Month: November 2017

#26Cantons52Weeks: Zug

Canton: Zug

Destination: Zug (cantonal capital)

Guests: immediate family minus one due to school!

Interesting thing: We caught the Zug (train) to Zug. But Wikipedia tells me the name comes from a fishing term, where in the middle ages, Zug referred to the right to pull up fishing nets and hence to the right to fish.

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I met a guy from Zug at a Scandinavian Midsommar party in Zurich (just to confuse the Switzerland/Sweden thing even further). This has little to do with my story, except that it amused me at the time to meet someone who was born in Zug, one of Switzerland’s smallest, richest and lowest-taxed cantons. It seemed a bit like meeting someone born in London – ie: a rarity – when most residents move there because reasons.

Anyway, we had a little jaunt to Zug today, it’s less than an hour by train from Zurich. And it couldn’t have felt less like mid-summer. In fact, I think it’s the first day I’ve seen snowfall this winter! Brr.

I was unexpectedly charmed by Zug’s altstadt (old town). Although it’s fairly similar to other well-preserved old towns around Switzerland such as Solothurn, Fribourg and even Zurich itself, with lots of cool old buildings, carved wood and moulded stone, gothicky images and script and lots of fountains featuring knights and jester-types, Zug has its own unique charm. Not least because Lake Zug is very pretty, especially today, with a light dusting of snow on the slopes of the mountains across the water.

We had a stroll, or should I say, a brisk, chilly walk by the lake and visited the local aviary. Said g’day to a couple of Kookaburras looking rather miserable! Some snowy owls were more in their element. But I was mainly lakeside to check out the Roman Signer “Seesicht” sculpture, which takes you down below the waterline. I found it underwhelming and a little public-toiletesque. It looks much better in the Zug tourist site pictures. Oh well.

With snow zinging through the Zug air, it was time for lunch. I had a few hot tips on spots to eat from fellow blogger and local resident, Tamara, the part-time working hockey mom (thankyou!) and we couldn’t resist buying a couple of the indulgent, adults-only Zugerli chocs for afters. Yum.

I have read that the lake is also positioned to provide spectacular sunsets but weather conditions were not conducive and we couldn’t hang around… I’ll simply have to return to Zug in mid-summer for that!

 

Do I look cold?

 

PS: Thanks to the encouragement of various people and my own sheer pig-headedness, I now think I will manage to achieve my goal of visiting every Swiss canton this year. Woo! 

 

Cantons visited / to go so far. 

Aargau

Appenzell Ausserrhoden

Appenzell Innerrhoden

Basel-Landschaft

Basel-Stadt

Bern

Fribourg

Geneva

Glarus

Graubünden

Jura

Luzern

Neuchâtel

Nidwalden

Obwalden

Schaffhausen

Schwyz

Solothurn

St. Gallen

Thurgau

Ticino

Uri

Valais

Vaud

Zug

Zürich

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Lodestone

I wake to

your call

in the night

we lie parallel

I I

two, at 2am

asleep

your nose

tucks beneath my shoulder

I’m your lodestone

head buried, body pivots

north

to 3 o’clock

how can one so small

be half my life

how can one so small

rob half my night

how can one so small

take up so much room

in the bed

 

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@hirsch

Pack up your bushel in your old kit bag: Spoken word

 

I think the problems

are the bad things ?

I think the strengths weak

oh, cut the strings

 

Talk, talk, talk, talk

feels like a beginning

but it’s banter, chatter, nothing-muchof

saying ‘I am’ is not winning

 

It’s all fused like

a mangled globe of light

don’t hide it under a bushel, love!

but what if/ the bad things/ the bad thoughts/ the bad strengths/ the bad weaks/ the bad weeks/ the bad strings

are right?

 

 

Soundcloud link: https://soundcloud.com/user-808707280/recording-125

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@pieschwarzler

26Cantons52Weeks: Basel-Landschaft

Canton: Basel-Landschaft

Destination: World of Dinosaurs, Birsfelden

Special guests: two very excited little boys

Interesting thing: We never knew the Rhine river had locks, but we got a chance to see two large, industrial river barges using them. Rather different to London’s cozy canals!

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The year is slipping away from me and it feels like the winter cold and dark has really kicked in now. I’m trying to make it to all the cantons but I might have to pull a few swifties and re-link to old posts or even invite some guest bloggers in to help me out if I’m going to make my deadline. But you don’t care about that, do you? Here be dinosaurs!

