Makes Cents!

Pardon the pun. I recently saw an article about the decline of popularity of the American penny. It got me thinking about the Swiss money system. The Swiss equivalent of a cent is a rappen. You can only get rappen as small as 5. The denominations are 5, 10, 20, and 50.

Also, the Swiss Franc paper money doesn’t start until the 10 Franc note. You can only get smaller Francs as coins in denominations of 1, 2, and 5. Another interesting note (ha! full of puns today!), if you withdraw money from an ATM, you will receive the highest denominations possible, unless you select otherwise (if the option for smaller denominations is available). Heath’s eyes bugged out the first time the ATM spat out a 200 CHF note at him instead of a wad of 20’s.

All in all, I think the Swiss system is, I think. Although I did have to buy a new wallet with a coin-holder!

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And the cow says… MOO!

Sorry, we’ve been reading far more children’s books than adult’s books lately. But it relates to my quick post of the day. For some reason over the past week or so, if I have the north-facing windows open, I will quite clearly hear a bellowing cow. The nearest ones I know of are a handful that were brought from some higher pastures to some pastures that are in between the line of houses of our area and the wooded walking trails. Like this guy:

And he’s probably a half a mile away! I guess that the acoustics of living on the side of a hill account for some of it, and that the cows here are just really loud.

Interesting snacks

I always like to try new food items and you never know what wacky food combinations will work well. This week I grabbed two new snacks, Snips and Schoko Pfeffer-Nüsse, and two favorites I discovered last year, Lebkuchen and Quarkini.

Snips are the same consistency of Cheetos (maybe a little less gummy on the teeth), and instead of cheese flavoring, they are made with peanuts. It is sort of like eating puffed rice peanut butter. Not bad, but not something I think I’ll be madly craving when we go back to the states.

Despite my hope that all things Christmas would not appear in shops until after Thanksgiving, most grocery stores have started selling Christmas candy and cookies. In one such display at the checkout line, I grabbed a bag labeled Schoko Pfeffer-Nüsse. Schoko is short for schokolade, or chocolate. Pfeffer is pepper, but I temporarily forgot this, and thought it meant peppermint. And Nüsse is nuts. I was hoping it was some sort of chocolate peppermint and nut cookie. No such luck. These were a soft gingerbread cookie flavored with real pepper, and dipped in a chocolate and unknown white candy shell. Not all that great, and I’m a fan of mixing things like chili and chocolate.

My favorite treat right now is definitely the Lebkuchen. They sell it in little packages and at the markets and grocery stores. Even the cheap ones at the drug stores are good! The Swiss version of Lebkuchen is a tiny (usually heart-shaped) cake or really soft gingerbread cookie, filled with a dark apricot preserve, and the whole thing dipped in dark chocolate. They are extremely addictive, and I will buy as many bags as I can to take home with us.

Last but certainly not least is the Quarkini, found at local bakeries. They remind me of a cross between a really good Cruller donut with a slightly creamy, but light and airy center, shaped like a large donut-hole and rolled in sugar. I’m not sure why these only appear in the winter, but I love them! They almost never make them home, as we eat them while walking. Too bad they usually cost at least a Franc each, because I could probably eat a dozen at one sitting! Based on the name, I believe that these treats are made with Quark (a type of curd or cream cheese that is often added to desserts or yogurt over here).

Quarkini

All this snack-talk is making me nibbly. I think I’ll go see if there are any more Lebkuchen in the pantry!

Altstadt Market in Winterthur

One of my favorite things about Switzerland is all the local food. I’m a big advocate, whenever possible, to eat locally and try to reduce our carbon footprint by regularly eating goods that are transported hundreds or thousands of miles. The Swiss are very proud of their local foods, and all foods are required to have the country of origin located somewhere on the packaging (or in the case of the grocery store, on the sign). Sometimes you pay a bit more for Swiss goods, but I think it is worth it.

Every Tuesday and Friday in the Winterthur altstadt (old town), there is a farmers market. I’m not sure what time the shops set up, but at 10:45 AM every one of them begins packing up goods (but a please and a smile will get you a few last-minute goods). Usually all of the food is local, with perhaps cherries from France or olives from Greece, but usually no further than that. There are copious amounts of small farms with stands packed with the season’s best and tons of florists. (The Swiss are keen to keep fresh flowers on the graves and in their window boxes. I’ve seen some truly outstanding gardens as well.) There are also two fish stands, a number of cheese and bread stands, some selling fresh homemade pasta, and a tiny spot for a lady that only sells fresh organically grown herbs.

I love going there whenever I can. The folks are always incredibly nice and helpful. I often get free samples offered to me, and sometimes they’ll toss something extra in my bag when I buy stuff. I’ve gotten free mushrooms, a bag of fresh egg noodles, extra Japanese Lantern shells, and even extra apples. Unless there is an event in the altstadt, pretty much each shop is in the same spot every week. It is nice when I want to say, just get some fish and some bread, or I’m craving a slice of lemon chocolate chip cake from a baked goods stand that is all the way at one end of the market line.

