Switzerland

#26Cantons52Weeks: Schwyz

View from Sattel-Hochstuckli and the cute cable cars

Destination: Sattel-Hochstuckli

Interesting thing: As well as nicking the name, Switzerland also took its flag from the Schwyz coat of arms. As my mate Mad Dog always says: I like Switzerland; the flag is a big plus.

Special guests: my parents – they’re doing me proud on the cantonal visits – that’s three so far!

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Perhaps the canton with the least vowels in its name: Schwyz! The canton is not to be confused with Schweiz – the German word for Switzerland – although it was one of the founding cantons of the country back in 1291 and is actually where the name comes from. From my quick scan of Wikipedia, it seems like Schwyz was calling the shots for a good long while there and hence the name kinda stuck.

Today we visited Sattel-Hochstuckli which, in keeping with the theme, is the beginning of the Alps. Plus it boasts Switzerland’s first revolving cable car that took us up from Sattel at 800m to Mostelberg at 1,191m in about eight minutes. (There are other revolving cable cars in CH now – I think I’ve been on two others – but this was the first one to be constructed and is a cute little thing).

At the top, there was zero sign of snow or the approaching winter, even though the “summer” season officially ends this Sunday. It’s basically a paradise for hikers and families. We didn’t do much walking – only over the 374-metre long suspension bridge and back – however, we did enjoy the kids’ stuff. My six-year-old loved the alpine toboggan (rodelbahn), downhill tube run and the giant jumping castle. OK, so dad and I also had fun on the rides as well!

Lunch was tasty at the Berggasthaus Mostelberg and then it was back for a few more rides before the drive home. Sattel is about an hour by car from Zurich.

We’ve been having absolutely glorious autumn weather during my parents’ visit and today was no exception. It was sun-drenched and 20 degrees up on the mountain. With the green of the grass and fir trees, the gold and russet of the turning leaves, and the shining silver of the rodelbahn, such a lovely day out. 10 points to Schwyz AND Der Schweiz!

 

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 haven’t written this up yet!

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#26Cantons52Weeks: Obwalden

Cogwheel railway

Canton: Obwalden

Destination: Mount Pilatus, Goldene Rundfahrt

Interesting thing: Canton Obwalden is the location for the geographical centre of Switzerland. The cogwheel railway up Pilatus is the steepest in the world and dates from 1889!

Special guests: my parents

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Pilatus is the ‘dragon mountain’ and its dragon symbol is rather a triumph of branding, with everything from the boat quay to the bus stop labelled with that same red swirly beast. To my mind, I can kind of see how the spine of the mountain looks a bit like a sleeping dragon and, where Rigi – “the queen of the mountains” is gently sloping and green, Pilatus seems to loom menacing and dark above Lake Lucerne. Except, as we made our way across the waters of the Vierwaldstättersee (as the lake’s called in German), I realised the mountain I’d been identifying as Pilatus actually wasn’t. So much for my theory anyway! Er… the real Pilatus looks like a dragon too, a bit! (Wikipedia tells me the dragon comes from a medieval legend about winged beasts with healing powers living on the mountain.)

Pilatus’ cogwheel railway is really something. It was constructed in 1889 and electrified in the 1930s. From lake level of 464m at Alpnachstad, the railway rises almost vertical in parts up the side of the mountain to just over 2,000 metres. The elevation gain is 1,635m in total and it has an incline of 48% at its steepest (this is the sharpest incline you can have – otherwise I think you’re actually vertical?). It’s steeper than the triangle of a Toblerone. It’s a longish journey too – about half an hour. Which is great if you’re excited about it, maybe not so great if you’re closing your eyes, blocking your ears and holding on for grim death due to a fear of heights, as my sister-in-law was the last time we went (sorry Laura!).

My parents are thankfully not much affected by vertigo and we had a lovely, clear early-autumn day for our ascent. So nice, in fact, that we even ate our lunch al fresco, with a panoramic view of the mountains from the terrace. Lovely. Afterwards dad and I climbed the “Esel” (donkey) peak to 2,118 metres for a top-of-the-top view. From here we watched a huge cloud roll up one side of the mountain, completely whiting-out the view for about 20 minutes, until it passed. Amazing how fast the weather can change at these altitudes.

