Monday, 8 December 2014

London's wonderful Paddington Bear Trail

I had a lovely trip to London at the weekend to see my cousin - and a mad dash around the shops to get a few things in for Christmas.

While strolling down the King's Road and into Duke of York Square I was delighted to bump into one of the Paddington Bear sculptures which have been planted around the city to raise awareness of child hardship and raise funds for the NSPCC.

The 50 bears were released onto the streets in November under cover of darkness just prior to the new Paddington film which opened on 28th November. The bears will be at venues as varied as No 10 Downing Street and the Globe Theatre, Heathrow Airport and of course Paddington railway station where it all began for 'the bear from Peru' in 1958 in author Michael Bond’s book A Bear Called Paddington.

The bears for the trail have been coordinated over many months, resulting in a huge cast of artists, celebrities and designers coming up with their own dramatic changes to the appearance of Britain’s politest bear. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch (aka Sherlock Holmes) has given Paddington a dapper herringbone-patterned outfit topped by the detective’s distinctive deerstalker, and there’s no mistaking Ian Botham’s cricket-playing Paddington, complete with bulky white sweater and suitcase bearing the legend “Knock Cruelty For Six”. London mayor Boris Johnson has gone for a bear tattooed with London scenes: Big Ben, a cable car, the Gherkin, the Palace of Westminster, the Post Office Tower and (homage to the bear’s creator), a Tube sign saying Bond Street. Plus a familiarly tousle-haired blond figure, pedalling away on a Boris bike.

Michael Bond, now 88, penned the stories of Paddington after finding a bear left by itself on the shelf of a London store on Christmas Eve in 1956. He took it home as a present for his wife Brenda, and named it Paddington, after nearby Paddington station. He says: “I wrote some stories about the bear more for fun than with the idea of having them published. After 10 days, I found that I had a book on my hands.”

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Huge congratulations to the Swiss Davis Cup team

I was feeling very Swiss as I felt my home country's pride for their sporting heroes at the weekend as Roger Federer pummelled Richard Gasquet to win the Davis Cup for Switzerland for the first time ever.

The Davis Cup is the premier international team event in men's tennis. It is run by the International Tennis Federation and contested annually between teams from competing countries in a knock-out format. The competition began in 1900 as a challenge between Great Britain and the United States and more than 130 nations now enter teams into the competition.

Having secured his country’s first victory in the 114-year history of the team competition by beating Gasquet in straight sets, it was a true triumph for Federer after he was forced to pull out of the final of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London with a back injury just a week before. Federer came through his third match in as many days without a hint of any physical problems to win 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Gasquet had replaced the French No 1, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who aggravated an arm injury while losing to Stan Wawrinka on day one of the tournament

Switzerland have now become only the 14th nation to win the Davis Cup in 114 years - they were runners-up in 1992.

A huge well done Switzerland – it's so great to see such a small, committed country win on such a sprawling international stage.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Zurich Zoo

The most curious Shoebill
We spent our Wednesday afternoon off at Zurich Zoo yesterday. We bussed, trained and trammed it, which took just over an hour (actual time travelling on public transport just 40mins!) Although it is open 365 days a year, it has now entered it's Winter phase so is nice and quiet, closes at 5pm instead of 6pm and there is a great deal of development work going on, which looks very exciting for the future.

Zurich Zoo is pretty special. It's been beautifully designed, offering lots of lovely little paths weaving in and out of the enclosures, the most imaginative play parks and lots of surprises along the way. You can't really do it all in one day, which is why the annual family pass (for around 160chf) is a great idea (daily entry costs 39chf for myself and my 7-year-old - under 6s go free)

Yesterday we headed to the big cat section, a particular favourite of my eldest daughter, and enjoyed the mushroom playground, the monkey house (with cushioned armchairs to sit and observe) and the hippo home, with lots of birds flying around. We didn't even bother with the amazing elephant enclosure or goat petting area on this particular visit. And our truly memorable moment came as we climbed the steps to the hippo enclosure and were mightily surprised by the biggest, most curious bird I have ever seen. As we stood in awe of this magestically - and very blue! - big bird,  it began to eye us menacingly and suddenly violently pecked at the fence, spreading its wings - which were HUGE. This all made us jump, and Pops was particularly spooked. When I put her to bed last night she voiced her worries that the giant blue bird would come and carry her away in the night!

