Environmental Science Master’s Weekend

What a weekend! I just got back from two days up in the mountains with my fellow Environmental Scientists. With plenty of new faces and new stories, the weekend was full of meeting people and discovering their backgrounds, their reasons for coming to ETH, and testing their Canadian geography (which proved to be quite good, but foruntaley not enough to know all the stereotypes). 

Other than learning about one another, the conversations dealt heavily with language- native languages, comfort in foreign languages and all the diverse cultural aspects that relate directly to local language. It was fascinating and the big questions for myself and my friend, Andrea, who is from Ontario, were about the Quebec ‘accent’ and that Irish slang they have going on in Newfoundland. Amongst the French speakers, a good ‘Ouai!’ always found common ground as they were all keen on learning to speak it. I never would have guessed…  🙂

I’ve provided a handful of the best pictures from the weekend to show some examples of what real Swiss people look like, a working tropical greenhouse, and plenty of breathtaking views as we hiked below, through and above an incredible fog.

Our first stop of the weekend was a tropical greenhouse using waste heat from a nearby Natural Gas compression station. The heat is used to warm the greenhouse to grow organic fruits for local markets and high end restaurants. An incredible project that has brought investment into this small agricultural area, as well as captured some of the huge energy off of the compressor station (they said about 100 GW hours of which about 50% is captured through the greenhouse and heating a local hospital).

The group headed to the tropical greenhouse
The group headed to the tropical greenhouse
Looking over the papaya plants to the banana palms
Looking over the papaya plants to the banana palms
My favourite: Tilapia ponds providing nutrient filled water for the plants!
My favourite: Tilapia ponds providing nutrient filled water for the plants!

They also employed a Greenwater System using Tilapia fish (which at maturity can be sold as food) in ponds where the water is recirculated to the tropical plants. The murky green water, which gives this system its name, is full of nutrients from the metabolic processes of the fish and is ideal for the plants as well as for the fish. The whole system comes very close to being nutrient and water neutral. A very impressive setup!

Next, we were headed up to a mountain area called Napf. We had a few stops along the way to take in the incredible view and taste some local food. First though, we were in a small village with some locals who asked  us to take their picture. Well, I snapped one too because they were just too great.

Real Swiss People in front of a typical Swiss mountain house
Real Swiss People in front of a typical Swiss mountain house

We hiked about 3 hours, through mostly open fields looking out over the neighbouring valleys, villages and grazing areas. As we got higher we began to get closer and closer to the misty clouds/ fog above us.

Looking out
Looking out
Local vegetation
Local vegetation
Into the fog
Into the fog
It felt like we were entering into another world...
It felt like we were entering into another world...

Then we met some goats!

DSCN4365
Out of the mist...
I bonded with this one
I bonded with this one

Then we found who the goats belonged to- the farmhouse at the top of this rise had a stand selling their dried sausage, goat cheeses, and apple cider. I love Switzerland!

Mid-hike refreshments
Mid-hike refreshments

A little further up and we passed out of the clouds and were on top of the Napf! A lovely old farmhouse that fed and housed us (as well as some of the other hikers that made it up). Our group wandered around looking into the mist below and thoroughly enjoyed the moment of floating above the clouds.

Napf
Napf
Jumping at sunset above the clouds
Jumping at sunset above the clouds
horses around the house
horse around the house
The view at sunset
The view at sunset

 We eventually made it in for a typical alpine meal and some tasty dessert. Plenty of story-telling and singing ensued but we knew what was awaiting us the next day- the 4.5 hour trek down.

Meringues, ice cream and whipped cream!
Meringues, ice cream and whipped cream!

Overall, the hikes were stunning, the food was great and the company proved to be very entertaining. A 10/10 for this one.

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Eating in Zurich

I thought it would be useful to bring a little local flavour to the first post, since there was plenty of concern when I left about what I would eat if it wasn’t going to be a version of Bratwurst.

I have spent some time marching through the streets and trying to find the best snacks. And it has been a rather enjoyable trip.  

Fortunately Zurich is ripe with wonderful food options for the student and the more, how should I put it… financially endowed. For groceries, I depend on the local grocery chain, Migros, which is only a block away and has a great variety of local fruit and vegetables (local tomatoes that are deep red and fresh picked strawberries that are still in season here). But if I want to go all out, I can head to the Globus department store with it’s ‘grocery’ section which rivals most luxury-item displays that I have seen. About 40 varieties of in-house flavoured olive oils, delicate fresh figs beside exotic fruit that I didn’t even recognize, and that’s not to mention the local favourites at the outdoor stands- famous Pretzels that my cousin swears by, the Indian/Thai Curries to go, and of course, the Bratwurst in a bun!

At a park, the locals enjoying their proximity to Italy
At a park, the locals enjoying their proximity to Italy

I was/still am surprised to find the availability of local products (from fruit and veg, to breads, meats, cheese, eggs, yogurt and wine) and the interest that people have in buying fresh food. With fridges that hold about 1.5 meals, it’s no wonder, but it has been a fun exercise in planning every meal each day.

And of course, there are the fun items: The chocolate store I found tucked away in a street in the pedestrian area that has over 100 types of international chocolates, the candy store that makes candy cakes from your favourite 5 cent candies, the Movenpick (which some may fondly remember from Montreal) with fabulous ice cream that blows Haagendas out of the water, and the Confisserie shops selling chocolate creations of every form.

Candy Cakes
Candy Cakes

Oh, and I even managed to find skim milk!

For you Laura, I found this store that sells sheet of chocolate… ridiculous.

Stacks of chocolate
Stacks of chocolate

Hello blog world!

Hi Everyone,

I have created this blog mainly for you to keep in touch with me and see for yourself my photos, thoughts and adventures. It is also a great way for me to stay organized! I hope you enjoy and I welcome any feedback from the experts (or amateurs!) out there.

From not too far abroad,

Devon