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Showing posts from July, 2011

Ricola - Who Invented it?!

Despite the season (supposedly summer) I managed to catch a cold and am now going through the usual routines of fighting it off with home remedies. One of such remedies we us here in Switzerland is Ricola, the famous Swiss cough drops.

I remember when I was a child my mom used to buy Ricola cough drops in a tin and the drops were cube shaped and tasted and were made of herbs. By now, they are popular internationally and sold all over the world. A Swiss success story.

I believe you can still find those original Ricola in most supermarkets in Switzerland. However, these days the more common version of Ricola comes in a bag where the drops are individually wrapped or in little cardboard boxes much like gum. Also, instead of just having the one flavor there are dozens of new flavors: Mint, Lemon Grass, Cranberry, Honey-Cherry and more. There is even Ricola chewing gum. The original Ricola is still my favorite though!
Why I (still) like Ricola What I like about Ricola is that not only do t…

Swiss Comedy by the Schmirinskis

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a youtube video of two Swiss comedians the 'Schmirinkis'. Even though they ended their career as comedians, Stefan Schmidlin and Rene Rindlisbacher are still two of the most popular comedians in Switzerland. Whereas Schmidlin has pulled back from the public, Rindlisbacher was hosting a game show on Swiss television called "The Million Trap" (Die Millionenfalle) for a while. If you're not from Switzerland, chances are you have never heard of the Schmirinskis. Much like the Swiss tv series 'Fascht e Familie', they were and are popular almost exclusively in Switzerland and its Swiss German speaking audiences. Who were the Schmirinkis? The name "Schmirinskis" is made up of the first few letters of the two comedian's last names Schmidlin and Rindlisbacher. Schmirisnkis are famous for getting into staged fights while performing. The fight usually starts when they start discussing which of them the better comedian or bette…

Different Swiss German Dialects

Switzerland has four official languages: (Swiss) German, French, Italian and Rumantsch. The spoken language, however, in the so called 'German' part of Switzerland is not actually standard German but Swiss German.
Swiss German Dialects Swiss German is spoken in more than half of the 26 cantons of Switzerland which makes it the most spoken language in Switzerland. In fact, in 21 of the 26 German is recognized as the official language, in some cantons together with another official language like French or Rumantsch.

People from each of the (Swiss) German speaking cantons have their own distinct dialect. Someone who grew up in Berne has a very different dialect from someone who was raised in St. Gallen or Zurich. The dialects differ slightly in grammar and a bit more in vocabulary. The biggest difference lies definitely in the pronunciation of the words! Yet, despite the differences a native of Zurich can understand almost all other dialects, with the exception of some mountain d…

How to Spit a Cherry Pit

The summer is here and thanks to the incredibly warm and sunny spring the cherry harvest is especially plentiful this year. There are more and bigger cherries than we usually have in Switzerland. Big, sweet and juicy cherries - just right for a cherry spitting contest!
Cherry Spitting Contests in Switzerland Cherry spitting has been a tradition in Switzerland for as long as I can remember and most likely many generations before me. Cherry spitting contests are usually held in rural areas in combination with a farmers market or harvest feast. With some practice you can learn to spit cherry pits a few meters but to become Swiss champion you have to spit it really far. Only two weeks ago a new champion in cherry spitting was crowned in Switzerland. She managed to spit the cherry pit over 11 meters!
How to Spit a Cherry Pit According to the expert cherry pit spitters, this is how to best spit a cherry pit:
Take a tasty and juicy cherry and eat all the fruit. Leave the pit in your mouth. I…

How to Eat Cheese Fondue

Today has been a rainy and quite cold day for summer so I decided to write about cheese fondue, a typical Swiss dish that is usually eaten in the colder times of the year, especially during winter. I have heard of people eating cheese fondue in the heat of the summer but I have yet to meet such a person.
Three Types of Fondue Let's leave the cheese fondue eating schedules of Swiss people and talk about the dish itself. We Swiss know and eat three types of fondues: cheese, meat and chocolate. All of these fondues include a full pot on a small burner in the middle of the table, long forks and something to dip in whatever is in the pot.

What makes one fondue different from the other are the ingredients. It matters a lot what thing you dip in what liquid! Cheese fondue is made of melted cheese mixed with white wine, kirsch and spices and you dip bread in it. In meat fondue you actually cook the meat in a broth in the pan on the table. Chocolate fondue is basically melted chocolate in…

Rivella, a Popular Swiss Soft Drink

After Ovomaltine hot chocolate drink, Rivella probably is the most famous drink in Switzerland. It is almost exclusively sold in Switzerland, with some being sold in the Netherlands and Germany. It's surprising that Rivella actually sells in Germany because, in the beginning, the Germans did not like Rivella at all. In fact, it took quite an effort from the Rivella company to successfully launch the drink in Germany.

