According to its manufacturers, Rivella is 'the official thirst quencher of Switzerland'.
With around 200,000 litres of the stuff consumed in der Schweiz every day - around 10 litres per person annually - you can see where they're coming from. And having been here a few weeks I have no reason to think this claim flawed. The Swiss seem to be guzzling this stuff everywhere we go. In fact, I'm told only the behemoth that is Coca Cola flogs more bottles of fizzy beverage in Switzerland than Rivella.
So, what is this Swiss elixir? Well, created by a chap called Robert Barth in 1952, it is an alcohol free carbonated drink flavoured with fruit and herbs. What makes Rivella somewhat unique is that it is 35% 'milchserum' or whey as we call it. As such, it is not for the lactose intolerant and contains minerals and calcium. They also throw in some lactic acid which it is claimed 'restricts the activity of putrefactive bacteria' in the gut. Yummy!
In addition to the red label 'original' Rivella (pictured) there is a blue version (low calorie), a green version (with green tea extract) and a yellow version (made with soy instead of milk).
To date Zoe and I have only tried the original version and I have to say I quite like it. It tastes a bit like a less chemically enhanced iron brew and it's quite refreshing. In fact, I bought a bottle of the stuff today just cos I fancied it.
They sell loads of the stuff in some other countries on the continent too, particularly the Netherlands, but I've never even seen it in the UK. Apparently they did launch it to the British public with quite some fanfare back in 1999 but it failed miserably and disappeared from shelves, with a similarly sad story for the US launch.
I read it didn't take off in the UK because British people see milk drinks as something for babies, or milk something to add to tea. Well, quite right too. But the fact is there's nothing milky about Rivella at all in terms of appearance or taste. I wonder if we Brits might have missed out there.
Anyway, you can find more about Rivella and its ingredients here and, if this post has got you thirsty for a whey based refreshment, you can buy it online and have it delivered to the UK from here.
We're still getting to know the local way of life but it's fair to say that the Swiss have a reputation for being sticklers for the rules. Going back to our very first day, this became apparent after being here for only 5 minutes. Having literally just got through the door to the new flat where Zoe, having already arrived a couple of days prior, was directing the removal men's activities, the doorbell rang.
Now, my German is a bit rusty, and the Swiss accent is likely to baffle me forever, but when I picked out the word 'Polizei' among the garbled speech that came through the intercom I realised we had better open the door.
Fearing I'd made an immigration related admin error that was about to see me sent back to Blighty, I was relieved when the two stern officers at the door asked if I owned a truck. Filled with relief I declared that I do not own a truck, nor any vehicle for that matter, and explained as best I could 'auf Deutsch' that I'd literally just arrived and that we were only now moving in.
Putting two and two together more quickly than I did (I did have a 4:30am start that day to be fair) the policeman asked whether moving in required a giant truck. Yes, I replied, pondering for a moment - I supposed it probably did.
So, as you've probably already got there quicker than I did that morning, I can confirm the removal men had a giant van that had brought all of our possessions to the continent and that they had parked it where they shouldn't. Big no-no in der Schweiz.
So the police told the driver where to move his van and he did just that. But we weren't finished there, unfortunately, oh no. As I began to commence some bleary eyed unpacking my attention was drawn to some squawking from outside. Some local birdlife, I presumed, making a mental note to get a bird feeder for the balcony I'm so excited about.
Unfortunately it turned out to be a gaggle of elderly Swiss ladies who were up in arms and pointing at a parked car. It looked like this was the most excitement they'd seen in Oerlikon in some time. Just a few minutes later, as the removal men were saying their goodbyes, the Police arrived again, this time stating that a parked car had been knocked by their juggernaut.
What unfurled then was like something from an epidsode of CSI. Two riot vans arrived on scene in addition to the car that was already there. One young officer then began taking pictures of the car that had been bumped and the removal chaps were taken away for questioning. As they had done all their work in the flat we never actually saw them again, though as the truck was gone the next day I assume they were released and made it on their way (I don't want to ask too many questions until my visa has been processed).
So, a bit of excitement on day one that probably demonstrates the serious approach of the Swiss. They don't seem to do things by halves and I reckon that's a good thing. It certainly bodes well if we are ever in need of Police support here I suppose - I'm not sure you'd get that sort of attention for a murder in the UK, never mind a dented bumper.
After already exploring Zurich's old quarter during our first full weekend in der Schweiz we were keen to see and do something even more “touristy”. We both felt with only two weeks under our belt in the lovely Switzerland we had an excuse to dive into the local culture and explore.
Zurich Carnival 2013 was our chance to do just that. We did a bit of research and knew that the parade started on Sunday at precisely 2.31pm (another example of fantastic Swiss precision) where it made its way along the main shopping street in Zurich – Bahnhofstrasse. We thought we would head down and check it out and I was secretly hoping for some typical Swiss fare, namely cheese and chocolate!
