Archive for the 'Culture' Category

Schloss Biberstein Weihnachtsmarkt

In Biberstein, a wee town not far from Aarau there is a castle which cares for people who have some sort of disability.  They get to live and work in this beautiful castle!  Every year they hold a Christmas market and it is well known for it amazingly creative works and atmosphere.

We went and had a look yesterday.  It was really cool (and really cold too!).  The creativity of the decorations around the place was what really blew me away.  You can see by some of the photos – how to turn a plastic bottle (well – 100 of them anyway!) into a work of light and art.

The boys loved the boat making stand and the wee ‘river’ to run the boats down.  And we had to try out the lebkuchen decorating aswell.  Different coloured icings and sprinkles, including gummibears – not many of which made it onto the lebkuchen!

They sold handmade everything – candles, wooden toys, Christmas decorations, jams, biscuits, pottery.  Just incredible.  I really am addicted to these Christmas markets.  They are everywhere now.  Every city, town, village has one going on, some last a couple of days and other are on all month.  I know all you guys in NZ are boasting about hot days at the beach, and it is hard not to be a wee bit jealous.  But we are having brilliantly cold and snowy days.  A real Christmas season – the way it should be – right!?  Watch this space for more Christmas magic, um, i mean markets…

Advent Creativity

Next week we start the big count down to Christmas!

There are so many reasons why we wanted to spend some time in Switzerland.  One was to experience a real Swiss winter and Christmas.  So far, I am impressed by all the festive season things being offered.  The markets, decorations and advent stuff.

I have always loved advent calendars.  Last year, I tried to find a cool one in NZ and all I found were a few budget and tacky paper Santa Claus ones.  Not like that here, but then advent did originate just across the border – in Germany.   There are zillions (yes, my latest word) of them and they are beautiful.  There are ones made out of paper, felt and wood.  In various shapes with pockets, drawers or hooks.  In which you can put, place or hang a wee gift in – to be opened one each day leading up to Christmas.  Some are reusable so a good investment, can be used each year!  I found a wooden train with lots of drawers in each carriage – 24 to be exact!  Perfect for the boys!

Here is a homemade idea I came across in the Coop Zeitung.  Making 24 Origami bags, decorating them, filling each one with a wee gift and then hang them across the lounge or along the hallway.  Very cool!

And there are thousands of other creative advent ideas.  Here are a few more I found.  I am busy rediscovering my creative side!  It rocks.  There will be plenty more Christmasy posts in next month!


I know it is a bit early for Christmas cookie baking.  But who says I can’t have Christmas biscuits all year round anyway!?  I bought a Swiss biscuits recipe book from Bergli – an English bookstore in Basel.  So I had to try out my favourite – Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars). They were a huge success and really quite easy.  The ingredients consist of egg whites, icing sugar, kirsch, ground almonds and of course, cinnamon. They must be star shaped though, who knows why!?  Notice, no butter or fats! (a gluten free recipe too, i think, Louise!).  Here is the recipe.

Other beautiful Christmas cookies include Brunsli (made with chocolate and almonds) and Chräbeli (Aniseed), Mailanderli and Spitzbuben (translated as naughty boys).  So so good.  And then there are all the beautiful spicy bready cakey thingis, like Lebkuchen and Magenbrot…  I think the chocolate index might be lagging a bit while I fill up on biscuits…

Some girlfriends are coming over tomorrow and all bringing a cookie dough, so we will be baking up a big biscuit storm.  Will post some photos later…

To market, to market

It has been a week of markets.  On Monday, I went with 3 girlfriends, 5 kids and 4 pushchairs to the Basel Herbstmesse (Autumn Fair).  It was the 538th annual Herbstmesse – just to give you an idea of how long it has been running!   And it is spread out over 7 different parts of the city for 2 weeks.  It is HUGE and awesome.

We had lots of fun travelling on the train to Basel (try and get four pushchairs on and off one carriage and then onto a narrow old tram!).  At the fair were hundreds of stands, all beautifully presented (perhaps thousands in total).  You could get everything from Anis biscuits to dried apple to candles, mugs and many beautiful handmade items.  And lots of Swiss delicacies – including magenbrot, raclette, chocolate covered bananas, apples, Opfel Chuechli and other stuff I can’t remember.

