Putting the Bear into Bern…

Ok, I’ve been saving one of my favourite Swiss cities…  but I must finally share it.  In fact, it is not secret in the least – it is the very capital of Switzerland!  Yes, I am talking about the beautiful city of Bern.  Anyone who has visited me in Switzerland has been taken to this city, because it is a city I never tire of visiting – it is strikingly beautiful, culturally and historically interesting, and with great food and shopping – what more could you want?  At the same time it is a small city, and the historic part of the city is easy to visit in a day.  And, of course, there are THE BEARS.  That’s right, the namesakes of the city are still kept right in the city.

The story goes that the Duke who settled the city of Bern wanted to name the city after the first animal he found in the forest that he cut down to create the city, which of course was a bear.

Bern also has a link to Einstein, and you can visit Einstein Haus, where Einstein worked and filed his first patent.

Here are some of my own photos of the city and its bears:

Bern, and the Aare River

Another shot of the city, crouched in the right-hand side of the picture.

One of my favourite spots in Bern – the market chessboard. This spot is always busy, and there is always an intense match going on, with many on-lookers.

Window shopping in Bern – possibly the largest Swiss army knife in existence? Note the price tag (oh yes, you can buy this): a whopping 1200 francs! 🙂 Is it possible this knife has a fold-out maid that will clean my apartment for me?

Bear…with onlookers! Yes, there are often many people here to see the bears. They are now in their new “bear park” – I will leave the discussion of whether or not it is humane to keep them there out of this blog, but the question does remain…

Frolicking in the water…

I’m sure my lovely blogger host will soon trump this post with actual pictures of bears in the wild, but this is the best you’ll get in her absence… 🙂  But perhaps it will satisfy the wildlife cravings out there.
Happy Friday,

northkate

 

 

 

 

 

The home stretch!

Oh my goodness ‘northkate’ is AMAZING!

I am in the home-stretch of my summer camping/driving adventure, 2012, fresh into Vancouver, B.C. at my boyfriends parents house for a little bit of ‘luxury’ (aka – shower, mattress AND linens, and a coffee maker).

Before I even get into anything from my summer thus far (3 weeks to go!), I need to re-read for the tenth time this evening, the AMAZING, spectacular, thoughtful, entertaining, superbly written, and educational posts written by my dear friend northkate.

Who wants to move to Switzerland asap and experience a teeny bit of what she has been exploring there?

I cannot thank her enough for all the spectacular posts she has written. I am now going to push her (quite forcefully) to continue posting.

If not on my blog, then her own. I think she is such a remarkable person and has quite a lifetime full of travel experience in her very young years to create her own blog.

Wouldn’t you all agree?!

Thank you so much again k.

Stay tuned for an influx of a billion wildlife photos, hiking adventures and oddities discovered along the long winding roads.

Grindelwald – not just a character in Harry Potter

Hello again!
It has been a long break, but moving to Geneva has occupied my time in a big way, recently.  In any case, I thought I’d highlight a place in Switzerland I got the chance to visit a second time this summer, causing me to fall head-over-heels for it one more time:  Grindelwald.

Grindelwald

In the above picture you can see that Grindelwald is a mountain village, situated in a valley in the Alps.  The hiking in this area is fabulous, and there are also numerous cable cars and little red mountain trains that you can take as well – the typical Swiss experience!  The town itself is very pretty – slightly on the touristy side, but I find it still retains its charm.  The mountains dominate the landscape, and these are not just any mountains.  The three largest are none other than the Eiger (one side of which is the North Face), the Monch, and the Jungfrau.  If you feel like forking out the dough, you can take a train from Grindelwald to the “JungfrauJoch”, which is the highest train station in Europe – situated on a high pass between the Jungfrau and Monch.

This was the view from our hotel window – I couldn’t believe my eyes!

Here are a couple shots from hikes and train rides around the area.

The path…

Glacier

Alpen flowers – so pretty!

Thistle close-up

The Three Sisters (in the background): Eiger (North Face), Monch, Jungfrau

If you come in the wintertime, you are in skiing heaven – and also not far from Wengen, which hosts the World Cup slalom ski race if I’m not mistaken.

If you take a short (breathtakingly gorgeous) train ride from Grindelwald, you pass through Wengen and end up in Lauterbrunnen.  This is a village that seems unreal – it has a huge waterfall (Staubbach falls) right above it.