The food did not disappoint! Before the parade had even begun Mike and I tried raclette on bread (basically a pretty satisfying cheese toastie), bratwurst mit Senf (one of the best sausages I have ever had), and Gluhwein (not my favourite thing in the world…)! All that sustenance soon warmed me up for the minus 5 not-really-parade-watching weather.
The town centre was buzzing which was quite a change from our previous Sunday´s exploring where all shops were shut (standard on a Sunday in Switzerland) and the only activity that could be seen was inside cosy cafes and restaurants with the locals maximizing Sundays for what God intended – good old R&R and socializing with friends.
Carnival day was quite a contrast and not just because people were out on the actual street but also because everyone as far as the eye could see was dressed up in crazy, elaborate and extremely well executed fancy dress costumes (see piccies in slideshow at bottom of post).
We had a wander around a few town squares where various bands were playing and got ourselves in position on Bahnhofstrasse for the parade to begin. There were a huge variety of people watching the parade – families, older couples, teenagers, as well as Swiss locals and tourists – it was a real community atmosphere which as the parade went on got rowdier and rowdier.
Thankfully Mike and I were stood far enough back to avoid tonnes of confetti being thrown EVERYWHERE. I was also thankful for not being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time as we saw a poor girl with gorgeous long hair being picked up by a guy in a scary witch costume, put into a wheelbarrow and completely covered in hay… he then proceeded to then cart her off in her new mode of transport and when we next saw her reunited with her family she looked like she was related to a scarecrow… thankfully as it was carnival she took it all in good spirits! With my curls I'm not sure I´d have been too pleased!
It was a great parade with some completely bizarre, and at times freaky, costumes. The atmosphere was fantastic and as a way to spend a Sunday afternoon I felt it gave me a peek into the real traditions and community of Zurich.
It's also very very clean. The trams and trains are spotless and there are bins and mini-recycling points at regular intervals. 'Zuri', as the locals call it, seems very polished. Even the older structures seem to have had the equivalent of building botox. German cities rebuilt following visits from Her Majesty's Lancaster bombers in WW2 don't look as shiny as Zurich.
With mountains visible from the town centre the air has a certain alpine freshness (nothing like those trees you hang on your rear view mirror) and the official figures I've seen indicate my lungs are indeed much better off here than they were when I worked in the big smoke of London.
This freshness might also have something to do with the temperature - winters here are cold - we've barely seen above freezing since we arrived - but equally the summers here are warm. We're certainly hoping for less of the grey drizzle that we're used to back on the island.
The cost of living is something we're asked about a lot and I'd say we've been relieved that prices aren't as bad as you might think. Given that salaries are higher here it's all relative, and whilst eating out appears to be astronomical, our shopping at Lidl is similar in price to home and the great public transport I was gushing about a minute ago is much cheaper than in the UK. Beer in pubs seems pricey but in the supermarket it's not bad and I've even tracked down a speciality beer shop that sells beer from all over the world, including Britain, quite reasonably should I fancy a taste of home.
To sum up, it's so far so good and whilst it's early days we feel like we're settling in well. Zurich looks like it's a great place to be.
Mike and Zoe's new home - top floor flat
On Saturday 2nd February 2012 I joined Zoe and all of our wordly possesions at our new home in Zurich.
Situated in the suburb of Oerlikon, our new flat is - as the map below shows - just north of the main hustle and bustle of Zurich City Centre. Equidistant between the airport and the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) and just a ten minute tram ride to Zoe's office, the location is perfect.
Zoe's employer General motors has made the relocation process very straightforward and, thanks to our bubbly American adviser Stacie, we have been able to move into the new pad and get sorted very quickly. We even had TV and wifi up and running on day one despite not having a bank accont to link the payments to. Such faith in people paying their debts when they are due is common in Switzerland apparently (but a bit of an alien concept to a scouser like me!).
Actually bigger than our old abode in Hitchin, it's a nice spacious flat on the top (second) floor of the building (pic above).
As you can see, we have ourselves a little balcony - a bit of a novelty having not had one before. As it's south facing it will be the perfect place to sit and sip coffee or a beer once the weather starts to warm up (with temperatures hovering around -10 celcius I didn't last long on my first attempt to have a cuppa 'al fresco').
Our landlady doesn't speak any English but we've been understanding each other fine thanks to my bit of Deutsch and her way of considerately toning down her Swiss accent when she talks to me (we'll come on to Swiss German, or 'Schwiizertüütsch' in another post). In line with the efficiency for which the Swiss are famous she has already been great at sorting things out for us promptly, from patching up evidence of the previous tenant to fixing the heating when it broke (at -10 that's quite important!).
With a nice guest bedroom we're looking forward to hosting visitors to stave off our longing for blighty. We're pleased to see the calendar filling up with requests already so better make your bookings sharpish if you haven't already :)
Mike Stuart moved to Switzerland in 2013 when his better half Zoë landed a job in Zurich.