Among other things, they used clever commercials with one of Germany's most famous comedians Michael Mittermeier. In one of the spots he complains about the ambition of the Swiss to take over the world. He claims they add 'li', a very common Swiss German suffix that means 'little', to German words and places. One of the places he brings as evidence is BERLIN, the German capital. If you remove the 'li', what do you get? BERN, the capital of Switzerland! It's clever use of typical elements of the Swiss German language. Have a look at the …

From Zurich to Geneva on the Tilting Train

Switzerland is known for its well-developed and very punctual system of public transportation. I must admit that I got so used to its punctuality that a delay of 5 minutes is irritating to me. I am sure that in other countries a 5 minute delay would be considered leaving on time.  However, I don't want to talk about time tables today but about a special kind of train the SBB (Swiss federal railway company) is using on some of its longer routes: the Tilting Train.

I remember when I first rode the tilting train about 10 years ago. Everyone kept telling me that the tilting will make me sick (which I'm glad to tell you it didn't) but that overall it was quite a neat train - also because it was brand new. I was heading to the French part of Switzerland with a friend for a weekend and after the first tilts on the train we got used to it and the excitement was over. Actually, we found that the tilting was quite enjoyable.
Last weekend I rode the tilting train once again on my wa…

Meet the Swiss Seinfelds: Almost a Family

The US and Britain have successfully produced and aired several sitcoms and soap operas such as Friends, Desperate Housewives or Seinfeld. Compared to the huge success of those shows, the Swiss equivalent "Fascht e Familie" is practically unknown outside Switzerland. Nevertheless, it is dearly loved by many Swiss - including myself! And it did run for many years on Swiss television - a feat many newer programs have failed to complete.


"Fascht e Familie" means 'Almost a Family' and the series shows episodes of the lives of four very different roommates who rent a room in Tante Martha's house. It is not clear in which Swiss city the characters live but my guess would be Zurich. The main characters are the following:

the waiter Hans Meier who is also a passionate (but not very talented) actorthe esoteric fanatic Tante Martha who owns the house everyone lives inthe bank employee Vreni Hubacher who falls in love almost every episodeFlipp who doesn't have …

The Swiss Language Phenomenon

I am planning on spending this weekend at Lake Neuchatel in the French part of Switzerland. To be more precise, it is the French speaking part since it obviously isn't French territory. Therefore, I thought of telling you about what I call the Swiss language phenomenon.

Switzerland is relatively tiny, especially compared to the US or Great Britain. Even Italy is actually big in comparison to the Swiss nation. In fact, Switzerland is about 40 times smaller than California which means that Switzerland could fit 40 times into California. I actually learned this from an FAQ about Switzerland on the website Facts about Switzerland. I always knew Switzerland was tiny but wasn't sure how tiny in comparison to the US. Sorry, Brits and Aussies out there, I haven't found a comparison to your countries!

Anyway, tiny Switzerland does not only have 26 semi-independent cantons but also four official languages. We Swiss either speak French, Italian, Romansh or Swiss German. Take note: th…

The Hidden Way Up Mount Pilatus

Of all places and mountains in Switzerland, Mount Pilatus is one of my favorites. Pilatus is located conveniently in the center of Switzerland, about an hour's drive from Zurich, right at the foot of the Central Swiss Alps. There are hiking trails, restaurants and lots of other activities on the mountain. The best about it all is that from the top of the mountain you have a great view of the Alps and Lake Lucern.

In order to get up to the top you officially have two options:
1) Take a cable car from Kriens to Frakmüntegg and then up to the summit of Pilatus
2) Take worlds steepest cog rail train from Alpnachstad straight up to the summit

Although these two options are quite interesting and certainly enjoyable, I recommend you visit Mount Pilatus off the beaten path and take a bit more adventurous way. Not to mention that the hidden or alternative way up Mount Pilatus is also quite a bit cheaper.

The alternative Way up Mount Pilatus If you are up for the challenge and don't mi…

The Cantons of Switzerland

Americans and Brits are familiar with the division of a country into smaller parts such as states and counties. In the US, the different states may differ in their legislation, the accent of its inhabitants, the climate and the landscapes. Mississippi and New Jersey for example are very different places on many levels.

The segmentation of a country for administrative purposes makes sense especially in one as big as the USA. However, in a small country like Switzerland its benefits are somewhat obscure. Do we really need to split the country into smaller parts to be able to manage it?

Today, Switzerland consists of 26 cantons which are more or less the equivalent of states in the US. The reason for this division is mainly historical. The Swiss Federation or Helvetic Federation started with just four cantons that united in 1291 against their common enemy, the Lords of the House of Habsburg. They were the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden and Nidwalden. Over the next 500 years another 21 …

Meet Ovomaltine - A Famous Swiss Chocolate Drink

If you'll ask any random person what food Switzerland is famous for, I'm pretty sure they would give the following answer: chocolate and cheese. Today, I want to talk about one of these, namely a very famous Swiss chocolate drink called 'Ovomaltine'.

If Wikipedia is accurate, real 'Ovomaltine' is produced, eaten and drunk only in Switzerland. The international market carries a slightly different product called "Ovaltine" which differs from the original mainly in the amount of sugar it contains. But what exactly is real 'Ovomaltine'? There are actually several chocolaty products that carry this brand name: chocolate bars, candy, chocolate drinks, chocolate powder, energy (chocolate) bars and more. The most famous of these is of course the chocolate powder that you use for making hot chocolate. In fact, hot 'Ovomaltine' milk has even become some sort of national beverage.

In Switzerland, hot chocolate is not made with hot milk and melted…