In one way or another you can trust a day out to Zurich Zoo will give you an experience you won't forget in a hurry!

Zurich Zoo website

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Community show raises the roof

Bebe is part of a gymnastic club for the Kindergarten kiddies and to be honest I nearly dropped it after a few weeks because it takes place between 4.50 and 5.50pm, meaning I'm running around like a headless chicken on Tuesdays, never knowing when to give Bebe her tea. But she LOVES it. I mean really loves it. She asks if she is going every day and despite being shattered after her only full day of the week at Kindergarten she can't wait to go. So we kept it going. And I'm so glad I did.

Because last night I saw the amazing culmination of her few months at this club. It was in a show (!) which brought the entire community (yes, the C-word again) together in performing and being entertained.

The annual show brings together all the clubs in the village, which essentially are the various gymnastics clubs for various age ranges and the multi-sport club which is open to all. And I mean all. The theme of the show 'Die Wette im Olympic' featured the first Greek Olympic Games which was put on for the Greek Gods, so of course bringing in a wealth of dancing and incredible gymnastic performances, including a human pyramid topped (see pic below) by a guy no less than 60 years of age! As I said, the show (and of course the clubs) are open to all. The main story was that of Achilles falling in love with the princess Lotephone which the Gods decide to put a stop to. Despite my very little understanding of the words, it was visually hilarious with incredibly imaginative costumes. I also loved the way the characters ran through the audience and some scenes, which were filmed in the woods around Brütten and on the school playing field, were shown on a screen, adding to the depth of the story.

There was a huge amount of (incredibly fit) young men and women in the 18 to 25 year age range which I imagine is the hardest sector of any community to involve in a thing like this. It was so lovely to see the little ones acting alongside teenagers, alongside pensioners. And it seemed like anyone in the village who wasn't in the show went to see it. The gym hall was packed out with people on both evenings and for the matinee (the only show when those below 16 are allowed - we were informed it was a little more risqué in the evening!)

A friend was telling me that this particular communal organisation is a very special feature of Switzerland. And long may it continue.

Celebrating Räbeliechtli Umzug

Despite its impressive sounding Swiss translation, Räbeliechtli Umzug is actually a celebration of swedes. But woe betide any ex-pat who carves out a Halloween type spooky face on this rotund vegetable often confused for a pumpkin. No, your carvings should strictly conform to a series of moon, star and heart shapes, and any other cutesy image your bambino desires.

So I spent an inordinate amount of time scooping out the inside of the three swedes we ended up with (our ever-enthusiastic 5-year-old deftly swiping a couple extra from Kindie) and carving some dodgy looking shapes on the outside, until I realised I was supposed to use biscuit cutters and instead peel the skin off, which would have saved me a couple of hours. And then there is the stringing rigmarole. You have to tie large enough knots in the string under the three holes in the swede lid so it sits a few cm above the body.

The procession takes place in the first week of November in many communities and in our village is lead by the Kindergarten and nursery. The event features a host of tee-lights glowing delicately inside the intricately carved swede shells carried by a procession of under 7s and decorating two wagons to ward off evil spirits and celebrate the harvest. They lead the rest of the village on a circuit of the village - roads were closed and traffic brought to a halt while we negated the main road at the bottom - and end up in the village square where all the little participants get free frankfurters and bread and a drink. There's Gluwein, coffee and cake for the parents.

It's really a lovely tradition, bringing the community together to enjoy each other's company. We finished the night (by this time 8pm) with an impromptu game of 'Hatz' - or tig in English.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Pumpkin magic at Rudolfingen

We enormously enjoyed a jaunt to Rudolfingen last Friday for its Pumpkin Festival which truly was amazing. The website wasn't giving a lot away so I really didn't know what to expect - half a dozen nicely carved pumpkins, a roaring fire and a big cook-out at the most - but I was completely unprepared for the magic that these wonderful villagers have served up at this time of year - as well as over 1000 carved pumpkins to feast your eyes on!

