29 June 2008

The Cathedral

The old town here in Geneva is on a hill top - most of it a few meters above the surrounding modern city. The majority of the streets are steep and cobbled, littered with funny little stores, bars, cafés, and restaurants. Of course there is also a number of prominent structures, and while we're on that subject we would like to know: How many architectural styles is it possible to use when building one cathedral?

26 June 2008

Trip to Coppet

Sunday the weather was really nice and we decided to take our bikes and go as far as we felt like along the northern shore of lake Geneva. We ended up in the small medieval village of Coppet which seemingly had not really grown beyond it's old town centre. Like many other towns here by the lake it has of course both a castle, a small marina, and a beach. Despite the 28-30 C (82-86 F) of the air the water was still bone-chillingly cold, but we sat down in front of a nice little beach café and had a much needed - and good - panini. At this same location Tue was able to finally sample the draught beer Calanda, which he has noticed being served other places around here before.

On the way home we stopped in Geneva's botanical garden for enjoying ice lollies and resting in the shade of tall trees while reading a little in our books. At one time we looked up and saw this critter standign about a yard away inspecting us:

Apparently we were neither particularly interesting nor dangerous - it simply trotted along and sat in one of the nearby trees:

25 June 2008

Finalizing the kitchen project

Saturday we embarked on the last big part of project kitchen. Equipped with power drill, file, electric saw, and screwdriver - all of which we could borrow from a friendly technician at the university - we were able to saw and mount the missing table tops.

In our humble opinion the result is quite good and we enjoyed preparing the dinner at our new working table.

19 June 2008

Mailbox quiz

Now that we have been writing about different mailbox designs here on the blog, maybe our readers are ready for this little quiz...?

18 June 2008

IKEA projects

As we had the cooker installed the week before, this past weekend was spend assembling most of all the flat IKEA boxes that have been waiting in the kitchen since 'the great IKEA expedition' May 2nd. Since Tue had borrowed a hammer drill at uni, we were also able to mount shelves in the bathroom as well as the kitchen, which certainly makes our little home a lot more functional. Once the next big step of having two table tops shortened - and mounted - has been accomplished, we might even be through with the furnishing this time around.

The great IKEA expedition also calls for some comments on its own. Since we only brought very few (kitchen) things with us from the US, we had to go shopping big time before we could stay in the new apartment. A bed and some bedding alone would be practical just as pots, pans, cups, chairs, tables, lamps, ...

We had made thorough preparations by measuring the apartment; scouring IKEA's homepage for suitable and available items in the nearest warehouse; and envisioning several alternatives if for instance the chosen table wouldn't be available in the desired colour. Since we had hired a driver with a truck to pick us and the furniture up, we wanted to make sure that we could bring back all the large things that we wouldn't be able to pick up ourselves on a later occasion.

So we caught the train to Aubonne in time to arrive at the entrance to IKEA just before they opened. Apparently some 75 other people had had the exact same idea which was quite a few more than we had expected despite having been told that Swiss IKEA is always very busy.

Unfortunately, these circumstances were less than ideal for Tue to loose his IKEA virginity (yes, this is true: Tue must be one of very few Danish students that have avoided going to IKEA at any time during his years of studying) but we managed to elbow our way around the exhibitions, note the correct numbers for finding the furniture in the stock room, and also - after a bit of a wait - to order the kitchen units. That Swiss apartments are rented stripped of any kitchen furnishings is probably a huge factor in IKEA's attraction on the numerous expats that are constantly moving in and out of Geneva.

During the shopping, we also ate Swedish meatballs (kötbullar) in the restaurant (cf. photo: they even provide a little trolley to help you bring the self-serve food to your table) which probably was very good for our blood sugar levels, since we kind of started to panic when we were about halfway through the kitchen utensils department. By that time we had spend more than 5 hours in IKEA and still needed to find all the bigger furniture items in the stock room as well as queueing up for the cashiers with all the other people. So we decided to split up - Tue was sent off to the stock room to find all the furniture on our list and Lisbeth proceeded to the lamp department for a quick raid.