To descend, we swooped down in the gondola and cable cars, then caught a bus back to Luzern to complete our “Goldene Rundfahrt” (golden round trip).

Full disclosure: the several peaks of Pilatus are actually on the border between two cantons – Nidwalden and Obwalden. However the cogwheel railway and Pilatus Kulm both fall on the Ob side (and I’ve already written up Nidwalden).

 

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 haven’t written this up yet!

 

#26Cantons52Weeks: Fribourg / Freiburg

Fribourg

Canton: Fribourg /Freiburg

Destination: The canton’s capital city, also called Fribourg (Fr) / Freiburg (De)

Interesting thing: The “röstigraben” – the divide between French and German speaking parts of Switzerland – runs right through the city of Fribourg, literally, in the form of the river Saane / Sarine.

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Our visit to Fribourg was another slightly last-minute affair. I had actually planned to use my trip to this western Switzerland canton to check out the city of Gruyères, where the cheese is produced and also the location for the goth-horror designer H.R. Giger’s museum and bar (it’s the largest collection of his work, and the bar looks wicked!) But I sort of forgot that and also not sure the kids are quite ready/old enough for the Giger onslaught. Anyway.

One thing I love about Switzerland is pretty much every canton, area and large or noteworthy town has its own tourism website with a wealth of info and suggestions. There’s usually a “family” section too, which is where I found this downloadable map for a Discovery tour of Fribourg for Kids. We were set.

It is about 1.45 drive from Zurich so we arrived just in time for lunch. Another thing I love about Switzerland is, while almost all the shops are closed on Sundays, you get a really nice atmosphere at the restaurants, with groups of friends and families coming together for brunch, lunch and beyond. On this particular Sunday in Fribourg, we hit a restaurant that was catering to a twins convention, so it was twice as nice!

As well as Giger, the canton also hosts a museum for two more famous local sculptors: Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle, which we also forgot to check out (oops!) although I would have liked to. We did see the Tinguely fountain in the Grand-Places park though! Tinguely, who is famous for his kinetic, surrealist sculptures, was born in Fribourg and Saint Phalle (his wife) was French. If you know Zurich, you should be familiar with Saint Phalle’s colourful “Nana” angel sculpture which hangs in the main hall of the Hauptbahnhof. And you may have seen Tinguely’s stuff down the lake and/or in Basel.

Tinguely fountain, Fribourg

Anyway, we had a very pleasant wander around Fribourg following the discovery trail (and won the prize of locally-made chocolate from the tourism office!).

The town is set quite dramatically in a gorge between three rivers and the old bit contains some beautiful medieval buildings and frontages. The stained glass windows in the cathedral were particularly stunning – art deco style, my fave! It’s a university town and it seems the mix of French/German and students adds a real zing of liveliness. I must confess I was sorry not to be able to spend a few hours also checking out the many charming pubs and beer bars we kept passing.

Our final stop on the kids tour was possibly Switzerland’s stinkiest funicular. The Fribourg funicular is powered by wastewater – unique in Europe. Although no doubt it’s a triumph of recycling and sustainability, you could really smell the sewerage: Pooh! Glad the trip was only a few minutes’ long.

stinky funicular

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 haven’t written this up yet!

A night in the Limmat

Jump-off point at the Frauenbad for the Limmatschwimmen 2017

Green, green, green. It ripples and intensifies as I tumble and float down, ever down towards the bottom. Silvery light winks off my surface as the last of precious air bubbles leave me stranded to my fate, coming to rest on soft, subaquatic mud. Far above me, the constant crack and crash of bodies breaking the surface, churning and frothing as they flail and move. The sunlight pales to shades of clear green-glass up there but down where I now reside, the colours are deep jade and juniper, yellow-brown, kelp, burnt carmine and darkest black-brown.

A wavering blue sky can be seen in the rare moments of calm. Are those clouds? I’m swimming with the fishes but I’m stuck, staring upwards, as they, uncurious glide by. The edge of the pier is a fixed thing, noir wood, grooved and channelled with age and the erosion of the current; weeds and algae both etching away and adding layers; old metal, the blood-tinge of rust and the dull shine of it as the water slops and curls, constant.

