Category Archives: Articles

Don’t Get Ripped Off For “Materials” At German Classes

 

Recently I started a Language class at the Alemania Deutchschule. While the course is quite reasonably priced at 580CHF for 4 weeks of intensive beginners classes, I was not prepared for the additional charge of 70CHF for the “materials”. Assuming the materials were books I decided to do some of my own research and try and source some cheap or second hand books from the internet before the class started.

My search was not too fruitful, especially as the schools secretary had not been very forthcoming with details as to what constituted 70CHF of materials and had not provided me with the exact name of the book we would be using. But there was the suggestion that any German course book would be available in the Orell Fussli bookshop here in Zurich, but unfortunately I had left it too late to go shopping as it was Sunday and I did not even specifically know what books I should be buying.

As a result I ended up attending the first day of class empty handed and was given a book, cheap ugly school bag with “alemania” written on it and a pencil. Since I then knew exactly what book I needed I later that day went to the Orell Fussli on Fusslistrasse 4, this is the biggest bookshop in Zurich and has 4 floors of books. Armed with a photograph the cover of the book I found it for 21.90CHF there. A massive saving of 48.10 CHF.

Then when I went to pay on day 2 I said I had bought my own book and returned the brand new one I had just bought along with the other “materials”, the receptionist really didn’t give me any problems about this, and I only paid 580CHF for the classes.

The “materials” cost quoted on my invoice was 70CHF, which I find ridiculous considering that the book is 21.90 CHF and the only other materials I received during 3 weeks are a pencil, a really ugly cheap school bag (which I returned) and 10 photo copied pages. This book (A1/1) is used until half way through the second month of classes, when at this point the school will once again try to charge 60CHF for the next level book (A1/2) which is also just 21.90CHF .

I would recommend that anybody doing any German classes at any school here in Zurich purchase their own books, especially if they are not included in the price of the classes. Make sure to tell the person that you book the class with that you intend to buy your own book and would like to know the exact name of the book you will be using. Zurich is already so over priced that you should not let yourself be massively over charged because you were to lazy to buy your own books.

Cakefriends review

I recently visited Cakefriends, which is a lovely little cafe here near Bellevue.

The atmosphere is really cosy but modern and the cake and coffee was very good, as it was my friends birthday we decided to get the tasting platter. which was very reasonably priced if you consider the cost of an individual slice. The thing though is that you don’t get to pick which slices you wa, as it is a standard selection. The cakes are very well presented on a siler platter and all the accoutrements that accompany the cake are very tasty.

Pets and the holidays

So after a prolonged stretch of time in Zurich many people will inevitably have picked up a pet along the way, or sometimes even arrived with one.\r\n\r\nPets like children are sometimes an unexpected but much loved part of the household.\r\n\r\nUnlike children though pets can be difficult to travel with and will result in you jumping loops though a series of complicated and expensive procedures and requirements for transport or holiday care

Holiday care –

petsitting

professional

neighbours

EF petsitting

network Kennels

 travelling with the pet 

moving your pet flights

car train boat

It’s Good To Be The King (Of The Dreikönigskuche)

I am the King!Today, January 6th, sees people across Switzerland buying their Dreikönigskuchen (three kings cake) and sharing them with friends and family. Similar to the ha’penny in an English Christmas pudding, finding the King is considered good luck. I am pleased to say that I just picked the piece of cake with the King in it and here he is — 20120106-101329.jpgIt was tense, of the six pieces (the centre piece never contains the King), only two were left meaning that if I chose wrongly then only the King piece would remain. Although I have to admit that a low carb start to 2012 means I didn’t eat the cake.Note that if you accept responsibility to get the cake, don’t let your colleagues down, it is something that is genuinely looked forward to and get the traditional fruit instead of chocolate!

Cheap Train Tickets In Switzerland

 

As someone who has just arrived to Zurich I have not yet purchased a “half price” train card or a “GA” reduction card. Especially since the cost of using public transport encourages me to cycle as much as possible. This however has its drawbacks and the exorbitant costs of full price train tickets becomes painfully clear when you try to book an intercity train.

