Good Gritti

Grittibänz

One of the most adorable things about Christmas in Switzerland has got to be Grittibänz. These “sweet bread men” (rough translation) can be seen all over the place and are a typical Christmas-time food in Switzerland. They start popping up in bakeries around December 6th, for the feast of St. Nicholas, and no Swissmas gathering would be complete without one!

Grittibänz at Migros

Tons o’ Grittibänz at our local Migros supermarket.

Public opinion is split over whether they are meant to represent Samichlaus – “Santa Claus” in Swiss German – or just regular ol’ bread men. Either way, these lil’ guys are very cute!

Grittibänz at Work

Some Grittis having a conversation at the coffee corner in my office.

The bread itself is sort of like a challah bread and the Grittibänz can be decorated with twigs, chocolate sticks, or raisins. They sometimes even have a little clay pipe (not edible … I found out the hard way, thinking it was hardened sugar … bleagh!).

C&A Grittibänz

A store near our apartment had a “free Grittibänz with purchase” promotion. I was all in!

*Fun Fact*: when my family was visiting me here in Switzerland for Christmas a few years back, I told my brother that “Grittibänz” meant “hello” in Swiss German. He basically went around Zürich saying “bread man” to one and all. What a guy! Luckily, he can take a joke and I’ll definitely be bringing him a Grittibänz for Christmas in NYC this year to make up for it!

Garrett & Grittibänz

An ad for Floralp (Swiss butter) featuring Grittibänz and me losing my sh!t over finding the ad in the newspaper.

Happy Holidays from Change of Underwear!

Little Pumpkin-Lit Village

Rudolfingen 2015A few weeks back, a friend of mine (who knows I love Halloween/pumpkin/autumny stuff) sent me a text about going to a little Swiss village called Rudolfingen for a pumpkin festival. I was all in before I even really knew what the event was about. She had me at “pumpkin festival”… 🙂

KürbisbeleuchtungRudolfingen has a traditional festival called the Kürbisbeleuchtung (pumpkin lighting) where the entire village turns off all the lights and over 1,000 Jack o’Lanterns illuminate everything. They also have all sorts of food stands with pumpkin-inspired snacks like pumpkin soup, pumpkin chili con carne, pumpkin french fries with pumpkin ketchup, and pumpkin cakes. As PeeWee Herman would say: “Mmmm! Pumpkiny!”

Today's secret word is: RUDOLFINGEN!

Today’s secret word is: RUDOLFINGEN!

One of the highlights was surely the pumpkin pinwheel with all the candlelit pumpkins spinning around. Click on the below video to see it in action.

It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and I think the pictures speak for themselves. Check out the schaurig schön (spooktacular) image gallery of photos below!

For more pumpkin reading, take a look at these other blog posts:

Pumpkin Circus

Swiss PumpkinsAs you may already know, October is my favorite month of the year! I know I haven’t been activly blogging for a bit now, but nothing gets my desire to share things on the internet fired up quite like October! Crisp air, gorgeous colors of changing leaves, apple cider, and pumpkins!

About 3 years ago, I shared with you guys some of the Italian pumpkin culture in Mantova. Well, now it’s time to share how the Swiss do pumpkins!

It’s been a lovely October so far this year. Not very rainy at all (which keeps those amazing shades of red, yellow, and orange hanging on to the trees a bit longer) and quite sunny. Me and my boyfriend had fantastic weather for a wonderful day in the town of Seegräben at Jucker Farm.

Jucker Farm

Only about 45 minutes form Zürich, Jucker Farm is an agricultural/tourism farm where you can stroll around the Pfäffikersee Lake, find your way through an apple orchard labyrinth, pick your own fruits, have a meal featuring locally grown food at the HofChuchi restaurant, or do some shopping at the farmer’s market. It’s also host to Switzerland’s biggest pumpkin festival!

The theme for the 2015 pumpkin festival was “Kürbis Zirkus” (pumpkin circus). There were sculptures made out of pumpkins, tons of pumpkin inspired food, a giant apple press for fresh cider, and lots of happy people enjoying a lovely outdoor Sunday in October.

Take a look at some of the pictures I took. It was such a nice (and cute) day!

Here’s wishing all of you a great autumn! 

Mourning Morning Coffee

Dunkin' Donuts

I was recently asked to be a guest blogger for Expat Explorer – a website from HSBC Bank with lots of useful information on moving and living abroad. I’m so psyched to have had this opportunity! You can click here to read my guest blog post. It’s about my initial struggles with coffee after having moved to Italy. Check it out!

Switzerland: where water flows like … water

Poland SpringsI’m not a big fan of having to pay for drinking water. If I live in a place where the tap water is perfectly drinkable, it irks me to have to buy a bottle of water to drink, when free stuff is just flowing out of the taps.