Lauterbrunnen

For those in Canada, I hope you enjoyed your August long weekend.  Have a great week,

northkate

Five reasons you should not miss the Désalpe celebration in Switzerland

What IS the Désalpe, you ask?  Well, one thing Switzerland is famous for is its cows, with their clanging bells.  If you have done a mountain hike in Switzerland, you have probably heard the tinkling of the bells (it really is a pleasant sound!), because the cows graze at high altitudes in the summer.  However, before it gets cold, the cows are brought down to be given a warm place for the winter.  Of course, why not celebrate this annual event?  Hence the “Désalpe” – kind of like “un-Alp”, meaning to bring the cows down from the alps.  Neat, eh?

Now, back to my five reasons.

Reason Number One:  You get to see a cow parade.  (bring earplugs for the clanging bells – not so enchanting up close!)
(Yes, many of the cows have fancy floral headresses!)

Reason Number Two:  You can try traditional Swiss raclette.  (Heated raclette cheese scraped onto boiled potatoes – delish!)
Reason Number Three:  You get to hear an alpen horn quartet.  The mellow sound they make is beautiful – I think it’s quite a difficult instrument to play!
Reason Number Four:  You get to see some traditional Swiss garb.

Reason Number Five:  Most importantly, you get to experience an ancient Swiss tradition.
I wish you all a good week – I’m off to Copenhagen!

northkate

The “Swiss Riviera”

Yes, Switzerland has mountains.  And cows.  And chocolate.  But it also has something else, that is lesser-known:  a little bit of Italy!  Switzerland is composed of 26 cantons (like provinces or states), most of which are German-speaking (swiss german, that is), some of which are French-speaking, but only ONE of which is solely Italian-speaking.  That is the canton of Ticino (or Tessin, in French).  I have had the fortune of visiting this beautiful canton twice, and I would jump at the chance to go again.  It is a wonderful combination of Italy and Switzerland – mountains, delicious food, warm weather, palm trees (!), and just all-round gorgeous.  As my descriptions clearly fall short, I will let the photos speak for themselves:

A sidewalk terrace in Locarno, Switzerland.

Polenta, being cooked outside in a big copper pot.  I had mine with Gorgonzola cheese – mmm!
 Flora from one of the Islands of Brissago near Ascona, Switzerland.  Take the local ferry to get there!  Here is a particularly interesting flower I saw:
The view of Lago Maggiore and the Alps (from Locarno) – does it get any better?
 Waiting for the ferry (to go to Ascona)…
I ate that delicious polenta with this superb view – no wonder it was so good!
 A little local culture – there was a Rolls Royce club meeting while we were there.
Another shot of lovely Ascona, Switzerland.
 You need to take a short funicular ride above Locarno to see this monastery – well worth it!
On the way to the Val Verzasca for a hike, we stopped at this huge dam, and yes, it was used in the James Bond film Golden-Eye! (Apparently – haven’t seen it…)  If you are a thrill-seeker, you can bungee jump off the dam…
This is a photo from our hike down the valley of Verzasca – this was a fantastic hike.  We took a bus up the valley and then hiked back down.
The aqua colour of the River Verzasca – it’s as chilly as it looks!

As you can see there is a lot to be seen in Ticino, Switzerland.  Go explore!

You must (fon)due this hike!

This is a hike I have had the privilege of doing twice, and it is not far from Neuchâtel, Switzerland, where I live.  In this hike, you essentially hike up and down what is called the “Creux du Van”.  The Creux du Van is a huge rock formation (apparently called a rock “cirque”:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creux_du_Van) that you spend a tough 30-45 minutes hiking straight up, followed by a leisurely hike down (1-2 hours).  Here is a link describing the hike:  http://activityworkshop.net/hiking/switzerland/creuxduvan.html . It is describing a slightly longer hike (don’t be thrown off – it doesn’t take 7 hours as it is listed!!!)

Despite the difficult hike up (known for its 13 switchbacks – believe me, you count them as you go) the view you are rewarded with (if there’s no fog) is stunning!  Not only that, but you are also greeted by the sound of swiss cow bells, because there are a few farms up top.  After the hike you can stop at Ferme Robert for a classic Swiss dish – cheese fondue!  Not a bad way to finish it all off, I can assure you.  Eat your fondue one of the typical ways, with a nice cup of hot tea.  Ferme Robert even has a little natural history museum upstairs, if you’re not already sold by their cheesy specialty!  (http://www.ferme-robert.ch/)
Here are a few photos I took on my first hike (the weather was so foggy the second time, I didn’t bother taking any):
Happy Monday!

northkate

Living in Switzerland…not too shabby!

