Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 253 - Lila

Thought of the day: I was out and about in town with Jasmine and Lila today. People, including strangers, were shockingly friendly. The Swiss are by no means unfriendly. They are often kind and helpful. In particular, if they know you well, they tend to treat you like their own family. However, they certainly don't express their kindness in a way as open and cheerful as the Americans do. They expressed it in a much more quiet and reserved manner. And they certainly don't make a fuss over kids, unless they get too unruly for them. It takes some time to become an outsider to observe and appreciate some of things that you have taken for granted. Yes, it's good to be home again.

Photo of the day:

Lila alternated between over-excitement and drowsiness all day, probably a result of the jet lag. So when our minds are struggling to get used to a "new" place, our bodies are struggling to get used to a "new" time. In a week's time, everything will surely be back to "normal" again.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 252 - Airport

Thought of the day: It's hard to believe that our trip is almost over and we're now already on the flight back to Boulder. Sitting in a humming aircraft 30,000 feet above the ocean provides an unique opportunity for reflection.  During this trip, I have spent an unforgettable week in Greece, made a few excursions in Switzerland, got together with some people, watched sunsets, read books and kept up with the blog as the best I can.  Visiting Switzerland always does a strange thing to me - on the way back, I often feel like I want to become a better person and live my life more fully and more wisely. I don't know exactly why.  Perhaps the beauty and serenity of the landscape have a deeper impact on me than I know, perhaps living in a different culture compells me to become more thoughtful, or perhaps spending time with other people and seeing their different ways of living shed a new light on my own. Unfortunately, this feeling generally doesn't stay with me for very long so I shall appreciate it while it lasts. 

Photo of the day:
In Frankfurt airport, David pulling Lila on her Trunki.  In the background is the airplane that's taking us back to Denver.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 251 - Cousins

Thought of the day: David's sister came to visit with her family today. The cousins spent the day together. We don't have many opportunities to meet because they live in eastern Europe. Whenever we manage to meet, the numbers, ages and physical appearances of the kids would usually have changed from the last time. The dynamics between the cousins would have changed a lot too. Above anything else, the changes reminded us of the passage of time and of how unique and precious every meeting is.

Photo of the day:
Talking after lunch and before we all headed for the pool to cool down. It was a hot and busy day.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 250 - Paraglider

Thought of the day: We usually take our mornings easy during vacations but this morning we started out early to go up Mt. Rigi by tram.  On top of the mountain, we had a panoramic view of most of the high peaks and many of the lakes of Switzerland. It was an impressive sight. After lunch, we hiked down the mountain. Hiking in the Alps is an activity that I can never get tired of.  With beautiful scenery and cute little mountain villages along the way and tasty food that you can pretty much count on when you reach the destination, hiking in the alps can be a truly magical experience. If I can somehow make such an excursion every day, I wouldn't mind at all moving to Switzerland. Indeed, that would be a dream come true. Of course, the over-romanticized view of a tourist is one thing, living it is another. Daily life is filled with unexpected details and any or all of them can overwhelm and derail a dream. So, perhaps it is wise to leave it as a dream. I can always come back and visit to keep the dream alive.

Photo of the day:
It was a good day for paragliding.  We watched at least a dozen paragliders take off from the top of Mt. Rigi.  Some succeeded in taking off at the first attempt, some took multiple attempts. Lila was completely fascinated by their activities.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 249 - Ice Cream

Thought of the day: It was the warmest day we had so far with the temperature measured at 34c/93f around noon. So, naturally, we headed for the pools in the afternoon. On the way, we were passed by several groups of kids of Jasmine's age who were biking to the pools on their own without any adult supervision. The pools don't have lifeguards, not even for the deep water pool with diving boards. The Swiss are really encouraging their kids to be independent by showing them respect and trust at an early age. On the way back, my mother-in-law bought a bag of cherries from a fruit stand next to a farmhouse. It was an unattended stand operating on the honor system - when you take a bag of fruits, you're expected to check the pricing sheet and deposit the right amount of cash in a metal container. People seem to be putting a lot of trust in passerbys and strangers, otherwise they would not have left a fruit stand unattended or allowed their youngsters to go to the swimming pool or school on their own. I believe that our quality of life can be greatly affected by the degree of trust in the community that we live in. If that's true, the Swiss people, at least those belonging to small towns and villages, are living in the right place.

