Category Archives: Zurich Travel

Google Translate For The iPhone – Translates Speech Into Text And Audio

It’s a brand new addition to the list of the best iPhone apps for expats in Switzerland, but I thought this was worthy of its own post.

There are many apps on the iPhone that use the Google Translate interface and basically submit your text to Google and then show you the translation.

Now, directly from the source, comes a translation app that could beat them all.

The Google Translate App for the iPhone lets you speak your mother tongue into the device, wait for a translation and then see the translated text on the screen.

Not only that, but you can hear the translated text spoken back to you.

You need an active data connection to make new translations, but you can save your favourite ones for use offline.

The app certainly improves its accuracy the more it gets used to your voice but so far I am not seeing it deal too well with putting the verb at the end of sentences.

That said, it’s very useful for the basics.

Google Translate For The iPhone

Sweet Zurich — Finding Zurich’s Sweet Spots With MyKugelhopf

Kerrin Rousset & Guests on the first Sweet Zurich Tour

There is no better place to start a tour of Zurich than at Paradeplatz on the Bahnhofstrasse. Home to three of Switzerland’s claim to fame — the big banks UBS and Credit Suisse, as well as the Sprüngli Flagship café and shop. Money and chocolate. On a stunning Friday afternoon at the start of February food blogger, translator and connoisseur of all things sweet Kerrin Rousset is ready to lead her first group of curious sweet toothed tourists to some of Zurich’s hidden sweet spots.

As we come together in front of the giant Sprüngli shop with the blue and white trams screeching to a halt and hissing as they turn the corner, Frauenmünster and Grossmünster in the background, Kerrin asks us to introduce ourselves. The New Yorker, who came to Zurich by way of Boston and France, has a very pleasant and warm voice that invites guests to introduce themselves and add a few things to their introduction other than just a name. We’re a small group on this maiden tour — a young Swiss-American art writer and art consultant, a lady from the Valais moved up to Zurich and working in the pharmaceutical industry and myself. What we all have in common is an interest for food and learning more about Zurich’s sugary side. Having gathered in front of the Sprüngli shop, one might believe that this is the perfect start to the tour. Begin with something familiar. Even if you’ve never been to Switzerland, Lindt & Sprüngli’s chocolates are known around the world.

Lindt’s most famous spokesperson is none other than Switzerland’s most famous man — Roger Federer. Just to point out here that Lindt & Sprüngli chocolates and Sprüngli confiseries are separate business entities. Again one might believe this is the best place to start the tour, but we turn our backs on the Swiss giant and make our way up the Bahnhofstrasse. Along the way Kerrin gives us a short history of chocolate in Switzerland. Where Nestlé, Cailler, Sprüngli, and Lindt come into play and what these men did for chocolate in the small alpine country. As we turn a corner and make our way into the heart of the Old City, Kerrin also points out other little treasures for baked goods and sweets.

At every stop we are asked for our own experiences. While there is no doubt that Kerrin is the expert, she’s curious and always looking for further insight and another story for her collection.\n\nOur first stop is a specialty chocolate shop, emphasizing the culture around chocolate. Knowing that these shops are small and can be busy Kerrin quickly gives us a rundown of the shop, who runs it and their approach. If you’re looking for chocolate as far as the eye can see, you’re in the wrong place — this is not Merkur. The owner loves chocolate, but she also loves the culture around chocolate. She carries a wide assortment of chocolates from different countries, books about chocolate, and chocolate paraphernalia of all kinds. She invites us to try her special hot chocolate.

The secret is hers and she’ll gladly share it with you should you stop by on the Sweet Zurich tour. Something interesting comes into view of one of the guests. A knife with a curious blade. It is a chocolate knife. In the 1930s it was quite common to cut one’s chocolate with a special knife. This beautiful knife is a must have for all chocolate aficionados.\n\nAs we leave the shop we walk through the old city and over the Münsterbrücke. Next stop is another chocolate shop. As we enter it is more than clear that Kerrin is a regular there. Like our first place, this shop specializes in more than just chocolate, but also chocolate accessories. If you’re looking for special Swiss, Austrian, Spanish or Italian chocolate, this is the place. Again, a highly knowledgeable staff make us feel welcome and invite us to sample chocolate truffles as we like, and are ready to answer any and all questions. Again the chocolates here are also hand selected and come from a select few producers. These are chocolates that you won’t find in the chocolate aisle at Migros or Coop.\n\nNext we go somewhere I have never been before. I have walked past this place a few times a week for the past two years, but had never been in. I tell Kerrin and she’s shocked. The building dates back to the 14th Century. Walk inside and you can’t help but be in awe. It’s splendid. From the silk wall coverings to the giant cash register to the amazing selection of cakes, pastries, honeys and other fine treats. We are warmly greeted and treated to their famous hot chocolate. I’m in love. It’s very thick and has a nice bit of whipped cream on top. Again another secret and it’s different from our first stop. Hot chocolate down, welcome Prosecco and a tour of the establishment. Our guide is a perfect match to Kerrin and tells us stories about the café with enthusiasm, humour and charm.\n\nBack out onto the street we make our way to another Zurich treat. For us Swiss people going abroad always leads to some frustration mixed with humour when asked where we’re from. It seems many in North

