Wednesday, 31 May 2017

That's May in the Bag

Sitting at my desk today thinking about the topics I wanted to talk about on here, I suddenly realised it was May 31st and I had completed my month of blogging... except for two days I made the conscious choice not to blog.

I wouldn't say that the blogs were of any great calibre but I did something after months of nothing. I'll take it.

I've set my goal going forward to post (at least) three times a week, with an aim of posting Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. I'll see how that works for June and adjust after that if necessary.

You know, I never did write a post where I was wistfully nostalgic for Switzerland...

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, I've been reminded that it was four years ago this month that I was last in Switzerland. For those who don't know about my love of Switzerland, you can read how I ended up there here.

The Swiss use the term Röstigraben for the divide between the French-speaking and German-speaking parts of Switzerland. It means 'Rösti ditch' and refers to the cultural differences between the two sides. (Rösti is a staple in German-speaking Switzerland.) In Fribourg, is one of the only places where there is a physical representation of the Röstigraben. In the picture below is the River Saane (German) or Sarine (French). To the left of river was the German settlement of Freiburg, to the right was the French settlement of Fribourg. While both sides speak French now, the river is still considered the border of the Röstigraben.

Bern: come for the culture, stay for the bear porn. When I first visited Bern almost two decades ago, the Bear Pits were just that: pits in the earth. Small, miserable, depressing pits. Since then, the city has cordoned off a sizable chunk of the hillside leading down to the Aare (the river), and has even fenced in part of the river for them to swim in. Above the bear area is a lovely restaurant and bar called the Altes Tramdepot. The food's decent, but the beer (they brew their own) and view are divine.

Karin and I took the slow boat to her parents' house across Thunersee (Lake of Thun). I was there in May. There is snow on those mountains. THERE SHOULD NOT BE SNOW ON THOSE MOUNTAINS IN MAY!!! Of course, all the snow was rain by the time it reached us. Such a wet visit.

It rained heavily every day I was in and around Thun. It even snowed when we were in Sigriswil due to the slightly higher elevation. Woke up the morning I was leaving and it was absolutely beautiful and forecasted to stay that way all week. I'm not bitter.

Looking down the Aare towards Eiger and Niesen (mountains in the background).

My deal with myself is that I'm allowed to return to all these places I love as long as I see some place or thing I haven't seen before. This trip, I decided to visit Lugano in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. This was the only sun I saw the entire time I was there until, you guessed it, the day I left. Seriously, not bitter at all.

The rain was so awful one morning that I stayed in bed instead of going for breakfast. The dining hall was outside in an old converted barn and it was raining so hard that the trees just 15 feet from the French doors were just shadows. Warm bed and a book trumps swimming to breakfast any day.

The view from my friend's balcony in St. Gallen. To the right of the house you can see the line of white markers. That's a firing range for the Swiss Army. Because of that, no building is permitted on this field. Given that the range is only in use three or four times a year, it means that the field is a giant playground for all the neighbourhood kids. Hard to believe this is a 10 minute walk from the centre of town!

My favourite part about visiting Basel is walking across the border to Germany just because I can.

Basel City Hall.

 The cloisters at the church.

On my way back to my friends in Elfingen, I decided to make a stop in Rheinfelden. I had heard that it was a quaint town, it has a fantastic brewery just on the edge of town, and I could do the annoying thing of walking back and forth across the bridge between two countries.

The town was adorable and I wish I had given myself more time to explore instead of leaving it as an afterthought on my way home.

When you visit the Roman ruins in Brugg, you cheer for the non-existent gladiators. That's just a fact.

One of my friends and I spent the day at Habsburg Castle. That's right. Austria's most powerful family were actually Swiss. Boo-yah! The family took their name from this castle which remained in their possession until the mid 1400s when the lands and castle were taken by the Swiss. The family had already shifted to Vienna as their power base about a century before so it wasn't a huge loss to them, but I hope it irked them. The castle that gave them their last name forever in the hands of the democratic and independent Swiss. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! The castle affords lovely views of the surrounding areas and has a breath-taking collection of china. We may have wandered into an out-of-bounds area where they were setting up for a black-tie dinner.

The Swiss parliament buildings in Bern. Bern is usually listed as the capital of Switzerland but, fun fact, Switzerland doesn't have an official capital! Switzerland is a confederation with equal power sharing between all the cantons*. Bern becomes the de facto capital, however, as it is home to the parliament buildings and most of the government offices.

(*They have a federal counsel that are elected by the Federal Assembly to a four year term but rotate their positions on the counsel every year so none of them hold power for the entire term.)

Looking up Kramgasse towards the Zytglogge. (I love Swiss-German. That would be Zeitglockenturm in "real" German.) The old town of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage site. With its covered arcades, hundred-odd fountains, and cobblestone streets, it is just so darn beautiful. And I hate it because my first 24-hours in Bern were awful and I vowed to dislike it forever. But it's winning me over.

Stupid pretty Bern.

Back in Thun on a bridge crossing the Aare. Thun will forever and always have a piece of my heart.

Crossing the Panoramabrücke and looking back at Sigriswil. Sigriswil is yet another part of Switzerland that will forever have a piece of my heart. Long after the Hostettlers have moved on from this area, I'll be coming to visit. Crossing the bridge, sitting under the oak tree at the look out, mailing letters at the post office and saying 'I once knew the Postmaster here'.

Ah, Swiitz! Ik hab Di gärn. (Switzerland. I love you.)

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