Cheerful yellow bodies of blow-up hippopotami smack down and float, accompanied by red buoys of waterproof bags and pale – mostly pale – legs as they kick and drag. The current takes them all away. Occasionally a companion piece makes its way down to me, spinning lazily – a sodden pink sunhat, a ring of keys that could open bank vaults. Maybe. Our real-world value counts for naught now.

Limmatschwimmen 2017 @clairedoble

Eventually, after hours of commotion, the boil and scramble of bodies and spume calms and the white, barnacle-speckled hulls of three boats move away. I’m left here, softly blinking my messages to the fish. As night falls, the light changes, winks off and on, shafts shining through floorboards. I think I hear music, laughter but it’s another world away. I have words to impart but my Barbus companions cannot or will not read them. Later still, a deeper hush falls and the moon dapples softly on liquid contours above.  Asleep still-moving fish float while weeds drape and sway, crustaceans go to work. Cold and quiet, but never quite silent, nor still.

Dawn breaks and it’s overcast: soft grey light barely penetrating the surface. The webbed feet of ducks and swans, an occasional myopic eye searching only the warm upper layers for prey. Sun breaks through, piercing down to us nether-dwellers occasionally on a lucky beam, but not often. I sit and blink, feeling my life’s energy draining away. Rain dimples the meniscus. I think. It’s hard to tell. Almost certainly, all is lost.

But, what’s this, a flippered foot? In a single plunge, her sleek dark shape streaks down to pluck me up, hesitating only to acquire a second prize – a shell-encrusted pair of sunglasses that had made this ground its home for far longer than I. And then I am restored. Heat. Light. A babble of voices. The touch of human fingertips. Warm breath on my skin. Alive!

You see the phone flying up to pass over my head here… !

My smartphone spent a night at the bottom of the Limmat River in central Zurich after I stupidly lost it jumping in for the annual Limmatschwimmen on Saturday. (I wrote about the Limmatschwimmen event last year). The phone has now been restored, fully operational, thanks to the hardy diver-women who work at the Frauenbad.  Vielen Dank! #LoveZurich

#26CANTONS52WEEKS: Graubünden

Caumasee, Graubunden

Canton: Graubünden / Grisons (German/French)

Destination: Caumasee / Lag la Cauma (German/Romansh)

Interesting thing: There’s many interesting things about Graubünden! It’s the biggest canton, area-wise and is where you’ll find almost all the Romansh speakers (Switzerland’s fourth official language).

Special guests: just the family this time

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It was a hot and sunny Sunday when we decided to head to the Caumasee. Unfortunately this was not one of our better-planned outings and was all a bit last minute. It was also about a two-hour drive, so we didn’t get there until after noon and all the parking spots were taken! Luckily Himself had a brainwave and remembered that he’d once hiked to the lake from nearby Laax, where we found a half-empty car park, phew.

After a quick lunch of alpine fries in the café of Prau la Selva sport centre, we walked 20 minutes to the Caumasee. It was worth the extra journey, too, because we got to pass through some lovely forest and past the beautiful Lag Tuleritg lake on the way. (FYI – the area around here is called Flims, not to be confused with Flums, which we visited the following week!)

The Caumasee itself was just like the pictures. I didn’t take too many but you can see more on the Caumasee webpage. The water was really deep blue-green like you see, even close up – almost viscous: like blue paint-water. I swam out to the island in the centre, then halfway back to jump off the diving board. Just as I was heading into shore, I realised it had clouded over, the first few raindrops fell and the mass exodus had begun before I even got back to our stuff.

We had a rather wet and wild walk back up to the Laax carpark, but luckily the forest canopy protected us somewhat. We passed by the cool-looking Hochseilpark (high rope course), which seems like a fun activity to explore once the kids are a bit older.

There’s plenty more in Graubünden beyond the Caumasee (although Cauma is surely one of the most gorgeous lakes in a country of stunning lakes!) We had a  trip to Davos last year and the capital city of Chur is also nice, not to mention the famous glitz of St Moritz!

 

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 haven’t written this up yet!

26Cantons52Weeks: Nidwalden

Canton: Nidwalden

Destination: Stanserhorn (mountain) and its open-air cable car

Interesting thing: The CabriO build cost around CHF30 million, but the idea was so popular the funding rounds were oversubscribed, attracting around CHF7 million alone from local donations.