It’s nice when a plan comes together. Basel-Landschaft seems a rather like the poor cousin of the vibrant city of Basel-Stadt (they were once one canton but separated as the result of a scuffle in 1833 and now each rates as a half-canton in Swiss politics). And yeah, from my thorough research (Google and Wikipedia) as far as I can see, Baselland is mostly comprised of the rural area around Switzerland’s 3rd largest city. I am keen to visit the Roman ruins at the outdoor museum Augusta Raurica but that’s more suited to summertime. So I was pleased to find out about this dinosaur exhibition located on a small island on the BASELLAND side of the Rhine!

Truth be told, World of Dinosaurs was looking a little sad and dishevelled on Sunday. It has been cold and damp and, while there’s snow on the higher ground, there was none here. It’s that time of year when most of the autumn leaves have fallen but none of the snowy winter or Christmas magic has quite kicked in.

No matter. Two small boys were very excited as we approached and the subzero wind lifted the netting on the netting to show a hint of Mammoth tusk and thunder-lizard tail as we circumnavigated the exterior of Dino Corral. Inside, we were one of maybe four families there? The café was closed and the ground was muddy. But it was a pretty cool display and when the sun came out, we got some nice snaps. Points too for the so-bad-it’s-good dino-scooters ride complete with onboard Schlager soundtrack.

Although he was a bit wary of them at first, right before we left, my six year-old gave the three animatronic dinosaurs the ratings of two thumbs up, two thumbs up and ten out of ten. Success.

 

Cantons visited / to go so far. 

Aargau

Appenzell Ausserrhoden

Appenzell Innerrhoden

Basel-Landschaft

Basel-Stadt

Bern

Fribourg

Geneva

Glarus

Graubünden

Jura

Luzern

Neuchâtel

Nidwalden

Obwalden

Schaffhausen

Schwyz

Solothurn

St. Gallen

Thurgau

Ticino

Uri

Valais

Vaud

Zug

Zürich

#26Cantons52Weeks: Bern

 

Springtime in Wilderswil

Canton: Bern

Destination: Wilderswil

Special guests: An informal writing group on retreat

Interesting thing: In Bern you’ll find Jungfraujoch, which is the highest railway station in Europe (3,454 m above sea level)

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It’s the one you’ve been waiting for! I promised to write up Bern months ago but, I’ll be honest, I was waiting for a better offer… I had hoped to take a trip here with my parents, possibly to Mürren (best place in the country, according to Swiss Family Sabbatical). Alas it never happened, although we did manage to visit Basel-Stadt, Schwyz, Obwalden and Schaffhausen so I shouldn’t complain!

I’ll also be in Bern in a few weeks for my annual ‘lonely freelancer Xmas drinks’ but time marches on and I’m going to try to honour my commitment to myself by finishing #26Cantons52Weeks in, well, 52 weeks. So… to Bern.

As a canton, Bern has a lot to offer. It kind of seems like it should qualify as two cantons: Bern the city – capital of Switzerland with a UNESCO listed old town centre – and the Bernese Oberland, which encompasses the Bernese Alps and contains more than its fair share of stunning spots such as the Oschinenesee, Reichenbach falls (of Sherlock Holmes fame), gorgeous towns such as the above-mentioned Mürren and the Big Three mountains: Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

Back in April, I attended an informal writer’s retreat weekend organised by my friend and fellow blogger Tara Grioud, where I wrote poetry (for poetry month) and fiction with a can’t-quite-believe-it’s-real backdrop of the mountains out my window at the Hotel Berghof. I’m thinking a lot about writing at the moment (well, perhaps I always am) because I’m trying to work out my gameplan for next year: get back to the novel? Pitch more stuff? Try to find a job? Stubbornly attempt to finish the #26Cantons project even if I don’t make it by December 31? Er… yes.

Anyway, what more can I say that you don’t already know about Bern… the towns are pretty, the views are incred. The writing went as it did. It takes bloody ages to get here from Zurich so is worth staying overnight or longer. There are plenty of other amazing spots in the Bernese Oberland I want to visit in future. It’s a very full canton. But this post is getting too long so I’ll leave you to enjoy the slideshow.

Oh, and before you go, here’s my poem about Bern

 

Cantons visited / to go so far. 