The Rudolfingen website however gave me great info on arriving there from Winterthur by public transport (the S33 to Schaffhaussen and the 621 bus to Ossingen, taking 30 minutes or so) and of course the transport was there as we expected on time (sorry, being English - a year on this is still a huge novelty for me) and we got off the very crowded bus to be confronted by firstly a trail of carved pumkpins (one featuring a rather fetching steaming turd) to the WC (always a first call for my 7-year-old going anywhere) and then a gloriously pumpkin spangled banner declaring 'Wilkommen.'

What makes this event so spectacular is that all street lights and lights in houses have been turned off so the entire village is lit by candlelight - mostly from oversized tea-lights glowing in creatively carved pumpkins providing a beautifully eerie ambience.

The displays were packed with imagination and flair - squash-carved elephants and hippos basked in the water fountain, there were trees housing parliaments of charming owls, a pumpkin spangled rotating mobile, a hidden corner of tiny star-carved pumpkins on high plinths - there were pumpkins at floor level, knee level, eye level and high on rooftops. And there were plenty of fires blazing, the Gluwein was flowing, there was a wealth of culinary pumpkin treats to delight in - including even pumpkin pizza!

I would highly recommend this event to anyone - it runs on two nights, the first Friday and Saturday in November I think. Enjoy the pics below but unfortunately they completely fail to convey how great this event is. I got a few good close-ups but with my amateurish photography skills couldn't ever hope to catch the larger displays of candle-filled magic. See you there next year!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Let it snow!

Well, who would have thought that we'd remember, remember, the 5th of November for snow! Just as I was missing the big bonfire and the fireworks that we've always enjoyed in the UK, it goes and snows. We were all buzzing last night to see the snow falling after a night and day of almost continuous rain. I just had to take a little walk around the village to enjoy it after putting the little ones to bed - and as you can see from the picture below I couldn't contain my excitement :) As the temperatures have plummeted hubbie and I started to crave a good beef stew (we don't eat meat too often since living in Switzerland due to the high cost) so we have spent a small fortune on ingredients and a very nice bottle of red to accompany it tonight. I can't wait. We may even have a fire tonight too.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Happy Halloween!

Surprisingly, the Swiss are beginning to embrace Halloween. I really didn't believe it would be their thing. However it is probably lead by the large number of immigrants from Halloween happy countries like us. I've put out the door-sign which plays a hammy organ and says 'Beware' in a super spooky voice, a little row of skeletons and a trail of mini spiders up the stairs to our flat - we don't get many trick or treaters living off a main road and being at the top of the block of flats but the girls collar kids from school and pull them up all the steps where a big bowl of jelly frogs and some 'blood' laces. There are some good pumpkin carvings going on. I've nicked this picture (left) of an amazing creation of a friend of a friend on Facebook. How great is that? I love the film Pan's Labyrinth - a perfect Halloween movie, very violent in a couple of places but not too scary for a wus like me. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

And then autumn fell with a crash!

We were in no way prepared for the icy temperature which suddenly befell us yesterday morning - cue a mad dash home to retrieve woolly hat and gloves for my youngest at forest school. A few days ago we were in shorts and t-shirts and then this! However, I have been enjoying the headlong march into this 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' - the colours have been fantastic and we have enjoyed many  a treck through the woods, accompanied by a river side fire here and there. My son, Zac, has a wonderful eye for a picture so I have posted a few below for you to enjoy. Happy Autumn!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Amazed and in awe at Technorama

I recently met a lovely Swiss lady and her two gorgeous daughters who invited us to accompany them to the Swiss Science Center Technorama in Winterthur today. I shouldn't have put this off for so long as it really is an amazing place but I'm glad we had such enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides for our first visit - it would be easy to miss out some of the especially good bits in one visit due to the facility's vast size and tremendous amount of interactive exhibits.

