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Showing posts from 2014

Happy 2015!

To all of you: Happy holidays and a good slide into the new year 2015 (as we like to say in Switzerland)! May the new year bring you much joy and happiness and many adventures in and around Switzerland!


Six Poems for Santa

According to our tradition Santa visits Switzerland on December 6th and does not bring the actual Christmas presents (those are said to be brought by the Christkind). Instead he takes a long a big bag filled with nuts, mandarines, cookies and chocolates which he distributes to the children he visits according to their behavior during the past year.

The amount of goodies one receives can sometimes be increased when the child (or adult) recites a poem or a short rhyme for Santa. Typically, these short poems are about the Santa tradition in Switzerland or about the Christmas season and are sometimes adapted by the children themselves. Some of them are a bit humorous which is not always received well by the visiting Santa...

Six Poems for Santa

Samichlaus du liebe Maa (Santa Claus you're a good man)
dörfi au es Nüssli haa.? (may I please have some nuts as well?)

Samichlaus du bisch en Guete (Santa Claus you're a good man)
gäll ich bruche gwüss kei Ruete (I won't need to…


In earlier posts, I've already introduced the Adventskranz (Advent Wreath) and the Adventskalender (Christmas Calendar) - two Swiss Christmas traditions that accompany us through advent by counting the days or weeks that are left until Christmas eve. Now, there is a third tradition during the Christmas season which includes the counting of the 24 first days of December: the Adventsfenster (Advent Windows) In contrary to the Advent Wreath and the Christmas Calendar which are family traditions and take place at home, this tradition takes place outside and is more a communal tradition.

Adventsfenster are common mainly in smaller towns and villages of Switzerland. This is how it works: All over the village or neighborhood there are 24 people - mostly families and schools but also couples or even local businesses - who decorate one or more of their windows in a holiday theme. During the decoration process and until a window is publicly revealed on its allocated day, the windows stay clo…

How to Make Your Own Christmas Calendar

Another year is over and Christmas is just around the corner. As in many parts of Europe, people in Switzerland enjoy the tradition of counting the days until Christmas eve. This is usually done with an Advent Calendar (advent is the season of waiting and preparation before Christmas) also called a Christmas Calendar which counts the 24 days from December 1st o 24th or an Advent Wreath that counts the last four Sundays before Christmas.

Every department store and supermarket in Switzerland has a selection of ready-to-use Christmas Calendars on sale - most of them in form of a wintery picture with one little door or window to open every day. Personally, I prefer homemade calendars but then you might not be lucky enough to receive one every year so a store bought one can be a solution. This way at least you'll get to enjoy the suspense and surprise as to whats hidden behind a window. Some actually have little chocolates hidden behind the windows.

Homemade calendars (and ready-made c…

The Swiss Baby Name Charts

Every couple of years the Federal Bureau of Statistics publishes a report on the most popular baby names in Switzerland. In 2008-2010 the winners in the German part of Switzerland were Lena and Noah followed by a variety of other short and quite international names. While Noah still leads the list of most popular baby names in the 2011-2013 report, Lena has been replaced by Mia. Also, there are a quite few "new" names in the top 8 of first names 2011-2013.
The 8 most popular baby names in Switzerland 2011-2013:Girls:
Mia (+1)*Alina (+2)Sara (+4)Laura (+1)Lea (+/-0)Sophia (new)Leonie (new)Emma (new)
Boys: Noah (+/-0)Leon (+1)Luca (-1)Julian (new)Levin (+4)David (+/-0)Nico (-1)Gian (new)
* in brackets the comparison to the 2008-2010 report

The most popular names in French speaking Switzerland were Emma and Gabriel, Sofia and Gabriel in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, and in the Rumantsch speaking part Chiara and Jonas were most popular.


