Monday, February 20, 2006

Heidi! Grandfather! Heidi! Grandfather!

I spent Shabbos in The Five Towns, thanks to a friend of mine from college. My flight was leaving on Saturday Night and I knew that I probably would not be able to make it to JFK Airport on time if I had to come from Upper Manhattan, or even from Brooklyn. So I spent a crazy Shabbos in the Five Towns, with, uhm, let's call him "Why" and his family who are all exactly like him it's scary. And we went to Mo's shul, where we substantially upped the Weirdness Quotient (or at least i like to think we did).

Then right after Shabbos it was off to the airport, where they (todah la’Eil) shunted me into the fast check in line (since Shabbos made me late), and I happily headed off to my flight to Switzerland.

The flight sucked.

Maybe I'm just used to El Al, with the video screens in the backs of the seats, and the multiple choices of movies and even a channel that shows you exactly where the plane is located in its journey, but I was not a happy traveler. There was no legroom, there was no overhead compartment room — so my bag was a number of rows away from me — and there was no way to know how much longer the flight was going to take. Luckily though, the kosher food was okay (i'm easily satisfied, easily amused and easily distracted) and I was sitting next to a Jewish guy who has had many trips to Switzerland and gave me some tips about trains and kosher food sources. And to top all the kvetching off, I had to run out right after Shabbos so fast (did I mention that MOChassid was nice enough to give me and 'Why' a ride back to Why's house after Shabbos?) that I had no time to change and/or shower. So I was sitting there on the plane, not getting much sleep and being claustrophobic in my Shabbos clothes when I otherwise would have worn something more sleepable like a sweatshirt. And for some reason the way they circulate the air on these big airplanes always makes me sneeze. Bleah.

So, anyway, we get to Switzerland.

I walk off the plane, and passing down the corridor towards the baggage/customs/passport control I pass a number of signs. The first one says, more or less, "Welcome to Switzerland! Try some of our world-famous Swiss chocolate, right here in the airport!" The next one said, "Welcome to Switzerland! Buy one of our world-famous Swiss watches, right here in the airport!" It was so stereotypical I almost dropped my carry-on luggage right there ROTFL. I half expected the next sign to be a picture of Heidi running to her Grandfather on a Flowery Alpine Mountainside. "Heidi!" "Grandfather!" "Heidi!" "Grandfather!" ahem. Where was I?

So I get off the plane in Zürich, Switzerland. And for the first time in my life, I'm in a country where I don't speak the language. They speak four languages in Switzerland — German, French, Italian, and Rhaeto-Romance — and I don't speak any of them. And I do not like feeling like a barbarian. Eating in one of the 5 kosher Indian restaurants on the same block in Manhattan where I don't know what sauce goes with what food is bad enough; in Switzerland I didn't even speak the language! Thanks to Lipman, though, I was able to not be a complete boorish American tourist, and say Entschuldigung, ich spreche leider kein Deutsch. Verstehen Sie Englisch, Hebräisch oder Spanisch? (Sorry, I don't speak German. Do you understand English, Hebrew or Spanish?) But all that was a bit too complicated, so I ended up going around and saying Entschuldigung, sprechen Sie Englisch? (Excuse me, do you speak English?), and almost everyone did.

So I went straight from the airport to the train, and passed by a number of amusing-sounding (such an immature American tourist) Swiss place-names, such as Frick (where's Frack?), Stein-Säckingen (they sacked Stein?), and Mumpf. And then we got to Basel, where Herzl flavored the Jewish State.

Lipman met me at the Basel train station, and then we took a trolley(!) to where him and his wife live. We talked about all kinds of stuff, including (of course) diqduq, but (of course) not just limited to that subject. They taught me about German and Swiss culture, and we talked about Jews in different parts of the world, and Jewish internet culture, and what all those funny words on signs mean, and stuff like that. And then we had a traditional Swiss meal of fondue — which is properly cheese, not chocolate — and then they were nice enough to let me take a shower and crash (i.e. nap) for an hour or two before it was time to head back to the train station. Train » Plane.

But before getting on the plane, I picked up some duty-free Swiss chocolate (the Lipman family told me which are kosher) and whiskey for friends in Israel. And I munched on the chocolate and fruits that they gave me for tzeida laderekh.

Second flight was better than the first. Shorter, more space, and no annoying intra-plane breezes.

Arrived in The Land.

I am now in Southern Jerusalem, a.k.a. the Valley of the Aboriginal Ghosts /עמק רפאים/ — if you are here too, drop me an email or a comment and we'll hang out!

Checklist Checklist:
Im Yirtzeh Hashem By You:
Jameel — lunch Tuesday
Trep — Friday morning


Anonymous big brother said...

how did you up the weirdness quotient?

2/21/2006 9:40 AM  
Blogger thanbo said...

You were in Basel, but you're on the A/A lists, and you didn't follow the Taqanah of the Baseler Rov? Maybe on the way back.

The taqanah being that any Areiv passing within 150 miles of Basel has to call upon the Rav (Arie Folger), since he misses folks from the US, and like most of us, wants to meet people from the list in person.

Ask Micha for contact info.

2/21/2006 9:52 AM  
Blogger Mike Miller said...

We need an Areiv meeting in E"Y one of these days. Anyone else interested?

2/21/2006 10:01 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Steg: Great seeing you for lunch; glad you could drop by.

2/21/2006 10:35 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


by being a weirdo, of course.


I've seen a picture of him but i didn't know about the taqana (although ignorance is no excuse). I'm hoping to go back there during the summer, maybe i can meet him then.


During the summer!


Great seeing you t(w/o)o!

2/21/2006 10:45 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...


What, you didn't upload the picture of Lip 'n' you on your blog?

2/21/2006 11:07 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


Sorry, my camera is not diggital.

2/21/2006 11:56 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Wow, I feel dumb. (See comment in above post.) Don't you have a full checklist somewhere? :)

I think every country's tourism section plays to stereotypes: They never have understood American English humor, and they know that the Americans will buy it just to prove the stereotypes. "Hey, look! I got Swiss chocolate!" "No way!" "Yeah! That's all they have man... watches and chocolate. Who knew?!"

2/21/2006 12:27 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

oh em gee (as one of my students says), Swiss chocolate is so good, i have to stop myself from raiding the canister i got for my friend here...

2/21/2006 12:40 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Did someone just say "Em Gee"? I'm right here!

2/21/2006 1:09 PM  
Blogger ליפא שנילצער said...

"always makes me sneeze. Bleah"

"bless you"

אגב איך שפראך נישט אזוי גיט ענגליש איר קענט דאס מסביר זיין אין אידיש

2/21/2006 2:45 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

ענטשולדיגונג(?), איך רעד ניט יידיש גוט. איך ווייס ניט ווי אזוי מסביר זיין דיר אין יידיש וואס האט איך שרייבן אין ענגליש. אני מצטער.

2/21/2006 3:00 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

אשפר קען ליפמאן מסביר דיינע שרייבונג צו ליפאן אויף יידיש?

2/21/2006 3:28 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

I am twixt frightened and dying of curiosity to see what you write if ever you visit Amsterdam.

2/21/2006 8:59 PM  
Blogger Cara said...


I live very, very close to Emek Refaim. If you're still in J'lem, drop me a line, and maybe we can meet up.

2/22/2006 3:14 PM  
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