Thursday, March 19, 2015

Day tripping in Switzerland

At the risk of sounding repetitive, we have had another simply marvellous day in Switzerland. It's hard to believe but 7 days ago we were just finishing work to get on a plane and now here we are close to completing the second leg of what has so far been an amazing adventure. Holiday time is so warped!

We started today in the supermarket. This is always one of my favourite excursions when we're on holidays. It may be unusual to get so much joy from such an every day activity but I find it fascinating to see the food habits of other cultures. Today my focus was on chocolate- what else when you are in the home of Lindt! Because it's close to Easter there are more than the usual choices in the chocolate aisle. As we have seen in the shops in Paris as well, chocolate making is an art form in Europe and the detail in some of the egg sculptures is amazing. I stuck with blocks for my purchases though. I don't think I could bear to eat the sculptures! The bread department was also fascinating. So many varieties of rolls and pastries. The bread our host has been making for us is a perfect example of the dense, flavoursome dough available here. Ironically it is a perfect base for vegemite, a spread for which our Swiss friends have no liking.

Part of the cheese selection
After shopping we drove to the town of Schaffhuasen, a picture perfect Swiss town, home to the majestic Munot Castle that dominates the skyline from its position on top of the hill. Our journey took us over the border into Germany and back to Switzerland again. What a bizarre concept for us Antipodeans, to be able to pass from one country to the next without plane travel and a custom's check! After my stair training in Paris I was able to bound up the steep steps (actually I was gasping but not passing out) to the top of the fortress and then down the paved stairwell to the bottom. The building is so well preserved its hard to believe it was built back in the 16th century. The views from the battlements are breath taking. We stopped for some lunch in one of the picturesque side streets. Geoff had a traditional bratwurst meal and I had fish from the river. Delicious.

The steps to Munot Castle

From Schaffhausen we travelled to Rheinfall to look at the biggest waterfall in Europe. This cascade of water in the middle of the town makes Huka Falls look like a trickle! There are several viewing platforms including one right at the base where the sound of the rushing water is extraordinary. The light on the water produces a beautiful rainbow effect that was pretty to see but almost impossible to capture on camera.

As if we hadn't had enough sensory overload for the day, we stopped in Stein am Rhein on the way home. This medieval village on the banks of the Rhein has to be seen to be believed. Except for the cars driving over the cobblestoned streets you could believe you had stepped back in time. The buildings are all marked with their initial construction and later alteration dates. A couple of them date back to the 14th C. One of the reasons we wanted to come to Europe was to see this sort of history and we certainly got our fill of it today.

We took a rather roundabout track on the way home to avoid the end of day traffic jams in and out of Zurich but this was to our advantage as we got to drive through dozens of quaint little villages.
When we got home our beautiful host had prepared for us another delicious traditional meal, incorporating steak tartare, a dish of raw mince meat with seasoning and capers. I did my best to try some and I think it probably tasted great but I couldn't get my head around the lack of cooking. Taine and Geoff were much braver and wolfed down more than their fair share, declaring it delicious! Much more to my liking was the main course of pasta with cheese and potatoes, served with apple sauce and onions; kind of a Swiss mac'n cheese.

We have felt so at home here; it will be hard to pack our bags and say goodbye tomorrow.

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