America believe that Sweden and Switzerland are one and the same. The place we are now visiting brings these two countries perfectly together. A fine selection of handcrafted chocolates and Swedish fashion and design products are what separates this shop from the others. A trip here is well worth it, and shows just how creative people can get. Then Kerrin brings us to a shop specializing in what she sees as the latest sweet trend to hit Switzerland. What is it you may ask? You’ll have to venture out on a Sweet Zurich tour and find out. As Kerrin wraps up our tour she recaps what we’ve seen and asks for our feedback. Everyone is impressed and slightly high on sugar. Though the actual intake is not that much, it is much like a wine degustation, where a steady stream of small amounts leaves you feeling it. We part ways with smiles on our face and a little fear in our heads knowing that we are all about to become regulars at the shops we’ve just visited, which might not be a good thing for our waistlines. Kerrin has no need to worry though — she’s a runner.I sat down with MyKugelhopf founder Kerrin Rousset to find out a little more about her.

What makes her tick and where did the idea come from. Kerrin has always been a lover of sweet things and after she and her husband left their jobs in the US they travelled around the world, which gave Kerrin the perfect opportunity to try lots of new food. The name of her blog MyKugelhopf comes from the traditional Alsatian cake called Kugelhopf and or any variations of spellings. If you follow Kerrin on Twitter @MyKugelhopf there is one thing you will notice. She loves Zurich! It is most likely this wonderful combination of interests and qualities that make Kerrin a great food writer and the best person to lead interested people around Zurich discovering its sweet spots. In her almost three years in Zurich, Kerrin has gotten to know the shop owners of the places she takes her guests. One can expect friendly service and insider information that only come over time. I asked Kerrin where the idea for the tour came from and she said that it was a natural progression. “Whenever I travel, that is how I love to discover a city, where the locals go and especially where to find the best sweets. People ask me often for recommendations of where to do this here, and where I love to go. So this is a way to share it with them, and show them there is more than just the big name addresses in guidebooks.” Of course as a writer for tour guides as well, Kerrin will also say there is nothing wrong with using a book. But, based on what I experienced, you do get much more on a tour than doing it on your own. What Kerrin has done is found the passionate people in the city, the people who are running specialty shops because they love what they are selling and want to get others excited about it. When was the last time a Migros employee got you excited about selecting a Frey chocolate bar?

When she’s not busy writing, running, or leading curious groups around Zurich, Kerrin is most likely to be found at one of Zurich’s many markets. She loves the fresh produce and finds it great that Swiss people generally don’t mind paying higher prices for local quality. And of course what does she do with all of this fresh and seasonal produce? Well she cooks and bakes of course in her favourite place in Zurich — her kitchen. If you’re interested in taking the Sweet Zurich tour, check out the website: Tours are on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays starting at 2pm and last between 2 and 2.5 hours. Written by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen Else-Züblin-Strasse 998404 Winterthur SwitzerlandTel: +41 (0)79 345 78 72 E-Mail: Homepage: Facebook: Twitter: @marathonsprache

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

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.

Book Review – Swiss Watching

Are you new to Switzerland or have you been living here for quite sometime, but still can’t figure out the Swiss? Pick up the recently published book Swiss Watching: Inside Europe’s Landlocked Islandby British Expat Diccon Bewes. Armed with his experience as a travel writer, keen curiosity and a GA, Mr. Bewes sought to uncover the real Switzerland, what makes it tick and what keeps this country of contradictions together.Of all the English books I’ve read on Switzerland this one has been one of the most enjoyable. Be it from a brief and concise history of the country – with which the reader will be armed for many discussions with native Swiss people – to a discussion of the Swiss red shoe fetish, Mr. Bewes’ writing style is informative, attentive and witty. These features make the book a pleasure to read and will help many to better understand the Swiss mindset and their, at times, odd behaviour. The book is marked by a degree of British irony and sarcasm, which should bring a smile to most readers’ faces. Page 243 might have you swallow hard or laugh out loud. I did the latter.rather enjoyed the amount of actual experienced research that Mr. Bewes details his book with. Together with his taking on less traditional topics of discussion makes Swiss Watching: Inside Europe’s Landlocked Island stick out from the pile of books written by foreigners about Switzerland. When it comes to taboo topics, Mr. Bewes tackles them in an informed way providing historical and cultural context and allows the reader to make his own opinion. On the whole he writes in a very neutral manner.My one concern in the book is the language information offered. Where a great deal is painted with a brush of “Swissisms”, they are actually general German issues. By this I mean the same thing applies to German spoken in Germany and Austria. The word “Handy” for instance is actually the German word for mobile telephone and does come from the never actually established English term “handie talkie” which was also a synonym for “walkie-talkie”. In Switzerland mobiles are generally called Natels, which comes from the establishment of Switzerland’s national wireless network in 1975 (Nationales AutoTELefon).The book is well worth a read for anyone interested in understanding Switzerland and it’s people. Having taught at a Kantonsschule, I would go so far as to suggest that this book be used in either a history class or advanced English class, as reading it would help the Swiss to better understand themselves. For new comers to Zurich, I would also recommend Zürich for Newcomers by Barbara Milne. (ISBN: 978-3-280-05161-0) Swiss Watching Inside Europe’s Landlocked Island by Diccon Bewes. (ISBN: 978-1-85788-548-4) Looking for a good English Bookshop in Zurich? I’ve recently discovered Pile of Books – Great selection, friendly service and the best prices. (Written by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen in Winterthur

