26cantons52weeks

26Cantons52Weeks: Zürich

Beautiful Zurich

Canton: Zürich

Destination: Zurich (and beyond!)

Interesting thing: You’ll see it spelled Zürich, Zurich and Zuerich, all are correct. Zurich (without the umlaut) is the English/international spelling – easier for the internet and is commonly adopted since it’s a multicultural city with multinational companies as well as institutions such as ETH University that mostly deal in English. Zuerich is the German-non-umlaut way to write it and is often used in web addresses (ü is pronounced ‘ue’). Although a local friend recently mentioned on hearing Nick Cave’s “Hello Zurich” at a concert that I’ve been pronouncing my adopted city name wrong all this time… I guess you can take the girl out of Australia…

Special guests: practically everyone I know here?

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I’ve saved the best til last: it’s Zurich!*

What do I say about the canton and city I’ve called my home for nearly four years now? Four years is a long time. Thinking back, while I lived in the cities of Sydney and London for longer, our flat in Zurich is probably the longest house I’ve lived in continuously since becoming an adult. I feel pretty at home here, although various circumstances mean it’s still sometimes hard to feel settled.

Despite hitting an average of one Swiss canton every fortnight throughout the year for #26Cantons52Weeks, the bulk of my time has been spent in good old Zuri. We had a great summer with lovely weather, lots of swimming and what now feels like a regular influx of visitors from abroad – always a pleasure and a great excuse to explore further afield.

I have travelled a fair bit in the canton of Zurich too – discovering new things, visiting friends who live either side of the Zurisee (Lake Zurich) and in the hinterland of Winterthur, Dietlikon etc. But I guess my main focus has been on the canton’s capital city and my small corner of it.

I went in the Limmatschwimmen for the second year in a row. I wrote a Love letter to Zurich in a local publication. And, aside from #26Cantons52Weeks and other writing successes, perhaps my biggest, unexpected personal achievement this year has been that I started running in summer, which has been kind of a revelation and saver-of-my-sanity. For me, this culminated in participating in the annual Zurich Silvesterlauf winter 10km run. From the name, the Silvesterlauf should be today (New Year’s Eve is called ‘Silvester’ in German, lauf = run) but it was actually a few weeks ago, for reasons you can read about on their site.

It was my first-ever official run. The weather was utterly appalling – snow, sleet, rain and -5 through the day. I didn’t have a companion runner and by my start time of 17.30 it was already dark so I told my husband and kids to skip it and stay warm and dry at home. And, I guess maybe that’s what I’ve come to love about Zurich. I know it well enough that I can head into town after dark on a shitty day and run 10km by myself and feel like I’m ‘part’ of something.

Another lone-runner asked me to snap a finishing pic of her so I got her to return the favour. I wished I’d given her a hug, or at least a high-five. But that’s quite Zurich too – people aren’t all up in your shit. There was no participator medal given at the end, just the standard bottle of Swiss fizzy drink Rivella. I slushed home through the city, soaked to the skin and on a huge high.

So here’s to another big year of my life in Switzerland doing and seeing things that surprise and impress me all the time. Love Switzerland. Love Zurich. Roll on 2018!

Silvesterlauf – success!

*best-known anyway!

AND THAT’S A WRAP PEOPLE: I have achieved my self-imposed project of visiting every canton in Switzerland in 2017!! I must be insane. But I feel a huge sense of achievement.

Thanks again to all my Clairevetica readers, whether you came for the poetry or the travelogues (or whatever else) and especially those who commented, encouraged and made suggestions both on and off the blog.

I’m going to take a bit of time in January to take stock of where it all goes next so you’ll be hearing from me again very soon.

Happy new year! 🙂 🙂 🙂  Love, Claire x

 

Cantons visited in  2017’s #26Cantons52weeks

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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26Cantons52Weeks: Neuchâtel

Canton: Neuchâtel

Destination: Môtiers in the Val-de-Travers (birthplace of absinthe)

Interesting thing: Although the spirit was banned in Europe for most of the 20th century, according to Wikipedia, absinthe was never banned in Australia, which possibly explains why I’ve had a fair bit of it in my time. Loved the look, style and ritual, never enjoyed the taste… until now.