Photo of the day:
Lila having ice cream at the pool. As it was a hot day, the swimming structure was swamped with hundreds of people from Niederweningen and nearby villages.  Luckily, the area was large enough to accommodate everybody comfortably, even though the line for ice cream was really long when the girls took their ice cream break.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 248 - Forest Adventure

Thought of the day: This afternoon, a friend's family took us to a forest adventure park at the foot of Mt. Rigi. We climbed up and down ladders, walked on wood planks and wires dangling high above the ground, and zipped through the forest. The courses we did were not particularly hard and there were minimal risks with the safety belays. However, the height at which we attempted the "stunts" made it all very exhilarating. For many a time, when I was on a shaky "ground" and stared down at the forest floor which seemed impossibly far away, I could feel my heart pounding and legs shaking. Alas, we did it all without a mishap, which was exactly as expected. To experience fear and conquer it alone can be indeed exciting. How much can you take and how far can you push yourself? I am sure this is a question that many of us long to find out.  An activity like this may give you some clues. And the best part? It may look or feel dangerous but it's really as safe as it gets. We can't wait to go back one day. Hopefully we'll have the time, and courage, for the more challenging courses next time.

Photo of the day:

Jasmine walking high above the forest floor. She had a great time. Unfortunately Lila was not old enough so she missed the aerial fun.  She did make it up somewhat in other activities offered in the park including high speed chutes, petting zoo, and playgrounds.

Day 247 - Village Sunset

Thought of the day: From the viewpoint of a casual observer, there couldn't be more differences between Niederweningen and my village in southern part of China where I grew up. However, I feel quite at home here because many aspects of the life here remind me of my village. My village home had a humongous backyard - in a child's eyes, that is - covered with flowers and banana trees, a plot of land where sugar canes and different kinds of vegetables were grown, and a courtyard where chickens and ducks roamed about freely. It was indeed a child's paradise. Every summer, my brother, sister and I spent our vacation there. We picked the fruits, fed the animals and swam in the river. Lila and Jasmine are doing some similar things here in Niederweningen, albeit with some small modifications. They pick berries from wild bushes, feed animals that are not ours and swim in the village pools. These pools are modern structures equipped with necessities like the espresso machines and freezers for ice creams. They are outdoor pools situated in a peaceful forest setting. For lack of a swimmable river, these pools provide a good alternative for the girls to have fun and cool down in a summer heat that can sometimes descend in the valley. Growing up with summers that were carefree and precious, I always feel that I owe it to the girls to provide them with the same kind of memories. We're lucky that both sets of grandparents have homes that would make this possible.

Photo of the day:
Sunset behind a farmhouse in Niederweningen.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 246 - Lila and Garden

Thought of the day: One of my favorite things to do after lunch is to take a walk with Lila in the streets and trails of Niederweningen. It's practical as she would often run and play on the way and by the time we are heading home, her steam will typically run out and give way to drowsiness and will eventually fall into a peaceful nap on the stroller. Today we took such an excursion again. When I watched Lila play and listened to her mumble to herself, I was touched by her toddler-ly innocence and the utter lack of self-conciousness. Her entire being radiated an envious, pure, unspoiled joy. For her, a flower was as absorbing as the entire world and a moment was no different from the eternity. How did she manage to stay in this blissful state of being? I guess I should not use the word "manage" because this state of being is in her, is her, naturally. Only the grownups need to "manage" as our minds are often so cluttered that we tend to forget our true self. We painstakingly seek the meaning of life when the meaning of life is life itself. We fruitlessly search for the elixir of life when there're no meaningful differences between a moment and the eternity. I am learning a lot by spending time with Lila. I will never have enough of that. And I need that, too.

