A Hot Topic (Literally), Hot Drinks To Warm You Up

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Whether it is hot cider, toddy, coffee, tea, atole, wedang jahevin chaud, mulled wine, or hot chocolate, when it’s cold outside people warm themselves up with a hot drink.  For some, après-ski is a big part of skiing.  It refers to socializing and having drinks after swooshing down the slopes.   On the slopes and après-ski (which translates to after skiing), people sometimes drink something with a little kick.   As you can see below, not all après-ski beverages are hot.  Nevertheless, in the cold of winter, there’s nothing like a hot beverage to warm you up.  Here, we’ve seen things other than your normal piping hot tea… and they’re dangerously delicious.

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Vin chaud (which translates as “hot wine”) is red wine mixed with a bit of sugar, cinnamon, and lemon.  Other countries call this mulled wine, Wassail,  Glühwein/glow-wine, Glögg/gløgg, bisschopswijn/bishop’s wine, greyano vino, cooked wine, quentão, vinho quente, boiled wine, vin brulé, karstvīns, hot wine, grzane wino  vin fiery, or Glintwein.  Clearly, it’s a popular beverage.  Just be careful, all that sugar can leave you feeling less than sweet if you are, ahem, over served.  Thankfully, it’s available everywhere.

Friends from the Nordics make it when they have people over.  They add almonds and raisins to their glass.  It adds a nice flavor and soaks up the liquid so they’re extra yummy.

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Hot spiced rum/hot buttered rum is a little more British than traditionally Swiss.  Then again, the Brits have been vacationing in Switzerland for centuries. Byron, Churchill, Prince William and Cate Middleton have all been, so maybe it’s not so unusual after all.

IMG_0563Yum!  Hot cider.  With all the whipped cream and, um, additives, it may not be as healthy as pure apple cider but it feels cozy and helps fight off the winter chill.  It’s not widely available here.  In fact, I’ve only seen it a couple of places.
IMG_0636Hot coffee is my favorite beverage.  I freely admit it.  I’m an addict and drink coffee every morning.  Sometimes, adults like to add more than just cream or sugar to their coffee.  Popular additions include: Bailey’s, KahluaGrand MarnierAmaretto, brandy, Irish whiskey, Amaretto and Cointreau.   On the slopes, I don’t want anything alcoholic, so I love a good cup of strong coffee with some cream.  Here, it’s usually real cream or milk and not the inferior (but great in a pinch) creamer cups you get in the US.

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Warning:  In researching this, I found at least one article about insurers rejecting claims from drunk skiers.

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Epiphany/Three Kings Day

We Three Kings

We Three Kings (Photo credit: pixieclipx)

Once again, I’m ashamed to say that I was in my late twenties before I ever even know this holiday existed (commemorating the day when the three kings presented their gifts to the baby Jesus).  Here’s how they celebrate it here.

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P1060042 (Photo credit: keepps)

You knew it. You knew there had to be one. You were right; they have a special pastry.   Every holiday here seems to have its own special pastry and this is not exception.  It is a ring of buns, one of which contains small plastic kings.  If you get that roll, you win a crown and the right to tell everyone what to do for the rest of the day.  Carolers dressed as three kings also roam the streets singing (known as Star Singing).

The bread ...

The bread … (Photo credit: pedro_cerqueira)

Who doesn’t love a great loaf of bread?  Before we moved, we would sometimes go to our neighborhood’s French bakery and buy a nice loaf of fresh bread.

Swiss bread and chocolate

Swiss bread and chocolate (Photo credit: ellengwallace)

Since we moved, we have been buying great bread at local patisseries.  It is made fresh each morning and we buy a loaf to eat over the next 2-3 days while  while it is still fresh.  Ymmmm.  This is dangerous because you have to go there several times a week (only a block away).  When it’s no longer really fresh, we feed it to the ducks on Lake Geneva (except for when our niece visited when we bought loaves to feed to them).

Schwingen In Switzerland’s Top 10 Posts Of 2012

Since everyone seems to come out with a Best of 2012 list at the end of the year, I thought I would list my top 10 most viewed posts this year.

  1. Everything You Don’t Need And Can’t Live Without – I don’t like to sit still, don’t nap and hate to be bored.  I realize that it doesn’t always make me the most relaxing person to be around, but it’s generally pretty entertaining.  When we had a free Sunday, I decided to go check out a little shindig they had going on in the cool Carouge neighborhood.  Unexpectedly, this post was selected for Freshly Pressed.
  2. Tschäggättä Parade To Celebrate Carnival In The Lötschental Valley – One of the best things about Switzerland is its festivals.  This one was unlike anything I’d ever seen.  This was my first post to be Freshly Pressed.
  3. More Pictures of the Versoix, Switzerland Ice Storm – Remember the picture of the frozen car?  Well, since it was taken in a suburb of Geneva, I couldn’t help myself.  I went to get the shot.  On a side note, it would have been smart of me not to wear high heals when doing so.  A couple of nice Swiss gentlemen helped me off the ice.  Yep, I’m an idiot, but the pictures are great.
  4. Our Basement Bomb Shelter, Otherwise Known As Our Storage Unit – I’m glad other people are as intrigued by this phenomenon as I am.
  5. Mt. Blanc, The Tallest Mountain In The Alps – I am profoundly grateful to have seen such beauty.
  6. The Spaghetti Tree Hoax, Aka Happy April Fool’s Day From Switzerland – Hilarious.  Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.
  7. My Introduction to French Cinema, A List of Great, Entertaining and Fun French Films – While I posted this before Jean Dujardin won the Oscar, some of his comedies made the list.
  8. Why Didn’t Hitler Invade Switzerland? – This was a hard one to write as it’s a difficult question.  I hope I didn’t screw it up too badly.
  9. Another Cultural Difference…Men In Spandex – Sometimes, it’s the little things…
  10. What The Heck Is A Bidet? – Please feel free to comment with any additional uses you can think up for a bidet.

