Thursday, June 22, 2017

Learn to Play the Alphorn on Horn Mountain

Yodelers, it’s that time of year again—time for alphorn camp, that is. 

So stop putting off learning the Swiss national instrument and start spending your first weekend in July attending Fritz Frautschi’s short beginner’s alphorn class in the most appropriately named alphorn-learning location in Switzerland—the Horn Mountain.

Not far from Gstaad, the Hornberg is your stage, the cows are your audience, and the Hotel Restaurant Hornfluh is your après-horn, serving you that well-earned drink after a hard day of practice.

Fritz Frautschi founded the Swiss Alphorn School over twenty years ago and offers courses in the Bernese Oberland. He credits the popularity of his alphorn classes with people’s desire to get back to nature. Unfortunately, learning to blow one of the world’s largest wind instruments isn’t so natural. The alphorn is 3.5 meters long and has no finger holes, tubes, or valves, so all note variations are controlled by the speed and force of your lip vibrations on the mouthpiece. According to one student, the more you kiss your spouse, the easier blowing the alphorn becomes.

It’s much easier to learn the alphorn if you’ve previously played an instrument like the tuba or trumpet. But regardless of your musical experience, Frautschi prioritizes teaching you how to make a lovely sound—which is great, because a beginner playing the alphorn often produces a sound that resembles a dying cow


Speaking of cows, the alphorn attracts them. Play a few notes (good or bad) and cattle come calling. The alphorn is how the farmers bring their herds home and how you, the non-farmer, can entice an unintentional but very committed audience. Tourists may flock to you as well. And if The Frau’s experience counts for anything, you don’t have to be a master player to get a following.

As well as attracting cows and tourists, the alphorn also inspires Swiss conversation. The instrument’s history may have a lot to do with this; besides bringing the cows home, the alphorn was also used to communicate with fellow herdsmen across many valleys.

The Frau once called the alphorn “Switzerland’s secret social networking tool” because all the normal cultural formalities that apply in Switzerland are set aside if you carry an alphorn. Fellow alphorn players, strangers or not, are always on first-name terms with each other. So if you’ve always wanted to get to know a particular Swiss person better, now you know what to do.

Come home from alphorn camp and play the Swiss national instrument on a city street, and you will have discovered the key to Swiss culture (and perhaps a nice source of income).

For more information:


Price per person: CHF 450

P.S. You can enjoy 98.9 more ideas like this in The Frau’s new Swiss travel book, 99.9 Ways to Travel Switzerland Like a Local.


Thursday, June 01, 2017

Goods and Bads of Life in Switzerland, 2.5 Years Later

There were times during The Frau’s visit to Switzerland last month (mostly when she was in the city relishing that EVERY car actually stopped for EVERY pedestrian) when she really wanted to move back. Like really, really wanted to move back. Especially when she saw Swiss children as young as her daughter confidently walking alone to school. Or when she sat on a bus seat without any disgust at its level of cleanliness.

And then there were moments, mainly when The Frau was sweating in small shared spaces or listening to her friends’ neighbor’s televisions through shared walls, where The Frau just sighed and said to Mr. Frau: ”Wow. I really, really do not miss this.”

The take away? There are goods and bads in every country. It’s up to you to decide what goods and bads are best for you.

Back in Switzerland, 2.5 years after leaving.
But The Frau admits: she couldn’t help but feel envious of her American friends who moved to Switzerland when she did who are now in the process of applying for their Swiss passports. This is mainly because another passport represents a level of freedom to move between countries that would be wonderful. Relying on varying whims of employers and governments is not so wonderful. In any case, The Frau would love to have more options in her life rather than fewer. But her nationality options are what they are right now.

In any case, her trip proved she wants to be living abroad again, or at the very least, spending her summers in Europe. After all, what’s the point of working remotely like The Frau does now if you don’t take advantage of a little country hopping—even if it has to be limited by tourist visas?

In any case, here is an Unscientific Summary of Swiss Life, 2.5 years after living there:

GOODS

Cities built for pedestrians instead of cars (pedestrian bridges, pedestrian tunnels, and crosswalks that cars actually respect). All seem so amazing now.
Swimming in Lake Zurich
Transport that works (except when the power goes out during a storm!)
Cleanliness, both on the ground and in the air
Nature integrated in cities
The coffee
The bread
The cheese
The chocolate
Produce that’s just produce and not a sci-fi experiment (i.e. not on steroids)
The pure beauty of the landscapes
SlowUp bike rides that close roads to cars almost every Sunday from April through September for pure (and free) biking pleasure (In Chicago, they do this once a year on Lake Shore Drive, but they make bikers PAY for the priviledge of riding on roads normally reserved for cars. Sad.)

BADS

Small apartments
Hot apartments
Hot public transport
Crowded public transport
Pushy, rude people who aren’t at all “sorry” for crashing into you
People cutting in line
Living with neighbors/Shared walls
Shared laundry/Laundry days/Small washers
Swiss German
That foreign feeling

Here’s the big thing: after being back in the U.S. for 2.5 years now, The Frau knows that you cannot truly be integrated into a culture and society unless you’re born into it. She admits—she feels very alive in the U.S. right now. When you understand the culture and the language because, well, it’s yours, the way you live and experience things is on a much different level.

Also: While The Frau sees the goods and bads of Switzerland and the U.S. at heightened levels—as horrible as it is sometimes when looking at the bads of a place with a 360 view—she will always be grateful for such a wide lens of the world. (Every American leader should be required to have lived the real deal abroad—but that’s another topic.)

In any case, The Frau had to unexpectedly digest a tear when taking off from Zurich a few days ago. But Chicago greeted her 12 hours later with a rainbow as if to say, “Welcome home—remember—there are beautiful things here too.”

