Tag Archives: Switzerland

Chalandamarz….Guarda, Switzerland

Yes, I am four months late.  But I will squeeze this one in as I prepare the next blog from our recent trip to Spain.

Riki’s family has a place in Guarda, in the Romansh speaking part of Switzerland.  That’s the fourth language of Switzerland, which originates from Latin.  Yes, a country this small has four official languages, though only something like 30,000 people still speak Romansh and even that has different dialects.  For me, Chalandamarz is basically Swiss Groundhog Day, but a month later.  And instead of a groundhog, there are a bunch of kids running around with cow bells around their necks to scare away winter.  But that’s something special to Guarda.  We ventured to the neighboring town to go sledding and check out their festivities and were less than pleasantly surprised at the antics they got up to.  In Ftan, we encountered young adults whacking each other on the backs with inflated pigs bladders.  A far cry from Groundhog Day, where we just rouse a small sleeping mammal from his quiet slumber.

But first we went sledding on old-school little wooden sleds on 20 minute long runs.  My first and only Swiss Alpine sporting adventure thus far.

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What a view
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From the top of the ski/sled lift
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Me on the baby sled – not much snow even in March

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Mostly steered with my feet

When we ventured into Ftan after sledding, we were expecting a kids festival, complete with confetti and maybe some Alpine music.  But what we witnessed was not even close to that.  The kids festival had occurred earlier in the morning and we were there to witness the young adults version.  Like I said, pigs bladders.

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Gearing up for the parade
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This poor guy got confetti aggressively dumped in his car.
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He was not pleased.
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One of the participants
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Cleaning up after, kind of
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Whacking pigs bladders on each other’s backs
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Wrestling in the snow
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Stuffing kids’ faces with confetti

All in all, the festival in Ftan left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  And not because any of the pig intestines got in there, though it was unavoidably on our boots.  It was more the cringing/jolting feeling every time someone wound up their arm to smack the inflated bladders at full force into their neighbor’s back.  That, was not my cup of tea.

Luckily, the festival in Guarda is much more tame and friendly.  We woke up early, donned all of our winter clothes and trudged out into the village to watch the local children ring giant bells and walk around all the fountains chasing away winter.  It was more picturesque as well.

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Traditionally it was only the boys allowed to ring the bells, but now girls are allowed as well
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Singing songs after bell ringing
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The bigger kids get bigger bells and they walk in order of largest to smallest bell
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The crowd to watch the kids

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The big bells
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The little bells

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The Schellen Ursli house
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We even got some snow

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Taking a break

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Baby sheep
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Circling the fountain by the church

Chocolate, cheese & the most expensive taxis in the world…Zurich

 I am writing from 11,000 meters in the air, hoping the only baby on the plane, who happens to be seated in our row, will stop screaming soon. But it reminded me that I needed to do a Zurich post, so that’s good I guess.  Though, as Riki just pointed out, these parents today have spent the most time trying to calm the baby down that we have ever seen. But to no avail.

Which leads me back to last week when we flew from Barcelona to Zurich. (The screaming has gotten worse)

After 4 great days wandering around Barcelona, we headed back to Zurich for a week of organizing and visiting family. Plane karma strikes again though and we are seated with two boys behind us who quickly discover how to slam the tray tables up and down. Upon takeoff, karma continues. This time in the form of the business class passenger in front of us who has so kindly stowed his cut flowers, complete with extra water, in the compartment above us. As the plane ascends, the bag leaks and streams of water cascade over our heads and onto the boys behind us. Luckily our bags were in another compartment and the woman with a laptop up there rescued it in time. This didn’t help quiet the boys and they were ultimately separated, but not before we started our final descent into Zurich.

We spent the first few days in Zurich planning our stay in Bangkok and figuring out how to squeeze in a side trip to Nepal while my parents are there. We located where we will go in Bangkok to get our Vietnamese visas and our polio shots. We also went to the Zurich city hall to register our marriage. We have yet to confirm that we actually registered, or what it will do for us, but we did fill out some paperwork.

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We had lots of family meals and broke out of our meat, cheese and bread habits. Basically, by adding pasta. The food in Zurich is great, except that I have not been able to find peach yogurt (they have delicious peaches though). There are incredible dried meats and so many different kids of Swiss cheese (with and without holes). We took Riki’s cousin, Fridolin fishing in the river in downtown Zurich and to everyone’s surprise, we actually caught a fish!

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That evening we went to, and I’m not sure what to call this exactly, but it was a bunch of shops that were open very late and there was music and food. In New Orleans this would have been like white linen night or art for art’s sake. The best part was a Swiss band playing country music while wearing cowboy hats and pin-striped suits. Imagine your typical Swiss banker donning a plastic cowboy hat and playing the banjo. Good music, mediocre vocals, but very amusing.

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Saturday, Riki’s sister Chia and her husband Greg arrived in Zurich after a week or so in the mountains. Riki’s aunts, Noggi and Toodle, organized a big dinner for us, complete with champagne to celebrate our wedding and a flowered crown straight from Greece. We managed to coordinate our colors and took this group selfie outside Riki’s grandmother’s house.

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Riki has two little cousins not pictured who we enjoyed seeing. They have grown so much since I last saw them 2 years ago. They were not too keen on playing with us (perhaps because my German is non-existent and their English is about as good as any toddler’s) but I think we made an impression. There is now a very attractive bug-eyed helicopter that sticks out its tongue called Julie and a much more handsome cymbal-playing airplane potentially called Riki.

We are beginning our descent into Stockholm where we will meet up with the other side of Riki’s family….and the baby still screams.