Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A hut trip: Turtmanntal

This past weekend we dragged Hilary, and Ryan with Sophie; and Tinu and Elsbeth with Lena and Elias to a hut in Turtmanntal. Six adults, five kids. It took us three hours to hike in from the end of the bus line, which included pauses for breastfeeding, and kids doing some walking... The weather was excellent. Camera is still not cooperating, at least not on the "dumb" mode for idiots where all one needs to do is press a button. And sometimes not even with the manual focus mode. As a result, a lot of pictures were out of focus, and overexposed, unfortunately.

Lena standing in the doorway of the hut.

Emilie practicing "I see you" in the doorway. She figured out she can see people between her legs last week. She has a lot of fun with it.

Hilary making dinner on the wood burning stove. Sophie is right next to her. Sonja is playing with a balloon in front of them.

Dinner outside.

It took the first of the two nights to figure out that if five kids, ages three and under, are to sleep in one room, the best way of putting them to sleep is one at a time. (All at the same time did not work, at all.)
It was all fine and dandy, and the kids finally seemed to be asleep, when the cows started coming home. Some ten cows, each with a wonderful big bell tied around its neck. They could have chosen to be anywhere on this huge pasture, and where do they chose to come? Towards the hut. Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong... I saw Martin and Tinu try to intervene, and gave them a hand too.
First I tried what I would consider regular herding. (OK, so I don't really know how they herd cows.) Did not work. Cows 1, Dana 0. I then tried the bear approach: hands over my hands to make me look big, low voice. Cows 2, Dana 0. Then the dog approach: good girl, come this way. Cows 3, Dana 0. And the brute force did not work either, unfortunately.

So the cows came and surrounded the hut, and the ding-dong came across the baby phone that we left in the sleeping room, but it did not wake up the kids. May be it lulled them into a deeper sleep...? The next morning, the cows moved elsewhere. Until the evening, when once again they came towards the hut just as we were putting the kids to sleep. Did not even bother to try to chase them off that night. Just said hi to them when they came.

Those bells are big, and make a lot of noise.

Lena turned three on our trip, and we celebrated with an excellent carrot cake that Elsbeth carried in, and the two three year old girls played with bubbles. And we went to the upper hut for a view further into the valley.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Breakfast in bed

Not a typical breakfast here (i.e. not part of the 'our life here' series), but thanks Martin!

Fresh orange juice in a wineglass, fresh gipfeli (croissants) from the bakery, apricot jam, butter, four kinds of cheeses, some meat, a pot of tea with sugar and milk on te side - very professional, and very very good. Thanks, honey!

And thanks for that wonderful swatch watch!

And yes, I am rather disheveled, but hey, I was still in bed :)

Monday, June 16, 2008


Unlike the previous eight months, for the last week we had the TV on in the evenings to watch the soccer matches of the european championships. Sonja clearly does not like it. Two days ago, as Martin turned the TV on, she said "Abstelle!" - "turn it off". And it wasn't the first time, either. We had to laugh about that - in most cases, it would not be the parents who would want the TV on against the wishes of the 3 year old.

Both Switzerland and Czech Republic are out of the championships, but Martin seems determined to watch some good soccer games, so likely the TV is going to be on in this house a bit longer.

I should do a bit of disclosure and say that for most of the day, even when the TV is not on, the computer is on. But may be that is a slightly lesser evil, since we play children's songs in all three languages on it. And watch videos of Saphira that Sandy, who takes care of her, sends us. And the screen goes blank after five minutes of no one watching the computer. That sure does not happen to the TV.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Our life here: neighbors

Our life here: our neighbors in the house.
The first two months in this house we were the only family with kids. One of the departments of the technical school is on the ground floor. Graduate students or researchers have rooms in the apartments on the first and second floor. Three different older couples had the apartments on the third and fourth floors over the time we had been here.

In December, we got lucky, and had a family (Nancy and Peter) with kids move in on the fourth floor, just below us, with kids who are a bit older than Sonja. It has been great having other kids in the house. We periodically bump into Nancy, Maya and Sabine; or Peter in the stairway, and interact with them a lot more than with the other neighbors. Here is a picture on the day of Sonja's and Peter's birthday, of our two families and Hilary and Sophie, who headed with us to the playground. Sonja was 3 that day, Peter... just a tad more :). Thanks, Nancy, for the picture, and for being a wonderful neighbor!

Our life here: the neighbors not in the house:

This guy is home every half hour or so. Very shy in front of the camera.

Beyond the building where the first neighbor lives, they are repairing a university (actually technical school) building. When they took down the scaffolding, we saw a lot of people, though each day we see at least a couple of those "neighbors":

On sunny days, the roofs become occupied in large numbers. Though it may not be visible in the image, at least on four different roofs there were people the day I took that picture. For the last week, probably no one would have been visible - too cool and rainy for that.

