Archive for the 'Switzerland' Category

King for a day!

Who is the King? If I asked Toby that, his answer would be ‘God’, and he would be right!  But I am talking about something a bit different.

Today is the 6th January and the Swiss celebrate the ‘Heilige Drei Könige’ (or ‘Epiphany’ in English speaking countries) and it is commemorating the Magi or Wise Men visiting Jesus.

In Switzerland, it is tradition to buy / make a Dreikönigskuchen (Three King’s cake).  One of the buns is baked with a plastic king, each family member takes a bun and the one who finds the wee king in their bread is named King of the family for the day.  Guess who is our King!?

The youngest member of the family – Noah!

A Swiss Christmas

With or without snow, a Swiss Christmas is beautiful and magical.  Nope, it wasn’t a white Christmas (unless you were above 1000m).  But thats ok, it was an enjoyable one, nonetheless!  The one thing that stood out to me, was the cozyness of it.  Cold outside, warm inside and lots of candles.  Real candles on the Christmas tree.  I love candles and didn’t really think about but in NZ it doesn’t get dark till 9 or 10 at Christmas so candles are a bit useless!  It was great to be able to celebrate on Heiligabend (Christmas Eve) with my Grosi and then on Christmas Day with my Grossmueti & Grossvati.

And the smells – so good – like a pine needle that gets caught on a candle and lets off a beautiful pine scented smoke.  Drinking wine, eating beautiful food and Christmas guetzli.  Mmmmh.  The boys were spoilt with lots of exciting presents.

Today is a amazingly beautiful day, blue sky and I can see that sun again.  Its been awhile!

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, warm or cold and wishing you all a great 2009.  God bless.


There is something about Swiss forests that fascinates me.  But I can’t really pin it down. Perhaps it is all the stories they tell here about elves and fairies that live in the forest that makes it seem magical.  Perhaps it is the tall tall trees and snow covered paths and wee forest huts.

There are forests everywhere throughout Switzerland with one within walking distance of every citizen – it seems. They are so different to NZ forests – which are covered with green bushes and ferns and lots of undergrowth.  The Swiss forests just have massive tall trees – half pine and half not pine (sorry, I am not much of a plant expert!) so many lose their leaves in winter making it look quite bare.

Vineyard church has an annual Waldweihnacht (Christmas celebration in the forest) mostly for the kids.  They light a fire, sing songs, tell stories, roast sausages, eat lebkuchen and drink hot punsch.  Each kid got a small gift too.  It was great and an awesome experience we were blessed to be able to share in.

I love that we are allowed to light fires in the forests here, even in summer, they trust people not to set the world on fire (although that would be hard when there is snow around!).  It was heaps of fun.  We, of course, had to bring along some marshmallows which I don’t think is very common in Switzerland since it took me forever to find a bag of decent marshmallows in the shops.

Toby loved it and rode his bike through the snow and loved exploring and cooking sausages over the fire with a big stick!  He is a professional at it now, doing this sort of stuff every Wednesday with his Waldspielgruppe (playgroup that is held in forest no matter what the weather).

Noah was a bit cautious, not too sure what to make of the fire and snow and cold all in one place!  Here are some photos:

Weight a minute

In which Dan tells of his battle of the bulge, and breaking his addiction to other harmful substances.

It’s a compelling tale, so do read on…
Continue reading ‘Weight a minute’

You had better watch out – Samichlaus is coming to town

In Switzerland, Samichlaus / St Nikolaus / Santa Claus comes to visit on the 6th December.  He lives in the Black Forest (not the north pole) and ventures out with his scary looked black (usually painted black with coal) hooded helper ‘Schmutzli’ to visit children.  No reindeer or elves, just his grim reaper side kick and a donkey.  Samichlaus hands out treats to the kids – typically mandarins, peanuts, chocolate and gingerbread (lebkuchen).  But there is a catch, the child have to be good all year.  Parents let Samiclaus know in advance of their children’s behaviour  and give him a list of the good and bad things the kids have done in the past year.  If they are mostly bad then Schmutzli scoops them into his sack and carries them away.  I actually don’t think that is allowed, but children are warned that if they are bad, that might happen.

