Friday, January 4, 2008

Sisters in Switzerland

My sister, Julie, and I spent four days in Switzerland before Christmas. The first two days were in the country’s capital, Bern. I have previously visited Geneva, and Bern had a lot of similarities, which I now assume are typical of a Swiss city. Switzerland is clean, punctual and very expensive. The Swiss are extremely environmentally friendly; they choose to walk, bike, or take public transportation to work. The city streets are eerily empty of vehicles. The parking lots devoted to bicycles are crammed, even in the winter. Wherever one travels in Switzerland, it’s hard to avoid the reminders that Switzerland has a long tradition of watch making. It seemed as though Bern had a large clocktower on every street corner in the historic part of town.

After Bern we voyaged to the mountain village of Murren. To access this village, we had to take a large gondola, then a rickety train that chugged along the side of a mountain. Murren is a car-free village. It was traditionally a farming town, but now survives mostly on tourism. I felt more in the mountains while in this town that only a day of snowshoeing or hiking has allowed me to feel before. It is more common to see people sledding or skiing through the village’s narrow streets than walking. Even the mailman gets around on a large toboggan! The gentleman who owns the chalet we stayed at plays the alphorn, and we were fortunate to hear him play a tune one sunny afternoon.

We went sledging, which is what the Swiss call sledding. The ‘sledges’ are like a short and raised toboggan. The sledging trails start at the same elevation as the ski trails, and are accessed by a gondola. We had so much fun flying along the trail, and occasionally crashing into a snowbank.

Julie and I were in German speaking Switzerland. Despite the language barrier, we managed to order all the Swiss specialties for supper. We enjoyed two cheese fondues, which barely resembled any that I have had before. They were so delicious and soothing after a cold day of sightseeing. We were served bread and small boiled potatoes for dipping into the melted cheese. We also sampled several rosti, which were delicious and oddly similar to a hearty breakfast served in a cast iron pan. Rosti are grated potatoes, shaped into discs and shallow fried or baked in the oven. We had it served with fried eggs, sausages, bacon, and cheese (not all at the same time!). We also sampled several Swiss beers that resemble those made by their German neighbours. And to put the finishing touches on a well balanced diet of cheese, potatoes, and beer, we ate chocolate...lots and lots of chocolate. Yum!!

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