Thursday, 29 October 2015

Forest School

The Swiss love the great outdoors. And so do we. Which was why when the village kindergarten ran out of space for a sudden influx of children last year and offered a year of forest school we snapped up a place. And, although some mornings my 5-year-old would groan at the thought of another big walk into the forest and back (she would always come home with a big grin) we never regretted our decision.

And now the year 'in Wald' has finished, she still gets to do one morning a week in the forest, which is great. They do so much - they cook, create natural art, play games, light fires, sharpen sticks and saw branches off trees. Yes, it took me a while to get my head around too - the children are taught how to use matches and they are taught how to use Swiss army knives and mini saws to make things. And all the gear is kept in a cutesy little caravan in the forest, with a tiny lock on it (see above)

Monday, 19 October 2015

Winterthurs' Wildpark Bruderhaus is a great day out - even in the rain!

For a 'last day of the holiday treat' we visited Winterthur's Wildpark Bruderhaus which houses a variety of spacious enclosures comprising deer, lynx cats, bison, wild horses and wolves. It was a little rainy but that did not deter us as the walk through the forest is stunning at this time of year, with its autumnal colours and exciting clumps of mushrooms to find.

We love Peter Imfeld's White Stag sculpture which has steps up its hind leg for children to climb! The children's playground is on the way to the spacious wolf enclosure - the wolves stayed hidden but it was thrilling to glimpse three of them sheltering from the rain under the distant trees.

We entered the Restaurant Bruderhaus which was heaving with people - despite the weather - but a lovely couple shuffled around to make room for us. I enjoyed a very comforting Baileys Heisse Schoggi, the girls had mini hot chocolates and an ice cream dessert, which they were delighted to find came with a lolly, and we thawed out in the warmth and enjoyed the buzzing atmosphere. I was amazed to see a well stocked bar and a couple enjoying a bottle of wine at lunchtime. I love that about the Swiss, they just know how to enjoy themselves :)

Wildpark Bruderhaus also features a children's adventure trail with a rock garden, children's village and a Labyrinth. The Restaurant Bruderhaus is equipped with a barbecue area, benches and a 20-minute walk through the forest takes you to the restaurant Eschenberg, near the Eschenberg Observatory which opens its doors every Wednesday evening. Eschenberg Tower, which stands 30m high, is also located in the nearby Esch mountain forest.

Not a good day for Swiss politics

As protestors in recent clashes in Bern this weekend feared, Switzerland's vote yesterday saw the extremely right-wing SVP claiming 65 seats in the new National Council, giving it a right-wing majority for the first time ever.

Turnout was around 47%, fairly normal for a Swiss general election, but the SVP managed to achieve a historic high of 29.4% by spending more money than any other party – it seems money buys votes in Switzerland as it does everywhere else.

So what does this mean? In Swiss politics a majority in parliament isn't as dramatic as in Britain but it is still a big result and will dictate the path Switzerland takes over the next four years. Although Switzerland is a direct democracy, meaning that voters have a say through referenda, around 75% of all decisions are taken by parliament without asking the people.

Most immediately it will affect the election of the Swiss government, the Federal Council, which takes place on 9 December. The seven Federal Councillors are elected by both houses of parliament together, with a simple majority needed to elect each member. Although these particular elections often produce surprises, a second seat for the SVP is now almost a foregone conclusion, meaning that the right will then have four seats and a majority in government as well.

The SVP made the refugee crisis in Europe the main topic of debate, even though Switzerland has barely been affected by the recent migration so far. So this result is very disturbing. The right-wing majority is also likely to replace the Swiss political tradition of consensus with confrontation –for example, over immigration, over pensions, nuclear energy – as well as confrontation with anyone who disagrees with them.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Get set for Oktoberfest!

One of the (many) things I love about the Swiss is the way they adopt the things they love from other countries and cultures and make them their own. They do it with the language - big time, and there there is green cake (an amazing concoction of sponge, cream and green marzipan which originally comes from Sweden) and of course they do it with festivals (and the Swiss LOVE their festivals)

So at this time of year, the stores are suddenly packed to the rafters with dirndls – the amazing traditional dress with built in cleavage (well, you will also need to wear your best push-up bra of course ;) Because it's Oktoberfest time and there will be events taking place all across Switzerland, with much beer, much cleavage, lots of swaying and a bundle of great traditional Swiss/German music.

The ambiance is jovial and total strangers sing well-known songs together as if they have known each other for years. The Oktoberfest – the original of which is held every year in Munich and opens with the famous words, “O'zapft is!” (it’s tapped!) – is becoming increasingly popular here. Every year, Oktoberfest hosts invent new specialties to treat their guests to an unforgettable Oktoberfest experience.

Tomorrow, (Friday, 2nd Oct) there will be a Children's Oktoberfest for the kiddies to enjoy at Zurich HB between 1pm and 4pm, with clowns, magicians, a cotton candy and a carousel ride for free!

And in Winterthur's big event, which has now being taking place for 17 years, will happen on 22nd October in the grand Oktoberfest Barn, with further events across the city right up until 7th November – more details here.

For details of Oktoberfest activities throughout the canton of Zurich, visit here.

My first watercolour painting

I've taken on the task of teaching myself watercolours. Very tricky for me, being an artist far more comfortable with pastels and oil paints! So after a series of sketches, some better than others, I've produced my first painting which I am pretty proud of. Brütten Church, in Brütten where I live (10mins from Winti, up a very big hill) is very pretty and a prominent feature of the village, peeking out across the vista from miles around. I am planning a collection of pictures focusing on views of the church from many different viewpoints - some rather unusual! So please enjoy Brütten Kirche No.1 :)