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Monday, July 10, 2006

Another Victim of (Possibly) False Advertising

Grocery shopping is quite the experience here. There is a big grocery store that is part of a chain where we shop twice a week. I'm not used to the layout yet. Aaron and I find that we forget things a lot and have to go all the way back around the store to find its aisle. There isn't a big selection of beauty and bath products - that's what die Apotheke is for. It's a lot like it is in the UK - most medicines are behind the counter, so you need to stand in line and, in my case, collect enough German words to form a coherent question.

Every modern grocery store staple you can think of can be found in Switzerland. There are certain things that aren't here - mostly certain brands of toiletries that I prefer, but it's nothing a trip to the commissary in Germany can't solve.

Meat is another thing that is in abundance and high of quality, but it is expensive. Holy cow, Batman. Ten US dollars a pound for boneless skinless chicken breast? No thanks. It's a shame, really - I was looking forward to eating a lot of veal and lamb here since it's higher quality here than it is in the US. We're going to have to invest in a cooler so that we can stock up on meat on our commissary trips. Now I see why the Embassy furnishes all families with a deep freezer.

One thing I can't find is sauerkraut in a can. Yes, I know it's German and not Swiss, but Aaron and I eat a German meal once a week and like to have it as a side. In the US, sauerkraut was usually located in the canned foods aisle next to the other vegetables. Here, I guess people are more likely to buy fresh vegetables - and why not? There are markets in the center of town every morning that supply fresh staples. The canned fruit and vegetable aisle at the Coop we frequent is hilariously small. Rotkohl and rösti are available in vacuum-sealed bags, but no sauerkraut. I searched all over three different stores, but my search came up empty. I find it hard to believe that people make their own here; there's plenty of Swiss rösti that's ready-made. I may have to ask someone during our next trip.

Another thing I can't find is the St. Ives line of beauty products. My mother used to have these around when I was a kid. They were reasonably priced compared to some other brands like Neutrogena. I'm a fan of the St. Ives Medicated Apricot Scrub and the St. Ives Energizing Citrus Body Wash. Since it's always been advertised as using "Swiss beauty secrets" and being created in their labs in Geneva, I thought I'd be able to find lots of it here. I haven't seen it yet. I feel like I've been lied to my whole life. Is it a Swiss product or not? It seems silly to wait for a commissary trip to buy this stuff since there are plenty of other alternatives, but I was disappointed that I didn't find the fabled fountain of Swiss youth that all the commercials in the US showed me.

Oh, and there are no Clinique retailers in Switzerland. That makes me sad. How can I perform my daily ritual now?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Fun in Thun

After seeing six apartments, Aaron and I finally decided on a new home. It's a brand-new 135-square-meter apartment right in the Altstadt very close to the clock tower. Our move-in date is set for July June July 14 (hint to all the visitors). This place is wonderful. It's got a washer and dryer next to the kitchen, a dishwasher, granite countertops, an electric range with a flat top (good thing, too - it'll be easier to clean), thirteen windows, two bathrooms, two huge bedrooms, and a huge living and dining area. We didn't expect there to be closets in the bedrooms (European apartment, after all), so we'll need to make a trip to Ikea to score some closet space. Our internet and phone number should be hooked up before we get there, so I can post all these pictures I've been taking for the past few weeks.

We spent Saturday in Thun, which is about a 30 kilometers southeast of Bern on the lake (Thunersee). It was beautiful! The views of the mountains are better than in Bern. We couldn't have asked for better weather. We spent the whole day walking around in the Altstadt.

While we were there, I successfully asked for and purchased a bottle of peppermint foot lotion at The Body Shop in German! The saleswoman said I was very good. I didn't know how to say "peppermint" in German, but she understood English. Apparently, it's "Pfefferminz" in German. Go figure. Just to try out my German a little more, I asked if she knew of a store in Bern. I know there is one - our new apartment is right down the street from it - but I thought I'd test my comprehension skills. Not only did I understand her, but I understood the directions she gave me from the clock tower. Yay for me.

After a lot of walking in the hot sun through the open-air market, we ate at an Italian restaurant overlooking the water with tons of ducks and swans. I ordered a large glass of Gurten to go with my pizza. Good stuff. After a trip to the liquor store for some local wine and a bottle of The Dalmore for CHF 80, we closed off the day with a walk to the lake and pictures at the Schloss Schadau where people were sunbathing on the grass and swimming in the crystal-clear lake.