Friday, September 30, 2011

Zermatt, Chillon, CERN: Time travel in three days (Part 2)

Part 2:

On Sunday we took a short drive just a few villages yonder on the shores of Lac Leman to visit one of the most visited historic sites in Switzerland: Chateau de Chillon.  Chillon's history dates back to the 11th century.  It is a massive castle / fort, made up of over 100 smaller buildings or units that got connected over time.  It was a site to behold, and lucky for us, the place of medeival reenactments for the weekend.  This meant that the castle and the yard were full of people dressed in period costumes, acting the part of castle folk.  We walked around for a couple of hours, visited the dungeon, saw Lord Byron's name carved into the wall, climbed a few towers, and took in the site of the lake from the castle rooms.

Small Fish in the cellar / dungeon

Kitchen maiden

J and Small Moose by the lake

The site

The good stuff
Following a fondue dinner across the street in the tavern, we went down by the lake to play and watch the setting sun:
Big Fish in the sunset

Small Fish, Small Moose, Big Castle

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Zermatt, Chillon, CERN: Time travel in three days (Part 3)

Part 3: 

On Monday we journeyed back into the 21st century with a visit to CERN.    In particular we went to see the Universe of Particles exhibit and had our minds properly blown with dark matter, dark energy, neutrinos, string theory, the inner workings of the Large Hadron Collider and the like.  This was my second visit here, but I could go again.  This exhibit is full of exciting displays, technologies and artifacts of the past, such as the very first internet server ever, with a sign that reads:  "This machine is a server.  DO NOT POWER DOWN!"  Yes, the internet was invented at CERN.


Small Fish experimenting with the cool interface

The very first internet server

J in the talking chair listening to a lecture on dark matter

Movie about the beginnings of the Universe projected on the walls all around
With our minds stimulated, our bodies exhausted and our spirits high we returned to the school / work routine on Tuesday, looking forward to future adventures in this beautiful place we live in.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Part 2: Our Apartment

This is the view out our back windows and balcony.  That freaky looking mannequin torso is a riddle.  Perhaps it is an anti-pigeon measure.  Then looking up we see a hill (of course, this is Lausanne), with a footbridge.  

Looking down

Looking up


Living room:

And now I run out of pictures. And there you have a glimpse into our Swiss apartment.  Ciao!

This Swiss Story Begins

Small Moose looking down from the Cathedral area to the Old Town
Hello friends and family of This Alaskan Backyard!  Long time no see for sure.  We disappeared into a great abyss somewhere between Alaska & Hungary, and have been unusually silent.  I have ignored this blog far too long, and now have thousands of pictures to down/upload, reduce, tag and many stories to share.  I guess part of the problem now is: I don't even know where to start.  So here I sit with a glass of wine and some Greek olives trying to gain some clarity about where this blog is going.  In the end, I think I will just share random pieces of information highlighted with a random selection of images.  Why it's perfectly appropriate for the occasion since life here is fairly strange and random at the moment.  Welcome to This Swiss Story in Lausanne, Switzerland!

Renato Hausler, town crier of Lausanne
Quick crash course on Lausanne:  hills, scooters, elevators, drinking fountains, town crier.  In more detail: Lausanne is very hilly and wherever you go you will wind up either going up or down.  The next two descriptors are a result of this, and you will see many people of all ages scootering at great speeds downhill, and wherever you go you will inevitable wind up at public outdoor elevators, some accommodating up to 26 people or 2000 kg (yes, this means 26 people weighing no more than 77 kg = 169 lbs each, so be careful who you ride with), and these will transport you up above to the street or bridge going over your head or down below to the subway or street under.  Drinking fountains are all over the place. I mean old-fashioned, elaborately decorated with carvings and stone work making them irresistible to the children.  By now I think we have drunk out of all of them.  The town crier, or guet is no joke either: the 12th century Gothic cathedral has one who shouts the hour and an "all is well" between 10pm and 2 am.  We live close enough where we can actually hear him.

I started a new job last week.  The three older children have all started Swiss schools- but this would deserve a blog entry of its own.  In short, Big Fish lucked out in a high school with a million dollar view and for now taking just french classes until she gets the hang of it.

Big Moose has had a rough start, where he fell from cuddly-cute elementary school into a Victorian middle school (runs from 5th-9th grade though).  He is in a special class for new arrivals who speak no french.  The first two weeks were a bit like Planet of the Apes meets Lord of the Flies while alpha-wanna-be males flexed their muscles in an attempt to rule the roost but without a common language to help along (or, maybe these types are non-verbal to begin with).  I have had to give the teacher a talking to, call the principal and the coordinator of foreign students to throw my weight around.  For now it seems the mood has calmed down.

Small Moose is in regular Kindergarten with Swiss students.  Due to the less stringent academic requirements of this age group he is fine learning french as he goes along.  He would be in 1st grade in the US, but here Kindergarten is two years, plus the age cutoff for students is June 30.  He was born in July. Darn it.
Lausanne scene with drinking fountain

And now the perks: 2 hour lunch breaks during which the children come home.  The older two commute on the city bus system, and they enjoy kicking their shoes off and resting for a bit at midday.  But should they decide to stay to eat at the cafeteria, it is staffed with a real chef who cooks real meals.  Nothing is microwaved, frozen etc.  They serve a 3 course meal, with fresh baked croissants and such.  On Wednesday there is no school for primary grades all day,  and for the older ones the afternoon is off.  Glorious siesta time!  The academic calendar is a bit different also, there are more frequent breaks such as 2 weeks off in October, and April, another week off in February and so on, and then summer break is 6 weeks instead of 12.  This gives ample opportunities for skiing, hiking, yodeling, fondue eating and resting.  Many challenges lie ahead not only for the children but for me as I am trying to decipher homework and notes from teachers in french.  So far I am amazed at how well they have handled the barrage of new information and experiences coming at them.  Proud of my kids I am :)

Restaurant sign


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