We are near the university hospital, and are overflown by helicopters several times a day

The crane is a big hit with Sonja. But we have seen the guy who operates it only a couple times.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Our life here: the house and little shop

A little bit on our lives here.

This is our house. We live right underneath the roof. Excellent views of the city. Fifth floor, no elevator. Close to Martin's work. And close to a little shop where we get bread or cheese or fruits and veggies. We really like that shop, the owners are very nice. It is amazing they manage to eke out a living.

The little shop. I don't know what its name is, we just call it the little shop.

The owners of the little shop. They offer a biscuit to little kids who come in with their parents. Somehow, though, Sonja stopped taking it from the man, and only takes it from the wife. Shy girl. Lovely little shop.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Emily's first overnight camping

Over the weekend, Emily got her first taste of camping, on a glacial moraine. For Sonja, it was not the first camping trip, but she doesn't remember the other ones, so it might as well have been. We lucked out with the weather, or rather, we believed the forecasters that the weather was going to improve (it was raining before), and it did. And then it went back to raining as we were leaving in the afternoon the following day. But in the morning, there was almost not a cloud in the sky, and the view was amazing - mountains and glaciers, and more mountains and more glaciers. And a dozen steinbock (mountain ibex) grazing not too far off.

We have no pictures to show unfortunately since our camera is on strike. It appears the lens does not want to communicate with the rest of the camera. No auto-focus. Sometimes it does take a picture on the manual setting, if we are nice to it. But it is enough non-functional that we didn't bring it with.

The setting was fabulous. Just google Gornergletscher to see some pictures. It is one of the glaciers near Zermatt, visible from the end of the mountain railroad leading to Gornergrat. We got off before the last stop, at Rotenboden, then hiked about an hour along a pretty good trail set in a steep slope, to where the people Martin works with here in Zurich have set up their camp. They are studying the mechanisms of how a glacial lake drains, and are drilling holes into the glacier. We spent the night with them, then Martin helped the following morning out, before we hiked back out to the railway, and headed out.

What we saw in the morning out of our tent, courtesy of, the swiss tourism website:

Location, courtesy of google maps (camp was diagonally to the lower right from the "Gornergrat" label, on rock, not ice):

Größere Kartenansicht
A nice picture of the glacier and the lake, as well as the hiking path near which the campsite is:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Well, in the game of Czechs vs the Swiss on Saturday, the first game of the European Football (soccer) championships, the Czechs won. How, I don't know. Most of the last half hour, the only part that we saw, the swiss offense kept the ball around the czech goal. But somehow, the czechs scored a goal. Even with the Czechs winning 1:0, I was allowed to sleep at Martin's parents' house :).

Tonight we watched a much better game, Spain vs Russia. Pouring rain the entire game, visible anytime the cameras zoomed in for a close shot. But what a game! Action, action, action, clean passes, amazing sprints, good shots. Spain won 4:1.

It was interesting that in that game, when one player was getting switched for another, they showed how many kilometers that player had run. Some of the Spaniards apparently ran 7 km, or 9km. Sprinting most of those kilometers. Tough guys. And interesting technology.

If the portugese are as good in fooball as their neighbors the spaniards have been, then tomorrow the czechs are going to lose badly. We'll see.

Friday, June 6, 2008

... czechs vs swiss continued

The previous was a guest post by Martin. Needless to say, I say the Czechs!

Well, we will see tomorrow, it is the first game of the much hyped (at least here) Euro 08 football (aka soccer) championships. Huge countdowns are displayed in many locations, now we are down to 0 days and whatever hours... Let the Czechs win!

let's see who wins tomorrow: Czechs vs Swiss

The Swiss of course

Thursday, June 5, 2008

At Veronika's

On the way to the Czech Republic, Veronika kindly invited to spend a night or two with her and her family in Munich, to break up the drive into manageable segments. We gladly accepted, and yet again enjoyed the hospitality of that great family.

(We met Veronika when she was a grad student in Fairbanks like we were. I will try to find a picture of her, Laura and me when we shaved our heads. I blame that on Laura, it was her idea :) Veronika made me watch the movie again. :))

Sonja played with Leo very nicely the first day in their treehouse:

Veronika, Lisa, Leo and Andrei:

And Sonja's portrait of them:

Really good food. Excellent waffles, apparently every Sunday. A whole table of toppings - smoked salmon, skvarky (craclings in english?), fruit, jam, special sugar... very good. We have a bit of a tradition in Fairbanks of going to Lulu's for a weekend breakfast, but may have to institute a tradition of doing waffles the other weekend day. Thanks, Veronika!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


{My 93 y.o. grandfather and his younger (90 y.o.) brother sit on a bench in the background, Sonja (3 y.o) and Emily (0 y.o.) are in the foreground together with Martin.}

My grandfather had turned 93 last month, and my aunt and uncle were planning a small get-together of the family for that occasion. My grandfather has been a beekeeper for most of his life, so it was appropriate that some bees start swarming the day of the celebration within a few yards of the grill pit.

