Events in Switzerland to look out for in 2014

After seeing its fair share of unique events last year, including the Zürifäscht and Eidgenössisches Schwing-und Älplerfest (I don’t even want to try to translate this), it’s time to have a brief look at which events will be having an impact in Switzerland this year.

Film Festivals

Switzerland will see its fair share of film festivals in 2014, starting this month with the Solothurner Filmtage (23.01-30.01) which focuses on Swiss movies and starts off the festival calendar. In summer, fantasy film fans will be able to attend the Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival (04.07 – 12.07) before the stage is set for the two biggest festivals in the country. The Festival del Film Locarno takes place in the beautiful town from August 6 to August 16. One month later, the Zurich Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary starting September 25 and running through October 5.

Movie fans should definitely mark these dates in their calendars as they often represent a chance to see movies that struggle to find distributors and of course, to soak in a little of Hollywood glamour.

Music Festivals

As every year, the festival summer in Switzerland offers choices for everyone. The most renown festival internationally, the Montreux Jazz Festival, takes place from July 4 to 19. Indie fans will get to see their favorite acts in St. Gallen (26.06 – 29.06), Zurich (28.08 – 31.08) and on the Gurten (17.07 – 20.07), while hiphop an rap fans can enjoy their idols in Frauenfeld (10.07 – 12.07) and Biel (22.08 and 23.08).

Of course, the festivals are not only the only chances to see popular musical acts these years. Pop sensation Justin Timberlake is stopping by Zurich on April 15 for his world tour. Rock Legends Metallica will play in Basel on July 7th. The Backstreet Boys will be in Zurich in March. Of course, more stars are bound to announce their concerts throughout the year.

World Cup Public Viewing

With the Football World Cup taking place in Brazil this year, Europe benefit from very advantageous kick-off times. With Switzerland being drawn into a group with Ecuador, France and Honduras, I hope our national team will be able to progress into the knockout stage of the tournament. But even without a successful Swiss team, bars and pubs throughout the country should be showing the games on their TVs, creating spots for public viewing. It remains to be seen if large-scale screens will be set up in cities, but it has been done before and might be repeated this summer. This would give sports fans the opportunity to watch the games with likeminded people, especially if it coincides with terrific summer weather.

These are just some of the more interesting events taking place in Switzerland this year. Of course, should I come across anything else interesting, I’ll make sure to let you know.
As you might have read, I’m changing posting days to Tuesday and Thursday, so I’m back the day after tomorrow with the 31st chapter of my story. Until then, I remain

sincerely yours,
Albert

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Tennis, Books and more!

This week is quite a busy week for me, so my post today will be a bit shorter than usual. A few interesting events are going on in Switzerland in the next few days, so I wanted to give you a quick overview of all the interesting experiences you can gain.

Let’s start off with some sports, as the ATP Swiss Indoors Tournament will be played in Basel this week. The tournament is one of the most important indoor tennis tournaments and will host some of the greatest players around this year. Roger Federer, one of the greatest players to ever hold a racket, will be appearing in his hometown as well, hoping to keep the title in the country. Stanislas Wawrinka, who has played an amazing season thus far, will try to do the same. Other fantastic players fighting for glory are Richard Gasquet (FRA), Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) or Nikolai Davydenko (RUS). For anyone interested in sports and tennis specifically, the tournament is the best chance to see it in Switzerland!

As everyone reading this blog regularly knows, I read a lot. And this weekend a fantastic event for book lovers takes place in Zurich as the city hosts “Zürich liest” (Zurich reads).
Over 100 events can be visited in Zurich, Winterthur and the adjacent regions. It starts this Thursday and runs through Sunday. I’ll be visiting a reading from Swiss-American author Stefan Bachmann on Friday at 8pm at “The Bookshop by Orell Füssli”, so maybe I’ll catch you there. Other notable events include the opening of the festival on Thursday at the Kaufleuten and a reading by the nominees for the Swiss Book Award on Friday at the Literaturhaus Museumgesellschaft. However, it is a predominantly German-speaking literature festival, so it might be difficult for non-German speakers to follow all of the action. A lot of the events are aimed at children, so families will find their fair share of opportunities to learn more about the magical world of books. For a full schedule, check out their website.

And last, but not least, the Basler Herbstmesse starts on October 26. The traditional fair has been around for over 500 years and offers it’s 1 million visitors various events. There will be Basler specialties, fun rides and the whole city will be full of interesting booths. The fair runs until November 10. I’ve never visited it before, but plan on checking it out this year, if I find the time. For more information, check out this website.