Special guests: A mate who was willing to do this last-minute trip with me!

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Oh Neuchâtel, I’m sorry. I should have visited you in summer, when the absinthe trails were green as the green fairy of legend. I could have wandered through the undergrowth, stopping to sip pure-spring-water-infused spirits as we soaked up the atmosphere. Perhaps we would have swum in lake Neuchatel,  the largest that’s entirely within Switzerland. Or done a tour of the prehistoric pile dwellings led by state-of-the-art app.

Or I could have visited “the Siberia of Switzerland” back in February – and attended the Fête du Froid (festival of cold). I’ve been to the real Siberia, you know, so it would have made an excellent comparison piece. Is Môtiers the Irkutsk of Switzerland? No ormul to be eaten but still. Even the famous landmark, Neuchâtel’s Tour des Prisons, is currently closed due to fire damage…

Instead, I visited between Xmas and New Years. Most things were closed: it was quiet, it was cold. Very pretty. Rather wet. I visited the tiny town of Môtiers where my friend and I were, I think, today’s sole visitors to the absinthe museum, Maison de L’Absinthe.

On a positive note, the train trip was lovely and I learnt a lot about the spirit of Neuchatel (geddit!) in no small thanks to the high-quality film about the history of absinthe the museum was showing. And, in the end, I also had to revise my opinion of La Fée Verte – it was not as disgusting as I remembered. In fact, not disgusting at all – although I do believe the clear absinthe, which we sampled, is a rather different, less-bitter mistress than her green cousin. Or maybe it’s my age, the moment, legality, who knows.

Back to the original theme: the local absinthe distilleries were also closed. As was the sparkling winery (until 3pm) And at 14.02pm, we missed a bang-up lunch at The Six Communes by 2 minutes and had to make do with a plate of Neuchâtelese saucissons (very tasty) before jumping on the 14.49 train to rescue one locked-out husband who miraculously found his keys 10 minutes later. Ahh! That fairy playing ticks on us again. Oh well, it meant we had a good excuse for a glass of Neuchâtel white wine overlooking the lake before heading back to Zurich.

DONE AND DONE! (Of course, stand by for my Zurich post!)

Additional photos: Shauna Japp

#26Cantons52Weeks: Vaud

Canton:  Vaud

Destination: Lausanne

Interesting thing: Lausanne is the capital of Vaud and also HQ of the International Olympic Committee. As someone who’s lived in two Olympic cities while Games are hosted (London 2012 and Sydney 2000) this still doesn’t impress me greatly!

Special guests: friends who live there

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Have you tried Lausanne’s famous Seagull icecream? Coasted down the hill in Switzerland’s skateboard capital? Heard the thunder cracking across Lac Léman?

Two of the above are real things about Lausanne*. However, according to my friends and Lausanne-residents, for a city with a reasonably high profile — it’s the fourth-largest in Switzerland, capital of Vaud and the Olympic HQ — Lausanne lacks a USP. It’s pretty, it’s pleasant, it’s of a size. But there’s nothing wildly exciting going on, they say.

Flon is spoken of as a funky shopping district but it’s kind of just a few interesting shops in old warehouses alongside some somewhat average chain stores and restaurants. The nightlife might be amazing but shh! we’re probably a bit too old to appreciate it anymore.

I’ve been to Vaud before. One of our first in-Switzerland trips a few years back was to Montreux, home of the eponymous Jazz Fest (which I’ve yet to attend!). We also checked out Chateau Chillon – Switzerland’s best-known medieval castle. I’ve enjoyed a fabulous summer holiday on the French side of the lake too, opposite Lausanne  at Evian, of bottled-water fame.

Anyway, I was overnighting en route to Geneva and hyped to be nearing the end of my #26Cantons52Weeks project. We enjoyed a bang-up breakkie at Blackbird Café , I bought myself a pink hat at a street market and enjoyed catching up with my Lausanne mate.

She did also mention the Caves Ouvertes event in summer where you get to wander through the countryside visiting wineries and sampling the wares, which sounds well worth doing. Maybe next year!

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

 

*Sadly, there is no Seagull icecream.