We first headed for the brilliant special exhibition 'Soundscapes' featuring the world of sounds and tones, where they come from and how we perceive them. You can make music with balls, tubes, colours, pictures and a host of other objects and there is even an audio bar where the barman serves sounds and encourages guests to join in a spontaneous jam session! The exhibition is expected to last until this time next year.

Then onto the main halls which draw amazed gasps from all first timers. It really is a visual spectacle of wonders. There was the Sound of Wood featuring giant ball runs of increasing complexity which involved a variety of imaginative methods (seesaws!) to progress the motion of the balls. The 'Magneticity' section was magic! From hovering objects (!) to Ferrofluid 'hedgehogs' showing the three-dimensionality of a magnetic field, the children were indeed spellbound.

There was Mathemagics (maths is seriously good fun) and outside a pendulum-generated swing, a floating faucet, a dancing water snake and a thoroughly entertaining wind tunnel. There were beautiful arty type moving sculptures and an amazing 'Zen' area where you could sit entranced by a ball constantly in motion trailing geometric shapes in a giant bowl of sand.

Incredible and inspiring. And the best way to get children (and of course adults) interested in maths, physics and of course, science in general.

If you haven't yet visited, do so without delay. The No.5 bus from outside Winterthur HB (opposite side of the road) leaves every 15mins Mon-Sat and takes 17 minutes, dropping you off right outside. Visitors using public transport are advised to use RailAway combined ticket offers.

Parking is free but get there early to avoid a long walk.

Admission is 27 CHF for adults and 16 CHF for children aged 6 - 15 years (0-5 free)

If you live local an annual pass is great value - 75CHF for adults and 40CHF for children.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Zurich in pictures

I had a rare day off duty from looking after the kiddies so I took to the streets of Zurich with my trusty camera. It was a beautiful day, with the dappled sunshine filtering its way into the courtyards of the old city, giving them a magical charm. Aah, I love Zurich.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Pics of the week

Cows really are everywhere in Switzerland - and they're often very colourful too.

It may have turned autumnal but that doesn't stop the thriving outdoor cafe scene in Winterthur.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Feeling the love for Swiss binmen

It's bin day and the trusty bin wagon is always heading up my street like clockwork as I walk with the kiddies to school (yes, I still accompany them, I'm struggling to be Swiss about this particular issue) And the binmen always smile and say hello, even the one driving the wagon waves to us as we pass.

And this morning I got to witness an entire sofa going in! I stood and gawped as the grinder chomped it up, thinking it was never going to go. But it did, it was chomped right down with not more than a crunch and a big bin of rubbish went in right behind it. Now, that's efficient. Once again I found myself comparing this to UK practices. Both Binmen and wagon would have a hernia to find a sofa put out for them on binday. I remember a neighbour finding her black bin hadn't been emptied one morning because the lid was slightly open meaning too much rubbish.

But of course, all the rubbish is paid for here - the sofa was sporting its required Apfellmarken like all bin-bags must do. So more money means more efficient ways to dispose of the rubbish I guess - like the mega guzzling, swallow anything Swiss bin wagon!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Museum pass grants access to the cultural side of the city

If you would like to walk on the cultural side of Winterthur there is a Museum Pass which grants free access to more then 16 museums, including all alternating exhibitions. Available from Winterthur Tourism (tourist info at train station) and all participating museums.

Use of the museum bus is included in the museum pass. This serves the following museums: Oskar Reinhart am Stadtgarten, Kunstmuseum (Museum of Art), Oskar Reinhart am Römerholz (Sunday additionally Centre of Photography and Villa Flora). The bus departs from bus stop M at Winterthur main railway station (Hauptbahnhof Winterthur).