 

Got Wood? The Swiss Stack A Strong Woodpile

Whenever we hike in Switzerland, we see woodpiles…everywhere.  In typical Swiss fashion, they are neatly stacked and very organized.

The OCD part of me loves that this family had their stacks numbered by year.  You can see their dividers in the photo below.  Strong.

I think that daily life in Switzerland can keep you pretty active and people seem healthier than other places I’ve lived.  Perhaps chopping all of this wood is part of their fitness plan?

This time of year is the perfect time to cozy up in front of a fire, so go ahead and knock on wood.

 

Schmutzli, St. Nicholas Vigilante Style

I am ashamed to admit that until I met my husband, I didn’t even know the Feast of St. Nicholas holiday existed.  They celebrate it in the German parts of Switzerland with St. Nick and his heavy, Schmutzli.

Drawing of Schmutzli and Santa from http://2.bp.blogspot.com

Unlike the holiday in the US, in Switzerland St. Nicholas brings his thug buddy, Schmutzli, with him.  For reasons I don’t fully understand, instead of reindeer, St. Nick usually shows up with donkey.  Schmutzli is a dirty guy dressed in brown hooded cloak and smeared with soot.  Unlike jolly old St. Nick,  Schmutzli traditionally beat naughty children with a switch and carried them off in a sack to be eaten in the woods.   Now, he’s a little bit less of a felon/child abductor.  He passes out the goodies and delivers stern lectures on proper behavior.  It’s pretty unique and highly entertaining, therefore, I’m giving Schmutzli two thumbs up.

Schmutzli and a donkey from http://www.eselmueller.ch/Kurse.php

Before he reformed his naughty ways, Schmutzli might have been even worse than that (see the illustration below).  Then again, who’s seen Bad Santa.

Schmutzli looking a little more dangerous than Santa who slides down a chimney and steals a kiss from Mommy – from http://2.bp.blogspot.com

By the way, if you are into metaphors, unlike in the US, St. Nicholas is slim in Switzerland.

Samichlaus (aka St. Nicholas or Santa Claus) with Schmutzli and donkey from http://rooschristoph.blogspot.com/2010/12/knecht-ruprecht-schmutzli-co.html

Kiss And Tell – How To Do La Bise

While the above greeting was fun, when you meet someone you know in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, you kiss them…three times!  It’s called “la bise.”*

Kissing Black-tailed Prairie Dogs (Cynomys lud...

Here’s how you do it:

1. Touch your right cheek to the other person’s right cheek.

2. Pucker your lips and make a kissing noise at the same time.

3. Switch to the left cheek and repeat.

4. Switch to the right cheek and repeat.

5. Say “Bonjour,” it’s nice to see you, ask how they are doing, etc..

Perhaps it will catch on in the States. I highly recommend everyone go into work today and practice this one.   Start with your boss.  Or not.

How do you know who to kiss? It depends on how close the people are and their gender.  I kissed our realtor.  He did too. She was nice.  If he had made her uncomfortable, she could have chosen not to and would probably have held out her hand to shake instead.  Two guys are less likely to do “La Bise.”  When we met a nice Swiss couple, he shook hands with the husband shook hands with the husband.  He likes the KISS below better.

KISS Concert in Montreal - Kiss Alive 35 Tour

KISS Concert in Montreal – Kiss Alive 35 Tour (Photo credit: Anirudh Koul)

*Different countries kiss different numbers of times. In Belgium, they kiss only once.  In Nantes (France), they kiss four times!

How Not To Eat Like An American

This post doesn’t have anything to do with America’s obesity epidemic. It concerns customary fork and knife handling (aka their utensil etiquette).

Years ago, someone told me that it was easy to tell I was American when I ate.  It wasn’t the massive amount of food I shoveled into my big mouth at an astounding rate. They told me that Americans are easy to spot because they tend to cut their food with the knife in their right hand and the fork in their left hand.  After cutting their food, they set the knife down and switch the fork to their right hand to eat.   They told me that a spy gave himself away as an American by doing this and lost his life.  Knowing that my life could rest on this small habit, I promptly changed to the European method and haven’t looked back (just don’t ask me to right-click with my left hand).