Special guests: my parents-in-law

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The canton of Nidwalden is located right in the centre of Switzerland. Something I only just realised looking Nidwalden up on Wikipedia for this entry! It seems fitting, then, that our last major outing with the in-laws before they return to Australia was here – in the heart of Switzerland.

Our plan was to ride the open-top, double-decker CabriO cable car from cantonal capital city Stans, up to the peak of the Stanserhorn mountain. It was a good plan and the weather was lovely.

The Stanserhorn CabriO is the first and only cable car of its kind in the world so far. The original 2-stage cable car was struck by lightning in the 1970s, causing much destruction and burning down the hotel at the top. It was replaced at the time but, as 2010 rolled around, they were looking to upgrade and this deluxe, 90% Swiss-made model with its rather impressive USP opened in 2012.

First you have to catch a creaking cogwheel funicular railway up the bottom part of the mountain. This ‘oldtimer’ celebrates its 125th birthday in 2018 and, due to its age is quite tiny – with capacity for only 40 people. Because we’d come on a busy Sunday, this meant a bit of waiting around, which was rather frustrating. They have a slightly odd system of time-slot tickets that didn’t quite work as well as it should, but is necessary given the small size of the cogwheel carriages (the Cabrio has capacity for 30 on top, 60 below). Chatting to the train driver on the way back down, he said they’d experimented with various ticketing methods and this was the one which worked best. My advice would be to pick a less-busy, ie: non-weekend, day if possible to avoid some of the kerfuffle.

However, it’s worth putting up with a bit of potential annoyance, because the view at the top is just superb. You’d think I might be sick of these alpine vistas by now, but each one is different. From the Stanserhorn’s highest peak (1,898 meters above sea level), you could see so many other mountaintops: Titlis, Santis, the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, and a bunch of others besides. Then, if you look down, there’s the stunning Lake Lucerne below, as well as chocolate-box scenes of green fields and wooden farmhouses studded with cows and goats. Just so, so pretty.

A QUESTION FOR READERS: Last time I did the photos through the post, this time I’ve gone back to a slideshow. Which do you prefer? 

 

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 haven’t written this up yet!

 

#26Cantons52weeks: Valais

Canton: Valais / Wallis (in German)

Destination: Zermatt / Matterhorn

Interesting thing: Zermatt is car-free, there’s only small, commercial electrical vehicles in the town (taxis, delivery vans) to prevent air pollution obscuring the views! You could really notice the fresh air and the lack of traffic noise was lovely.

Special guests: my parents-in-law and sister-in-law visiting from Australia, and my aunt-in-law from Scotland

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Valais is one of the farthest-away cantons from Zurich. It’s around 3.5 hours by train to the town of Zermatt, located at the end of the Mattertal valley and loomed over by the majestic Matterhorn mountain. So, since we had international visitors and we figured there was some pretty spectacular stuff to see, we decided to spend four nights in this alp-studded canton in the southwest of Switzerland bordering Italy and France. I’m so glad we did.

Zermatt is 1,620 metres above sea level and surrounded by snow-capped peaks. However, we spent our first couple of days here feeling rather teased by its most famous inhabitant. Possibly the world’s most recognisable mountain was acting coy – swathed in clouds, shrouded in fog, we only caught glimpses here and there. It didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves though.

First glimpse of the Matterhorn

Zermatt itself is a small alpine town that felt large since it was chock-a-block with tourists at this time of year: the first weekend of the official summer season. That said, I can only imagine how much more packed it would be in winter when all the slopes are open and everyone is padded out and weighed down with snow-gear and all the trappings! (fun fact – Zermatt’s permanent population of around 6,000 doubles, triples or even quadruples in the tourist seasons).

The town and surrounding hamlets looked very pretty for the first weekend of July – full of all the requisite wooden chalets, bright bunches of flowers flowing over balconies, grey-green glacial rivers and lakes and, of course, the stunning, if rather shy-at-first Alps.

