k loop (although she was passed several times!). These trails tend to be busier than the previously mentioned ones because of their proximity to Zurich.

Take the lift up to Tannenboden with the downhill skiers. Ignore their looks of superiority. The classical and skating 4k loop at Tannenboden is short, but picturesque. As you ski in the clouds, dog sleds will probably race by you. Bonus: This trail is perfect for those with downhill skiing partners because you can both do your thing and meet for lunch at the mountain ski hut.

Anyone else have tips for cross-country skiers in Switzerland?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Ultimate Swiss Fondue Plausch

Naturally, when you spend a weekend in the Swiss Alps, you will be in the mood for a fondue plausch. You might not even know what a plausch is, but that doesn’t stop you from wanting it.

You scour the kitchen in your rented Alpine apartment to prepare for your plausch, but there is nothing (nothing!) that would indicate any kind of cheese melting choices.

No plausch? No problem. Not. 

Because at this point, you may not be able to have a plausch, which only makes you want the plausch more.

So you:

1. Complain.

2. Ask the restaurant below your apartment if you can borrow a fondue set.

3. Yell that it’s not Swiss not to have a fondue pot in a Swiss apartment (see 1).

4. Check if there’s a brocki in town.

5. Resort to a little American creativity.

How to create your own fondue plausch when you are ohne fondue set:

What you’ll need:

4 Grabkerzen (large red Swiss grave candles—they can burn for about 8-72 hours.)

Duck tape

Lighter or matches

Large kitchen pot


Fondue stuff: cheese, garlic, white wine, kirsch, and bread

Fade in MacGyver theme song (for additional challenge, try to see if you can complete entire task by the time the music ends, otherwise, put music in loop) 

Set two grave candles next to each other and two grave candles directly behind them.

Wrap duck tape around all four candles (works best if you wrap the duck tape so it touches the bottom of the gold metal candle cover).

Cut bread.

Get out kitchen pot. Throw in fondue stuff. Stir a lot.

Light grave candles.

Move melted pot of cheese from stove and set it directly on top of the lit grave candles.

Say, “en guete mitenand.” (If you forget this step, the candles will mourn for you.)

Plausch it up for 72 hours, depending on quality of grave candles.

Note: Blow out candles if you prefer a shorter fondue plausch.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Complain to Create: An expat guide to Switzerland

Sometimes as expats, we complain a lot.

The Frau loves to complain. Don’t most people? It’s entertaining, it’s fun, and it’s a heck of a lot easier to complain about something than to fix whatever it is you’re complaining about.

Let’s complain, shall we?

Switzerland has terrible Mexican food.
Switzerland has expensive rents.
Switzerland has too much fog.

Wasn’t that fun?

In her Swiss career, The Frau has done her fair share of complaining. Had her fair share of Migros Moments. Had her pretty little expat bubble burst more than once.

For instance, seven years ago, The Frau often complained that there was no English writing community in Zurich.

But what the heck did she think she would find in a German-speaking city known more for banks and lawyers than the creative arts?

Who cares? The Frau complained anyway.

But then something crazy happened. After about four years, The Frau decided to stop complaining and start creating. She started asking not what Switzerland could do for her, but what she could do for Switzerland.

So in 2010, she got together with two other Zurich-based writers and started the Zurich Writers Workshop. It wasn’t easy. They were scared no one would come to their big event. They were scared that they could lose the money they’d invested in their mission. But there was one thing they weren’t scared of: their belief that if they thought Zurich needed an English-based writing community then others would think so too.

Now The Frau is pleased to announce the fourth annual Zurich Writers Workshop, which will take place April 12-14, 2013 in Zurich and feature stuff like inspiration, learning, and creativity.

The one thing it won’t feature? Complaining.


So join The Frau at the next Zurich Writers Workshop. Or if that’s not your thing, at least join her in her newfound expat mission to create rather than complain. Because as expats, more often than not, what we’re looking for in a place we move to probably isn’t there. So it’s up to us to create it.

Register now for The Frau’s creation, or create your own and let her know about it so she can celebrate it in a future post.

Have you found your place in Switzerland by creating it yourself? Leave a comment. The Frau would like to promote it in a future post.


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