Photo of the day:
Lila playing in a garden near the Niederweningen church during our walk this afternoon.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 245 - Window

Thought of the day: We are leaving Lugano today. I will miss the place, and I will miss the people even more. They are warm, open and outgoing. They talk in a beautiful Italian. The sunshine and soft air in this region seem to have effected a sunny disposition in its people. A beaming smile for no reason, a gesture that's as kind as it's spontaneous, a generous compliment...they can brighten up your day in ways that you wouldn't have thought possible. In the German speaking part of Switzerland, sometimes I have this odd feeling that I need to stay within certain boundaries and demonstrate proper behaviors. If I do something beyond what's customary, I feel that I will always be reminded in a subtle way. I don't feel that at all in Ticino. It's a bit strange. Perhaps it has more to do with my own mindset than the environment, or perhaps it has something to do with both.

Photo of the day:
Last look from the hotel window.  It was drizzling when we left - so it does rain here too! Maybe it's not too surprising because everything is so green here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 244 - Ascona

Thought of the day: Today we took trains for about an hour to Lucarno and then walked for another good hour to the lakefront town of Ascona.  Instead of walking along the lake, we walked through a shortcut in the valley.  With the warm but comfortable summer air, weathered houses, rows and rows of vineyards and olive orchards, and sounds of birds bouncing among the tall trees, this valley recalled the image of Tuscany in my mind. We had lunch in a restaurant facing the lake.  The food was as perfect as the setting.  We hope to stay at Ascona some day, perhaps for the Jazz Festival in the summer.  The view and the food alone are already enough reasons for a return visit, the music would just make it mandatory.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine and Lila playing at the lakeshore of Ascona.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 243 - Lugano

Thought of the day: We are once again in Ticino, one of my favorite places in Switzerland. When it's rainy and gloomy in the northern part of Switzerland, you can hop on the train, head south and cross the Gotthard tunnel, you will often find yourself under a blue sky. We all need a cure for rainy day blues, be it a pot of tea, a favorite book, or an escape to a place with abundant sunshine. That's where the Swiss people get their sunshine remedy in the south, short of crossing the border all the way to Italy. For me, Ticino has the magic power of drawing me over regardless of the weather in the north. I'm up for a leisurely walk along the Lake of Lugano any time, any day.

Photo of the day:
A biker coming up a steep, narrow street in the charming Lugano old town in the early evening.  We're staying here for two nights.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 242 - Green

Thought of the day: Manicured lawns don't seem to be very popular in Switzerland. Most of the homes we visited have small yards that blend into the natural environment, complete with pots of flowers, berry bushes, fruit trees, vegetable gardens and the like. Families with kids often have trampolines, tree swings, and sometimes even a zip line installed in the yard. It's also not uncommon for people to keep bunnies and chickens there. For Jasmine and Lila, it's always fascinating to explore and play in a yard. Actually, writing this reminds me of my dad's yard which is taking shape in a very similar fashion - flower pots, fruit trees, vegetable gardens, bunnies, and more importantly, the general feeling of being one with the nature. Despite the outward differences, there may be more similarities between the Chinese and Swiss cultures running deep within than one would imagine.

Photo of the day:
Jasmine playing with a friend's boy in a farmland abutting their house. We spent a fun afternoon with his family and everybody got a delicious fill of the berries, vegetables and fruits grown in their yard. In the background of the photo is Niederweningen.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 241 - Dessert

Thought of the day: We hosted a young visitor for lunch today. My in-laws prepared a simple yet elaborate meal for her. I am always amazed at how much care Swiss people take in preparing a meal or even just an apero (finger food and drinks) for guests. From the warm plates, table clothes and decorations to delicious home cooked food, they really go the extra length to make the guests feel welcome and pampered. The meals, usually taken at a leisurely pace and sometimes even with a walk or other such excursions before the dessert, can often last an entire afternoon or evening. I don't really mind - I think when it comes to food, meals and spending time with friends, one can enjoy it better slow than fast.

