Sunday, February 16, 2020

M.E. Adventure - Part 1: Hair Tomorrow?

We just returned from a quick trip to the Middle East (M.E.) to visit family. While our main reason for going to that part of the world was this little guy:
And his mom and dad, of course!

 We also encountered many interesting things getting there. Today I am going to share with you Part 1 of our M.E. Adventure: the Istanbul, Turkey airport.

You may be thinking, why would you want to blog about a few hours spent in an airport? Well, we encountered a phenomenon that was surprising and quite honestly, horrifying to witness.

We had a 3 hour layover in Istanbul. While hanging out in the food court eating our chicken nuggets from Burger King (one of the MANY U.S. restaurant chains in the airport and not the most horrifying part of our time spent there) we noticed multiple men with black headbands circling their bald heads.

As time went on, more and more of these men passed our table or sat near us. Upon closer inspection we realized that the men's scalps were bright red and raw looking. After witnessing so many men with the same painful looking head tourniqueted by a black headband, we wondered what was up.

Painful noggin'.
Were they part of a religious sect or cult? They didn't dress in a certain manner and they were traveling with presumably wives/girlfriends, other men with similar wounds on their heads and some with healthy heads, or alone.

Curiosity got the best of me and I did a little google searching. It turns out that Turkey is THE destination for medical tourists seeking hair transplant surgeries! Despite general tourism being on the decline due to unrest in the region, transplant tourism is booming. 150-500 transplants per WEEK booming!

The clinics set up travel/accommodations/surgery packages that draw men from all over the world. And because the competition is so great, the prices are comparatively low, but the quality can be questionable.

From a Quartz online article about the industry:
"Hair transplants are an exacting and expensive operation where a doctor or technician makes thousands of small incisions at the front of the scalp, then takes hair follicles from the back of the head and inserts them into those incisions in the front. When it works, it results in new hair growth and is one of the only methods to combat baldness. When an operation is botched, the hair will grow in an unnatural direction and there’s a high risk for skin infection and scarring."

As an interesting juxtaposition to the red, raw open-wounded heads were the many, many travelers using face masks. Traveling at the height of the media saturation on the Coronavirus was a bit disconcerting even though we were not going to or coming from China. It was really interesting to see so many people in the Istanbul airport wearing the face masks while traveling along side so many men with open sores on their heads.

...and going.
And in between.

Today's poem is for the follicle-y challenged folks who opt for a little intervention up top:

hair scant?
hope to have
©2020, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Now THAT Takes the Cake!

And possibly the world record!

Zug is known for cherries. And a local bakery, Speck*, is known for their Kirschtorte (cherry cake). So much so, that they decided to celebrate their 125th anniversary by competing for the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest cherry cake. We're talking 241 kilograms and 4 meters in diameter! (*The word Speck in German translates to bacon in English! A funny name for a bakery, no? Actually, Speck is the family name of the founders of the bakery.)

Assembling the biscuit crust and base cake.

The "baking party" took place in the middle of a mall in Zug. Maureen and I take our German class in a classroom above where the action was taking place, so we got birds eye view of the beginnings of the process.

After the base was set, they set up for the next step: the cherry liqueur. I wish my blog had smell-o-vision feature so you could experience the pungent cherry liqueur aroma that permeated the mall. I think I got a little tipsy just smelling it. Of course, the baker** was flying high distributing the spirits...literally.

**This is Peter Speck - a member of the bakery dynasty family.

 He was harnessed to a pulley-system with two guys in the rafters serving as his counter weight.

Above to the left of the cake...
...and above to the right.

Using watering cans, the baker poured about 100 liters of cherry liqueur. Part of the world record requirement has to do with where the cherries in the liqueur are grown. The requirement is that "the alcohol that is used in its production must only be only Zug Kirsch (cherry) or Rigi (a local mountain) Kirsch (cherry)".

After the liqueur is poured, then the baker(s)*** spread on the buttercream...using an suspended body board, of course!

Live action...

...or on the Jumbo-tron above the live action.
After the first layer of buttercream they add another layer of biscuits and then more buttercream: 


 ***In addition to the flying baker, it also takes a small squad of bakers to pull this endeavor off.

Including the ones with the map of the finished product:

Studying the map...
...then collaborating on the execution of the plan.
The entire event was filmed by a local TV crew and emceed by a local Swiss TV personality.