Paying anywhere in the region of 6-60 Swiss francs for a one way ticket is not the ideal situation for someone on a budget. However there is hope for people here visiting or just without a card, as the National Swiss train company the SBB are currently running a “Supersaver” ticket scheme. This scheme allows you to book tickets on line at a much cheaper price than buying them at the train station.

Supersaver Tickets can be a whopping 60% cheaper than the regular fare, making them even cheaper than what you would pay with the half price card. The supersaver tickets are also available for half price card holders, but here the reduction is only a few swiss francs.

The catch. Obviously this is not just a cheap ticket free for all, and there are only a certain amount of cheap tickets available per route. Also the tickets are not usually available for more popular travelling times. The most important point to note these tickets are only available until the 20th of February 2012.

While the scheme is limited until the 20th of February it has been popular before and this is the 4th time these types of tickets have been available, so hopefully they will relaunch the scheme again after February or even make it permanent.

A couple of quick tips on Supersaver tickets.

 

    • the ticket is only valid for the train you booked so don’t try and change it after

 

    • you can only book the ticket a maximum of 14 days in advance

 

    • print your ticket at home. you can not print them at the train station and they do not accept smart phone screen shots

 

    • be flexible as the availability of tickets can sometimes be limited

 

    • make sure you type in Zürich correctly with the “ü”. The search wont recognise the city with out it.

 

However on one of my journeys the first train was delayed and as a result I missed my connection. Worried about receiving a fine I went to the ticket office and the clerk stamped and signed my original ticket making it valid for the next train. Remember though I missed the connection because the train was late, not me.

Another point to note about buying tickets at the train station is that recently they have added a 10CHF charge for this service. Kinda of like a tax for the non computer savvy. But I suppose there is a point to this concept and the SBB could only be considered to be falling in line with cost reduction policy’s that certain airlines have been pioneering for quite some time.

So if you are planning on travelling around Switzerland and need to book a train do it on line and print it at home.

Cecily

Schmutzli – The Bad Santa

 Samichlaus and Schmutzli

 

Every country has its traditions and rituals and one of the more quirky and oddly satisfying of the Swiss Christmas season is Schmutzli.

 

Just like Venom to Spiderman, Dr. Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes and Magneto to Dr. Xavier, Schmutzli is a more sinister counter point to the good that Santa represents.

The answer to how this tradition came about is once again representative of another classic battle between Christianity and paganism. Originally it was a pagan ritual called Perchten which involved good spirits driving out the bad old spirits. With Samichlaus taking the Christian “good” role Schmutzli some how managed to evolve into the dark figure.

Samichlaus is not Santa Claus however and the celebration of “St Nicolas Day”is on the 6th of December, while both Christmas and St Nicolas Day both have the same origins they take on different forms, with the latter having much more in common with its original tradition of paganism than its commercialised American brother.

What is personally appealing about this tradition is the fact that it actually give children something to fear at Christmas. No longer is the classic taunt “Santas’ watching” applicable, the phrase “Schmutzli is watching” has far more fear behind it, and only rightly so, the black faced nemesis is associated with stealing children, carries a broom of sticks with which to hit misbehaving children and is even called  Père Fouettard or Father ‘Whip’ in the French speaking part of Switzerland.

 

Local teenagers have even been known to dress up as groups of Schmutzli’s and go around implementing their own style of vigilante Christmas justice on younger children.

All Christmas songs now have a new tune

You better watch out

You better not cry

Better not pout

I’m telling you why

Schmutzli is coming to town

 

He’s got a stick, And he’ll whip you twice;

It doesn’t matter if you’re naughty or nice Schmutzli is coming to town

He’ll steal when you’re sleeping, He’ll whip you when you’re awake He knows if you’ve been bad or good, So run for goodness sake!

O! You better watch out! You better not cry Better not pout, I’m telling you why

Schmutzli is coming to town Sounds like excellent incentive for good behaviour from children to me.