1-day museum pass: CHF 25.-
(excl. Swiss Science Center Technorama)
2-day museum pass: CHF 35.-
(incl. Swiss Science Center Technorama)

Participating museums
  • Kunstmuseum Winterthur
  • Fotomuseum Winterthur
  • Museum Oskar Reinhart
  • Fotostiftung Schweiz
  • Sammlung Oskar Reinhart
  • «Am Römerholz»
  • Swiss Science Center
  • Technorama
  • Museum Briner und Kern
  • Naturmuseum Winterthur
  • Kunsthalle Winterthur
  • Schloss Kyburg
  • Gewerbemuseum Winterthur
  • Schloss Hegi
  • Spielzeugmuseum
  • Mörsburg
  • Münzkabinett & Antikensammlung
  • Uhrensammlung Kellenberger

Monday, 22 September 2014

Winterthur's Open Doors art event this weekend

This weekend (Sep27/28) sees the biggest art event on the Winterthur calendar. Open Doors sees approximately 60 artists around the city inviting the public into their studios to enjoy a rare glimpse of them in action. Their work will also be for sale.

Open Doors provides both emerging and established artists the opportunity to open their studio doors and show their artwork and their work methods. It concludes on Sunday with a musical finale in the ESSE Musicbar.

Mike Albrow (left) is one of the artists who will be taking part in this weekend's event. Mike's work is largely figurative, with an energetic dynamism to it, featuring a wide variety of media. Mike runs regular life drawing classes for all. His studio is at the back of Buro Schoch – Sunrise, down the alley to the right off Marktgasse (Untertor 9)

For a guide to the artist trail, pick up a MAP Magazine from the office of Winterthur Tourismus, located at Winterthur HB.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Winterthur's NeverEnding story bench

So yesterday, we leave the library in Winterthur square as usual on a Saturday and, as usual the girls race each other to climb on the head of the amazingly surreal beast bench in the church square but there is a large man sitting in the way. He graciously moves to one side as the girls clamber up and when I thank him he tells me with a lovely big smile that the bench is actually modelled on the Never-ending Story. And despite this being a big favourite film of mine when I was originally entranced by it in 1984 at the tender age of 11, I never made the connection.

I didn't even realise that The NeverEnding Story (Die unendliche Geschichte) is a German made film. Indeed, it was made in 1984 as a German epic fantasy film (at the time of its release, the most expensive film produced outside the USA or the USSR) and directed and co-written by Wolfgang Petersen (his first English-language film) It is based on the novel of the same name written by Michael Ende, a German writer of fantasy and fiction.

It's a great story for little people, featuring Bastian Bux, a quiet boy who loves to read and is accosted by bullies on his way to school. He hides in a bookstore, interrupting the grumpy bookseller, Mr. Koreander. Bastian asks about the book Mr. Koreander is reading but he warns him it is 'not safe.' Nevertheless, Bastian 'borrows' the book, leaving a note promising to return it, and races towards school and when he realises he is late for a maths test. hides in the school's attic and begins reading The Neverending Story.

The book describes the fantasy world of Fantasia which is being threatened by a force called 'The Nothing,' a void of darkness that consumes everything. The Childlike Empress, who rules over Fantasia from the Ivory Tower, has fallen ill due to the Nothing, and she has summoned Atreyu, a young warrior from the Plains People to discover the means to end the Nothing. To protect and guide him. Atreyu is given AURYN, a medallion which represents eternity in an infinite snake design (the original prop is now owned by Steven Spielberg) and is helped by the Luck Dragon Falkar (who also sorts out Bastian's bullies at the end)

And every week for the last year since we moved to Switzerland, the girls have been clambouring onto the head of Falkar, appropriately, as Atreyu does in the film, which thrusts out into the world, full of magical potential. And the big snake with a crown which wraps around over Falkar protectively is Auryn, And the rest of the bench is infact a never-ending story. And it took all this time to realise. Thank you Mr Winterthur man for enlightening us!

And breathe...

So it all went well for Gourmet Gray at the Greifenseelauf yesterday and he finished unscathed with a great time of 2hr 6mins, despite it being nearly 25c. But a lot of people suffered - people were keeling over all over the place and pretty much every medical tent had at least one person inside - the medics were literally rushed off the feet.

But once again, it was super well organised. Because of the heat there were lots and lots of water stations, shower spots, people with buckets and sponges and local farmers had even put sprinklers along the side of the race. Bands, situated every 4km or so, were playing wonderfully upbeat tunes to keep everyone going.

