Thursday, October 31, 2013

5 Great Autumn Hikes in Switzerland

The Frau loves fall in Switzerland—when it’s not rainy and foggy, that is. After seven years of not-so-scientific observation, the fall seems to peak sometime between October 20-November 4. So when you get that rare sunny day, fellow yodelers, do not stop to collect your personal belongings—except for maybe your camera and your SBB train pass–just go as quickly as possible to one of these places:


Morteratsch Glacier hike in the Fall
The hike from the Morteratsch train station to the Morteratsch Glacier and back (about 6k in total) is one of the most beautiful in Switzerland. Especially when the orange and yellow leaves frame the icy snow against a blue sky. The wide, fairly level trail is also suitable for strollers. If you work up an appetite, the hotel next to the Morteratsch station serves up tasty lunches (pumpkin ravioli, anyone?) To extend the hike, you could also start at the Pontresina train station.

There’s a reason this 32k area along Lake Geneva is called the Swiss Riviera. In fact, there’s no place like Lavaux when the vineyards begin their magical transformation from green to gold. The perfume of fermenting grapes will fill the air so you might as well give in and have a glass of wine to celebrate your hike through this UNESCO World Heritage Site. This trail is also wide and paved, making it a great option for strollers and families.


When The Frau can’t make it to Lavaux, she settles for Schartenfels, or what she calls the Aargauer Riviera. From the castle/restaurant, Schloss Schartenfels, located a mere 500 uneven stairs above Baden, a pleasant gravel/paved trail allows you to do about a 40-minute loop through the colorful vineyards. If you want to taste the wine from this region, The Hotel Blume in Baden serves it at their restaurant.
Lej de Staz

Lej de Staz

Feeling reflective? A pleasant, stroller-friendly stroll or bike ride from St. Moritz to Lej de Staz will allow you to enjoy the fall foliage surrounding these two beautiful lakes. From Lej de Staz, you could continue hiking to either Pontresina or Punt Muragl.

Gebenstorfer Horn

A hike (or bike ride) from Baden to the Gebenstorfer horn will take you past Baldegg, where on a clear day you’ll have a wonderful view of the Alps and the option to have lunch at the Baldegg Restaurant. Then you’ll pass through woods and farmland filled with apple trees, finally arriving at the Gebenstorfer horn, where you’ll have a view of the Limmat, Reuss, and Aare rivers all coming together. You can then continue your hike to Turgi, Brugg, or return to Baden.

Where do you like to hike in Switzerland during the fall?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Doing Breaststroke in the Swiss Freestyle Lane, Oh my!

Lately, The Frau has been disturbing Swiss order in a big, fat unintentional American way.

First, if you’ll remember, she had the nerve to think that banana bread could be a substitute for Zopf at a Swiss daycare birthday party for her daughter.

Then, she ventured to do one length of breaststroke in the freestyle and backstroke lane at the pool in Zurich. How dare she think she could get away with that, yodelers!

Finally, after these two incidents within a week, when buying a couple of train tickets for her parents, she asked two different SBB clerks in Baden to double check that she could use a both a Mitfahrbillet and a Mitnahme GA together with her own GA (Swiss train pass).
SBB Rules: One conductor had
her own version of them.
Photo: Brian Opyd

Ja ja, was the reply, after much research and phone calling on the SBB ticket agent side—because who the heck would try to combine two SBB promotions other than a cheapskate American expat…

But nevertheless, three train connections into their Mitfahrbillet, Mitnahme GA, and GA journey, The Frau was told she broke the rules (how dare she use these two ticket combinations together!) by an SBB train conductor. The Frau argued her way out in crappy Deutsch, finally ending the 10-minute discussion with a, “Dass ist nicht mein Problem that in your eyes the rules are different than the SBB ticket agents in Baden.”

Go Frau!

“Well I'll let it go this time,” said the SBB train conductor (finally!), “but don’t go doing something like this ever again!”
(A classic example of Swiss customer service.)

All of these experiences made The Frau realize how she never, no matter how long she lives in Switzerland, quite fits in. No matter how hard she tries to follow Swiss rules, she always ends up interpreting them in an American way.

In other words, she always assumes more leniency, customer service, and friendliness than she receives. She can’t help it. And it doesn’t matter that her American husband plays the alphorn or that they both play Jass. After 7+ years in Switzerland, they still can’t seem to play by what’s most important: the rules.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A loaf of banana bread in a sea of Zopf

The Frau is a loaf banana bread in a sea of Zopf.

Let her explain.

Baby M had a birthday. At her daycare, parents are encouraged to bring a loaf of Zopf (Swiss sweet bread) instead of cake. A recipe for Zopf (written in German) was given to all parents a few months ago.

As a working mother, however, The Frau has limited time to bake on a weeknight and thus no tolerance for a German recipe for something she’s never made before. Being the black sheep that she is, she assumed that something similar to Zopf, such as banana bread, would be an acceptable alternative.

So after work, in between making dinner and taking care of Baby M, she somehow managed to cook a loaf of banana bread.

The next morning, however, the daycare explained that cake was not acceptable even though The Frau had made banana BREAD. No explanation mattered. Her efforts were not acceptable. Nothing, in fact would be acceptable. Except a loaf of Zopf.

The worst part is, The Frau should have known better. Nothing in this rejected world of American banana bread surprised her. The fact that she had created a creative alternative demonstrated that she will never be Swiss. No matter how much Zopf eats.

So Baby M had no daycare birthday party since the banana bread was rejected right in front of her. Luckily, Baby M didn’t really understand. But in another year, the whole incident probably would have caused her to hang her head in shame, to have such a loaf banana bread in a world of Zopf for a mother.

Oh well. One loaf of rejected banana bread later, The Frau a Swiss lesson learned has. And Baby M all the more banana bread to herself enjoyed.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Swiss Price Rant

The Frau sometimes feels so integrated in Switzerland that she forgets that spending CHF 20 ($22) on a lunch that she will eat at her desk is actually, in fact, not a very good deal!

Nothing like a Spain vacation to bring her back to Swiss reality.

For every 1.50 Euro ($2) beer, yodelers, the Spanish gave The Frau a FREE tapas. After seven years of being charged for dinner roles even though her CHF 25 ($27.50) schnitzel wasn’t exactly a bargain, The Frau had forgotten about FREE.
After Switzerland, eating in the rest
of the world seems cheap.

In Spain, she had three-course lunches including coffee and a drink for the price of one glass of Swiss mineral water.

She had a churro made fresh on the spot for 60 cents ($.81).

She bought fresh olives at a market for 1.50 ($2).

The only purchase she questioned?

Why she had bought a round-trip ticket.

Forgive The Frau, Switzerland. But it’s her first week back since going to Spain and she is having a little lunch remorse. Can you blame her? She just spent CHF 9 ($10) for one TAKE-AWAY sandwich.

Sadly, she wanted chips and an apple from the GROCERY STORE too. Another CHF 6 ($6.60) down the tubes, all so The Frau could have a romantic lunch AT HER DESK and gaze out at THE FOG.


But don’t worry, Switzerland. The Frau isn’t leaving again anytime soon. So in 72.56 hours (approximately), she will most likely go back to thinking overpriced is normal.


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