Photo of the day:
Dessert after lunch: cake, strawberries and ice cream with Kirsch (Swiss brandy).  Yum!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 240 - Harbor

Thought of the day: David's aunt and uncle have a boat on the lake of Lucerne and they invited us to spend the day with them on the lake. With the sunny sky, emerald water, towering mountains, and little villages dotting the shore, the view on the boat was blissfully beautiful. The alpine water was a bit chilly but David, Jasmine and Lila were all brave enough to jump into the water at some point. This is probably one of the most beautiful places on earth to own a boat. The Swiss are truly blessed to have such abundance of natural beauty at their doorstep. And they take good care of it and enhance it with picturesque villages, delicious cuisine and colorful traditions.

Photo of the day:
Boats in a peaceful harbor on the lake of Lucerne.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 239 - Jasmine

Thought of the day: We were away for merely a week but it felt as if we had been to a different world for a while.  It's going to take some adjustments to get back to our normal life again.  As for the kids, seven days must have felt like an eternity. We are lucky that the grandparents were so good at keeping them busy and happy all this time. It's going take a little time for them to get used to having us around again.

Photo of the day:

Jasmine getting water from a roadside fountain. Such fountains can be found all over the village and some of them were originally built over a hundred years ago.  On the way to the swimming pool, Jasmine likes to collect water from the fountains to water bushes and flowers that look thirsty along the way. That's one of the things that keep the girls constantly busy and happy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 238 - Drink

Thought of the day: I can't believe that the Greek trip is over and we are already back in Switzerland. If life is but a dream, the Greek trip is a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream. It's a lot of layering but we'll eventually wake up from all our dreams, layer by layer, and return to eternity. Thankfully, in the same way that a bright moment makes a day special, a trip like this makes the dream of life worthwhile.

Photo of the day:
We had a late flight but had to check out at noon.  Luckily, we were able to spend the rest of the day at the hotel pool.  It was another warm day - perfect for a frozen strawberry daiquiri at the pool!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 237 - Moonlight

Thought of the day: Today we took a tour of the caldera on a catamaran.  We swam in the hot springs and a few beaches, took in the view of cliffs of various colors, and set sail on the ocean for a while with a silent motor. It was interesting to spend some time on a boat, as the experience on the water was completely different from the experience on the land. When the boat was sailing smoothly and the wind was blowing on my face, it felt as if I had wings and all other thoughts drained out of the mind.  I can see why some people love, or are even addicted to, sailing. I was happy on the boat for a couple of hours but I was even happier when I got back on the land. Perhaps I need the solid ground under my feet more than the exhilaration and unpredictability of flying.

Photo of the day:
If the day time in Oia seems unreal already, the night time is simply out of this world.  With the cooler summer air at night, people come into the street for dinner only after it's dark - often after 9pm. Tonight is our last night in Greece. The lights are already on everywhere. From our veranda, we can see a full moon casting an elongated strip of silky, golden light on the ocean and touching the boats docked in the harbor ever so lightly. The image is unforgettable and we're going to miss it. In fact, I already am.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 236 - Wine Tasting

Thought of the day: One thing we learned after coming here was that Santorini had a long history of wine making. In fact, wine making took place even in the ancient culture before it perished in the huge volcanic eruption. The region makes wines with a special quality and taste because the volcanic soil is lacking in organic materials but is rich in minerals. This morning, we visited a winery called Sigalas on the eastern plain of Oia.  It took us about half an hour to walk there from our hotel.  Along the way, we walked past a number of deserted vineyards, presumably abandoned by locals who moved into the more lucrative tourism industry.  In Sigalas winery, we tried out a few different red, white and dessert wines and really liked the white ones we tasted. In a warm Mediterranean summer day, it was refreshing to sit in the shade of the vines, sip the wine and let the cool ocean breeze wash all over you. Mr. Sigalas is clearly passionate about wine making and I hope this ancient tradition will be carried on in Santorini by him and others like him.

