Thursday, 31 August 2006

Armed neutrality

Greetings from Berlin. I'm at an internet cafe with a European keyboard right now so forgive any typos (the z and the y are switched!). I freakin love this city. I want to live here so bad. It's incredibly cheap and so much fun. I'm having a great time.

My friend Pierce arrived in Zurich Monday and we've been doing various activities. One of the more amusing things we did the past couple days was explore the bomb shelter in my dad's building. By law, every building in Switzerland must have a bomb shelter. Seems kind of counter-intuitive for a neutral country. The bomb shelter in my dad's building has cots for people to sleep and food rations, and also an escape tunnel for if the building is destroyed. It's pretty weird.

Last night we hung out with a friend I've made in Zurich, Gianmatteo. He had just come back from a day of military service (all men in Switzerland are obligated to be in the military reserves, with three weeks of training every year, until the age of 40) and we were quite surprised to see him walk into the bar with a machine gun strapped to his back. No joke! Apparently you keep your own gun at home and bring it with yuou when you go to training. I had seen someone on the train holding a big machine gun, so he must have been coming back from training as well.

Sunday, 27 August 2006

Alps road trip

I just got back from our road trip through the Alps. The plan was I was going to go to Labor Bar tonight, which is supposed to be really happening, but I'm way too exhausted. We did a lot this weekend!

Saturday morning, our first stop on our road trip was Bern, pictured above. It's the capital of Switzerland, and its city centered is a perfectly preserved renaissance thoroughfare. It was beautiful. We had lunch there and then continued on through the mountains. We had a naviagtion system in the car so that made things much easier, although I'm confident I could have guided us without it.

Next stop was Geneva. I was surprised by how different Geneva was from Zurich. It's in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, so everyone speaks French there. In addition to this, culturally the look and feel of the city is very different from Zurich. The buildings have metal railings on the balconies, just like in France. It's just generally a much more French-looking city. And much more diverse than Zurich, owing to the fact that so many international organizations are headquartered there.

I was a little underwhelmed by Geneva to be honest. I knew coming into it that it's much smaller than one would think, given its international reputation. But, it was really small. The highlight was definitly the Jet d'Eau, this giant fountain shooting water 460 feet into the air. Here on the left I caught a moment when it formed a rainbow.

Saturday, 26 August 2006

Switzerland

I gotta say it is really amazing to be here. I just got in from swimming in Lake Zurich, my dad has a little beach area out there with a table and some chairs. The water is incredibly clean, you can see right to the bottom, it's like swimming in the Caribbean. There's virtually no pollution here. I was just swimming in the water and a swan literally came right up to me. It was a little freaky! I got a picture of it though...

I've been keeping busy. Yesterday I went to the art museum, which was pretty cool. There was this amazing exhibit that I just sat and watched for 20 minutes. Can't even describe it to do it justice.

Today I met with a guy at the IP office at a Zurich university, mixing a little business with pleasure. I figured it would look good to my bosses if I made the effort to meet with some IP people here to prepare for covering European IP from London. It was a good talk actually, I learned a lot and the guy was very helpful.

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

Photos from Zurich

So far, Zurich has not been disappointing. I'm sitting here out on my dad's balcony overlooking Lake Zurich, watching the boats go by. Kind of like Roosevelt Island, except...so not. What a gorgeous city, if a little small.

I haven't slept since Monday night, so I should probably get to bed soon but I wanted to post some pictures of my trip so far. Up above is a picture I took today from the steeple of the Grossmunster cathedral, which affords a great aerial view of the city. I spent the day just walking around and exploring the city, trying to get my bearings. It actually reminds me a lot of Prague, especially the narrow, winding pedestrian streets. Very picturesque.

Monday, 21 August 2006

Leaving the country

Well tomorrow’s the big day, I fly out to Zurich late tomorrow afternoon to visit my family, who just moved there two weeks ago. I haven’t even begun to think about packing, although I tend to usually do that at the last minute. Still, I should probably get on that seeing as I’ll be there for a few weeks. I’ve set up a few business meetings there too so I have to bring a suit.

I’m not bringing my laptop because there would be no way to charge it there, but my family already has their computer set up at the house so I’ll be online pretty frequently I imagine, aside from when I’m traveling. I’ll write updates in here regularly and regale you with my tales of Swiss life. There will be pictures, anecdotes, witty banter, you name it. I’m looking forward to it, it will be great to see the house and my brother’s school, etc. And I can help them with the things they’ve been having trouble with. Next weekend we’re driving through the Swiss Alps to Bern, Lausanne and Geneva. Should be amazing.

All in all this trip couldn’t be coming at a better time. I recently realized I’ve been at this job for 7 months and have not yet taken a vacation. Funny, I’ve now been at this job longer than I was at Medialink, the company I worked for the year after I graduated college. It doesn’t seem like that at all, but there it is.

When I get back, it will be time to make a decision about whether or not I’m going to move to London. I think this trip should help me decide. So much of the reason I want to move to London is because I just want to move to Europe, as I have this powerful obsession with the continent. Spending a few weeks there again (I haven’t been to Europe except a few trips to the UK since I left Prague) should help me decide if it’s really what I want to do.

Sunday, 13 August 2006

Family in Zurich

So my dad and brother moved to Switzerland on Wednesday. They're off to a bit of a rocky start. Obviously it's a bit overwhelming for them, they're having a lot of trouble setting up basic things like phone service, internet and cable. All of the instructions are in German, and they don't speak a word. They'd like to get this stuff set up as soon as possible to set up some semblance of normalcy. My brother starts school tomorrow, hopefully being with some English-speaking kids will help him feel more comfortable. He sounded pretty unhappy when I talked to him on the phone today.

I've had an incredibly difficult time getting ahold of them since they moved over there. I actually wasn't able to reach them until today, which has made it really dawn on my how weird this is going to be. It's a six hour time difference, so it's going to be hard to find convenient times to talk to them even when they do get all the phone stuff sorted out. I'm pretty worried about them, I know this has to be really hard. So it's been driving me crazy that I haven't been able to get ahold of them.

I know there's going to be inevitable difficulties adjusting to this new situation at first, both for them and for the rest of my family too. I think going out there next week and staying with them will help the situation. I can help them out with the things they still have to figure out, and it'll be comforting to actually be able to picture where they are when I talk to them.