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Showing posts from 2014

Six Poems for Santa

Swiss Santa -  Gerald Henseler  / According to Swiss tradition Santa visits Switzerland on December 6th and does not actually give Christmas presents. In Switzerland they are said to be brought by the Christkind . Instead he brings 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 and might even earn a stern glance or word. Six Poems for Santa Here are a few poems to recite for Santa should he come visit your home this holiday season! 1) Samichlaus du liebe Maa (Santa Claus

The Swiss Adventsfenster Tradition

In earlier posts, I've already introduced the Adventskranz (Advent Wreath) and the Adventskalender (Advent or Christmas Calendar) - two Swiss Christmas traditions that accompany us through advent by counting the days or weeks that are left until Christmas eve. Another Swiss Christmas Tradition 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 of a communal tradition. Adventsfenster -  Babajezas Wundertüte Advent Windows - What are they? The tradition of  Adventsfenster is common mainly in smaller towns and villages of Switzerland, with maybe a few city neighbourhoods joining in. The idea is that all over the village or neighbourhood there are 24 people - mostly families and schools but also couples o

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, 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. Advent is the season of waiting and preparation before the actual Christmas on December 25th. Store-bought Christmas Calendars 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 chocol

The Swiss Baby Name Charts

baby -  Helene Souza  / 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

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. Räbeliechtli - by Natalie Kramer Carving a Turnip in Switzerland Thus, as people are carving their pumpkins around the world children in Switzerland will get ready to carve their turnips (and many crafty adults as well). True, the actual season for the Räbeliechtli (turnip lanterns )  starts in November and is basically one of many Christmas season traditions here in Switzerland but I believe cre

10 Fun Things to Do During Fall in Switzerland

fall leaves -  Uli Carthäuser  / 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, li

How to Make 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 . What are 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

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 was the (very 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 . The Creation of 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

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 Switzerland Grüezi - 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 picni

A Short Guide to Hiking in Switzerland

Yellow trail markers - Joujou  / 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 hik

Top 40 Funny Place Names in Switzerland

Rotzloch - a town in Switzerland Funny Place Names all Over the World 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. Funny Place Names in Switzerland 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 Eng

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 A

How to Say 'Snowflake' in Swiss German

icicles - J örg Brinckheger  /  It's winter. I know, some of you might be waiting for spring with a bit more sunshine, green leaves on trees and colorful flowers. For those of you who thoroughly enjoy Swiss winter, I've put together a Swiss German winter dictionary might come in useful during your winter holiday in the Swiss mountains. Swiss German Words for the Winter Season 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) Schneeflocke (snowflake) Schneeflöckli (small snowflake) schneie (to snow) Schneeball (snow ball) Schneeball-Schlacht (snow ball fight) schneebele (to play in the snow) Schneeflocke (snowflake) Sc

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. Activities for Kids in Swiss Winter 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 Switzerland's 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

A Few 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. The Typical Swiss Meal 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 really 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!). Popular Swiss Dishes 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 immigration history. Fondue and Raclette are the most famous Sw