Hello readers of Wistfully Wandering!
I am one of two guest-bloggers filling in while our blogging traveller Wistfully Wandering is off…travelling, of course!  She has left big shoes to fill, but I will do my best to give you some travelling tidbits while she is away.
I am also a Canadian, but I currently live in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. I have been here two years, and am excited at the prospect of staying a little longer – I am about to move to Geneva!  More about that later.
Switzerland has been very kind to me, and I have been stunned by its beauty.  For today’s post, however, I will focus on Neuchâtel’s beauty. Neuchâtel is a small city (population about 40,000, also the capital of the canton of Neuchâtel) situated on Lac Neuchâtel – great for swimming in the summer, by the way!  It is nestled into the Jura mountain range (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jura_Mountains), with the mountains on one side and the lake on the other.  Though it can be a challenge for a cyclist like me (“nestled” into mountains makes for some mean hills!) it is incredibly picturesque.  Here are some photos I’ve taken while living here the past two years.

The above photo shows a typical Neuchâtel view, with the alps in the background.  In the foreground is the “red cathedral”.

The above shot was taken at dawn, from my window.

That shot was also from my window, but after a snowfall in winter!  They don’t get much snow here, though…

The above shot is of the Hotel Beau Rivage – a beautiful high-end hotel right on the lake.  With a café to die for!

Neuchâtel is a beautiful village, with many restaurants and cafés, and lots of life.  One of my favourite things to do is go to the market.  The main market is on Saturdays, but there are also markets on Tuesday and Thursday.  Not bad for a town of 40,000 people!

A friend had told me that one has to do a sampling of the market tomatoes, so I had no choice but to oblige!  There was such a variety, which is why I bought the assortment above.  The plant is purple basil, and the little tub is of local goat cheese packed in olive oil and herbs – I couldn’t resist!  The other jar is of local yoghurt, another local product I heartily enjoy.  The swiss know their dairy products!

I drizzled that salad with some quality olive oil and my new favourite balsamic vinegar, an aged vinegar that is thicker and slightly sweet.  Four “star” rating (some vinegars seem to have this…).

Have a good weekend everyone,

northkate

Fantasy Friday – Welcome to the Destination Zermatt.

My friend in Switzerland is heading to Zermatt for a week. Am I jealous? Yes.

Why? She gets to see the Matterhorn.

So I decided to do a bit of research in the place, and the first website that came up said to me, “Welcome to the destination Zermatt”.

Nice, let’s check out what’s happening with this destination, or “physical location one may journey to” (Wikipedia).

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On the Italian border of the canton of Valais in the west of Switzerland, at the end of the 30 km-long Nikolaital, lies Zermatt, the village at the foot of the Matterhorn, the most photographed mountain in the world. For our guests from all over the world, Zermatt epitomizes their image of Switzerland: high-alpine, awe-inspiring and original. Almost one-third of the 4,000-metre mountains in the Alps are grouped around this word-famous health resort, which has been visited by mountaineers from all around the world since the first successful ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865. The hotels and restaurants are world-class, and the ski area is not only the highest in the Alps – it is also one of the best developed and most convenient in the world, ensuring thrilling sporting experiences on the steepest slopes in the world – and that 365 days a year. The climate is of an excellent quality: with 300 sunny days a year, there is less rainfall than anywhere else in Switzerland. The air in Zermatt is clear, dry and clean, because, since 1947, only electric cars without a combustion engine are allowed to operate in the village. Things are a little different in Zermatt. Zermatt – A world of its own.

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I hope she takes the Glacier Express when she is there too, sounds like a great experience:

Glacier Express: pure pleasure for eyes and palate

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The Glacier Express – the cult train for railway fans – travels from the Matterhorn to Piz Palü and St. Moritz. Admittedly there are quicker ways to reach the Upper Engadin, but none more beautiful. Alpine landscapes seem to glide past the train’s panoramic windows on this pleasure trip. You can also enjoy fine food and drink. Head waiter Thayan Sellathurai, is one of the many staff looking after the wellbeing of passengers.

