Sunday, January 29, 2012

An interview with ... myself.

Once again: hear ye, hear ye! When I say that I love my writing and that I want to do something with it, I am actually serious. So serious, even, that I created a Twitter account (yes, you read correctly) solely to promote my writings and other travel related likes.
I am very happy that I did this, because I am again featured on the world wide web.
Global Goose Travel is Canada-based and are 2 people who are passionate travelers themselves. Via Twitter I learned about their interviews et voila, that's how fast it can go.

This time, you can read my story through There are also some pictures of mine on display.

I am very excited about this. Does it show? I think I might 'tweet' it quickly! :-)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A visit from the Social Traveler

Yesterday I got a visit from someone who calls himself the Social Traveler. He is Bjorn, from Belgium, and already for 2 years he travels around the world wherever people invite him. He has a website, The Social Traveler, and on this page people can post invites, challenges or tips. This way, he lets himself guide from country to country.
Bjorn was in Geneva last week, so I said that Chur is not that far and he was welcome for a visit. At first the timing didn't seem to be right for him, but apparently plans changed later and so we met up in Chur.
It was a fun night. Chur is still an enigma for me as much as for Bjorn, so we just hung around the Old City for a bit and set out in search for a place to eat. I had a typical Swiss dish, 'bratwurst mit rösti' - sister, if you're reading this: I'm sure you would have loved it! Starting to discover the local cuisine, aber natürlich!
Afterwards, we went to Werkstatt, the place where I went with all the architects, which is the only place I know by now in Chur. But I kind of love it. A nice place for a beer! On the way there - I miraculously lost my way again in the Altstadt - we got to talking with someone who is definitely a local, because he started telling us about the city. With the little German I know by now, I got to understand that Chur is the oldest city in the Alps, if I'm correct. The friendly Swiss guy also showed us the oldest lamp in the city, which works on gas. They used to light it manually every night - again, if I'm not mistaken. I find this funny; these are the kind of facts you want to know about a city, right? I have seen the oldest lamp in Chur :).

Apart from that, nothing special happened, except that it was a nice evening full of travel talk and discussion about how to blog, how to get material out in the open and how to chase your dreams. Talk that suits me fine, in other words. I am planning to create a website which centralizes all my writing and photography material. I am not sure yet how to do this, so if anyone can help me with this, or give me tips or tricks in any way, you'd have my eternal gratitude. And that means a lot ;).
And so, the Social Traveler has seen Chur, which is another city on his list, before he moved on to Strasbourg. Nice, right?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A champagne glass with my name on it

Sunday morning. Almost a week has passed since my last post. Only a week, but it already feels like a lot longer.
The week started with my first day at work with Baumschlager-Eberle. I was immediately taken in well by my colleagues. They all greeted me with big smiles and hellos and welcomes. My spot was ready, my computer completely set for my user, my name is on the website (Baumschlager-Eberle), and the funniest thing is that there was a champagne glass ready on my desk, with my name on it. I kid you not. Imagine someone would dare steal my prosecco! Soon I'd learn that prosecco-moments aren't rare in the office ... But work first, of course.
The main thing I have been doing this week is just learning the drawing program and the structure in the office etc. This interspersed with a lot of laughter with my colleagues - and you all know, I love laughing :-) - so I had a pretty good start. The biggest change though, is getting up again every morning at a set hour, getting ready, driving to work (which I have never even done before, so that is completely new!) and staying put for a few hours at a time. It's been a long time since there was so much structure in my life. I am very tired every night, so I think my body has to adapt to the new rhythm as well :-).

Apart from work, there was my guest post on Hopscotch The Globe which I felt so proud about - and still do. (for those who missed it, here is the link once more (it doesn't hurt to boast about my own writings a bit, does it? :-) I want to get my writing more out there, so this is a great step forward. I was also proud to see that people have been twittering about me - I don't even twitter myself and I am still out there! Social media are amazing, I am astonished by it time after time.

My 15 minutes of fame on the world wide web

I also got to meet a few people already in Chur. Last week, I went out with my roommate Claudia, to her own goodbye party - Claudia has accepted a job in Luzern and will only be in Chur during the weekends. That is a shame, because we are actually having a lot of fun together!
Anyway, I went out with her so got to know some of her friends. They are all girls, and all architects, so it is a good bunch of like-minded chicas. This week we did the same: drinks and chats and laughter in a place called Werkstatt in the old city of Chur. Everybody is in the same position here. We are almost all from different countries like Italy, Portugal, Germany, and very rarely from Switzerland. We all arrived in Chur to work and live, so now we are all seeking each other's company. Works fine for me!
This weekend I was supposed to go snowboarding, but the weather forecast was too bad - it has been snowing badly all weekend - I actually mean 'good', snow is good! - but I prefer it to snow badly now, and me going up on a sunny day AFTER the snowfall :-). Win-win situation!
Not going snowboarding doesn't mean there is nothing to do though. Close by my apartment there is the Obere Au, which is a big swimming pool with outside pool and gym and so on, so that might become my Sunday spot - I did it last week and will do it later today, so I've started off well. Somewhere this week I might also go bouldering with a few of the girls, and there appears to be a nice running track not far from the apartment, along the river.
As I said - Sunday, a week has passed - but it already feels like a lot longer!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Scriblings and writings

Hear ye, hear ye!
Some of you know this, some of you don't, but I actually really enjoy writing. I also enjoy - excuse me, let me clarify that - I also love talking about (my) travels. You can imagine my ecstatic feelings when I can combine the two. Add to that my pleasure in taking pictures, specifically of those travels, and I am in seventh heaven.