So that’s it from me for today. If you have any other events to recommend, please let me know on Twitter or in the comments!

Have a great week.

Sincerely yours,

Albert

Sweet Spots at the University of Zurich

With the new university semester taking shape and almost a month old, I’m spending more time at its wonderful halls of learning. After talking to my friends and asking them for ideas on what to write about, they kindly gave me the idea to write about my favorite spots at the University. Should you ever visit the city of Zurich, the university (and the neighboring Technical institute) is one of the most impressive structures to admire. The main building was built in 1914 and therefore is almost 100 years old.

The centerpiece and one of the hubs of student life is the Lichthof (which can be translated into “light court”), a large, spacious and bright atrium. Thanks to an impressive glass roof, this atrium is extremely bright at all times, keeping students from noticing the incoming darkness and light. According to one of my friends, it has also been the place of unspeakable tragedy, as one worker once fell through the roof and met his end on the marble floor of the university. However, it remains unclear if this story is real or just one of the many urban legends surrounding the school. The Lichthof is the most frequented meeting and hangout spot for students from all subjects thanks to its perfect location.
Adorned with carvings from Greek mythology and a headless statue of a Greek Goddess, it also offers impressive art to admire. The eye-catcher however is the famous “Blue Bed”, which was placed in honor of the first female law student at the university.
The Lichthof is the best place to take in the atmosphere of the university while enjoying a beverage of your choice, before heading up to my favorite study spot at the campus: The tower.

The tower of the university is home to a various number of rooms:  a den to sleep and relax, the language learning center, a computer room and the university staff restaurant. I prefer to study from the elevated heights of the university because of the view it offers.

2013-09-30 16.01.21My terrible photography skills and the grey autumn weather don’t do the view any justice. On a sunny and clear day, visitors can see the Uetliberg and the lake from the rooms in the tower. It offers a welcome break during the long study days right before exam time. Originally, a model of the university depicts the building to own two towers, but those plans never materialized. So the tower stands tall on its own.

In summer, I often leave the central campus to travel to the Irchel campus, about 10 minutes away from the main building. The campus, which is the home of the medical students and other laboratory-based subjects, lies in the heart of one of the biggest parks of Zurich, the Irchelpark. At it’s center is the pond, which invites visitors to take a break and enjoy the scenery. A trail around the park makes the location very popular among runners, while a football field and tennis courts offer other recreational possibilities. From April to September, I spend many of my breaks relaxing at the campus, even though I don’t have any classes there.

Should you plan on checking out the university campus in Zurich, these are definitely my favorite places to be. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!

Hope you have a great week!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

 

Zurich Film Festival Recap

The ninth Zurich Film Festival ended yesterday and so it’s time to write up a short recap of the happenings around it. According to their official press release, a total of 71’000 visitors attended the screenings around the city. That marks an impressive growth of 22%. Like I’ve mentioned before, I got the chance to see two movies. Also, I’ll take a short look at the prize winners, although I wasn’t able to catch them.

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Three wonderful everyday Train Routes

A few weeks ago, I gave an introduction to Train Travel in Switzerland and announced that I would be talking about some of the most iconic train trips in the country. However, due to the start of the university semester and other commitments, my time to take on extended scenic journeys is somewhat limited. On the other hand, there have been a few beautiful routes I’ve taken while working in the financial sector. Of course, these are not famous trips like the Golden Express or Bernina Express, but everyday routes taking by students, tourists, businesspeople and retirees alike.

Bern – Geneva

The train ride from Zurich to Bern only takes an hour, but also leads to a large number of tunnels. Continuing from Bern on to Geneva however is probably my favorite high-speed route in Switzerland. Between Bern and Fribourg the landscape is full of forests and green hills, with smaller towns lining up nicely along the way. But the highlight of the journey awaits after Fribourg, when the train exits a tunnel and enters the Région lémanique. As the train weaves it’s way through the vineyards of Canton Vaud, you’re treated to a beautiful view of the Lac Léman. The train then continues all the way along the coast through the city of Lausanne to Geneva.

Biel – Yverdon

Another beautiful route along one of the many lakes in Switzerland lies between Biel and Yverdon. The train first follows the borders of Lake Biel before reaching Lake Neuchatel. It offers a comprehensive view of St. Peters Island, the peninsula where the famous philosoph Jean-Jacques Roussau spent the happiest days of his life. Along the shore there are a many tiny, idylic old-fashioned villages  and the charming city of Neuchatel to explore during the journey.

