Category Archives: Zurich Living

What’s Up With The Gun Posters?

Why are there posters with a Grand Theft Auto thug pointing a gun at me everywhere in Switzerland? Is this a new video game?

No, it is not a video game, it is a “No” poster for the Volksinitiative “Für den Schutz vor Waffengewalt” (for the protection against weapon/gun violence) which is the only national question being put to voters in Switzerland’s first referendum of 2011 on February 13. Again Switzerland’s right wing People’s Party (SVP) is arousing fear in the Swiss populace.

The initiative was proposed by doctors, social workers and others affected by gun violence. Now many may say that when they think of Switzerland they don’t think of gun violence. Well for the third most armed country in the world Switzerland is a peaceful country. For every 100 people there are 45,7 weapons. When put in terms of households though this equates to 1 in 3 households possessing firearms. Yet behind this peaceful facade lurk some troubling numbers, and this is where gun violence shines.

Looking at the World Health Organization’s statistics, Switzerland has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe at approximately 35 people for every 100 000 people. According to Suicide researcher Dr. Valadeta Ajdacic from the University Clinic in Zurich, in the past ten years there have been more than 13,000 cases of suicide in Switzerland, or on average 1341 per year. A new study published in the Schweizerischen Ärtzetzeitung (Swiss Doctor’s Journal) shows that 34% of suicides are committed with a gun. Dr. Valadeta Ajdacic believes that limiting access to weapons would reduce these numbers by about 100 suicides per year. Then of fact there is the sad story that every so often someone, usually a man, kills not only himself but also his wife and children. And as highlighted in the Volksabstimmung vom 13. Februar 2011 Erläuterungen des Bundesrates (explanation and commentary to the initiative) just the threat of having a gun in the closet is a psychological torment for many and is not spoken about.\n\nWhile the cause of suicide may be hotly debated, the statics will point to the most traditional and conservative areas as being where they are the highest. When you live close to everyone and your every move in noticed and scrutinized by family, friends and neighbors the feeling of failure can come about easily. In this manner the Swiss bear a great resemblance to their number one fans the Japanese.\n\nThe “Waffen Initiative” asks that military officers leave their weapons in an armory when off duty. This seemingly simple and logical request is aimed at lowering suicide and murder rates, by making guns less accessible. It would further implement a federal gun registry replacing the cantonal registries. As Switzerland must exchange gun ownership data with the E.U. under the Schengen-Dublin agreement, this would help eliminate a level of confusion and bureaucracy as the E.U. would get information from just Switzerland and not 26 separate cantons. Furthermore, with the country being so small it makes more sense to have this done centrally.\n\nHowever, from the view of the SVP and many others it is an infringement on rights and further government intervention. Yet it begs the question that if you only need your weapon for military exercises or sport shooting, why do you need it at home? In fact you are not supposed to have ammunition for it at home anyway. The arguments against the initiative are illogical and based on fear. Oskar Freysinger, a SVP politician, openly asked what Switzerland  would be like if Wilhelm Tell had not been allowed to have a crossbow at home. A wiser person might ask, what this SVP politician would have become had he paid attention in his history class. Yet this shows that like so much in Switzerland tradition and myth form strong counter arguments to progress.

As for claims that it is for personal protection, I have not found any reports of cases in which an off duty officer used a military weapon for personal defense against criminal violence or activity. Again, officers are not to have ammunition in the first place.

Arguments for the “Waffen Initiative” are logical and well intended. They will put limits on people’s rights as they have existed to present and will mean that owning a gun for hunters and sport shooters will be more difficult. However, civil society means voluntarily limiting one’s individual freedoms for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. The Bundesrat and parliament in their official statement regarding the “Waffen Initiative” hold it for unnecessary and believe that the current laws are good enough, as the initiative cannot guarantee a reduction in gun violence. While this may be true, all of the studies would suggest that where there is less access to weapons there is less violence — without a gun at hand a potential suicide victim might consider his or choices again.