Up until now, I haven't done much with my writing except for this blog, that some of you seem to enjoy so much (but no one more than me :)). I say 'up until now', because I am delighted to tell you that I have written a guest post for Kristen J's travel blog Hopscotch The Globe.
She asked me to write 'anything that I am inspired to write about' New Zealand. Boy, did I need to be asked twice? Hell no! This is my first step into a wider audience. Exciting :).

The results of my musings and afterthoughts can be found on this link:

Kristen told me to be very proud of this piece, and I actually am. It might not be written in the cleanest English, but it comes from my heart. How I love New Zealand!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


As you know, last Saturday I returned to Belgium with my head full of Chur, snow and apartments. I thought I had it all figured out. On Monday though, I heard from the office in Vaduz that my address had to be registered - it didn't do to just state that 'yeah yeah, I do live in Chur'. Silly me, I should've known.
I learned that if I brought in all the paperwork in the office on Wednesday, I could start working on Monday. Unfortunately I was still in Belgium, amidst all my possessions at that time ...

So I hurriedly finished packing and, without even saying all my goodbyes, I left again for Chur on Wednesday, 11 January. The drive started off grey in Belgium, went over wet in France and turned to sunny in Switzerland. When nearing Chur I had a spectacular view of the snowy mountains with the pinkish skies laying on them, and clouds hanging in the valleys. A smile slid across my face spontaneously - and I love it when smiles do that to me :). The image reminded me of the Remarkables in Queenstown, New Zealand, which I still love so much.

I checked into the same hostel I had been in last week. I had a meeting that evening with Oral, the guy from the shared house that I had set my mind to, and this time I would also meet the girls, Claudia and Eva.
I was very tired after a full day's driving on my own, but I had a good time anyway with Oral and his crazy friend Leah. We had dinner and laughed and talked a lot.
Later in the evening the girls arrived, and we seemed to hit it off immediately. We had a short talk and almost immediately agreed that I could take the room. It will be a bit shuffling with me moving in too early, but that will be alright. I'm used to sleeping on sofas and in hostels by now.

With the address settled, the 'only' thing left to do was to go and register it in the Chur city council (or rather: the 'einwohnerdienste') and send it to the office. Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story - how could it be? :).
I went to the city council in the morning and found someone who spoke English - hurray, hurray! The friendly man told me to fill in a form, get my working contract, my passport, a picture and ... of course ... a section of the form had to be filled in by the office. So, with all my stuff still sitting in my car, I had no choice but to drive to Vaduz for this form.
Luckily Gabriele - my partner in crime at the office - was very welcoming. She greeted me with a very jolly "Do you have time? Like an hour or two? We have some forms to fill in." :).
Of course I had time, so we set right to it - until my soon-to-be colleagues decided to go for lunch and I joined them. Delicious, cheap-ish Thai food in Liechtenstein, you all have to experience it. The place, called Phuan Thai, is actually a home: the dining space is the living room, and the kitchen is the actual house kitchen ... There's only restricted choice but the servings are huge. Cute!
In the mean time I got to know a few of the new colleagues and that was very nice as well. I can't wait to actually get started!

Back at the office, Gabriele and I finished the papers and then it was time to get back to Chur, to the city council. The friendly guy was still there and was surprised to see that I had brought everything with me - apparently people tend to forget one or two things when they want to register in Chur.
With a big smile, he got out his stamp and stamped off the form - there it is, I am a resident of Chur in Switzerland!

From the city council I went to Manor, a shopping centre, where I could find Oral, Leah and yet another friend of Oral's, Kamilla. We had a little wander around town - how I love the clean, fresh, cold air! - and ended up at his (or should I say: my?) apartment again. I got to talking to Kamilla, who is an Erasmus student here in Chur, and we may go snowboarding on Saturday, yay! Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to Leah, who is leaving for Italy tomorrow morning.

Life in Chur kicked off well and at full speed. I have a room to call my own, a job to look forward to and a few contacts to keep in touch with around here. In the mean time I enjoy hearing every gossip, great and small from Belgium and everywhere in the world, so don't hesitate to contact me. I'll send you some fresh mountain air in return!

PS: address and phone number - when I have one - will be given on request :).

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Schnee, Schnee und Schnee!