Zermatt from our flower-decked terrace

Our first fully day (Saturday) coincided with the annual Zermatt marathon. Since I’ve recently taken up running (eek!) this was inspiring/intimidating in equal measure. Billed as one of the most gruelling marathons in Europe, the route ranges up and down an altitude of 1,800 metres over its 42 kilometres. Watching the 2,500-odd runners throwing themselves down the rocky paths as we walked from Sunnegga to the incredibly lovely Chez Vrony for our leisurely lunch, you can see how the race earned its tough reputation. (I promise not to become a run-bore, but I need to tell you that I was inspired to complete the circuit of the far-more humble Zermatt Parcours the next day!)

Sunny Sunnegga (but also cloudy!)

Day two, we awoke to more cloud cover, but undaunted and unable to resist a swooping cable car ride, Himself and I took advantage of the built-in babysitters and jumped on the Matterhorn Express cable car/ gondola which takes about 50 minutes to rise around 2km in altitude (!!) to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, the highest I think I’ve been on land – 3,883 metres above sea level. From which viewpoint we would have had an amazing view of the elusive Matterhorn, if it hadn’t been a total whiteout.

Non-view from Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

Day three was due to be our best yet according to the weather reports so we headed off early for the Gornergrat bahn and finally the mountain of mountains revealed itself (himself? herself?). It was certainly worth the wait, in fact, possibly more awe-inspiring for the fact that we’d enjoyed a burlesque of clouds concealing/revealing it for days now.

Oh. My. Word. What a sight!

Matterhorn from Gornergratbahn

I had this weird-beautiful moment with an older Swiss-German guy on the train. We had a short conversation as we politely shared the window space to take 1 million photos. I said something like “Diese Berge sind sehr schön” (these mountains are so beautiful) and he agreed, adding “Wir Ameisen!” (we’re ants). But, through my momentary misinterpretation, I thought he was saying “Wir atmen” – we breathe… which is also quite apt.

We picked the best place to see it from too, IMHO. Gornergrat is 3,089 metres and from there you’re surrounded by a vista of big guns – around 50 peaks that all clock in at 4,000+ metres (Matterhorn is 4,478 and you can also see Switzerland’s highest mountain, Monte Rosa and its highest peak, Dufourspitze, at 4,634). Plus, you can hike or catch the train down to the impressive Riffelsee lake, in which the Matterhorn is reflected on clear days (and this was one of them, yay!).

Some of the party hiked further, while the rest of us got back on the train to enjoy another gorgeous lunch at Alphitta, this time with the Matterhorn views fully in our favour. There was also a rather superbly situated playground, which my two kids thoroughly enjoyed.

Behind you!!

Final day – can’t get enough of those Matterhorn-vista playgrounds! I actually felt I’d have liked to stay in Zermatt longer. Once I finally saw that mountain, I didn’t want to stop looking! It has got its own weather system, little puffs and candy flosses of clouds that float and drape around it in different configurations by the hour. So pretty.

Considering the distance to get there and time spent, Zermatt/ Matterhorn / Valais felt like a real ‘destination’ that did not disappoint. I’m thrilled (and kind of humbled, even) to have seen the Matterhorn in real life. And we breathe …

 

Reflected in the Riffelsee

 

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 haven’t written this up yet!

#26Cantons52Weeks Thurgau

Canton: Thurgau

Destination: Kartause Ittingen and the Hüttwilersee

Special guests: Fran & family from Little Zurich Kitchen

Interesting thing: Thurgau is famous for growing lots of apples. At the canton’s annual beauty contest for women, the winner is crowned the Apfelkönigin (apple queen).

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I was so pleased to be invited by my mate Fran from Little Zurich Kitchen to visit Thurgau together on the Auffahrt (Ascension Day) holiday Thursday. We went with both our families, had great weather and a lovely day out.

Thurgau is largely an agricultural canton in the north-east of Switzerland, named for the local Thur River. The capital is Frauenfeld, where Fran grew up, so it was great to have a local guide to some of this canton’s hidden gems. As well as telling me about the Apfelkönigin, Fran offered a few more interesting facts about the area – 1. Thurgau is also called ‘Mostindien’ (apple juice India) by [Swiss] outsiders, because it is famous for growing lots of apples, although, she warns: “it’s not a charming name.” We tried some of the local Sussmost (apple juice) and it was delicious!

2. The Zuckerfabrik Frauenfeld is one of two Swiss sugar factories. Fran says that, growing up, she loved the smell when the factory went into production each autumn but most visitors despise it! Read more from Fran about Life in Swiss Sugar Town.