We spent our time in Petersplatz which is beautifully set amongst trees, and had a traditional carousel in the middle (which the kids all had a ride on, of course!). Unfortunately, I didn’t take my camera so missed out on some wonderful photos but here are a couple from ones taken in previous years.

Today was the Rüeblimarkt in Aarau – will post about that one tomorrow.

Swiss Football

A couple of weeks ago I went to my first Swiss football game with Michelle’s dad and her cousin.
We watched FC Aarau play FC Vaduz in round 11 of the Axpo Super League.

FC Vaduz

FC Vaduz is actually from Liechtenstein, but they don’t have anyone else to play with in their home country, so they’re allowed to play in the Swiss league. However, since they’re not Swiss, they’re not allowed to win; if they come first, the second-place team will be the official winner. I don’t think there’s much danger of that, though – we (I bought an FC Aarau scarf, so now it’s ‘we’) beat them 4:0, and they’re currently third-from-bottom on the table. We’re third-from top, behind FC Zürich and FC Basel, who are both very strong teams.

The fans

Kiwi’s are passionate about rugby, we all know that. But their degree of passion is nowhere near that of the Swiss. Even the little stadium in Aarau has a demilitarized zone patrolled by riot-police with dogs to separate the fans of the opposing teams. The tiny Vaduz crowd only lit a few flares, but you should see the FC Zürich fans in full song – I’ve only seen photos, but we’re playing FCZ in Zürich on the 25th of October, so I’ll have to go and experience for myself. Here are some photos:

So you can see they really go all-out. There’s just a constant noise from the fans – singing, chanting, banging – that doesn’t stop, but just gets louder in the more tense moments. A lot more intense than at a rugby game.


Sometimes, however, things get out-of-hand; the deployment of riot police is not an unjustified measure. In 2006, FC Basel fans stormed the field in the championship-deciding match against FC Zürich (Wikipedia article). There were fairly heavy fines against both clubs, and restrictions imposed on attendance at subsequent matches:

“FC Basel was punished because of its inability to control its own fans. It received a fine of 80,000 Swiss francs and its first two home games of the 2006-2007 season would have to be held without fans, as so called “ghost matches”. The next three would have to be held with just 3/4 of stadium capacity without the eastern corner (called the “Muttenzer Kurve”) of the stadium being occupied by attendees of the match.
FC Zürich was also punished because of its inability to prevent its fans from also setting foot on the field. It was fined 30,000 Swiss francs.”

Of course this isn’t as serious as some football riots. In Peru in 1964, over 300 people were killed and 500 injured in football riots. (another Wikipedia article)

Rugby fans are kittens.

So, I’ll try and get to the FCA/FCZ game on the 25th and let you know how it goes.

Update: I had a bit more of a look around, and found a YouTube video of the Basel pitch-invasion.
I also heard a story (rumor?) of Zürich playing Basel at home, where the Zürich fans met the train of supporters from Basel at the station and barricaded them inside so that the missed the first half of the match. I’m trying to find a news story or photos to back this up.

Aarau Bachfischet

Ok, this has to be one of the coolest traditions that Aarau has, one that has been going for over 150 years. There is a long story behind it… but basically the ‘Bach’ (stream) was a gift that a group of nuns from Aarau gave the city. Flowing water into the city. Annually, the Bach is emptied and cleaned by city workers and volunteers. Then, in the evening, the water is ‘turned’ back on. The children make lanterns and then parade with leafy branches and their lit lanterns along the river to celebrate the fresh water running back through Aarau. A lot of the Bach is now running underground. The children sing a cool tune as they parade down through the town (which is doesn’t make much sense):

Fürio, de Bach brönnt.
D’Suhrer händ en azündt.
D’Aarauer händ ne glösche.
D’Chüttiger, d’Chüttiger rite uf de Frösche.“

The parade is followed by a bonfire, fireworks, and the Mords-Chlapf (loud bang!). Here are some photos but they don’t give much credit to the very impressive lanterns the kids made. Even Toby got to hold one. Must try making some ourselves once.

Amazing how you can mix hundreds of fiery lanterns with tired children (in the dark) and still no one gets hurt. Only a few kids, I mean lanterns, caught fire! Haha.