A new year. I hope it started off great for all of you - my NYE was amazing! I had a lot of fun in Ghent with a few friends - dinner and a party. It was different from Berlin in 2009 and Sydney in 2010, but no less fun. Just how it should be.

On January 2nd, my sister and me hit the road towards Chur. We  packed up Germaine, who is actually surprisingly big for his cute little body. The trunk was full but the back seat was empty - room for someone extra :).
We arrived in Chur at around 7 pm and checked into the only hostel in town: JBN, which stands - very originally - for Just Be Nice. It is a squeaky clean hostel, and boasts about having the cheapest rooms in town (35 CHF for a dorm bed for one night). All that is true, but the downside is that it doesn't have a real kitchen ... So all our food had to be microwavable or cold. Ah well, it can't all be golden. The guys at the reception were very friendly though, and they helped with the apartment search.

I didn't have a lot of appointments set when I left. The only 2 real ones were with a guy named Oral, on the 3rd of January, and a girl named Annina on the 5th. However, Caroline and me went out to dinner when we arrived, and the very friendly waiter at the restaurant gave us the name of someone who had an other apartment for rent - hurray! Another appointment, thrown in my lap.
The next day, in between the 2 appointments, we thought it might be 'a good idea' to check out Arosa. Dear god. We thought, since there was no snow in Chur, that the roads would be clear. Boy, we have got a lot to learn about Switzerland. Just about halfway, the roads got a bit dirtier and wetter, and not long after that, we were in a true snow zone, with uncleared, pretty steep roads. I'm lucky to have Germaine in my life though - although the boy had a bit of trouble in some particularly sharp bends, he stayed very cool and slowly but steadily pulled us up the road and brought us into the centre of Arosa. The sky was blue, the snow was white - life was great :). We just took a few obligatory pictures, and then had to head back - it is sad to say that we drove about 2 hours to be on the spot for about half an hour or less ... But ah well.
The day after, we went to Davos, this time by train though. It snowed a lot and was still snowing when we arrived. This was very good since the snow was fresh and powdery by the time we got to the slopes. I strapped on Burtie the snowboard, and ahhhh, there it was, the feeling I had lost a bit, although it had only been 3 months - snowboarding! And especially the fact that I hadn't forgotten how to do it, haha. I fell a lot, but as someone said to me before: if you don't fall, you can't improve. So I'm trying to keep that in mind every time my buttocks feel sore.
At times there was a lot of wind and snow in the face, and I said to Caroline: "It makes you feel alive, doesn't it?!" (She replied with a "Hmmmpf.")

5 January was again reserved for apartment hunting, accompanied by a trip to Vaduz and Feldkirch in Austria - just to show Caroline where it would all be happening. I'm happy to say that the trip, even in very snowy weather, will not take me more than 40 minutes. That's not too bad, I'd say.
On our last day then, 6 January, we met again with Oral, the current roommate in the first apartment we visited. He had 2 friends over, Leah and Naima, and since the weather was so bad (heard about any snow storms in the region lately? I have ...) we decided to go south to the Italian part of Switzerland, where we were sure the weather would be better.
Ha-ha-ha, I say to that.

Germaine having fun
It was snowing very hard in Chur already, and by the time we got to the highway, it only seemed to get worse. The roads weren't cleared at all, and everybody had to drive very slowly, about 50 km per hour. We had planned to go to Lugano, but soon after leaving Chur, I already knew that that wouldn't be happening. We decided on San Bernardino instead, the next 'big' stop on the way. After about 15 minutes, the snow only got thicker and thicker and we realized we were driving in a true blizzard. I have to say they have been about the most stressy moments in my driving career. At some points, I literally couldn't see anything, not even Germaine's outside (remember how I told you about how white he actually is? ...) and there was no option but to stand still with 4 indicators on - in the middle of the highway, that is - and hope that no one would bump in the back or front of me. It was an experience though.
In the moments that the fog and snow lifted for the rare 5 minutes in a row, the view was gorgeous though: trees full of snow, everything white, roofs loaded with meters of snow. Simply breathtaking, our own little Winter Wonderland, our own little Narnia.

Road to San Bernardino
San Bernardino wasn't much, since it was still snowing so hard and the only thing we could do was find a bar, drink a hot chocolate and then turn back before it got dark. But we all had a lot of fun and it was a great way to get to know some people already. I think I might like it in Switzerland :).

We finished the day with a lovely traditional cheese fondue. Caroline had been craving it since the day we arrived, and of course I wouldn't say no - I love cheese fondue! Oral and Leah also had no problem with it (Naima already left for home by then). It was the perfect ending to a very nice day, and I am happy to say that Oral's room might soon be mine, if the 2 remaining girls and I get along. But if they are anything like their current roommate, I'm sure that won't be a problem.

Cheese fondue
Now the only thing that is left to do, is fill in all the paper work and get the work permit started. Not so long now before the move and the re-entry into work life - I am getting anxious, nervous and excited. A good mixture of feelings, I'd say :).