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

99.9 Ways to Travel Switzerland Like a Local

Yodelers,

It's here.

99.9 Ways to Travel Switzerland Like a Local is available at any bookshop by order. You can also find it at almost any online retailer. Below are some of the places you can find the book:
Order your book on amazon.com
Order your Kindle version
Order your book on amazon.co.uk
Order your book on amazon.de
Order your book from bookdepository.co.uk
Order your book from Barnes & Noble
Order your Nook version
Go ahead, be an un-tourist. You'll love seeing the real Switzerland.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Book Lets You Travel Switzerland Like a Local. (Even if you are one.)

Grüezi People Who Are Cool Enough to Still Read This Blog,

Your involvement in this ultra-exclusive portion of the Internet has gotten even better. Because you, mitenand, are some of the very first to know that there’s a new book coming from yours truly. And it will be available next week.

Almost hot off the presses, 99.9 Ways to Travel Switzerland Like a Local is one part travel book, one part culture guide, and total bucket list enjoyment. 
Coming Soon

It allows you to say adieu to Lucerne and allegra to the place the Swiss voted most beautiful. It encourages you to cut the Swiss army knife from your shopping list and replace it with a rubber messenger bag. And it gives you the inspiration you need to stop following umbrella-toting tour guides (or books that act like them) and start following 320,000 well-dressed Swiss cows instead.

Whether you’re a vacationer rethinking your version of touring, an expatriate who wants to get to know your adopted country on a deeper level, or even if you’re Swiss—99.9 Ways to Travel Switzerland Like a Local is for anyone who believes that the best travel stories come from a desire not just to take a snapshot of a place from a train window, but to stop, smile, and disembark for a while in order to bring the meaning of that blurry photo into sharper focus.

To promote this new book, The Frau will make special appearances in Switzerland next month. Mark your calendars, mitenand, as she would love to see you at one of the following:

The Zurich Writers Workshop May 14, 2:30 p.m. (The Frau will join other authors to discuss how to build a writing career.)

The American International Club of Zurich TGIF, May 19, 6:30 p.m. (The Frau will discuss American life after Switzerland (scary!), the benefits of traveling like a local, and host a quiz—with a book prize—to see who already travels Swisser than the Swiss.)

Global Book Fair May 20, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (The Frau will read a story to children and discuss some "Swisser than the Swiss" activities for families.)

Until next week, Yodelers, when the shameless self-promotion continues.

LG,
The Frau

P.S. Join The Frau's mailing list and be the first to know when the book is available.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Life in the U.S. after Switzerland. Sad.

Yodelers,

One thing has become clear: The Frau needs a mental break from her own country.

To think: she gave up a permanent Swiss residence permit for non-stop psychological abuse from her own government. What a horrible trade. Sad.

The good news is this: The Frau will get the mental break she needs in a few months. She is headed back to her beloved Switzerland for a little while.

The Zurich Writers Workshop, which will be held May 12-14, 2017, is The Frau’s main excuse for heading back to Switzerland. The workshop is going to feature two amazing New York Times bestselling authors, Susan Jane Gilman and Jill Alexander Essbaum (remember that Zurich-based novel, Hausfrau?). Registration just opened and The Frau would love to see some of her fellow Yodelers over the weekend. If you can’t commit to the full weekend, it’s possible to just attend the Sunday afternoon panel, Career Paths for Writers. On this panel, The Frau will be speaking about how to make a living as a writer. And she’ll be joined by New York Times travel journalist Adam H Graham as well as by featured workshop authors Susan and Jill.

It’s strange to think about this, but after she visits Switzerland, if the U.S. doesn’t let The Frau back in her own country because of some yet-unknown un-constitutional whim, she won’t mind. It will give her the excuse she needs to try to find another country to call home—she’s done this before, after all. 

It’s all so disappointing though. The Frau wanted to love her country again, but it’s not easy to be an American right now. In fact, it’s really, really horrible to be an American right now.

The only good news is that there are millions of Americans who agree with The Frau about the way things are going and are doing everything they can to act against what is happening. The Frau is part of several grassroots groups at the moment and is excited by the energy that is gathering against the horror. In the end, The Frau has to believe that the millions of well-meaning Americans will triumph. The ones who believe in immigration, in diversity, in equal rights, and in the constitution that promises to uphold them all.
  

Friday, January 20, 2017

We are All Foreigners in America Today

Yodelers: Happy New Year. Today’s your last chance to party with the elites in Davos. Luckily you can still party like one at any time of year—especially if Davos is practically in your backyard like it must be for many of you. To see Davos as world leaders do, Yours Truly put together some tips for CNN Business Traveller on this Switzerland travel opportunity that you can read here.

Speaking of world leaders, The Frau has never woken up the night before an American presidential inauguration feeling physically sick. She only has one word for that. Sad!

But in all seriousness, she is truly frightened for her country right now. The only thing that gives her hope is that the majority of Americans did not vote for this buffoon and that the majority seem to be stepping up to prove it tomorrow at the women’s marches across the nation. There is even a march in Geneva, Switzerland, Yodelers. All of this makes The Frau feel better.

This recent (and upcoming) American strangeness also makes The Frau feel less like a foreigner in her own country than she did after moving back two years ago from Switzerland. When over half your country also seems confounded by its bizarre direction it makes the last stages of repatriation a little easier somehow. 

Together, we are all foreigners in America these days. (This phenomenon is also making one of The Frau’s next book projects, American Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known, an even more interesting thing to write than she ever expected. Hopefully, that book will be ready in 2018.)

Well, here we go, America. Keep The Frau in your thoughts, Switzerland.

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