3. Fran says, “the local Thurgau dialect is very high-pitched and most Swiss don’t like the sound of it!” We found the Thurgauers we came across to be quite lovely though 🙂

We started our day at Kartaus Ittingen, which is an old monastery that’s become a hotel / convention centre. Its large grounds and pretty gardens contain a brewery, trout farm, vineyards, dairy, greenhouses with veg, herbs, flowers etc. There’s also a restaurant, a theatre, a museum and art space and you can buy a bunch of local produce from the on-site shop. It’s a popular place for weddings and corporate events and you can stay in the old monk’s houses, which looked very pleasant! They also had a few art installations, including the cool The Loop. We had a wander around the grounds, explored the old labyrinth, then jumped back in the cars to head to the Hüttwilersee for lunch and a swim.

This small lake was idyllic and far less crowded than some of the Zurich area lakes would be on such a day (not that it usually feels that busy anywhere in Switzerland). What a pretty spot! The photos speak for themselves. The kids had a lovely time splashing about near the edge and I swam out to the pontoon and back. The water temp was a very decent 22 and when the sun was out it was definitely swimming weather.

Feels like summer has arrived!

 

Aargau #26CANTONS52WEEKS

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Canton: Aargau

Destination: Ebianum Baggermuseum (museum of diggers), Fisibach

Interesting thing: I found the museum commentary pretty interesting!

 

My 26Cantons52Weeks challenge has been on a bit of a hiatus. April’s poetry month, combined with our London trip and my writing course has not left much spare time. However, I’m back with two more cantons to write up, which will mean I’ve done eight so far (not counting Zurich yet, that’s my ace up the sleeve!) with 18 to go. We’re nearly at midyear but summer is a great time for tourism for non-skiers like myself so I’m still confident I can visit all 26 Swiss cantons in 2017.

So to Fisibach and the Ebianum Baggermuseum (museum of diggers)! It was a rainy Sunday and Himself had to work, so I decided to drive the kids to this hidden gem of a museum (Himself had taken them previously and assured me it was good for a few hours’ entertainment). It was an easy half-hour drive from our place in Zurich with the sat nav. I’m still new enough to driving here that I feel proud of making it to new places on my own in the car!

The museum is basically a huge, airport-hangar/barn of a room which displays the decommissioned digger vehicles, cranes, tractors and bulldozers used by local-family business Eberhard over the years. Eberhard is a construction and civil engineering business, but more about that later. There’s loads of construction vehicles on display, from Eberhard’s first steam-powered tractor to more modern machines. You can also climb on and into a lot of the diggers, which the kids enjoyed. Perhaps the best bit (for us) was at the end, where there’s a large indoor sandpit full of kid-size construction vehicles, as well as about 20 ride-on bobbycars, tractors and balance bikes. The kids played here for about two hours. On a rainy Sunday, I’d say about 90% of the museum visitors were families with 0-7 age boys. I saw a few girls too and I know I would have enjoyed playing here with my brothers as a child.

Your CHF15 entry (free for kids under 7) also gives you an audio tour of the museum, which I requested in English, and was delighted to find the commentary done by members of the Eberhard family (even in the English version!). I’ll outline the story, apologies for any gaps, I had to keep one ear on the kids!

Eberhard was started by two brothers in the 1950s after they got their first big break — winning contracts to help build Zurich’s Kloten Airport in the 1940s. After that they mostly went from strength to strength, winning both Swiss and international building contracts, including a substantial amount of work in the MiddleEast. I loved the mix of personal anecdotes and hard facts in the commentary. The commentators were from the 2nd generation of the Eberhard family, so they really know their stuff. Their grandmother, who had 10 children, was also the bookkeeper for the business (can you imagine?!) so, in typical Swiss fashion, they also had exact figures for things, such as how much they paid for various machines over the years and things like – “when we got back from the Middle East, our local bank informed us we were due to foreclose, luckily we secured a loan for 1 million Swiss francs, so we could continue our business…”

Since I’m learning a bit about memoir writing at the moment, I found these personal details and family history bits of the story really fascinating and nicely done.

There’s also a spacious café are with an OK range of food (picknick is verboten, but we had brought sandwiches so ate them alongside some food we purchased).

A really fun day-trip to Aargau!