Aarau wird zum Bauernhof

Aarau has a thing every year in conjuction with a training college called Liebegg (where you can train to be a ‘farmer’). They turn parts of the city into a ‘Bauernhof’ or farm. They have animals for the kids to pat and play with, pony rides, horse and carriage rides. Pig racing, alphorns and a bit of a talk from the major. We headed (in the cold and wet) to Aarau, first to the Saturday morning markets (so cool!) and then had a look around the altstadt turned farmyard. The boys loved it. Toby wouldn’t get out of the sheep pen!

They also had an apple press making apple juice to try and buy. Very fascinating. It is amazing how much juice you can get out of apples.

Top 10 things foreigners find remarkable about Switzerland

These are from a newspaper article back in 2007. I haven’t experienced all of them as yet. I love no. 10 though – so true! And I have added a few of my own…

  1. How early people get up, even in the weekends.
  2. That nobody complains, even when he/she can wash only once a month. (referring to the community washing machines in apartment blocks, i think – they often have strict rules and rosters as to who can wash, when etc.)
  3. That no Swiss person understands that people eat cheese-fondue other than in winter (i know, I wanted to eat a Raclette in summer and that was weird enough for my Swiss relatives but they let me anyway)
  4. That Swiss people always dress up..even if they get some milk (yip, no pyjamas and barefeet at the supermarkets or petrol stations here – not like NZ where that is quite normal – believe me, I have worked at both!)
  5. That entire Switzerland finds it normal that there are lots of traffic congestions in summer due to road works. (well, I guess everything is covered in snow in winter)
  6. That after 6 months in CH you are annoyed if your neighbours flush the toilet after ten pm. (we have read in our apartment contract that we should refrain from running water after 10pm)
  7. That Swiss parties end 11.30pm latest.
  8. That Swiss hosts start cleaning up during the party!
  9. That Swiss hosts expect guests to help with washing up. (haven’t experienced that yet…!)
  10. Swiss really like if you are spontaneous-as long as it is planned!

and some more:

– they still have intermissions at the movies here.

– that it is quite normal to work less than 40 hours a week. And there are heaps of part time jobs (even 10, 20 & 30 percent).

– the shops are actually shut on Sunday (and people are outside doing outside stuff – not shopping!)

– they don’t race cars here. It is illegal to have legal car races!

– that you can drink a beer on the tram on your way home from work, and no one thinks you’re a homeless drunk.

the list could go on…

Why is he black?

That is the question Toby asked me today, very loudly on the tram home from Aarau after seeing an African lady sitting at the tram station (Toby says everyone is a he!). It is the first time he has ever mentioned anything about race. I am kinda surprised since he was practically the only white kid in our church and street in NZ.  I am glad that he noticed though, out of his own accord. I found it hard to explain without feeling like I was making him racist. I casually told him that God made us all different but equal. Some of us are boys, some are girls, some are white skinned, some are brown, some are from NZ some are from Africa. Hmmm.

It is definitely noticeable, coming from NZ to Switzerland, the lack of foreigners, although, the Swiss would say there are heaps of foreigners here (and I don’t think they like them much either, although, it was suggested to me that perhaps they are scared of foreigners, being so country-proud / nationalists). But I am treading on dangerous ground…

Back to something a bit more lighthearted…. Toby just said something funny. When questioning ‘what is that?’ to my tummy (when I bent over, I had a bit of an overhang of skin, a result of a big dinner and two kids!). I replied that it was because I had two babies. Toby said ‘but mama, you only had one baby – Noah’. I then asked him “then where do you think you came from?’. He quickly answered, laughing, ‘I am too big to fit in your tummy’.

1 August – Swiss National Day

I love all the celebrations and traditions the Swiss have. They really know how to celebrate and get into the mood of things. And there many things happening today. I think most town councils put on an official celebration. The Gemeinde in Ober & Unterentfelden had a lunch time thingi with music, bratwurst (for CHF2 each so quite a bargain), carousel for the children etc. I got my first chance ever to hear and sing the National Anthem. Quite shocking really considering I am a Swiss!

Out tonight to celebrate with the extended family. We are having a Raclette (which I know is not really ‘done’ in summer but have you seen the weather outside? So horrible and stormy and thundery – so quite fitting!) We having a bonfire and letting off fireworks after. Then tonight we heading into Aarau to check out the fireworks and music scene there. Maybe we will have to play a jass too. Happy Celebrating!