Born in Sri Lanka, Thayan Sallathurai has been working as head waiter on the Glacier Express for three years. The 43-year-old has lived in Switzerland for almost two decades and has always worked in the gastronomy sector. He lives in Chur and will return there after the train trip to St. Moritz. Today he starts work at 10.00h, and after returning home can enjoy the evening with his son from about 20.00 h.

By the time the train reaches Chur, Thayan Sellathurai has already completed most of his duties, because guests seldom ask for hot meals on the second half of the journey. “People mostly order smaller items such as a plate of cheese or an afternoon snack, cake and coffee or just a drink,” says the head waiter.

Who gets out when and where?
Once passengers have studied the menu and order lunch, it’s all systems go for the kitchen and service staff. Thayan Sellathurai first discusses the gastronomic situation with the head chef. Then he finds out the guests’ culinary preferences and if they have dining vouchers. If so he collects these and passes on the orders. “The most important task is to find out who will be leaving the train during the journey and where,” he says. This is the only way to ensure that guests have enough time to enjoy their meal without feeling rushed. “Once I’ve got an overview, I can organize a reliable service sequence.” The head waiter then deploys staff in the individual carriages as needed.

Mastering unforeseen circumstances
It can happen that groups board the train without prior reservation. “It’s easy to understand that they suddenly feel hungry and want to eat when they see what we have to offer,” he admits. The available time then has to be taken into account when deciding which meals it is possible to serve. If requests can’t be met, then as head waiter, Sellathurai has to find the right words to console the disappointed guest. It is also an on-board custom to, at the very least, enquire at each table if the guest has enjoyed the meal and was satisfied with the service.

With his calm, composed manner, Thayan Sellathurai is able to deal masterfully with such unforeseen situations during the trip. “I always enjoy meeting different people and talking to them during my work. I have new encounters every day,” says the head waiter. What the man from Sri Lanka finds particularly fascinating are the four seasons, which for him always turn the journeys on board the Glacier Express into extraordinary occasions – however, with one slight reservation. The unique railway engineering on the Albula section presents him with major challenges. “There are so many curves that I sometimes have trouble keeping my balance while serving.”

Source - Matterhorn

Top 10 Countries to travel to in 2012

Lonely Planet recently came out with their top countries to travel to next year. Well that got me drooling.

Wait.

Maybe not drooling, isn’t that when you think about food?

I should say, my eyes got wider and wider as I read on.

Here is their list, pick your favorite:

1. Uganda

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2. Myanmar

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3. Ukraine

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4. Jordan

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5. Denmark

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6. Bhutan

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7. Cuba

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8. New Caledonia

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9. Taiwan

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10. Switzerland

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Hmm…my vote?

Switzerland!

I would love to go there to see my friend who moved and is teaching there. Then I could also quickly make a detour to one of my favorite places – Italy, then while I am at it, maybe check out Germany, oh hey…then Belgium, and Paris since it is so darn close…..

Switz Cheese

My friend has returned from her life of gorgeous scenery and amazing travels from Switzerland. She is here for a 2 week visit to our fair city of Toronto and I was just looking up some authentic food that I could cook for her from the beautiful country of Switzerland…

What about this recipe? Looks quite interesting from this webpage:

Recipe for Wurstsalat (Sausage Salad)

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Ingredients for 4 persons:

  • 1 bundle red radish, cut into slices
  • 2 carrots, cut into slices
  • 100 g (0.22 pounds) Emmentaler cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 100 g (0.22 pounds) Greyerzer cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 100 g (0.22 pounds) Tilsiter cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 3 cervelas (pork sausage, not cooked or grilled, just raw), cut into slices
  • ½ cucumber, cut into small pieces
  • 4 potatoes, cooked, cut into small pieces
  • pepper
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1 onion, hacked
  • 1 piece of garlic, pressed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon spices
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons oil
  • 1 or 2 eggs, cooked hard
  • 2 tomatoes
  • Chive, cut into small

Preparation:

  1. Put the vegetables and the cheese in a bowl and mix them well.
  2. Make the sauce with all the ingredients mentioned above, from pepper to oil and stir well.
  3. Pour the sauce over the salad and mix well.
  4. Peal the eggs and cut them into slices.
  5. Cut the tomatoes and use them together with the eggs for decoration.
  6. Pour the chive over the salad.

I am not sure how I “hack” an onion though. Looks a bit intense. I also have a strong feeling that my friend will be craving for this fine and diverse Toronto cuisine. Good idea, but I think I will stick to something like a sandwich or a burger!