The market is year-round, but there are fewer stalls in the early spring, when there’s not much produce to sell other than stored apples and potatoes and eggs. During the month of December the Christmas Market competes for space in the altstadt. Practically each town in Switzerland has a farmers market once or twice a week – there’s even one in the middle of the busy Zurich hauptbahnhof (main train station)!

Here’s a few pictures of my cherished Winterthur market, mostly taken earlier in the summer.

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Announcement!

We are moving back to Texas in January!

Lots of details still to be ironed out, but I’m sad, happy, worried, and stressed all at once.

We still plan to take a few more day trips and at least one weekend trip within Switzerland, so I’m sure I’ll have more to post in the next few months. I’ve also got a backlog of posting that I keep meaning to get around to. And since this blog isn’t just about us living in Switzerland, but also about our travels, I’ll be sure to update any future interesting adventures.

Touring Switzerland and the rest of Europe

I was thinking today about how many places we’ve seen and explored here in Switzerland over the last year and few months that we’ve lived here and how much more we want to see, not just of Switzerland, but of Europe.

Even though I’ve not written about all of them here on this blog, here are some of the places we’ve been to. The ones that have an tic mark are ones we want to go back to and explore again:

  • Appenzell
  • Bern
  • Basel *
  • Baden
  • Luzern/Lucerne *
  • Montreaux *
  • Schaffhausen
  • Stein am Rhein *
  • Zurich *
  • Winterthur
  • Rapperswil
  • St. Gallen
  • Mountains: Pilatus, Titlus, Santis, Rigi, Jungfrau, and one whose name escapes me
  • Bellinzona
  • Locarno
  • Interlaken *

Here are some of the places and things left that we want to see and do in Switzerland:

  • Alpfahrt and Alpabfahrt (cow parade between high and low pastures)
  • Aargau
  • Chur
  • Neuchatel
  • Tobogganing in Interlaken
  • Sion
  • Zermatt (where the Matterhorn is)
  • Geneva (we went through it, but didn’t get to explore it)
  • Montreaux Jazz Festival
  • Gruyeres – to see the cheese making and the nearby factory of Callier (chocolate)
  • Schweiz – the heart of Switzerland and its namesake
  • Thur Cathedral
  • Lugano
  • Kronbrog – Summer Toboggan run (train stop at Jakobsbad)
  • Hergiswill – glassworks
  • Urnersee
  • Kloster Einseideln
  • Glacier Express (despite its name, it is a slow scenic train ride through the mountains)
  • Maienfeld (origin of the novel Heidi)
  • Sierre
  • Leukerbad and Lotschental
  • Regensburg
  • Oberhofen on the Thunersee

Outside of Switzerland, there’s tons more to explore, if only we had the time and more importantly the money. Even living here, travel isn’t cheap, and the dollar is currently suffering quite pitifully in comparison to the Euro. And recently, the dollar has taken a severe dive against the Swiss Franc – huge problem for us, because we are still paid in US dollars, and were using the exchange rate as sort of a buffer against the high cost of living here. But enough about money, how about some hopefully attainable dreams? Continue reading

Team Building Hiking Trip and the Alp Aufzug

A month or so ago (I’m late as usual to posting events) my husband went on a Team Building hiking trip thing. His team took a train to bus to a cable car up a mountain, and then hiked back down the mountain, going down on scooters partway, and stopping for the occasional beer. The day ended with dinner together. It was an all-day thing, and even though he was pretty tired at the end, my husband had a blast.

On their way up the mountain, though, Heath encountered a really special parade – one I’d hoped to see during my time in Switzerland, but have thus far missed: the parade of cows from the high pasture to the low pasture in the fall (and vice-versa in the spring), called Alp Aufzug. This is a very integral part of Swiss rural culture. Lots of tourists and Swiss citizens flock to small alpine towns to view the parades. There’s often a specific traditional order and custom to the parades. The one that Heath saw started with children leading goats, and then the adult men in their bright vests leading cows wearing huge bells. And at the end was a man in brown. I’ve seen photographs of other parades where women wear traditional costumes including a fantastic headdress that looks like it belongs in the movie Dune and men blowing those huge Alpine horns at the end of the day. I missed it this year, but I’m determined to go to one of these parades next year.

My husband got some absolutely fantastic photos of the event:

children in traditional Swiss costume leading the Alp Aufzug

Cheese cart at the end of the parade.

Heath’s coworkers were a little boggled by his eagerness to scramble out of the bus (which had to pull to the side of the road) to take pictures of cows (twice! there were two parades that day!). But they just teased him over beers later. Here’s a few shots of his hike. Continue reading