#26Cantons52Weeks: Geneva

Geneva’s Jet d’Eau

Canton: Geneva / Genève / Genf

Destination: Geneva

Interesting thing: the Jet d’Eau (above) is not just a cool, 140-metre water ejaculation, but actually served a purpose: to release pressure from the city’s hydraulic power network when it was first switched on in 1886. Nowadays, OK, it’s just a tourist attraction.

Special guests: all by myself!

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It took me three attempts to see the Jet d’Eau in Geneva, probably the city’s most recognisable landmark and, arguably, one of Switzerland’s most well-known person-made structures. (Some Swiss-based friends and I were trying to think of others since the country lacks an Eiffel Tower / Tower Bridge / Statue of Liberty / Sydney Opera House / Prado Museum…).

Anyway, I arrived in Geneva early afternoon Friday but had an appointment with the Aussie consulate that kept me busy until nearly sunset, after which time I wandered down to the lakefront to find the jet already off. Next morning, I got up before sunrise and went for a 12km run on the lakeshore. I was hoping I might see the ‘switch-on’ but discovered that wasn’t until 10am. So I hoofed back down to see it after breakfast and almost missed my train. It was worth it though. Très impressive.

Geneva is interesting because the city seems to garner the most varied reaction from other Swiss-dwelling people I spoke to. There’s those who find it lovely: the most cosmopolitan city in Switzerland, prettily situated and with a great atmosphere. Others say it’s dull and claustrophobic (there’s less open space than Zurich and the public lakefront areas give way to private property after only a few kilometres). Some don’t like the vibe of a city full of people dining out on ‘company money’, diplomat-rich-types who aren’t the sort you’d choose to hobknob with. I’ve also heard crime rates for bag snatching and break-ins are quite high, for Switzerland. Others think the home of the UN, League of Nations and CERN is the most ‘international’ city Switzerland has to offer and a global seat of peacekeeping and academia.

I didn’t experience any crime, thank goodness. I felt safe there on my own, even during my early-morning jog, when it was pretty deserted. I couldn’t help but notice the conspicuous displays of wealth though, from the gated Chateaux along the lakefront to all the luxury brands displayed in neon around the lakefront, and the fancy five-star hotels. The city actually reminded me a bit of Luzern, which I’ve visited more often – both are situated at the top of a stunning lake with the mountains just across the water. But the feeling in Geneva is much more money, money, money.

It’s hard to judge atmosphere when you’re on your own. It was Friday night and I wasn’t out late. There was a bit of a buzz but where I was near the lakefront and main station was fairly subdued. If there’s sides to be chosen in a Geneva-Zurich rivalry thing, I guess I prefer Zurich but that might just be because I know it better. Plus my bad German is less-bad than my year 7 French!

 

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

 

*I spent a night in Vaud en route to Geneva. Will write that up next!

#26Cantons52Weeks: Lucerne / Luzern

Canton: Lucerne / Luzern

Destination: Lucerne / Luzern

Special guest: Wendy Noller from Hey Mamalaide!

Interesting thing: Lucerne is Switzerland’s 7th largest city and Lake Lucerne gets the highest number of boat passengers per year (2.46 million) out of all the lakes in the country including Lake Geneva*.

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I guess I’ve been to Lucerne about a dozen times already in the past four years. That’s many visits to the brilliant Verkehrshaus Swiss Transport Museum and includes passing through several times this year even (it’s a gateway city to a lot of mountains, eg: Stans in Nidwalden). It’s also where I did a very cool nuclear bunker tour of the Sonnenberg tunnel around this time last year, which I thought I’d written about but looks like not. Damn! That was fascinating, must tell you about it sometime.

Another cool thing about the trip to Lucerne via train is you get the familienwagen (family carriage) – for those who don’t know – it’s a playground on the train. The first time we encountered this we really thought we’d stepped into some alternate-reality amazing-world of family friendly public transport. Nowadays, I’m still impressed, although it was a relief to be travelling sans kinder and avoid the squeals and kiddy-fug that’s the inevitable downside of the familienwagen.

As well as venturing out alone, my Luzern trip was my first nighttime canton visit of the series. Alone! At night! Doesn’t happen very often these days.