Traveling With The SBB

In December 2009 the SBB and Trenitalia decided to end the Cisalpino train service, a joint venture between the two national railways. Naturally when such things happen allegations flew. The SBB claimed that the consistent late trains coming from Milan was one of the main reasons. Trenitalia also made claims, but anyone who has travelled to Italy or even wanted to come back from Ticino has experienced that more often than not it is the trains coming from Italy that are running late and causing delays elsewhere in Switzerland.Traveling back from Lucerne the other day, I was witness to something that would have played out much differently in Italy. Many might find the following incident tragic others as quite funny. For the sake of the protagonist, I hope that he will look back in five years and laugh.I was on a class trip with students all around 15 years of age. Having boarded the train we patiently waited for the train to depart. Outside the train was a man with two monsters for suitcases with a little twitch in his hand and a bead of sweat rolling down his face. Then the rail attendant made the last call to board the train. In a panic the man tossed his two suitcases onto the train and followed rescuing his foot from a closing door in true Indiana Jones style. Seconds later the train rolled into motion and a look of fear struck the man’s face. Quickly he ran to the window where I was sitting and frantically tried to open the locked window. The other teacher and I looked at each other and wondered what was going on.The rail attendant seeing the panic-stricken man running around the train tried to explain that she had given the final call and announced that the man had to either be on the train or off the train, but that the train was departing. Furthermore, once the train is in motion it will not stop until it reached the next destination. The man with an Italian accented Swiss-German then explained that his wife was still on the platform. Adding to the problem of leaving his wife behind, was the fact that neither of them had mobile phones on them. After twenty some minutes on the train the man deboarded the train in Zug after apologising for his frantic behaviour.This little story illustrates a fine point about Switzerland. In fact it is one of the paradoxes of this tiny country, especially for Expats: Ask most Expats to list three things that they like or even love about Switzerland and the rail service will surely be listed. “It’s efficient and punctual” is a praise often quoted by Expats from the UK and Ireland, whereas most Americans and Canadians are simply amazed that trains can transport more than goods. However, these are the same people who find it terrible and cold hearted of the SBB to give such little regard to travellers racing down the platform with a suitcase trailing behind them trying to make the train as the last call is announced and the little green light encircling the open button disappears for the last time and the doors shut leaving that poor traveller to wait for the next train.Cold and heartless would be one explanation. Mechanical and calculated another. Much can be said about Switzerland by looking at the rail system. The reason the trains are on time and why a 10 minute delay is front page news is because it has been calculated. If the train waited an extra 30 seconds at every station it would gradually delay itself more and more. Other trains would then need to wait for passengers needing to make connections and the entire system would descend into chaos like in Italy, where one travelling by train can merely hope that there will not be a strike and that the train will arrive that day.While disorder and unpunctuality are frowned upon in Switzerland, so are limitations to mobility and personal freedoms. Therefore, most longer routes are travelled once an hour and many of the in-between-stops can be reached by taking another train. The other thing that makes train travel so convenient in Switzerland is that it is a “one ticket all trains service”; unlike travelling with the Deutsche Bahn where ICE trains cost more than regional trains.The best tip for travelling with the train in Switzerland is to give yourself a few extra minutes to get to the station. If you’re on time, you should not miss your train.If you’re travelling by train around Switzerland here are a few tips: Frequent travellers of longer distances or people who simply love sitting in trains should get a GA (Generalabonnement). This is a card that gives you unlimited travel in Switzerland for the year for 3100.00 CHF or 285.00 CHF/Month in second class. Less frequent travelers should at least get a Halbtax that gets you 50% off the price of all tickets for train and bus. The cost for this is 150.00 CHF for a year.Both will save you money. As a reference a one-way ticket Zurich to Bern at a normal price is 46.00 CHF.Have visitors coming to Switzerland? Tell them to get a Swiss Card for the time they are here to save money and hassle when travelling. There are different time frames from a few days to a month. Are you on facebook? You can become a fan of the SBB and see their Sparbillette programme and see all the latest ticket specials. For iPhone users the SBB Mobile App is great and allows you to check your connections anytime anywhere. German – English Vocabulary for train travel: das Gleis = track der Zug = train die SBB = Schweizerische Bundesbahn (Swiss Federal Railway) die Bahn = railway / rail der Fahrschein = ticket der Nachtzuschlag = addditional fee for night trains (after 1 am) die Verspätung = delay die Gleisänderung = change of track “Der Kluge reist im Zuge” = “The smart one travels with the train” (Written by Christian Langenegger, co-founder of Marathon Sprachen in Winterthur