All the finishers received a whiskey glass (!) and a gorgeous blue t-shirt proclaiming 35 years of Greifenseelauf success - and long may it continue.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Everything crossed for the Greifenseelauf

It's Greifenseelauf weekend. So I've just been 'admiring' Gourmet Gray's makeshift nipple guards (cut out of a regular plaster) in preparation for his half marathon run at the Greifenseelauf tomorrow. Yes, the things us running widows have to go through.

I will spend a couple of hours tomorrow afternoon as 1pm arrives with my fingers crossed, praying he takes it easy and doesn't pull/twist anything and basically makes it through in one piece. Not that Gourmet Gray isn't fit. He is. But I feel there is always a danger when you hit a certain age (ie over 40) that your body does not respond well to endurance events of any kind. Of course he would say that's codswallop, as every other 'serious' runner will probably assure me. And I know it's the running that keeps him happy - and he needs an event on the horizon to keep it going.

Although I don't yet need an 'event' to motivate me, I do love running. For me, it's one of those rare things that you can do from your doorstep, for free and just half an hour of exercise can keep those endorphins bouncing around in your system for the entire day.

And I think at some point I will be seduced into an 'event' in Switzerland because they make it so easy and organise them so well. The public transport there is great and paid for, the facilities are top notch and there is often even a pint of beer (ok, usually alcohol free, but very nice beer even so) at the end of it. Even the kiddies are involved with their own races. What's not to love?

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Invite for a night in a barn

My daughters have got great imagination right now. My five-year-old picked up a stone the other morning with the words 'Look mummy, a ghost stone.' And she was right!

And Switzerland looks set to evolve those super little minds even further - Bee has been invited by her Kindergarten teacher to sleep in a barn with her classmates overnight and we are invited to breakfast the next morning! I love Switzerland.

It just so happens to be my birthday that morning too. So I plan to take my weekend breakfast specialities - Nutella twizzlers. The recipe is very simple - buy a ready pack of puff pastry (the circular one) lie it out flat on the worktop, smear it generously with Nutella and cut it as you would a pizza into neat little triangles. Roll them up, from the outside to the middle and oven bake for 10 minutes (hot oven) En guete!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

From the suburbs of Birmingham to affluent Switzerland - Spar lives on

As an English girl who grew up with a Spar as her corner shop I find it very funny that Spars are rife here in Switzerland. How could a store that seemed to English and so cheap, be so prevalent in highly efficient, affluent Switzerland 35 years later? So I delved into the history of Spar to find out the truth.

And I was amazed to find out that Spar was founded in the Netherlands in 1932 by retailer Adriaan van Well. It is an international retail chain and franchise with approximately 12,500 stores in 35 countries worldwide. It's headquarters are in Amsterdam.

The name was originally DE SPAR, an acronym of the Dutch phrase Door Eendrachtig Samenwerken Profiteren Allen Regelmatig (an English translation would be - through united co-operation everyone regularly profits). De Spar is Dutch for 'The spruce', hence Spar's slightly Christmassy logo. As the organisation expanded across Europe, the name was abbreviated by dropping 'DE'.

The word Spar means 'to save (money)' in some Germanic and Scandinavian languages. So somehow, Spar has managed to keep its prices down and serves local communities effectively, as it did in my Birmingham backwater environment in the 1970s. Funny how some things never change, where-ever you go.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Enjoying the Chilbi funfair on Knabenschiessen

We enjoyed a lovely day off today to celebrate Knabenschiessen, which sounds rather rude for an English girl like me. Knabenschiessen is not actually an official holiday but schools take the Monday off and many businesses close for the afternoon.

The literal translation of Knabenschiessen, is 'boys shooting,' referring to an event harking back to the 17th century when competitions were held for the Schützenkönig (King of the Marksmen) with the aim of encouraging young boys to get excited about shooting and their future military service.