© 2014 IRE…

Pumpkin vs. Räbeliechtli

Halloween is just around the corner and while I believe every culture should have it's share of interesting holidays and traditions I must admit don't really appreciate when a "foreign" holiday is imported to Switzerland - especially when it's mainly for money making reasons such as Halloween. Ten years ago nobody was celebrating this holiday but nowadays the stores are full of costumes, candy and other Halloween-y decoration articles. I'd much rather see people pick up on older traditions that slowly fade into history - but maybe I'm just a nostalgic.

Thus, as people are carving their pumpkins around the world children in Switzerland will get ready to carve their beetroots (and many crafty adults as well). True, the actual season for the Räbeliechtli(beetroot lanterns) starts in November and is basically one of many Christmas season traditions here in Switzerland but I believe creating a beautiful lantern is fun even already in October. As the days are q…

10 Fun Things to Do During Fall in Switzerland

It's been two weeks since fall solstice and the days are getting shorter rapidly. September has been sunny and warm and so far October has been pleasant as well. It seems almost as if fall is trying to make up for a lousy summer.

Fall in Switzerland usually means that the end for all summer activities like swimming, boating, sun bathing, etc. has come. Especially water related activities are off limits to most people simply because the water has gotten too cold. However, there are plenty of activities to enjoy outdoors on a beautiful fall day - just make sure to bring a warm jacket in case the weather changes unexpectedly.

Here are my personal top 10 fun things to do during fall in Switzerland:
Hiking or walking: A good pair of shoes will get you almost anywhere in Switzerland. Enjoy the colors of the leaves changing and the sunshine. If you reach a high enough altitude you might be able to see the Nebelmeer, a sea of fog, lingering between the hills. Not sure where to go or how t…

Appenzeller Biberli

Switzerland is famous all over the world for its chocolate. Yet, there are plenty of other sweet dishes typical of Switzerland that are worth trying. Amongst them carrot cake, Magenbrot, Vermicelles, and a great variety of cookies. I'm game for any dessert or cookie that contains almonds or almond paste and therefore one of my personal favorites of Swiss sweet dishes is the Appenzeller Biberli.

This pastry is originally from the canton of Appenzell - thus the name - but is produced and eaten all over Switzerland nowadays. There also exists a larger version of the Biberli which is called a "Biber" and comes without the almond paste filling of the Biberli.

If you're living in Switzerland or passing through on a visit you can find Biberli in almost every supermarket. However, if you're abroad chances are high there are no Biberli to be found anywhere nearby - not even in the imported foods section of your local deli. What can you do? Of course, you can always try yo…

A Swiss Girl Called Heidi

Switzerland is famous for its mountains, chocolate, watches and cheeses but have you ever wondered if there are any famous Swiss people? In sports Roger Federer is well known and loved all around the globe, Henry Dunant founded the Red Cross and had great impact on world health, Julius Maggi changed the kitchens of the world with his Maggi sauce, and Sepp Blatter is the (by now controversial) head of FIFA. There are more Swiss people, e.g. scientists and scholars, who have or are well known for their achievements. However, I believe the most famous Swiss person has never actually lived but rather leads a fictional life in many books and television series all over the world: Heidi.

Heidi was created by Swiss author Johanna Spyri and two books covering her adventures and life in Switzerland were first published in 1880. As a young orphan Heidi is sent to live with her grandfather, the Alp-Öhi, who after some initial resentment takes to the girl and grows to love her. Heidi lives through…

How to Greet a Hiker in Swiss German

In the mood of a recent post about hiking in Switzerland I thought it fitting to introduce a basic Swiss German hiking vocabulary. Indeed, in Switzerland it is customary for hikers to greet each other when crossing or overtaking another hiker.