If you’re looking for more information on the topic, it can be found in German at:

Written by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen

Else-Züblin-Strasse 99

8404 Winterthur\nSwitzerland

Tel: +41 (0)79 345 78 72




Twitter: @marathonsprache

Interview With Melanie Studer – Cupcake Affair

At the end of 2010 we emailed a series of questions to Melanie Studer who had just opened Cupcake Affair. We are please to present her answers here. Tell us a little about yourself, are you originally from Zurich? I am actually from Basel and only moved here two years ago after travelling the world and living in the UK, like Zurich, there is a certain buzz about it plus I like the international influence here, which you don’t get as much in other Swiss towns. While you were away, what did you miss about Zurich? actually only moved to Zürich two years ago after living in the UK for 2 years, but I certainly did miss Switzerland whilst I was away. In particular I missed the distinct four seasons we have here, the high quality of life (countless activities to do around the year), the delicious bread and not to forget – the Swiss-made chocolate. What about Cupcake Affair? How did that come about? Well, I guess like all ideas, it came from a feeling of frustration!After completing a hotel management school in Switzerland, I had a long series of jobs where I constantly felt unsatisfied with my career. I actually became a little bit of a serial job-swapper, with 13 months continuous employment being my record!  So I was in the mindset that I needed to find something more fufilling to do with my life… and that’s where Cupcakes came in! I actually first heard about cupcakes when I lived in the UK. I immediately fell in love with the product and could immediately understand why they are so popular around the globe.

Then the thought came – why is there nothing like this in Switzerland? My long-term dream had always been to open my own cafe or shop, so I thought that this was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss. So for the past year I have been working around the clock trying to get the product right and to find the right venue in Zürich (no easy job!)What does Cupcake Affair offer expats in Zurich?Cupcake Affair is the first cupcake shop in Zürich and even the second one in whole of Switzerland. It offers a different kind of food experience in a less traditional, more trendy and exciting ambiance. For some American expats it might even bring memories of home.We make each cupcake by hand in our kitchen, so we also hope to capture at least a little of that home-baked feel. Our shop is cosy and our team is small, so we would hope too that we could offer a personal kind of service. We also take orders and can deliver to the whole of Zürich city.  All in all, we are aiming to make people happy with our delicious and tempting little cakes! Finally, do you have any Zurich secrets? As we’ve just opened, Cupcake Affair is still an unknown secret to most people in Zürich at this moment but we hope it doesn’t stay that way for long! Many thanks to Melanie. You can find Cupcake Affair at Spitalgasse 12, Zürich and at

Old New Year’s Eve In Appenzellerland

Agree with him or not there is a great deal to be said about Freud’s theories. When it comes to childhood trauma, I’m on Freud’s side. From an early childhood experience I now feel like Nathanael in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Sandman. The source of my trauma is an old Appenzeller tradition — Alter Silvester (old New Year).

I was 4 years old and visiting my aunt and uncle in Waldstatt, AR. It was the morning of January 13th and the sky was brilliant blue and the hills were covered in snow when the ringing of cowbells pierced the the cold winter air. Even at four years of age I knew it could not have been cows, as they only wore bells in the summer when they were outside in the field and up on the alp. As the sound came nearer my aunt pointed in the direction it was coming from. At first sight there was just a snowy hill crest and then something came over the hill — the Chläuse.

There are three kinds of Chläuse: die Wüeschten (the ugly), die Schönen (the beautiful) and die Schön-Wüeschten (the beautiful-ugly).

The Wüeschten are covered in pine branches, cedar branches, or straw and wear large cowbells. Their masks are ugly and typically characterized by googly eyes, ferocious looking teeth and sometimes horns. Though they look evil they are not meant to be regarded as such.

The beautiful wear brightly-coloured traditional dress (Tracht) and have masks that look like the faces in traditional Appenzeller painting. They also wear giant head pieces that tell a story or show scenes from everyday life in the alps. These head pieces can weigh up to 8 kilograms and are hand made new every year. The head piece of the “women” Chläusen can easily have a height of over 50 cm.

The pretty-ugly are a mixture of the ugly and the beautiful. Their dress is made of forest elements like that of the ugly. But their masks are more human in appearance and they also have head pieces made of leaves, and nuts and straw and may also depict alpine scenes including barns.

Other than all of the Chläuse wearing masks the other thing they all have in common are that they are all men. Even the “women” Chläuse, known as Rollewiiber or simply Rolli, are men. In general a costume can weigh anywhere between 20 and 30 kg. All of them wear large cowbells and sing in front of the homes they visit. The singing is called Zäuerli, which are songs without lyrics. (Video).

I still remember the Schönen (beautiful) coming and singing, and I ran. I ran as fast as I could into my aunts house and hid under a bed. It must have been their daunting size, the singing and bells and the masks. Even today I still have a great dislike of masks of any kind.