The event is now a weekend celebration and the actual shooting takes place at the shooting range in Albisgüetli in south-west Zurich. Knabenschiessen competitors (girls have been allowed to paricipate since 1991) must be between the ages of 13 and 17 years and live or go to school in the Canton of Zurich. For the entry fee of 12 Swiss Francs, competitors receive the right to participate, ammunition and a Bratwurst. Each year, 35'000 rounds are shot during Knabenschiessen.

Funnily enough Albisgüetli didn't feature on tram No.13 as expected when I leapt on it with my two daughters outside Zurich HB this morning. The destination was instead Laubegg where the 'Chilbi' fun fair was taking place to mark it. The rest of the tram line has been closed for the fair so I think the idea is that you walk along the tram line through the Chibli to the event at Albisgüetli, although we didn't get that far. We were too busy enjoying the fair.

And boy was it big and busy! We had a great time, consuming Bratwurst, Chnoblibrot (garlic bread) and supping slushies while enjoying a few rides and some weird and wonderful sights. Apparently there was a happy half hour at some point today where all the rides are free but I have no idea when that was – hopefully I'll be more clued up next time round. Happy Knabenschiessen!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Swiss national pride

The Swiss are very proud of being Swiss, portrayed by the multitude of national flags which adorn houses, streets, shops, squares, schools - and even building sites (see below) I can't say I blame them. Everything works. Everywhere is clean. Everyone is pleasant. Well, there are always exceptions. But that is what they are here. Exceptions.

The flag thing is infectious. I've not yet been here a year and I already feel the need to erect a flagpole from our balkon. I have a Swiss flag bag and I caught myself nearly buying Swiss flag slippers in Marktgasse this morning. Swiss pride is steadily infiltrating this English gal and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. Swiss pride and Babapappa...

Friday, 12 September 2014

Autumn is here (a little too soon)

I love how close up and personal the seasons are here. It's not just the rural area we live in nowadays, where the ebb and flow of our journey through the year is visually depicted by the work of local farmers but the people embrace it too.

Winterthur's amazing market on a Tuesday and Friday morning has suddenly gone from the hot reds and yellows of strawberries and sunflowers to the more muted oranges, greens and browns of a mass of autumnal produce, in particular pumpkins, which are suddenly everywhere. A huge variety of pumpkins too! The girls really enjoyed spotting the more alien looking species on the market this morning (it was a school inset day)

And as the weather has turned to the particularly cool temperatures, people have donned their boots, woolly cardigans and scarves and taking to the outdoor cafes wrapping their blankets around their knees and supping hot chocolate. I am expecting the heisse Marone (hot chestnut) stalls to appear very soon.

I'll be sad to leave the outdoor swimming behind though. Most pools close this Sunday.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

We love Green Cake!

So we've now made Friday our Green Cake Day. We love green cake. It was one of those outlandish looking things we had to try when we first moved to Switzerland and it tastes as good as it looks.

And then on Great British Bake Off (there are some very English things I just can't give up) last night, that's what they made! It's official name is now Princess Cake. So I now even know how to make it (although I'm not sure I'm brave enough)

It is actually a traditional Swedish layer cake (Prinsesstårta in Swedish) but the Swiss have certainly adopted it because it is so scrummy. It consists of alternating layers of airy sponge cake, custard or raspberry/ strawberry jam (depending on whether you're a purist or not) pastry cream, and a thick domed layer of whipped cream. It is topped with lime green marzipan, in a perfect dome shape and sprinkled with icing sugar, and often decorated with a pink marzipan rose (the Swiss have dropped the rose too)

The recipe first appeared in the 1930s 'Prinsessornas Kokbok' cookbook, which was published by Jenny Åkerström, a teacher of the three daughters of H.R.H. Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland. The cake was originally called "Grön tårta" (green cake), but was given the name "prinsesstårta" or "princess cake" because the princesses, H.R.H. Princess Margaretha (1899–1977; later Princess of Denmark), H.R.H. Princess Märtha (1901–1954; later Crown Princess of Norway), and H.R.H. Princess Astrid (1905–1935; later Queen of the Belgians) were said to have been especially fond it.

The cake is widely featured in Tom McNeal's book Far Far Away.