Got Wood? The Swiss Stack A Strong Woodpile

Whenever we hike in Switzerland, we see woodpiles…everywhere.  In typical Swiss fashion, they are neatly stacked and very organized.

The OCD part of me loves that this family had their stacks numbered by year.  You can see their dividers in the photo below.  Strong.

I think that daily life in Switzerland can keep you pretty active and people seem healthier than other places I’ve lived.  Perhaps chopping all of this wood is part of their fitness plan?

This time of year is the perfect time to cozy up in front of a fire, so go ahead and knock on wood.

 

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Our Basement Bomb Shelter, Otherwise Known As Our Storage Unit

Switzerland.  Swiss Army Knives.  The Swiss Guard.  Serious Military Defenses.  Our Basement?  Switzerland’s commitment to neutrality, their position between historic enemies of France and Germany, and the meticulous, rule oriented, precise Swiss nature mean that our basement is a bomb shelter.

All Swiss residential buildings have bomb shelters in underground.  Until Swiss law changed at the end of 2012, all inhabitants were required to have access to shelter space.   Given the Swiss focus on quality, these are serious, heavy-duty bunkers.

Our apartment is in a building that predates the mandatory bomb shelter law, so our basement’s shelter is on the rustic side.  Newer buildings contain way more impressive looking shelters.  Ours looks as though it is where the vampires from True Blood sleep during the day.  The first time he went down there, he did it alone, at dusk, after a True Blood marathon.

You see heavy, vault-like doors on public parking structures.  They serve as public shelters.  The parking structures have thick concrete walls.  In theory, the shelters have air filters inside to provide fresh air in case of nuclear, biological, or chemical attack.   I am unsure if the age of our building exempts us, but there aren’t any signs of air filters in our building.  Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any supplies down there either.

To get into our “bomb shelter”, you enter through an old wood door.  It doesn’t look as high-tech or safe as the door above, but hopefully we won’t have to put it to the test.  You descend an old, windy staircase, past bricked over doors down into the basement.

You can’t exit through this door

It is so narrow and steep that the wall warns “stopping is prohibited, serious risk”.

The basement, ahem, sorry, the bomb shelter is partitioned into sections for each apartment using wood slats.  Each partition is approximately the size of a twin bed (give or take a couple of inches).

Some people hide their belongings from view

In French, basement translates to “cave.”   It feels a little funny to say I’m going to the cave. Who am I, Batman?  While our cave is filled with extra suitcases, beat-up sports equipment and camping gear,  many people here use theirs as a wine cellar.  A German friend uses his to store cases of German beer.

Our key… I’m serious, this is it.

Just Like In Pulp Fiction, It’s The Little Differences

Remember in Pulp Fiction when Vincent says “it’s the little differences. I mean, they got the same…over there that we got here, but it’s just…it’s just there it’s a little different.”
Now that you have seen our pad (both the before and after), I can talk a bit more about it. There are a few differences between apartments here and apartments in the US.
  • No apartment numbers. We don’t have an apartment number, just the street address. When you walk into a building, you will see a mass of letter boxes with everyone in the building’s names written on them.  When people come to our apartment, we tell them the floor and they have to look at the name plates on the doors.
 
Note the handles on both doors
  • No doorknobs. Almost all doors have handles, not knobs. This makes it easier to open the door while carrying things with your elbow (or other preferred body part).
  • Almost all doors only lock with a key (some will lock if you slam them hard enough without one). That being said, I am now guaranteed to lock myself out at some point.
The doors open in. In newer buildings they also lever up from the bottom to provide a bit of air without an open door.

 

Our Obligatory Laundry Story

If you read Swiss expat blogs, you will soon realize that everyone has a laundry story.  It is inevitable and they are usually humorous.  Ours arrived ahead of schedule…

Having heard laundry horror stories, we decided that it was essential to get a washer and dryer immediately.  We hadn’t even been in the country two hours when we were investigating our laundry hookup to buy a machine.*  Above is what we saw.

The former tenant removed everything, and I mean everything. The man at the appliance store had to arrange for special plumbers to come and install them.  They were installed the day we were on our last pair of clean underwear!

*We met our realtor immediately after landing to pick up keys to our place. This is very, very unusual. When I tell people this they get a shocked look on their face and their jaw drops.

 

Change of Address Cards

I figured that we’d better send out our new contact information.  Anyone that knows me knows that I am cheap. I went to Costco to get change of address cards made.  We’d taken a cute picture in Geneva with the idea of sending it out on the card.  Costco has done a decent job with our numerous, infamous Christmas cards over the years. Unfortunately, we couldn’t fit all of our new information on the card.  Oops.

I had to find a new way to send it out. I struk out at numerous venues.  You could just call me Goldilocks.  Things were either too big, too expensive, too ugly, too small or took to long to create.  Nothing was just right. Finally, out of desparation I headed to FedEx Office.  I wrote out our information, copied it to fit 4 times onto an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper, hand them cut and presto, postcards.  I’m not going to lie, they look a bit ghetto. However, they cost under $10 for over 200 and took less than 1/2 hour.  What’s not to love?

If you haven’t sent me your contact information, please do so.

 

 

House Hunters International, Geneva Edition – Part Two

 

I am packing for my trip to Geneva.  I am having some trouble posting pictures, but promise I will get it figured out sooner or later.  Our realtor recommended that I only take pictures of the apartments I have an interest in to keep from being overwhelmed.  She also wants to make sure I am able to tell them apart when I review them at the end of the day.  I will probably take a few pictures of the extremely hideous too for him (and you) to see.  If I don’t, how can he know that I really picked the best of the best?

 

 

House Hunters International, Geneva Edition – Part One

We are about to become residents of Geneva. We have not yet seen the city.   On Monday, that will change for me.  He has some meetings for work, so he will not be able to go until later.  This means that I will be picking out a residence in one of the world’s tightest housing markets all by myself. Strangely, he seems unconcerned.

The housing market in Geneva is in a state of crisis with a .05% vacancy (of course, half of all statistics are wrong).  The city is wedged in between a lake and the French border so there is not much room to expand.  Therefore, finding an housing in Geneva is notoriously difficult.  Here is my understanding of how it works:

1. Being me, I would have liked to stalk properties online before going.  This has been strongly discouraged because anything that I see online, even mere days ahead of my visit, will no longer be available when I arrive.  As a result, I am merely looking places online to determine how little our money will get us (although it still looks like a great place to live).

2. Fill out questionnaire for realtor. For an American, this contains some unexpected questions.  Those of you who watch House Hunters International should not be surprised by this.  I had to check a box that said whether or not I wanted to bring my own kitchen.  I love my house, but for me this is a no brainer.  We will not be bringing our own kitchen.

3. A Régie is the Swiss version of a realtor/estate agent.  Property owners use them to rent their apartments and handle the complex paperwork.  They show the apartments.

4. After viewing apartments, I should be prepared to put in multiple offers immediately (before the end of that day).  We know people who have put in four; we know of people who have put in over ten.  This step includes signing a paper that we are not delinquent on any local debts.  By the way, that paper costs $20-25. Even putting in an application can carry a fee.

5. We wait a few days to see if any of our offers have been accepted.

6. If unsuccessful, start again at step one.  Cross your fingers.