Now, you can definitely hike in Switzerland without knowing any Swiss German but I think it's still nice to be able to greet the people you'll meet on the trails with a local greeting, wouldn't you agree?!
How to Greet a Hiker in SwitzerlandGrüezi - formal greeting, polite greeting, is used for strangers, can be used any time of the day
Guete Morge - good morning
Guete Tag - good day
Guete Abig - good evening
Hoi - hi, hello, informal greeting for friends or young people in general
Hallo - hi, hello, informal greetings for friends or young people in general
Hoi zäme - hello all, informal greeting for a group of friends or young people
How to Converse at Lunch Hour Chances are you'll be sharing your lunch or picnic spot with a few m…

A Short Guide to Hiking in Switzerland

It's summer in Switzerland and that means the hiking season is upon us. If you've ever spent some time walking or cycling outside in Switzerland, you must have seen noticed the classic yellow markers showing you the direction, the time it takes to reach your destination and the type of trail you'll be hiking. These are part of a national network of hiking trails.
Hiking Trails in Switzerland Thanks to a long and old tradition of hiking in the valleys and mountains (and the flatlands), an extensive network of hiking trails all over Switzerland was developed over the decades. Currently, there are over 60'000km of hiking trails cover all of Switzerland. Almost as many km as roads since Switzerland only counts with 71'400km of roads!

Most of the hiking trails are located in the mountainous cantons of Grisons, Berne and Valais - including some challenging alpine hiking trails. However, there are always plenty of hiking trails nearby as well. Just outside of Zurich, for…

Top 40 Funny Place Names in Switzerland

All over the world, there are cities and villages with names that strike us as funny. Places such as Sexi (Peru), Middlefart (Denmark) or Hooker (USA) make us smile or even giggle a bit. Especially, when you actually get to visit one of them. I once actually drove through Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu (New Zealand) which is one of the longest names any populated place on earth has. Sometimes, it is the sound of the place name that sounds funny to foreign ears but most of the time it's the either the literal meaning (as in Climax (USA)) or the similarity to a word in another language (as in Bitsch (Switzerland)) that tickles our sense of humor.

There are plenty of collections of weird and unusual place names from all over the world but there aren't that many lists of places with funny names in Switzerland - at least none in English that I could find. After some research I compiled my own Top 40 of Switzerland's Funniest Place Names (in brackets …

Sechseläuten 2014 - The Bare Facts

This article was about Sechseläuten 2014. You can find information and details about this years Sechseläuten in Zürich here: Sechseläuten in Zurich!

Just a few days and Zurich will celebrate it's annual Sechseläuten Spring Festival. You can read more about the origins and customs of this unique Zurich holiday in one of my older posts but I'd still like to give you the gist of this years Sechseläuten:
Date: 25-28 April 2014Date and time of Zug der Zünfte (main procession): 28 April 2014 15.00 - the procession will follow the usual routeDate and time of Kinderumzug (childrens event): 28 April 2014 14.00 - the children walk a slightly different routeVisiting canton (Gastkanton): ObwaldenParticipating Zünfte: Gesellschaft zur Constaffel, Zunft zur Saffran, Zunft zur Meisen, Zunft zur Schmiden, Zunft zum Weggen, Vereinigte Zünfte zur Gerwe und zur Schuhmachern, Zunft zum Widder, Zunft zur Zimmerleutern, Zunft zur Schneidern, Zunft zur Schiffläuten, Zunft zum Kämbel, Zunft zur Waag, …

Spring Time in Switzerland

Spring in Switzerland is an interesting season. Some years we get lucky and live through months of beautiful sunshine, blooming flowers and trees and just a few rain showers. Other years we are not as lucky and most spring days are cold, gray and rainy. This year - as in most years - it seems to be a mixture of both. But even if spring at times seems gray, there's always the hope for a good summer!
Spring Season in Switzerland However, there are also some highlights to look forward to this spring in Switzerland:
April Fools Day: when Swiss children (and even serious Swiss newspapers) tell made up stories. Will you fall into the trap or can you spot the lie?Easter: fun holiday that Swiss people spend eating lots of chocolate bunnies and eggs. If you want to be more creative you could try to bake your own version of Easter Bunnies. Don't forget to brush up on your Easter vocabulary with this Easter dictionary as well!Sechseläuten: this Zurich spring festival in April attracts lot…

Swiss Place Name Quiz

There is one game that I've always loved playing: the Swiss Place Name Quiz. In this quiz you'll get 40 or so triples of place names and you have to pick the place that actually exists in Switzerland. Obviously, you can solve this quiz with good geographical knowledge of Switzerland but even then you might get confused because the triples are always a group of similar words (in sound or meaning). 

