Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Weekend in Interlaken

This past weekend I went to Interlaken, a municipality of the Canton of Bern, and a known tourist destination. I went there with the IAESTE people. Of all the places I have been in Switzerland, this one is the most breathtaking and spectacular (so far). Nestled amongst impressive mountains and glaciers, it looks like the scenery from movies such as Lord of the Rings.

On Saturday, after a downpour of rain, we went white water rafting on the black Lütschine river ( I had never white water rafted before (which is a pity coming from Costa Rica), and it was an awesome experience! The river, which is a category 4, comes from the glaciers on top of the mountains. This makes the water extremely cold (probably 10 degrees Celcius / 50 Fahrenheit). We had to wear a full wet suit – which was not very comfortable. At the end, the river flows into lake Brienz and you are just in total awe of the scenery.

That night we went out to some sort of bar/club, which was fun. Interestingly, due to a lack of clean clothes, I wore the t-shirt that I had taken to sleep in, which happened to be a Google t-shirt. I was very interesting the reaction I got. Random strangers would come up and ask me about it, talk about Google, give me their complaints and suggestions, etc. It is cool how a company/brand can create so much emotion!

On Sunday we went to see the waterfalls of Trümmelbach, which carve through a huge mountain. There were some man-made passages that allow you to see the waterfalls from the inside of the mountain. The amount of water that flows through it was something like 20,000 liters per second. It was quite nice.

We then traveled to Müren to go hiking. Müren is a tiny mountain village surrounded by the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains. We had to take four cable cars to get there. Again, the views were just amazing. We did a two hour or so downhill hike from there.

Again, a pretty nice weekend here in Switzerland.
Here are some pics from the trip!



Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day trip to Geneva and the World Cup Final

This weekend I spent the day at Geneva with a small group of friends (a Canadian and an Irishman that I met through IAESTE, and Google intern from Romania that studies in Boston).

Geneva is the second biggest city in Switzerland, and it is located in the south west corner, jutting into France. It is probably the most famous of the French speaking cities in Switzerland. It is also a center for diplomacy and peace. The headquarters of the Red Cross, and of many of the agencies of the United Nations are located here. They are also famous for the signing of the Geneva conventions regarding prisoners of war.

We started the day walking around Lac Léman, where they have a huge water spout sitting in the middle of the lake, Then we walked around the old downtown, which was very pretty (but quite similar to Zürich). Then we went on to visit the United Nations. This part was really cool! I had been to the UN headquarters in New York City, and it is one of those places that when you leave you are left with feeling that there might (just might) be hope for mankind. At the end of the day we stumbled across some sort of crazy 'clubbing' parade, with lots of interesting characters!

On Sunday I went to Google to watch the World Cup final with a bunch of other interns. It was a super violent game, but luckily at the end Spain won!! It was an interesting World Cup, with lots of unexpected surprises. Great job South Africa for hosting it, and showcasing your beautiful country (vuvuzelas and all). Not so good a job from the refs, who in this day and age should start using the instant replay to avoid mistakes.

The water spout in Lac Léman:

In a park in Geneva:

Michael, Emmett and I:

Statue commemorating when the canton joined Switzerland:


The old downtown:

The canton's flag:

Emmett, Ana and I:

The Rhône river:

The UN:

The UN (the old art deco wing)

The UN flag and the Armillary Sphere:

A crazy ceiling (created by Miquel Barcelo) inside one of the meeting rooms. It is meant to look like the ocean floor:

The 'clubbing' parade:

Lots of interesting characters... I think she might have posed for this picture:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Way too expensive!

This is a short post, I just need to complain about how ridiculously expensive Zürich is!
According to Wikipedia, Zürich is the 6th most expensive city in world (Tokyo is 1st, New York is 9th, Chicago is 50th and San Jose is 132nd).

Prices here are just absurd! A beer at Zurich Fest was 9 francs. I got a haircut today (there is a hairdresser that comes to Google a couple of times a weeks) and after the Google discount it was 40 francs! - I could have gone 3 times to Supercuts. I went to a Lebanese restaurant with a couple of colleagues and it was 70 francs per person! – at least it was really good food...

The upside of this situation is that people earn even more ridiculous salaries here! I had never seen so many Porshes, Ferraris, Maseratis, and Lamborghinis – actually come to think of it, some of these cars I had never seen before in person!

Züri Fäscht (Zürich Fest)

Once every three years, the city hosts Züri Fäscht (, a massive weekend long festival along the lake and the river. The whole of downtown Zúrich becomes a carnival, with games, rides, food and merchant stands, music stages, air shows, performing arts, and a ton of people!

They have perhaps the most impressive fireworks show that I have ever seen. They do the fireworks both on Friday night and Saturday night, they each last 30 minutes, and they are synchronized with music. The one on Saturday was really big, they even had helicopters flying around and throwing fireworks!

On Saturday, after spending the afternoon watching pathetic football games and playing guitar hero and board games, a group of us interns went out to watch the fireworks and hit the festival. The level of the crowd was comparable to that of the Taste of Chicago – you could barely walk! Despite the crowds and the little bit of rain, it was quite fun; we went on the ferris wheel, the bumper cars, and walked around everywhere.

On Sunday I decided to treat myself and went to the festival for dinner. I choose an Indian stand and had chicken tikka masala, a samosa, a bottle of water. For dessert I bought a nutella crepe. It was pretty good, except for the price: 32 francs for carnival food!! (1 franc is approx 1 dollar)

The sad part of the weekend (besides the fact that the 3 of Latin American teams got kicked out of the World Cup), was that I missed going to Shadia and Doug's wedding with my sweetie... I miss you!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Google Summerfest

This Friday we had the Google Summerfest, a yearly party that Google throws for its employees and their families.

The party included about 900 people, 1200 sausages, 1792 bottles of beer, 300 liters of draft, 150 bottles of sparkling wine, paella, corn on the cob, chicken nuggets, a stinky cheese thing that they eat here in Switzerland, and tons of other snacks. It was full of activities, such as: streaming of the football games, karaoke (were we killed a version of 'We will Rock you'), a Zoogler band, giant Jenga, a really good cover band (, sack races, two swiss dudes blowing the Alpenhorn (, stuffed animals, inflatable balls, toilet paper, and a few other random things.

Needless to say it was very fun!

Me @ Google:

Lucia, Marco, Hani, Hugues, Gabor

Hani, a stuffed tiger and Lucia during the cover band concert

The terrace where the cover band played:

The cover band Paul das Pausenbrot:

Ana & Hani:

Ivo, Hani, Lucia and Andrei singing 'We will survive':

The kareoke crowd:

The Zoogler Band:

The grounds at Google:

The Alpenhorn dudes:

The interns:
Andrei, Me, Lucia, Hugues, Hani & Marco