Bern – Interlaken (-Brig)

The last route on today’s list is the fifty minute ride between the capital and the famous city Interlaken. The route extends all the way to Brig, but the last part of the journey is spent mostly in the darkness of the Lötschberg tunnel, which considerably cut the time of reaching the Canton of Valais. On the way to Interlaken along the shore of Lake Thun you’ll see some of the best views the region of Bern can offer. You pass the towns of Spiez and Thun and end in Interlaken, one of the most famous tourist places in Switzerland. But the defining part of the trip is the view of the majestic Alps, which can be seen throughout the whole journey and make the trip a particularly beautiful ride.

These wonderful “normal” routes are a big reason of why I prefer train travel to car travel. I hope you get the chance to check them out!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

Chapter 18: Losing Laurenar

You can find Chapter 1 – 17 here.

Seraphina’s words, spoken so clearly and directly, had knocked me out again. I still hadn’t seen natural light since realizing where I was, so it wasn’t easy for me to decipher how many hours I had already spent trying to recover from the wound the poisoned bolt had caused. But when I woke up to face the soft light the magical orb provided, two friendly faces were there to greet me once more. Drake looked at me warmly and immediately offered me a piece of dark bread, which I accepted eagerly. After quenching my thirst, it was time to still my hunger. I focused on Seraphina, who was pacing the room looking terrible. Her flowing red hair was disheveled and it seemed as if she had been crying for a while. She had lost some weight since leaving the city and did not look healthy at all.

“What happened to Laurenar?” I asked into the room, remembering the conversation I had before my recent blackout. I hoped Drake would answer the question as I finally noticed the pain Seraphina was in. But Seraphina began telling the story:

Drake was set to answer your question about what happened to the Crimson Crocodile, when you fell to the ground. I rushed to see what was wrong with you, while Laurenar and the others took up arms immediately. The bolt had hit you in the shoulder and the impact combined with the poison knocked you out. But we couldn’t see anybody. It was clear we couldn’t stay on the Island any longer. We decided to get you off the Island as quickly as possible. I took care of your wound, while Drake prepared the little boat they used to escape the Crocodile. If you’re still wondering what happened to the ship, the pirates sunk it.”

I looked at Drake, who sighed at the mention of his old ship. The ship had been his pride and his home. Losing it had been a great blow to his confidence. But he still tried to look encouraging and friendly towards me. I appreciated his presence immensely. Seraphina handed me another glass of water before continuing:

“We still hadn’t seen any sign of your attacker. Drake’s crewmembers rowed the boat as close as possible to the beach. But when they came into our view, so did the enemy. A bolt and two arrows were fired from the shadows. Laurenar managed to push me out of the bolt’s way immediately, while his armor absorbed the hit from the two arrows. I conjured a shield around us, which prevented the second wave of projectiles from hitting us. Michelle and Tyler, the two surviving sailors, joined us together with Drake. Laurenar ran to where he expected the enemies to be hiding. They were still concealed. Drake and Tyler used this little break in fighting to drag to the boat. Michelle and I trailed Laurenar by a few steps. But we weren’t close enough. The next wave of projectiles targeted Laurenar. He staggered back after being hit by the first two arrows, but the bolt had managed to find the blind spot in his armor. The leather underneath his plate armor prevented the poison from entering his body immediately. Laurenar motioned us to get off the island as quickly as possible. We followed his advice, running back to the back and pushing us off the beach back in to sea. Drake and Tyler started rowing, while we could see three figures emerge from a hidden spot along the cliffs. One of them could’ve been the same hooded person we encountered at the bombing of the Lion’s Den. They took Laurenar with them, while we took course back to the shore.”

Seraphina looked completely dejected after finishing her story. Drake offered her a glass of water, which she gladly accepted. Laurenar was gone. The person I counted on for protection had been injured and taken. How would I ever manage to face the enemy without him? I examined Drake and Seraphina, who both felt exhausted and hopeless. Like I did. But they had saved me. I couldn’t pay them back by giving up hope. I emptied my glass of water and asked them a follow-up question:

“How long was I passed out?”

Drake answered. “The journey from the Island took a full day and night. You’ve been slipping in and out of consciousness for three days. So today is the fifth day after the attack.”

“Where are we exactly?” I looked around, still in complete darkness.

“We’re in one of the queen’s safe houses in a little fishing town far off the capital.”