Photo of the day:
Wine tasting in Sigalas Winery.  Beyond the vineyard lies the blue Agean sea. What a place to have a winery!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 235 - Ridge

Thought of the day: We had an early breakfast this morning and then took a hike to Fira.  There's a stone trail from Oia all the way to Fira along the ridge.  Some sections of the trail looked underused and were overgrown with grass, but overall, it's an easy hike if you can stand the blazing sun - there were no shades along the trail at all. The view of the agricultural land and settlements to the left and the caldera to the right was just spectacular.  We walked past a few towns along the way including Imerovigli and Firostefani.  After a lunch at Firostefani, we walked the final leg to Fira and took a bus back.  I was surprised that during the hike of over two hours, we didn't run into any other hikers on the trail.  I guess most people come to Santorini in the summer for sightseeing and relaxation at the pool, not for hiking in a desert landscape under a merciless sun. It also doesn't help that the local people tend to exaggerate the difficulty of the hike. None of the hotel staff I talked to have done this hike, even though some of them have been here for quite a while. Now that we have done it and told them how easy it was, at least two of them said they would be eager to finally give it a try. Personally, I always need to walk, run or hike to get a better sense of a place and feel some emotional connection to it, sightseeing alone just doesn't do it for me. So I am glad that we did the hike today.

Photo of the day:

Portrait of the east end of Oia, the ridge, and myself next to the hotel pool.  The town of Fira perches high on the ridge (all the way to the right).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 234 - Oia Sunset

Thought of the day: After spending a couple of days in Santorini, I am noticing a few things here - some of them were expected and some of them came as a surprise. First of all, there is an abundance of sunlight here.  It's closer to the equator and the summer sun is very strong. I see a lot of people walking around town with sunburns - they are probably the unsuspecting first-time tourists to Greece.  Secondly, there are many painters here.  At any time of the day, I see painters working on the walls, roofs, chimneys, stones, you name it, until they are painted as white as fresh snow.  Even part of the cliff adjacent to our hotel is painted white. In any case, it's apparently a lot of work to keep up the impossibly white image of Oia. Thirdly, there are a lot of tourists from China. I used to run into more Japanese tourists than Chinese, but in the past few years, the trend seemed to have reversed. That's probably not too surprising given the rise of upper and middle class Chinese and Japan's persistent economic woes. Fourthly, the most frequently used language in hotels and restaurants is not Greek, not Spanish, not German, not French, but English in a variety of accents. Perhaps it's not too surprising for a tourist town, even if it's an European tourist town. What's a little surprising, however, was that even the hotel staff often talk to each other in English.  It turns out that they come from all over Europe to work here, not just from Greece.

Photo of the day:
Sunset in Oia is an event in its own category.  At around 8pm, the town empties out to the western tip to watch the famous Oia sunset.  People spill back into the streets and restaurants after the sun completely disappears into the ocean.  It looks as if the time is suspended during the sunset hour and everything can go back to normal again only afterward.  People claps the moment when the sun is completely gone - and you can almost hear the collective sigh "OK, it's finally over, phew!"  Or maybe it's just in my imagination?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 233 - Port

Thought of the day: Today we walked down to the port and had lunch at a popular tavern called Ammoudi. We met the restaurant's owner, a friendly Canadian woman who came here for vacation 23 years ago and never left. After settling down on the island, she fell in love with a cook called Dimitris. They got married and opened the restaurant together. Judging from their reputation and the size of the lunch crowd, they must be doing just fine. The owners of another local favorite, Atlantis Bookstore, are an American and a British who came as tourists 9 years ago and decided to open a multilingual used-book store for tourists. They have a good, tasty collection of English books and the bookstore feels more like a cozy college library than your normal run-of-the-mill bookstore. On a pedestrian street filled with glittering, colorful souvenir shops, this bookstore was a rare find. I spent a good hour there this afternoon browsing the books and took home a few with me. Oia is primarily a tourist town but the tourists are not merely the source of income here, they contribute to the local culture as well, as amply demonstrated by the owners of Ammoudi and Atlantis.