Here is a pictorial guide of what to do should you find a swarm of bees on your property.
0. Wait for the bees to settle into a swarm. It took them a bit to do that, a couple hours...?
1. Get prepared. And get an empty beehive ready.

2. Get positioned. That can be a bit tougher - my uncle is a tall man, and you can see his head quite a bit below the swarm. He did an amazing act of balancing on a ladder while holding the beehive (a wooden box) in one hand and a hand brush in the other.

3. Sweep the bees into the box in a couple swift moves.

4. Cover the beehive with a piece of cloth so the bees don't escape. It's impossible to get all the bees into the box, don't worry about that...

5. Move the beehive into its location, and hope the bees (or rather, their queen) will like it.

I never got to watch the catching of bees before, even though the same aunt and uncle were chasing bees the day of our wedding four years earlier... (they apologized for being a tiny bit later than they hoped to be - they were still on time that time too :).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Blooming fields of rapeseed

Czech Republic, middle of May:

Monday, June 2, 2008

Four years later

Four years to the day of our wedding, we borrowed some bikes from my aunt and uncle's collection and biked from their place to the hotel where the wedding reception had been. Martin had a bike with no speeds but with a kids seat near the handlebars, making for a very awkward biking, which required his knees to be way out so he wouldn't hit them on the kids seat. Any slightly bigger hill required him to get off the bike since there was no lower speed to shift into. Luckily there were not that many on the 45 minute bike ride. I had a nicer bike, and put Emily in the long wrap-around sling on my back. Luckily she didn't wiggle too much. My mom joined us for the occasion, and paid our lunch. Thanks, mom! Afterwards, naked Sonja and almost naked Martin frolicked in a nearby pond.

So far here is what we have been doing on the wedding anniversary:
- year 1: very busy with arrival of Sonja a couple weeks before the anniversary
- year 2: I forgot but Martin called me from Greenland to wish me a happy anniversary. I couldn't believe he would remember while I forgot, and thought that Jason reminded him. And indeed he had.
- year 3: I remembered the day before but not the day of, since a two year old and a couple dogs and my prego body made for a busy day. Martin called from Greenland. Apparently he was not reminded by Jason this year.
- year 4: I forgot. Martin remembered. I blame it on having to take care of two kids for a couple weeks while Martin was in Greenland. OK, so by the anniversary, he was back, but I was still recuperating.
Based on the count, Martin sure is doing better than me remembering this day :)

My grandfather's grandmother loved to read

We came back from a trip to the Czech Republic last night. I talked with my grandfather and aunts and uncles, and other relatives. I hope to write down some of the things I learned from my grandfather. Here is one.

My grandfather's grandmother loved to read. And that is what she missed most when she got old and her eyes gave out, according to my grandfather. Like my grandfather right now, ninety three years old.

My grandfather's grandmother went to school for one week. Apparently in those days (1860's?), kids from poorer families were sent to wealthier families in the village, to help out in any which way. Initially to help care for the youngest ones of the family, or to herd geese or goats, whatever work they could do on the farm. In exchange, they got a roof over their head (since they slept on the farm) and food. School was not mandatory. It was the farmer's decision about how long the kid servants/helpers went to school. My great-great-grandmother went to school for one week only, because the farmer she worked for took her out after that.

Somehow she learned to read nevertheless. But not to write. According to my grandfather, she was an avid reader throughout her 96 (?) year life, until she lost too much eyesight due to old age to be able to read. Reading was what she missed most in the old age.

I will think of this when Sonja asks me to read some book or another yet again.

Aside: Now with my grandfather's sight too frail to read, I thought I would send him a cassette with greetings that he could listen to, and possibly a blank cassette for his reply to us. Unfortunately, no regular electronics shop in Zurich that I visited sells cassette recorders anymore. Dead technology. Too bad. I think that "modern" technology misses the easiness with which cassettes could be recorded and then listened to again. Everything that I can think of that would do the same either requires a computer to record (e.g. a CD) or has a small display that has to be read - neither really accessible to my grandfather. (The CD would be fine for sending to my grandfather, but not for him recording a reply.) May be I will go look through pawn shops for some of this old technology.