I nodded and thought back to the real world. In the video game world, which resembled this game so closely, several safe houses were hidden throughout the world for eager explorers to find. Most of them were empty, only filled with little Easter eggs to be found. It felt strange that even supposed secret locations had made it into the virtual world of Illusio. I noticed how I was starting to feel tired and ready to fall asleep again. The poison hadn’t left my body completely.

“How am I doing?”

Seraphina had regained her composure and a slight smile appeared on her face. “Your recovery has been a very positive surprise. Tyler was an accomplished hunter before he turned to the Queen’s service. He identified the poison and helped find the ingredients for an antidote. It required full darkness to work its magic. And you won’t have full movement in your sword hand for a while.”

“It’s not like I was a master swordsman before.”

Seraphina let my comment pass. “But you’re responding well to the treatment. Much faster than anticipated.”

“Do any of the others have injuries?”

Drake shook his head and I was relieved. It was bad enough that we had lost Laurenar. I stared at the ceiling for a minute. My two colleagues almost thought I had fallen asleep again, when I mumbled: “What would Laurenar do if I was taken?”

I didn’t wait for an answer. The enemy had taken Laurenar. They had been my goal all along. But now, they had upped the stakes and given me a renewed sense of urgency. I knew we couldn’t leave right away, but we didn’t have much time, if we hoped to find him alive. I doubted he would get the same medical treatment I got.

“He would come and get me. We need to get him back.”

“How?”

“Well, I give us two days to figure it out.”

________________________________________________________________________

First of all, I want to thank everybody who has been reading my posts so far and who have been commenting on my work. It’s really motivating and your insights have been really helpful! Please feel free to leave feedback any time in the comments or on Twitter!

Have a fantastic weekend!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

Staying Indoors in Switzerland (Part 2)

Like I said last week, this weekend was highlighted by two large events in Switzerland: the Eidgenössisches Schwing- und Älplerfest and the Zurich Open-Air. Both events proved to be huge hits with friends of mine raving about the musical acts at the festival and the great atmosphere at the arena in Burgdorf. The Bernese Wrestler Matthias Sempach won all of his eight fights and now is considered to be the only king in Switzerland, the Schwingerkönig.

The two events had the wonderful fortune of beautiful, sunny weather and mild temperatures as summer is prolonging its stay in the country. After horrible weather in June, this is a welcome sight. Nonetheless, I want to follow my post from last week with three more great activities to do when the sun seeks its refuge behind clouds once more.

Go to a Pubquiz

One of my favorite activities to lighten up the beginning of the week is to relax at the Oliver Twist Pub in Zurich on Mondays and participate in their weekly Pubquiz. Beginning at 8 p.m, a usually charming host asks a total of 50 questions over five rounds for groups seated in the pub to answer.  One some nights, up to 20 teams are vying for the prize of a reduced bar tab. It’s a great way to prove your knowledge of pop culture and recent events. I’ve only been a guest at the Oliver Twist, but I’m certain other pubs in Switzerland also offer these quiz nights for interested parties. One benefit at the Oliver Twist is that it is held entirely in English. Sometimes it also coincides with Monday Night Premier League Football, adding another reason to go for my group of friends and I.

Relax at a Spa

Spas are known to be great sources of relaxation and Zurich has a few great spots to offer. Oprah Winfrey, while critical of Zurich’s boutiques, tweeted her love of the Spa at the Dolder Grand Hotel. For anyone, who can’t venture lightheartedly to the premier five-star hotel of the city, there are many interesting alternatives around. The spa in the Hürlimann Areal offers a thermal bath on a rooftop (which isn’t technically indoors, true), giving you a great view of the city while you try to relax and let your mind wander. The Asia Spa near Sihl City not only offers a large fitness studio, but also multiple saunas and a hammam. Various indoor swimming pools also have amenities such as whirlpools allowing you to enjoy some relaxation after a swimming workout.

Visit the Federal Palace of Switzerland

The impressive Federal Palace of Switzerland lies in city center of Bern and is a very interesting place to visit. It offers immensely popular guided tours (group tours are sold out until December 2013), which are free of charge. It not only gives visitors an insight into the complicated workings of Swiss politics, but shows you excellent paintings and sculptures from esteemed Swiss artists.. When parliament is in session (four times a year), you will be able to watch the often multilingual debates by taking a seat on the visitor’s gallery. Exact dates and procedures can be found on the official website.

I hope you’ve now gotten some ideas of what to do when the shorter and colder days force you to stay inside! Please like, share and subscribe, I really appreciate it.

Sincerely yours,
Albert