Photo of the day:
The village of Oia is built on top of the cliff.  At the bottom, it's the port which is accessible by a path with a lot of steps and a paved road for cars and tour buses.  We walked, of course.  It was fun to walk and the view was spectacular along the way.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Day 232 - Oia

Thought of the day: The Greek island of Santorini is at the rim of a caldera, which was formed millions of years ago by volcanic activities. Some 3,600 years ago a violent volcanic eruption wiped out the Monoan civilization that used to flourish in this area.  I knew before coming here that it is an arid island due to the volcanic nature but I am still surprised to see how bleak the landscape looks.  What make this island so charming, and famous, are the picturesque towns hanging on the edge of high cliffs.  Oia is one of them.  The white washed cave style dwellings, blue domed churches, narrow pedestrian streets, red bougainvillea and the Aegean sea conspire to made Oia one of the most photogenic places on earth. We took a walk along the pedestrian street and were literally rubbing shoulders with tourists, photographers, and even a film crew from the World Travel Channel. It's not surprising that tourists come here in droves, as who would not fall in love with a place like this?

Photo of the day:
View of Oia from inside a store along the main pedestrian street.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 231 - Book and Tea

Thought of the day: We are on a Greek island! We have had kids for eight years and this is the first time in as many years that David and I travel together on our own. The kids are staying back in Switzerland with the grandparents - not a bad arrangement for them because there are many things they can do. When we left this afternoon, Lila took it in stride, but Jasmine had a hard time saying goodbye. We are already missing them but it's also nice to have this opportunity to travel on our own.  When we travel with the kids, naturally, much of our energy goes toward keeping them safe, happy and entertained.  Traveling on our own, we can focus more freely on what's going on around us and focus more on each other. It makes an entirely different kind of travel experience.  I think all the couples with kids ought to try this once in a while, if they can.

Photo of the day:
Enjoy a fine book with hot tea on the flight from Switzerland to Santorini. The food served on the Swiss Air flight was surprisingly good - my favorite part was the ice cream and Swiss chocolate!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Day 230 - Cows

Thought of the day: Today we took trains to the town of Einsiedeln at the shore of Sihlsee in central Switzerland.  We visited the monastery but it turned out disappointing. So we spent most of the day walking along the lake shore and visiting the villages along the way. We walked past a number of neat, traditional farmhouses decorated with flowers of vibrant colors outside the windows or in the gardens. And, in the meantime, no less visible were weathered farm equipments parked under the roofs. The old machineries and the display of fresh flowers symbolized a daily struggle with the elements in the rough fields that did not preclude an apparent appreciation of delicate beauty.  The incongruity in this picture highlighted the complexity and sublimity of the human spirit. Yes, we're likely to be different, and often more complicated, than how we look from the outside. Shrek is one of my favorite movies because it contains the same message. In fact, the message is conveyed in literature, stories, and maybe even in the look of some simple farmhouses. Really, the message is universal, if we pay enough attention.

Photo of the day:
Something else that the farmers own, other than flowers and equipments, is a herd of cows. Does owning the cows fall into the realm of work or beauty?  Perhaps both. Perhaps the two realms are so interwined that they're inseparable anyway.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 229 - Feeding Goats

Thought of the day: I had a nice run on Niederweningen trails this afternoon.  I ran through the town center and then onto the hills.  My plan was to run to the center of the next town but I couldn't quite make it.  I would certainly try again, but perhaps taking a shorter route next time.  I ran for well over an hour on quiet trails and didn't run into a single soul other than two groups of cows grazing lazily on the grass.  Watching the rolling carpets of farmland greens endlessly unfolding in front of my eyes, listening to the sounds of distant cowbells carried in the gentle wind, feeling the peace and serenity palpably emanated from this blessed land of rolling hills, dark forests, and picture postcard villages, I was coming to understand why my in-laws would never want to move away from their village.  For this is their home, and what a home it is.

Photo of the day:
Next to the school playground, there's a large enclosure of about a dozen of bunnies, some ducks, and a few goats. Kids love playing in the playground and feeding the animals.  Lila and Jasmine pay the animals a visit everyday if they can.  It's only a short walk from the grandparents' house.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 228 - Reflections

Thought of the day: We spent the day in Swiss Museum of Transport in Luzern.  The museum has several separate sections for cars, trains, boats, airplanes, etc.  All sections surround a large common square where a number of fun activities are available for kids while the adults can sit down and enjoy a well-deserved, quiet moment of coffee break.  Time and again I have found that Switzerland is truly a paradise for kids (and parents) as many things are designed with the kids in mind to ensure that they will have a good time. Of course, during brief visits like this, I can only get a glimpse of the surface of everything.  The experience of growing up here must have its hidden costs as the suicide rate remains pretty high.  Perhaps a unhappy person in paradise is a truly unhappy one as he has nobody to blame but himself, so as a result he is less likely to find sympathy and more likely to sink into despair.  The paradox of paradise?

