Not knowing yet how to get local news and schedules of events, my family and I walked down to the lakefront after a rainy day spent in Zurich to find out what the local festival in Zug was going to be like. The weather in Zug had turned nice and sunny during the day, so our walk was pleasant, though I was tired from our trip. I think I proclaimed to my family that I had walked at least ten miles already that day.

In any event, the event turned out to be a non-event, at least at the lakefront. The officials, making a call on the weather at roughly 6:00 a.m., had decided to cancel it, so although the lake looked lovely as it usually does in the early evening, there was no festival of which to partake. We walked home from the non-festival along a street parallel to the one we are familiar with – we are quite the adventurous travelers, love to shake things up. Just across the street from the entrance to our complex, in the tiny front yard of a house, was a miniature tableau of a cave or cavern, water trickling through rock, and at least six little gnomes, only a few inches tall. I exclaimed over the darling display (which I would have found way too kitschy had it been ten times larger), and vowed to take a photo of it before we moved to our permanent apartment.
Turning away from the house, I had not quite redirected my attention to the street that we needed to cross to get to our apartment when a tan man with wavy blond hair who looked like he spent considerable time at a gym each week started talking to us. I had no idea where he came from – besides us and now this stranger the street was empty. I stopped, my husband and kids just ahead of me. The man was talking and smiling. Asking me a question perhaps? He smiled when he finished his sentence/s. My first impression, because I had just been standing in front of the house with the display, was that he was saying something like, “Cute gnome tableau, eh?”, quickly to be succeeded by another impression, that he was asking us if we were the family Tomat. Such is the way one’s mind can work when one recognizes only the smallest bit of Swiss German. So then I thought, the man smiling at me all the while, perhaps this man is looking for the family who lives in this house, and their name is Tomat, and he thinks we are that family because we had been standing right there.
I smiled back at him and said, in German, that I didn’t understand him. He smiled again and spoke again, again asking me a/several question/s. If I smile enough, he seemed to be thinking, she is sure to understand me. Well, he was wrong, but this time I did detect a word that sounded like “Gartenstadt.” This was the name of the street that we usually walked on when we came back from town, and it was close by, so I started indicating that it was just down this way a bit farther. I can almost imagine that he said, “This is not Gartenstadt?” and that I said, in response, “No, it is down this street, then turn right.” Finally, smiling at me (it was really just one extended smile if you can picture this), the blond man took off down the street, in the direction of Gartenstadt. We all took turns looking behind us as we approached our apartment in case he was following.