If you want to eat like the Swiss, here are some simple rules:

  • Always eat with knife in one hand and fork in the other (except for fondue).  I have seen people eat open-faced sandwiches with a knife and fork.   Although I found it difficult, I did it too.  When in Rome, right?  I didn’t want to be the bad American with horrible table manners.
  • Under no circumstance are you to switch the fork to your right hand from your left.
  • Note the palms concealing the handles of the utensils in the top photo.  Americans tend to hold their fork like a pen.  If you are a spy, don’t let this detail ruin an otherwise seller performance.
  • Do not put your one or both of your hands in your lap at the dinner table. This even borders on rude. Here, people put forearms and/or elbows on the table when they aren’t eating.  That’s also different for me because on the US elbows on the table is considered rude.
  • Take bread and wipe your plate until it is sparkling clean.  The bread here is very good, so this should not present any difficulties.

If this seems like a lot, you could just avoid the knife and fork altogether and live off fondue or switch to chopsticks.

The Cutest Post Yet (Or At Least The Furriest)

Here, people take their dogs everywhere: into restaurants (you’ll see them sitting under the table), on buses/trains, etc.  They go everywhere, but there are rules.  Dogs must be registered, chipped and in some cantons, you pay taxed on them.

I have heard that you can make it a condition of your work contract to be allowed to keep dogs in your office!  It is not unusual to see dogs quietly resting under a desk at offices or shops.  They are welcome on the tram.  Usually they are extremely well-behaved.  Once, a friend did see two dogs scuffle on the tram.  Naughty puppies.

I guess it’s cooler to have your dog in the back of your 4-wheeler than carrying it because it can’t walk anymore.  We see this embarrassing sight frequently on the streets of Geneva.

You see dogs in bars and casual restaurants.  Dogs here have to go to obedience classes and pass a test, so most are incredibly well-behaved.  Often, I won’t even realize there was a dog lying under the table until its owners get up to leave.

As I said, there are rules.  Many places, dogs must be leashed.  There are places where dogs are prohibited from doing their business.  If your dog poops, you are supposed to pick it up.  Too many people in Geneva have problems with this last one.  If you visit, watch your step.    Someone let their dog do this right by the exit from baggage claim in the airport.   You cannot be serious!

Why Fasnacht, Basel’s Carnival Celebration Takes Place After Ash Wednesday?

FasnachtBasel’s Carnival celebration, starts the Monday after Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday.  Carnival in Rio, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival in Venice, and the overwhelming majority of Carnival celebrations end on Fat Tuesday with the start of lent on Ash Wednesday.  Why then does Basel’s Carnival take place the week after lent has started?  There are several theories.

It is thought to be Protestant Basel’s response to the Catholic idea of giving up things for Lent.  As Protestants they believe in moderation all the time.  Throwing one heck of a party and indulging of all manners of excess only to renounce them doesn’t fit with their philosophy.  Some argue that it is this aversion to lent that causes them to hold it later.

Others argue that it is a desire to provoke neighboring Catholics, who are already fasting.

Basel’s Carnival celebrations began a half-week after Ash Wednesday even before the reformation.  In Basel, Lent did not begin until the week after Ash Wednesday because people fasted on Sundays as well (to achieve their 40 days of fast).  This would also explain why Basel’s Carnival begins on Monday mornings.

Some Swiss say Baslers do it just to be difficult and/or different.

By the way, other towns with Fasnacht include: Bern, Liestal, Luczern, Olten, Rapperswil, Constance, Oltn, Winterthur, and Weil der Stadt.

 

What Makes Basel’s Carnival Different?

Basel has the only Protestant Carnival celebration in this part of the world.  As a result, they do things a bit differently.  Don’t worry, it is still tons of fun.  Here are some of the ways in which Basel’s carnival is unique:

  • The instruments in Basel are mainly fifes/piccolos/flutes and drums.  This makes the music reminiscent of military tattoos.
  Most of the songs sound like they were composed to march to.  I even recognized a couple (Dixie and Battle Hymn of the Republic).

  • Some carnival celebrations are an orgy of drunkenness, license and excess.  Basel’s Protestant character and general Swissness means that obnoxious behavior, lewdness and inappropriately revealing attire are unwelcome.  Unlike more fleshy and raucous celebrations, imagination, satire, wonder and magic are the order of the day.

  • The Reformation made efforts to suppress the carnival.  During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Catholic church also tried to end it because of its subversive aspects.  During this time, celebrations continued in the form of a “feast day”.  For this reason, Basel’s carnival is not called Carnival, but instead Fastnacht (which refers to the fast after the feast).  Military guilds were involved in these celebrations and influenced today’s celebrations.  Doubtless, the marching by numberous organized groups, the fife and drum music and the tattoo-like parading were all influenced by them.

  • German immigrants brought carnival traditions with them.  You see their influence in the lanterns, elaborate parades, floats and marchers displaying large caricature heads (that often lampoon public figures and politicians).

  • Enormous float-size lanterns satirically depict current topics and public figures.  Many of this year’s floats addressed the financial crisis.

  • Poets and songwriters compose humorous commentary on current affairs, much of which lampoons politicians. They recite them in pubs and play the songs in the street.  These are written in the Basel dialect, so that only locals can understand the airing of the city’s dirty laundry.