Photo of the day:
Color reflections on the wading pool in the center square of the Transport Museum.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 227 - Wine Glasses

Thought of the day: On Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse this afternoon, I couldn't help noticing that most people dressed elegantly and smartly and there seemed to be a wide variety of styles on display.  Occasionally I saw men walk by wearing simple t-shirts and blue jeans but that was certainly not ubiquitous as in the US.  It looked like people here had the time and means to shop and pay for good clothes and they liked to dress up nicely just for the sake of it. To my surprise, in Coop's Men's clothing section, I saw some very fresh tones of red, orange, purple and even pink.  I would definitely consider the colors of some of the men's scarfs too fresh for myself. Both in the store and on the streets, I saw a number of otherwise ordinary looking men wrapped in some of these very gay colors.  Is this a new fashion?  It may not be a bad thing for men to break the women's dominance in fresh colors in clothing.  Indeed, it seems totally unfair for women to have choices of clothes in all conceivable colors and patterns while the men are confined to the palette of gray, blue, black, occasionally red and yellow and almost always dull patterns.  After all, just like a ponytail can sometimes make a man look more masculine, fresh color clothes have the potential of making a man look more interesting.

Photo of the day:
Two wine glasses inside a restaurant on Bahnhofstrasse.  The restaurant looked interesting from outside because the interior decorations were done predominantly in a deep, rich red color.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 226 - Lunch

Thought of the day: We took the train to visit a relative in a town in Canton Thurgau and had lunch with her today.  She came to meet us at the train station by bike and then we all walked over to her apartment which took a good 20 minutes.  That would be unfathomable in the US, however, it felt perfectly natural here.  Driving is more ingrained in the American culture than in the European.  The walk today was fun as we got to chat and see the town along the way.  It was definitely not a tourist destination but we did walk past quite a few charming streets and buildings.  The weather was pleasant, the flowers were blooming, everybody was happy - what else could one ask for?  I am glad that we won't sit behind a wheel for the next few weeks. So far we have been getting around fine by bus, tram, train and walking shoes.  Boat and bike will join the picture some time in the future. It may be a little inconvenient without a car at times, but I think the vacation will be much less relaxing with one.

Photo of the day:
Lunch at Thurgau.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 225 - Zurich

Thought of the day: We spent the day in Zurich.  After a laid back morning, we took the train and visited the Swiss National Museum in Zurich.  The indoor displays of Swiss historical artifacts were pretty uninteresting for the girls, however, the play room, cafe, and the outdoor exhibitions kept them occupied and entertained. After the museum visit, we walked up the Lindenhof - a little hill in the old town - and found two playgrounds with great views, a very uniquely European combination of kids and adults' favorites that made everybody in the party happy. Afterward, we spent a nice evening in a restaurant in the train station with some American friends.  It was a good day for all!

Photo of the day:
View of Zurich and Limmat river from the top of Lindenhof.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 224 - Niederweningen

Thought of the day: I have visited Niederweningen many times in the past twenty years or so.  It's a small, quiet Swiss village near the border of Germany.  Almost 90% of the land is either farm or forest land.  There are many walking and hiking trails crisscrossing the village.  I love the simplicity and tranquility of the village.  Since my first visit, the population has doubled, even though the total population is still tiny compared to anywhere else I have lived.  Unsurprisingly, I have witnessed the expansion of its residential area into the farm land over the years.  There are now many more apartment buildings in the village than in the past.  Most of the new buildings look elegant and well-built and none of them is more than 3 or 4 stories tall.  However, by converting the original farmhouses into relatively large, modern dwellings, the village has lost some of its idyllic charm.

Photo of the day:
Niederweningen - misty mountain after the rain.