Not sure if I like this Samichlaus much – not much forgive and forget going on there!  I think I would have been a permanent resident of the Black Forest had I got a visit from him as a kid!  But as a parent, maybe it would be a good all year round bribery tool!

One traditional thing you do on Samiclaus day is eat Grittibänz.  Bread shaped like little clown men. I don’t know why.  But they are yum.  Toby loved eating the raisin eyes off then bit off its head.  My grossmueti made us some beautiful Grittibänz and we enjoyed mandarins, peanuts and other good traditional Samichlaus day food.

To smack or not to smack…

This is a bit of a touchy topic, but I am going to go for it anyway.  Before we left New Zealand a law was made that parents are not allowed to smack their children (or use any force to discipline their children) – in spite of 80% of NZer’s being opposed to it (correct me if I am wrong!?).  The aim of making that law was to lessen child abuse, which is a good aim.  But it hasn’t done a damn thing, only made everyday ‘good’ parents feel guilty for loving their child enough to discipline.  And it made it pretty tricky for us, especially since we would give the boys a smack once in a while or ‘force’ them on the ‘naughty chair’ to sort them out (and it worked too!).  On arriving to Switzerland I wasn’t sure if this was the case here.  Was I allowed to give a quick smack on the hand in public, or pick my kid up and buckle him (using pure force) into his pushchair? – you know, to stop him from running out onto a busy road.

I didn’t actually end up checking out the law or asking anyone.  Dan and I have a way of dealing with wrong behaviour with our children, that we believe works and is right.  Every parent is different and that is for every parent to decide, not the government.  I hate it when the government imposes on what should be the parents responsibility.  I mean, if a parent is against smacking, then they can choose not to smack.  Simple!

I read this article today, and am glad to hear that the Swiss don’t just make laws for the sake of making laws.

Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament Tuesday voted 102 to 71 against the proposal that aimed to ban corporal punishment, after it had already been rejected by the upper house.
Opponents of the law say that the Swiss constitution already gives adequate protection to children from corporal punishment.

The less laws the better. I know that child abuse is a massive issue in NZ.  It is a much bigger problem than here in Switzerland.  Nonetheless, a very sad and horrible issue which, I agree, needs to be dealt with.   But a law is not going to change people’s attitude and hearts, and anyway, there are laws in place in NZ which make abuse illegal, that doesn’t stop the abuse happening though.

Switzerland’s government is the closest in the world to a direct democracy.  There are so many things which work well in this country and I can’t help wonder if it isn’t because of a great government system.  And people in parliament who care for their country, who are ‘real’ and realistic.  They think things through.  Other governments could learn a lot from the Swiss.  I wonder, though, if it helps that Switzerland is over 700 years old and so has had lots of practise.  NZ has a little catching up / growing up to do!

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…

Snowing cornflakes

We’ve had a couple of days of snow with more forecasted.  It is awesome (Dan’s word!).  We took some time out to play around in the snow, making snow angels (just for you, Simon) and throwing snowballs (just for you, Simon).  Tried to make a snowman but it was a bit tricky, although the neighbours managed a huge awesome (!) one somehow.  Our snowmen making skills still leave much to be desired. Noah looked out the window last night and said ‘look at all the cornflakes’, I think he meant snowflakes…  Haha.

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.


I know Michelle writes better blog posts than I do, so I’ll make this quick.


She used several exclamation marks, and even wrote some words in CAPS, but I’m not entirely convinced that Michelle managed to express just how awesome it is to have snow around. Trust me: think about just how awesome the most awesome thing you can think of is, and multiply it by a factor of at least 10 or 12. Then you’ll have some idea of the order of magnitude of awesomeness I’m trying to describe. And it wasn’t even the best snow.


This is an awesome lamp. It takes our already-awesome apartment into the next league of awesome.