I went to hang with friend and fellow blogger Wendy from Hey Mamalaide. Luzern was looking very festive and Christmassy and we had planned to go ice skating… But since we’re both Aussies and therefore not particularly competent at cold-weather sportings (that’s our story anyway!) we decided to stick with what we do best: drinking, eating and a good old chinwag.

Before we met up, I did take a short detour to the Weihnachsthotel to take a look (thanks again Tamara, part-time working hockey mum for the tip!). It was lit up like, well, Christmas, and looking pretty fab on a dark and frosty evening. I may have had a moment’s pang that I didn’t book us a table in the Rigi Hütte fondue restaurant there for dinner. No matter.

Wendy took me to Karel Korner, pretty much the perfect Wednesday night cocktail bar. Then we ate dinner at Jeff’s, which I can confidently say is the best (only) burger I’ve ever eaten in Luzern. (I’ve heard Jeff’s sister, Jill’s also does good burger). Caught the last train home and job done. And that’s my Lucerne post completed without one single mention of Kapellbrücke! Oh.

Four cantons and three weeks to go! : ) I will try to post another poem soon… have been writing but not publishing.

*Source: Swiss tourism in figures 2015

#26Cantons52Weeks: Uri

Rutli Meadow in the snow – it’s the white patch down there. Photo: Iain Scott

Canton: Uri

Destination: Altdorf and Rütli Meadow – ‘the birthplace of Switzerland’

Interesting thing: Uri’s symbol is the bull and apparently the name derives from an old Germanic word for bull, ûr. (That’s way more fun than the other possible explanation that it comes from the Latin ora or uer –  ‘edge of the water’)

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The cantons keep surprising me. Uri is another smallish central-Switzerland canton on the shores of Lake Lucern (or the Vierwaldstättersee) like Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schwyz and Luzern itself. I guess I thought it would be a bit same-old, same-old. And yet, Uri felt quite different. Maybe it was due to the snow.

We headed to the canton capital Altdorf – a small town covering roughly 10 square kilometres with a population of about 10,000. Expansion would be tricky because the mountains are literally right behind the town, which gave it a rather dramatic feel. And with the season’s first dusting of snow, and Christmas lights coming on, it looked very pretty.

Uri canton has several claims to fame. First off, Swiss dude of legend and overtures, William Tell, was said to be from Uri and Altdorf is where he shot the arrow through the apple on his son’s head, then killed the baddie, Gessler. There’s a William Tell museum, monument and the Tellskappel (Tell chapel) nearby but the museum is closed for winter. So we made do with having our lunch next to the rather impressive William Tell fountain/monument.

Uri is also where you’ll find the Rütliwiese or Rütli meadow, the ‘birthplace of Switzerland’. This is a flat bit of land by the lakeshore where the founding oath of Switzerland was signed back in 1291 between three cantons – Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden (since split into Nidwalden and Obwalden). Every year in midsummer on Switzerland’s national day, 1 August, there are celebrations and fireworks here. It’s also now the beginning of a 35km walking track called the Path of Switzerland, which takes you on a pleasant hike around Lake Uri via representations of the various cantons – and it would be a lovely thing to do on a warm sunny day. Of course, we visited mid-winter with 15-odd centimetres of snow on the ground.

Full disclosure: we did not actually set foot on the meadow itself. You can catch a boat there from Brunnen or Flüelen. But because it’s winter, there’s only two boats per day and we didn’t really fancy being out on the water in the cold! So we drove through a 9km mountain tunnel to Seelisberg and pulled up at a random spot beside the road to see what we could see in the snow.

Even the sign pointing out local attractions was iced over, luckily a passing local informed us we were in fact on “Rütliblick” (Rütli look-out) and indicated the various sights for us – Altdorf across the water, Schwyz down at the end of the lake and, right below us: the snow-covered Rütliwiese. With an hour’s steep walk down to the meadow, we decided we were content just having seen it. A Swiss friend remarked: “You’re the first person I know who’s been at Rütli in winter!”

Uri’s other famous claim is it’s where the Gotthard tunnel begins (or ends). The world’s longest train tunnel opened a year ago and we went through it in January for our Ticino visit.

So that’s a bunch of Swiss history – both ancient and modern – ticked off my list in one small, snow-covered canton!

 

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: 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

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

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.