The queue at the cashiers was fortunately not too long so we had actually just left the warehouse when our driver showed up. And despite the last hectic hour, it was quite a successful expedition: because of a wrongly noted number the dining table ended up being black and not of oak, and we never actually picked up extra beddings, but apart from a few small sold-out items (such as wheels for the laundry basket) we actually brought back everything on our long list - including a couple of practical items such as tools!

Sadly we didn't get a photo of the two overloaded carts that we pushed out of there but based on the amazed/sympathetic/shocked/astonished/worried looks we received, it all probably looked a little overwhelming.

17 June 2008

Raining flowers

Close to our house these two big trees are standing. A few weeks ago they bloomed and when that ended it looked almost as if it had been snowing in our neighbourhood.

16 June 2008

Trip to Vitra

While we were in Basel we made a small excursion to Vitra Design Museum which is located some 20 minutes by bus across the German border. We planned for this excursion all along and had brought our passports with us for exactly this reason.

Therefore we were quite puzzled when we suddenly realized that we were standing on a Sunday morning in a grassy field in the countryside in southern Germany - that's were the museum is located - without having brought along a single Euro...!

Especially considering how we have duly been bringing Euro with us every single time we've crossed the border into France, it's astonishing that we hadn't given the currency issue a single thought this time around. Maybe the unity of the US has crept under our skin after all...

The entrance to the museum was easily charged to a credit card, but for the bus ride 'home' we had to pay cash using the Swiss francs we had - at a really disadvantageous exchange rate. But the important thing was that we got back across the border into Switzerland.

15 June 2008

The Saga of the Plug for the Cooker

One of Tue's new laboratory friends had kindly informed us that there were some problems with the plugs for electric cookers in this country, so we anticipated that the socket in the wall (shown to the left) in the apartment probably wouldn't fit the plug on a new cooker.

A couple of visits to the electronics store 'Fust' confirmed this anticipation, which was why we didn't hesitate to buy a second hand cooker with a different plug (the black one below). The girl we bought it from reminded us that we had to check the socket at home, but since we already knew that we had an older socket which would need replacement anyway we didn't realy worry about this detail.

As it turned out the agency we rent the apartment from were willing to pay for the replacement of the wall socket and we set up an appointment with their designated electrician. We were quite taken aback when he arrived and installed a third type of socket in the wall without asking us any questions - now the cooker had to have a new plug as well! (At our expense, naturally).

Apparently the socket in the wall when we got the apartment was of the old-old type (4 pins); the cooker came with a plug of the recently out-phased type (5 pins), and the rental agency obviously wanted the investment with the highest potential for future usage and ordered the electrician to install the newest type (3 pins).

Considering that the 5 pins plug on the cooker looked pretty new (and also knowing that the seller told us it was only 4 years old) it must be concluded that the Swiss have some trouble deciding on which type of plugs and sockets are ideal OR that the Electrician/Cooker-producer lobby is very powerful!

But when the electrician left the cooker was at least functioning and after 5 weeks of not being able to cook warm meals the first warm meal prepared on the new cooker was simply divine:

05 June 2008


Friday last week Tue got out of bed early in order to take a train from Geneva and be in Basel before 9 in the morning. Since a complete day with lectures on chemical subjects didn't entice Lisbeth nearly as much she slept a little longer and took a later train so she could be in Basel by 6 in the evening.

Already on the way there certain changes were noticed - when Tue had to get on a connecting train in Bern it was suddenly German that was coming out of the speakers on the train station. The weekend turned out to offer good old-fashioned language confusion: Typically we were spoken to in Swiss-German, to which we replied in German. This often resulted in the locals responding in English, after which we found ourselves on numerous occasions saying either "thank you" or "ok" ... in French!

Jean Tinguely was from the nearby, but German, city Freiburg. In Basel one finds this intriguing fountain designed by him (curiously enough this was paid for by the grocery chain Migros) and one of the many museums in Basel bears his name.