October 2016 · Cuckoo!
Marginalia: Notes written in the margins of a text. Rhymes with Australia!

A week in Switzerland

Hello there!

CoosAs part of the Mothership Epic 60th Celebrations I've just returned from a bus tour of Switzerland with the birthday lass, her dear friend Bron, and a couple of dozen charming retirees from around the world.

I hadn't been on an organised holiday since a 2004 Contiki tour of Russia. As much as I'd loved that experience, my inner granny rejoiced in the leisurely vibes of our tour de Suisse. Early starts, frequent Comfort Stops, dinner by 7pm, and no need to fake a desire to party on all night!

By the end of the week I'd almost convinced myself I was retired too, wondering if I should get the grandkids more Toblerones and hoping Gareth had watered the roses properly.

It was a week of soaring mountains, tranquil lakes, cowbelled cows and cheese. Much delicious cheese. And also...

Lake Geneva

1. A glacial pace

Normally I'm all about the holiday planning. Research! Lists! Timetables! Spreadsheets!

But turns out it's equally thrilling to surrender to someone else's schedule. Especially when that schedule is so serene. For a whole week there were feck all decisions to make aside from "chicken or fish", "to nap or not to nap" or "do you want to go to the fondue-and-yodelling cultural evening?" Nein, danke!
Matterhorn views

2. Mothership + Matterhorn

Mum has always had a huuuuge fear of heights. But in this epic 60th birthday year she was ready to grab fear by the Matterhorns!

She was a little pale as we boarded the first of three cable cars that took us 12,740 feet up to view the famous pointy mountain. But by the time she tottered out to lookout point at the top she was bloody jubilant.

We lucked out with an empty car on the way back down, so she stood right in the middle and did a happy dance o' triumph, her personal Everest conquered. So chuffed to have been a witness, dear Mothership!

Scales WTF

3. WTF hotel scales

Every hotel room we stayed in had a set of scales in the bathroom. I'd not encountered this on my travels before. What that's all about? Hello tourist! Would you like to know exactly how much you like our cheese and chocolate?

A different view

Throughout the trip I was conscious that we were travelling a rather touristy path. I was curious about Switzerland beyond banks, chocs and cuckoo clocks, so I asked Sandra and Judy, two awesome expats, for their perspective...

View from Matterhorn visitors centre thing

Sandra - an Aussie in Bern

"The Swiss love their mountains and lakes, like us Aussies love our oceans. These things are part of their soul. The Bernese, my adopted people, love to jump into their fast flowing river, the Aare, in the summer months.
Some just jump in from a bridge, let the strong current carry them downstream, climb out and then do it all over again. Others have rubber dinghies, complete with waterproof plastic drums that they pull along behind them, with all their personal belongs inside which provide a longer float.

You can also use a Wickelfisch, a tie-on waterproof bag, to hold your undies and clothes while you float down the turquoise waterway. I love to watch the tiny black dots bobbing down the river from a bridge, people chatting as they go.

If I had more time I’d talk about the fondue (oh yes, we do), the fighting cow festival, the Swiss wrestling championships where the Jungs wear overshorts with handles to assist in heaving each other about but I think I had better stop now."

You can follow Sandra's Swiss shenanigans on Instagram.

Judy - a Kiwi in Zürich

"What you have to realise is that the clichés are all absolutely true. This is a nation that runs on chocolate and cheese (and bratwurst). But not cuckoo clocks. Cuckoo clocks are way too frivolous.

When I first arrived in Switzerland 27 years ago and took my first trip to the mountains, I was ecstatic to be ice skating outside to the sound of clarinet polkas. I have even, I confess with absolutely no shame, twirled down a mountainside singing 'The hills are alive'. They put something in the water, obviously.

People love the outdoors and try to spend as much time outside as they can. The brief, giddy hiatus they call summer is packed with music festivals, outdoor cinema, drama festivals, days spent at the nearest lake, and outdoor cafés and restaurants. Hiking paths are jam-packed with fit pensioners, and everyone else is biking, running or nordic walking. This is how they manage to pack away so much cheese and chocolate and still look good.

One favourite event with our local fire department is a pre-Christmas outdoor fondue, where we all wrap up and head into the forest to gorge on cauldrons of fondue wearing sacks around our necks to hold the chunks of bread, keeping our hands free for the metre-long fondue forks and glasses of wine.

Although newcomers often get frustrated by bureaucracy, and by neighbours' irritating tendency to tell you in minute detail all the heinous crimes you've committed (using the laundry room on the wrong day, or after 10 p.m.; forgetting to put stickers on your rubbish bags; or mixing green glass with white in the recycling), things work, streets and public transport are kept clean and everything runs on time. Switzerland is a country of many recurring pleasures, a country that improves on closer acquaintance."

Thank you gazillions, Sandra and Judy! 

Thing of the Month




The terrace cafe at the top of the Stanserhorn with stonking Alpine views reminded me of the 1963 romantic comedy/thriller Charade, in which Audrey Hepburn meets Cary Grant on the terrace of a swanky ski resort. I was in the Swiss Alps not French, and wearing a cake-crumbed jumper not gorgeous Givenchy, but it's as close as I'll ever get!

Charade is a film I can recite (along with the original Muppet Movie). Audrey plays Regina Lampert, who discovers she's being followed by four men seeking the hidden fortune of her recently murdered spouse (thrown off a train, poor lad). Cary comes to her aid, but of course he is not who he seems...

There's witty banter, glamorous Paris locations, a droll Walter Matthau and a sauntering Mancini soundtrack. It is a true gem of a film.

Thank you for reading, and may your October be outstanding!

Forward to a comrade
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