In America, we’re much less into bottled water than in Europe. Ok, I mean, maybe if we’re out on the town and buy a hot dog from a street vendor, we might buy a bottle of water to go with it. But in general, America is a big tap water drinking nation. At restaurants in the USA, waiters bring you a big cold glass of tap water without even needing to ask for it (unless, of course, you’re at some fancy-schmancy place where they offer you San Pellegrino… at a price). At home, we just turn on the kitchen sink when we’re thirsty (unless you’re my Mom, who since moving to California from Massachusetts, thinks the local tap water tastes weird … but that’s an exception and a totally different story).

When I lived in Italy, I noticed that they had some ornate water fountains around on the streets and in the piazzas that you could fill a bottle up with or even drink directly from. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what the deal was and was hesitant to drink from these fountains. They looked purely decorational, plus the water is constantly flowing from these European drinking fountains. There is no “on/off” switch that you need to press.  The concept was so foreign to me.

We, of course, have free public fountains in America, but they are usually indoors, located in places like a school, gym, or waiting room. They’re clearly for drinking and are pretty standard.

typical water fountain

typical water fountain – easily seen all over the USA

These fountains in Italy that I’m talking about were decidedly more ornate and were located outside on the street, in the open air. They were part of the ambiance of the city … but you could also get 100% free, completely drinkable water from them. So cool, right? I used them often, and whenever I knew I would be out for the day, I would just toss an empty water bottle in my bag so I could fill it up whenever I was thirsty. Free thirst-quenching win! Here are a few examples of Italian water fountains:

a water fountain in Milan

water fountain in Milan

water fountain in Bologna

water fountain in Bologna

Now that I live in Switzerland, I can enthusiastically report that Zurich has tons of free drinking fountains all over the city, and it’s awesome! There are so many, in fact, that when I have visitors, I make them play the “water fountain game” where the only rule is that you must take a sip from every new fountain you see as we meander around the city. Now, I carefully chose the phrase “make them play” because there are so many fountains that my visitors usually end up water-logged, begging me to quit the game. They can’t. Fun!

These fountains range from very simple to simply astounding. Some even have a separate spigot near the ground for dogs, like this basic Swiss water fountain here:

Simple Fountain

I spent a lovely sunny afternoon strolling around Zurich taking pictures for you of some of my favorite fountains that you can drink from. Just click on any of the below photos to see ’em all nice an’ big!

 Well, that’s all for today. Let’s close with a water seeeeelfie!

Seeeeelfie

 

 

Merry Swissmas!

Swissmas 1This year’s Holiday season post looks back at last Christmas  – better known as Swissmas 2013.

Ever since our first Christmas as a couple (2006), I’ve always gone back to my family for the Holidays and my boyfriend has always gone back to his. We’ve always done our own little Christmas thing before and after my trip to the USA, but we were never actually together on Christmas day.

Well, last year was different.

Last Christmas, both of us stayed in Zurich, and we got to celebrate our first Christmas together! What’s more, both of our families came to Switzerland (from the USA and Italy) so we got to celebrate with them too! My boyfriend and my family for Christmas!

It was also the first time that our families met. We were obviously a bit nervous,  but it all went so well! We were both busy showing our families around the city, finishing shopping, organizing dinners for all of us, and translating so that everybody could actually communicate. It was a fast-paced Christmas, but was something I will never forget!

Swissmas 2

This year, I’m back in the USA and Francesco is heading to his family, in Italy. I guess we’re still not quite ready to renounce seeing our own families at Christmas, but I suppose this is something that many international couples face.  Eventually, we’ll start creating our own Christmas memories and traditions, as a couple, but for now I can say that I’m so happy to have had the experience of last year and happy to be with my family this Christmas too. There’s always next year to flip a coin and see whose family we spend the Holidays with.

Not to bore you with personal photos, but I wanted to share a bit of the magic that is Switzerland at Christmastime and one of the best memories I have.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

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Deutsch ist schwer!

German Flag

German is difficult! (This is the truth, and also the translation of this blog post’s title).

I’ve been taking a German class for about two and a half months now and it sure as heck isn’t easy! Actually, me and my boyfriend have been doing it together, which I think is insanely cute. It’s a way that we get to spend some more time together during the busy work week, and we learn a new skill to boot!

I’m at the point where I can say “The cat is on the table” (Die Katze ist auf dem Tisch), so I’m not quite ready to write anything profound about the German language right yet. I just wanted to share this little image with you, here below. It’s the grading system for the bi-weekly tests we have in our German class, and I thought it was pretty cute.

Bellingua School

I have yet to be crushed by the Deutsch boulder…. fingers crossed!