Traditionally the Chläuse appear in groups called Schuppel at around 5 am on New Year’s Eve and again for the old New Year’s Eve on January 13th. If it is snowing the Schönen will not be out, as their costume is too delicate. Where the tradition comes from is not quite clear. If you were to ask someone in Urnäsch, they would probably tell you that it has been done since time immortal. Some studies suggest that it may be from as recent as the 15th Century, where St. Nikolaus festivities at the monasteries became continually more and more wild and reminiscent of Carnival (Fasnacht). Others suggest that it was an old tradition of scaring off the bad spirits of the old year. The idea of it being a pagan tradition was also cemented in popular belief by priests up to the 20th century calling the practice the remains of a barbaric era.

Like so much in Appenzell this is a tradition that does not seem to be going away, which is a good thing for the local tourism economy, which now sees an influx of tourists coming to watch this timeless tradition.

If you are interested in seeing this for yourself, it can be seen in the following towns on January 13th: Urnäsch, Herisau, Hundwil, Stein, Waldstatt, Schwellbrunn and Schönengrund. Here is a link to the event in Urnäsch.

Written by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen

Else-Züblin-Strasse 99

8404 Winterthur


Tel: +41 (0)79 345 78 72




Twitter: @marathonsprache

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We are pleased to announce that you can get a great experience from your mobile device.

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The site loads much faster over wireless data connections, giving you quick access to our posts and articles.

If you prefer the full site, you can choose to see the desktop version instead.

The URL is the same but the mobile version is the default if you access on the go.

Speeding In Switzerland. They Will Get You And You Will Pay!

One thing that may surprise you is the voracity of the Swiss Police in catching and punishing drivers who break the law.This is an excerpt of a letter that landed on our doormat yesterday-Briefly translated, the car was traveling at 54 km/h in an area with a limit of 50 km/h. After a rounding down factor of 3 km/h for laser speed traps, the offence was speeding by 1 km/h over the speed limit.This was at 02:08 in the morning. This is merely to point out that speed cases in Switzerland are generally black and white. If you were speeding and you get caught, you are going to be fined with no exception. Always observe speed limits. The fines are expensive, can be cumulative and breaking the limit by larger amounts lead to larger fines and

even criminal action. Although punitive sentences are rare, they can often be levied but removed upon payment of an even heftier sum. his page shows the rough guidelines for speeding offences and penalties in Switzerland as well as the rounding down applied for different types of speed trap. It is in German but easy enough to follow. Here is the page in English. Just be careful and be especially aware of drops in the speed limit on motorways. If a particularly tricky bend is coming up, the limit will be reduced and this reduction will likely be coupled with a speed trap. If you are not a Swiss resident you will also be pursued for payment, especially if you are from Europe. If you are driving a rental car when you are caught speeding in Switzerland, there is really no way of avoiding payment as the Swiss will charge the rental company who will then bill you for the fines as well as an admin fee. The first you will know is a charge on your credit card or a bill in the post from the rental company. If you are driving your own car when caught speeding, the Swiss authorities will contact your local Driving authority for your postal address and write to you directly. You can choose to ignore it but this is not wise. This will make you a criminal in Switzerland which is fine if you can guarantee you will never return but if you do come back to Switzerland, you will run into a lot of trouble if you were stopped by the police for any reason. If you have any experiences with speeding offences in Switzerland, please join in with a comment.


The EXPOVINA is in it’s second weekend and many are making their second rounds of Switzerland’s largest wine exhibition. Use the exhibition to try wines and learn something new about them. Here are a few tips to save you money, patience and possibly face.

1. Have an idea of what you’d like to taste. There are many ways to do this: white / red / sparkling – wines from certain countries – specific grape varietals.

2. Know your budget. Use this exhibition as a way of discovering new wines that you may actually buy to have at home. Better than buying surprise bottles in a shop.

3. Take notes and compare before you buy.

4. While you are not obligated to buy at any stand, be respectful and if you are not planning to buy from there do not spend too much time at the stand. a general rule of thumb is to try up to 4 at a stand then move on, unless you are intent on buying.

5. Do not let yourself get talked into buying wines you do not like, really want or cannot really afford. I bought a case of wine one year that I did not really want and I can hardly drink it because.

6. Go with friends who have a similar taste. This is great if you find that gem of a wine and it’s at a price point that is higher than what you usually buy. So instead of buying a 6er pack of Brunello at 50 CHF a bottle for yourself each of you buy two bottles.

7. You’re a potential customer and demand respect. If you feel that a sales person isn’t treating you with do respect, politely tell them that.

