Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Settling in

I'm now all basically settled in Zurich. To respond to a general question in a previous post, I found my apartment from the ETHZ Marktplatz which had a lot of advertisements for available living accomodations. I then contacted many of the landlords who were offering and asked about all the details and picked one that was suitable. Perhaps there is something similar in your area, if there is a university anywhere. I'm currently living in a 2-room furnished apartment at the top floor of a 3-family house at the edge of Zurich (Albisrieden) with good public transportation connections. Living in a Wohngemeinschaft (WG) would be a lot cheaper, but would also involve a lot of making sure you fit in with the rest of the community. My apartment did not come with an internet connection, which has always been the biggest hassle in all of my internships I have ever had - in almost all locations in the world, dial-up is still the only kind of internet access you can get going in a minute and in most countries, the only kind of internet connection you can get without a contract of 12 months or more. It's quite sad that 3-month visitors have no other options in most parts of the world. Fortunately here in Zurich though, I went for hotspots for a few days and then got Sunrise's "Jetzt 3 Monaten ADSL testen" offer which seems perfect for my summer here. It took a few days to set up and required a slight modification of the arrangement of the ISDN splitter box in the landlord's basement which he was okay with, so I'm all online now.

I also have a cell phone with orangeclick.ch - which is not the cheapest for domestic calls, but provides a discount for receiving calls in neighboring countries and for making calls to foreign numbers from Switzerland on the
cell phone, which is a decent option if you have friends in the neighboring countries and intend to meet them. In any case, you can all find my updated cell, fixed line, and Skype numbers at my contact page. Feel free to contact me about anything at all.

So after getting set up, I set off wandering around with the trains on Sunday, trying to escape the clouds and rain that were threatening parts of the region. I stopped at the quaint, walled medieval town of Murten, a little while away from Bern and reachable with an hourly train from Bern.

Then, I looked at a physical map marked with the train lines and decided to go to Kandersteg, a valley surrounded by alpine mountains in the Berner Oberland. It's definitely very quiet and peaceful there. A 15-minute walk from the Kandersteg train station gets you to a Sesselbahn (chairlift) which takes you straight up to Oeschinen, from where you can take a small 25-minute hike to the Oeschinensee, a beautiful tiny lake 1500 metres above sea level at the base of the snow-covered mountains. After leaving the region, I continued back via Spiez and Interlaken, and then hopped onto the Zentralbahn, a regional train system which follows the same tracks as the highly-touristed Golden Pass, so you can enjoy the same view for just being on a standard local train. Brienz looks like a nice spot to return to for watching sunsets since it is east of the lake and many mountains. I'll have to come back to this region later to explore more for sure.

Oeschinensee 1587m

Then on Monday, I went to work. ETH Zurich seems like a great place and my co-workers are nice. I'm most likely going to work on trying to do NMR with single quantum dots. It's interesting, though the project will be a little better defined over the next few days, after which I'll write a lot more about it.

Pictures of Kandersteg are here, more pictures and more about my research to come in the next post.

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