An (easy) example:
a) Zug
b) Bahn
c) Tram

 Of course "Zug" is the correct answer. If you have some knowledge of German you'll notice that the other two solutions Bahn (= train) and Tram (= tramway) have a similar meaning to Zug (= train) and for the geographically challenged it might be hard to pick the right one.

The question is, how well do YOU know Switzerland? Try solving the Swiss Place Name Quiz and find out!

1) a) Bärentrangen                                                 b)Affeltrangen c) Büffeltrangen
2) a) Beiwil b) Auswil c) Vonwil
3) a) Blauen b) Roten c…

A Swiss German Winter Dictionary

It's winter. I know, everyone is waiting for spring with a bit more sunshine (hopefully), green leaves on trees and colorful flowers. Nevertheless, this winter dictionary might come in useful during your winter holiday in the Swiss mountains:

chalt (cold)
Chälti (coldness)
Chuehnagel (frostbite on finger or toes)
gfroore (frozen)
gfrüüre (to freeze)
Glattiis (black ice)
grau (grey)
Iglu (igloo)
iigschneit (to be snowed in, stuck in a place because of snow fall)
Iis (Ice)
Iisräge (ice rain)
iischalt (ice cold)
iischneebele (to cover someone with snow)
Iiszapfe (icicle)
Näbel (fog)
näblig (foggy)
Schnee (snow)
Schneeflöckli (small snowflake)
schneie (to snow)
Schneeball (snow ball)
Schneeball-Schlacht (snow ball fight)
schneebele (to play in the snow)
Schneeflocke (snowflake)
Schneemaa (snowman)
Schneefrau (snow woman)
Schneesturm (snow storm)
Seegfrörni (freezing of a lake)
Winter (winter)

And once you master all the words for cold, snow and ice, you should have a look at these wo…

10 Fun Things to do with Kids in Winter

Winter can be hard on parents (I suppose). In summer kids keep themselves occupied outside, riding bikes and building tree forts. In winter, however, options can be a bit limited. Especially since in most parts of Switzerland snow is a passing occurrence and winter days are usually just gray, wet and cold.

I tried to remember what kind of activities my mom came up with while growing up and realized most things can still be done today. Have a look:
Zoo: visit the zoo in Basel or Zurich. Some animals are even more active in winter such as penguins. Visiting Indoor housing is great for warming up!Alpamare: visit Switzerlands most popular water park. Slides, hot pools and more will keep you busy for a whole day!Sledding: Switzerland has great sledding slopes where you can take a train or gondola up the mountain and sled down at your own pace. Rigi and Bergün are my favourites!Public pool: almost every town in Switzerland has a public pool. The water is usually not hot but at a pleasant tem…

Typical Swiss Dishes

I've been on the road for several months now and have met lots of interesting people from different cultures and backgrounds. I've learned polite phrases in different languages, seen different landscapes and eaten the local specialities.

There is one question that my new friends ask me that keeps popping up: "What's a typical Swiss meal?" I usually answer something like "anything with cheese and potatoes" but then that realky doesn't give them the right impression. I mean the Canadian Poutine also has cheese and potatoes but it's very far from being a Swiss dish (thank god!).
So I started to think which dishes that I used to prepare and eat in Switzerland or that my mom ir grandma made for me growing up could be considered typically Swiss. It's not so easy as food in Switzerland has become very international due to the immigrative history.
Fondue and Raclette are the most famous Swiss dishes but are there more? This is what I came up with so …