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.