Aargau

Appenzell Ausserrhoden

Appenzell Innerrhoden

Basel-Landschaft

Basel-Stadt

Bern

Fribourg

Geneva

Glarus

Graubünden

Jura

Luzern

Neuchâtel

Nidwalden

Obwalden

Schaffhausen

Schwyz

Solothurn

St. Gallen

Thurgau

Ticino

Uri

Valais

Vaud

Zug

Zürich

Bluelight

The world makes itself anew

colder and darker

in this hemisphere

begins to shutter herself

for winter and why

do I always see a dull sunrise

over the Piccadilly line

those rows and rows of human homes

neat and pointed, roofs as far

as the eye can see

I can see

the world begin and end here

maybe

mean old time

is a bully from Greenwich

a bleak day

for a new year

as the pall of a zillion tiny screens

slides over faces

uncaring and uncareful with unshed

bluelight tears

Blood

every woman knows

how to wash

blood from cloth

so it disappears

you might see the shadow of the stain

if you know how to look

oh, we hear the whispers

secret shames, not saying names

like we know the ache of

cold hands

cracked with soap

to soak blood away

tendrils shift and flow but

no, never be new again

blood, blood, indelible and

has War been declared?

or merely a parable

as we breathe battle cries

in soft, lipstick-smears

but

don’t underestimate the touch

the shrill, strident, bossy, quiet, nurturing clamour

of those who ken

how

to out blood

because we know how

know when,

oh, me too

minor, major, doesn’t matter

the wound sits

dark, underneath

and maybe it’s time

to win a battle

crack silence, a shot

and

take a little ground

do not, do not, underestimate the power

of those whose life is bound

in blood and shadows

do you feel it? The rising awe, the gore

I can taste blood. Blood! I can taste

a shift. blood

Blood,

I can taste…

victory

 

 

Added to dVerse open link night

26Cantons52Weeks: Basel-Stadt

Jellyfish in the Vivarium

Canton: Basel-Stadt

Destination: Zoo Basel

Interesting thing: Basel Zoo is called “Zolli” by loving locals, according to tourist site MySwitzerland

Special guests: my parents again (this was the last one, sadly!)

I’m not big on zoos, nor animals in general, but when you have young kids to entertain, whatchagonnado? And I’ll tell you a secret:

Basel Zoo is better than Zurich Zoo.

While it feels rather disloyal to say it, Switzerland’s oldest and largest zoo (by number of animals) in Basel seems to show that experience wins hands-down over Zurich’s… um… funding? Location? I don’t know.

Don’t get me wrong. Zurich Zoo is great and has saved my elephant-hide on many occasions when I desperately needed somewhere easy-ish to take two small kids that provided entertainment, shelter and food for an entire day.

And yet… and yet… Zurich Zoo sprawls rather awkwardly over an uneven, hilly terrain that means you always spend more time hoofing about than actually viewing your favourite four-legged creatures. Because of the layout, you have to make choices, too: Lions or Elephants? Tigers or Lemurs? Distance and gradient mean it’s almost impossible to see both in the same visit, especially with youngsters in tow.

Basel, on the other hand, curves and undulates in a far more pleasant and sensible-seeming way, meaning you naturally come across a lovely variety of its animal inhabitants. This is the second time I’ve been and I started from different ends of the zoo each time but on both occasions managed to see the gorgeous snow leopards, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, orangutans and the fish house/Vivarium. My eldest is also perversely fascinated by the locusts here and we loved seeing the Bison last year (missed them this time around – you can’t see everything!). But the stars of the show were definitely the Hippos. Wow, they put on a fantastic display.

Giraffes at Zoo Basel

Plus the main restaurant is brilliant. Maybe we had great timing (although we were there on a weekend, in school holidays), or perhaps there was a winning ratio of adults to kids (3:2 versus 2:4 usually at Zuri!) but Basel Zoo’s main eatery seemed far better set out and less crowded than its Zurich counterpart/s. Plus, they have the innovation of bagged lunches for kids and, believe me, when you’re juggling two hungry youngsters, a buggy and your own meal, it’s an absolute godsend not to have to balance a precarious lunch-tray as well!

Don’t get me wrong, Zurich Zoo is amazing but I gotta say, Basel’s got the edge. Bravo Basel!

Two months / nine weekends to go and eight cantons left to visit/ write up… hmmm.