8. Go during the afternoon as there are less people, the sales agents are friendlier and you can learn more.

9. Allow sales agents to guide you through their wines but help them recommend wines that you will probably like.

10. Taste and learn.

The EXPOVINA is a great event for wine lovers and those wanting to learn more about wine. Take the opportunity to find a few gems for yourself, while having fun and meeting new people.

Expovina – Wänn Gaasch Ufs Wyschiff?

It’s that time of year again where the ground is covered in golden leaves and a blanket of grey is pulled over the city to be occasionally lifted to reveal one of the most regal blue skies anywhere on this earth: autumn in Zurich. Autumn brings with it more than just a change in the weather, but also a wonderful variety of local produce at the local markets from apples to pumpkins. Across from the Tuesday market at Bürkliplatz, one sees twelve ships anchored and masses of people moving between them. Yes, the wine ships of the EXPOVINA are back. This year Switzerland’s preeminent wine festival and exhibition celebrates it’s 57th year. If you have not yet experienced the EXPOVINA, it is an experience not to be missed.

The EXPOVINA was founded in 1953 by the Zürich shop owner J.F. Sauter. The first “Wyschiff” — dialect for wine ship — was the Linth. In that first year 6000 guests visited the single ship to discover new wines. Alongside the typical Swiss varietals of Fendant, Dôle and Dorin one would have found some wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Châteauneuf-du-Pape as well as South Tirol and Valpolicella. The selection and size was definitely limited in comparison to today, but for back then it presented a once a year chance to taste so many different wines all at one location. It quickly became a Zürcher institution.

The EXPOVINA grew steadily from year to year. As the number of wines being presented increased so did the number of ships. By 1964 the event had grown to include 6 ships featuring 66 producers and importers exhibiting approximately 600 wines. By 1981 there were eleven ships anchored at Zurich’s wine harbour.  The twelfth ship was added in 2000. Today on the 12 ships docked at Bürkliplatz some 80000 guests visit to try more than 4000 wines from over 24 countries.

The only question now is: “Wänn gaasch ufs Wyschiff?” (when are you going on the wine ship?).

The EXPOVINA runs from November 4-18, 2010. It is open daily from 12 – 10pm except Sundays 12 – 7pm. Entry costs 20 CHF, but is free between 12 – 1pm.

Here are a few tips that will help make your visit more enjoyable and possibly save your bank account:


    1. Use the guide book to locate stands with wines that you would like to try.


    1. Go on at least two days (one day white wines, one day red wines)


    1. There is no shame in spitting (if there is a bucket) or emptying out a wine you don’t like or from which the pour was simply too large.


    1. Know your budget. Many of the people at the stands want to sell wine. The turnover at the EXPOVINA is estimated at around 30 million Franks.


    1. Allow the server / sales person to guide you. It is frowned upon to just go and taste the most expensive wines that you have no intent on buying. However, if you taste a variety of wines you will generally be offered a taste of the best wines and sometimes even an unlisted wine.


    1. If you have no intent on buying, it is best not to stay too long at any one counter.


    1. Check your coat and bags. It gets very hot in the boats, especially at night.


    1. Be open to trying new grape varietals and regions: you might discover your new favourite.


Though most of the people working on the wine boats are quite capable in both German and English and often French and Italian here are a few words in German with their English Translations:\n


    • der Wein – wine


    • der Weisswein – white wine


    • der Rotwein – red wine


    • der Schaumwein – sparkling wine (often called Champagne or Prosecco, these are actually region and/or varietal specific)


    • die Nase – the nose (bouquet)


    • der Geschmack – the taste


    • Schmeckt er? – Does it taste good?


    • die Rebsorte – grape varietal


    • trocken – dry (max 9 grams of sugar per liter)


    • halbtrocken – half dry. These wines have a little more sugar than dry wines and tend to be fruitier. Their sugar content ranges from 9 – 18 grams per liter)


    • lieblich – lightly sweet (usually these wines are precieved as sweet, but it is the fruity aroma that makes you believe they are very sweet. Their sugar content ranges between 18 and 45 grams per liter. Swiss people often use this term to simply mean a nice and pleasant wine)


    • süss – sweet (this means really sweet like ice wine and other dessert wines like Sauternes. They have a sugar content of more than 45 grams per liter)


    • süffig – easy to drink (often used to describe wines by sales people)


    • leicht – light wine (most Swiss reds are light wines)


    • vollmundig – full-bodied


*Note: Because it is “der Wein” in German, German speaking people will often refer to the wine as he and not it.

Written by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen

Else-Züblin-Strasse 99

8404 Winterthur


Tel: +41 (0)52 242 31 29




Twitter: @marathonsprache