Filming it all.
Couldn't understand a word of the Swiss German being spoken!

The finished products gets a crunchy nut edge treatment:

And then topped with powdered sugar:
Photo courtesy of

I'm sure that this ginormous Kirschtorte tasted fantastic, but we didn't stick around for the cutting/distributing ceremony. Apparently a 4 meter diameter cake works out to be 3,300 pieces! 

They won't find out if they achieved their world record status for a while. When I find out, I'll let you know! 

Today's poem is my simplified approach to baking a cake. A bit of a juxtaposition to the hoopla we witnessed in the mall.

(no) liqueur


©2020, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

What's your favorite flavor of cake? Let me know in the comments!🍰

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Swim Good at the Schwimmbad

The Swiss like their physical activities: hiking, biking, skiing. All ages, all the time. (Weather permitting).

One physical activity that is universally revered here in Switzerland is swimming. Indoor pools (in winter), outdoor pools, rivers and lakes (in summer) are always crowded with swimmers. And the Swiss expect that if you use swimming areas you are water safe. That is why at both the local and international schools, swimming is apart of the regular school curriculum for kids as young as kindergarten through grade 5. Lessons are a part of the school day - not a separate extra curricular activity. This commitment shows that the Swiss expect their populous to know how to swim.

All this being said, lifeguards are available in some swim areas, sometimes, but they are not guaranteed. Most pools and many lake/river beaches have a "swim at your own risk" approach to allowing access to water without employing lifeguards. Since this is not a litigious society, the populous is afforded certain freedoms but are expected to take responsibility for their actions. What a novel concept!

We frequent the local Schwimmbad (swimming pool) where they expect that you can swim good*. (I know, not the best grammar. The word, *well, would be better but not as funny of a juxtaposition to the bad in the German word, Schwimmbad.)

Signs clearly stating that you need to "keep an eye on children" are posted all over the facility.  Granted they are in Deutsch, but the picture explains it all.

And signs showing what is the proper way to enter the pool in a given area are also clearly posted and language requirements are avoided.

While there are no lifeguards on duty, there is an "office" where a few attendants (all wearing YELLOW shirts, not red) hang out. They occasionally walk through and among the pools (once every half hour or so), but never sit and watch swimmers. They seem to be mostly concerned with whether you have food/drink in the wrong areas.

Despite taking lessons when she was younger, Maureen had a bad experience while at a swimming pool in Tucson several years ago and has avoided swimming ever since. Moving to Switzerland and embracing the lifestyle has caused her to confront her fears. I am happy to say that she is taking a weekly 'refresher' swim course so she can get her swimming mojo back - taught by an instructor who only speaks Schweizerdeutsch! Hopefully next summer she will be joining Joe and I on our paddle boards on Lake Zug:

Slow and steady keeps Bridget on top of the board instead of in the lake!

Today's poem is dedicated to my brave swimmer, Maureen:



her steady breathing

are the only 


coming from 

the sleek 




the liquid blue.

Back and forth.

Up and back.
She is swimming.


©2020, Bridget Magee. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Magee/Uhlik Family 2019 Nutshell News

Happy New Year! We just got back from a whirlwind, family infused, two-week California vacation where we had lots of fun with many family members, not the least of which is our eldest daughter, Colleen.
Sisters: Maureen and Colleen

32+ hours of travel later and we arrived back home in Switzerland at midnight on NYE!
Fireworks just for us! (as seen through our train window)

New Year's Day (my 9 year blogaversary!) was spent trying to get back on track in this time zone. Not an easy task...
Smidgey is sleeping off her vacation, too.

Which brings us to today. The day we were supposed to go grocery shopping as our refrigerator is empty. And then I remembered. 2 January, is actually a bonus holiday in Canton Zug: Saint Berchtold day. Since shopping is not happening, today became the perfect day to reflect on 2019!

So, without further ado, the Magee/Uhlik Family 2019 Nutshell News:

*2019 trips:
Paris (February)
30th Anniversary cruise to France/Spain/Italy (April)
Paris (June)
Bern (July)
London (October)
California (December)

Happy New Year, dear reader! Here's to making 2020 amazing with lots of kindness, compassion, and more regular poetic postings. 😃