When traveling, it is great to find a wonderful local place to eat. Sprungli is just such a place. A Zurich institution, it opened in its current form in 1939, but before the restaurant/café opened a chocolatier was there. The Sprungli family started that in 1859. It’s still family owned although the chocolate making is a separate business (Lindt & Sprüngli).
Traditionally a favorite of Zurich’s upper crust ladies who lunch (not usually a recommendation that gets me to my kind of place) these ladies know what they are talking about and it’s now a favorite of this girl. Him too. The café serves the best hot chocolate and deserts in town, but they have more substantial fare as well. Plus, when the dining room has cute details like the copper baking tins on the walls, how can you not?
They have several other satellite shops in other towns and at airports (including Geneva’s). While nothing beats that original location, they are a great place to get a quick Sprungli fix or pickup a stellar present.
We have developed a few favorite Swiss brands. Visitors favorite is always Mövenpick. After tasting Mövenpick ice cream, we had a visitor come back to the apartment and spend several hours doing a search to find out where she could get it in the US. Unfortunately, it’s not available there (another reason to visit Switzerland). They do export and you can find it in 30 countries around the world including Russia, Finland, Australia and Singapore.
Mövenpick has an astounding number of unique flavors with exotic ingredients like handcrafted Swiss caramel, fine French Cognac VSOP and vanilla seeds from Madagascar. They introduce new “Limited Editions” flavors for each season. Think cinnamon in the winter, exotic fruits in the summer… It’s not just the amazing flavors that make it exceptional. All products are made without artificial additives, flavours or colors. The quality of the dairy is phenomenal. Describing it as incredibly creamy doesn’t even begin to do it justice.
While the Swiss Chocolate flavor is good, the best flavors are the creamy ones. Our favorite is Creme de Gruyères (heavenly sweet Swiss cream with crunch bits of real Meringue inside). It’s so good that you are in real danger of sounding like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally when you taste it. Other top flavors are Crème Brulée and Tiramisú.
They have over 30 varieties, other flavors include:
- Pistashio (another one of my favorites)
- Cocoa & Orange
- Pink rhubarb,
- Cognac VSOP,
- Caramelita (Caramel is a favorite of his),
- Mousse Aux Poires (pear mousse),
- Scottish Single Malt Whiskey,
- Absinthe & Amaretto,
- Swiss Apple, Edelweiss,
- Almond & Vanilla,
- Stracciatella (very yummy),
- Panna Cotta with Raspberry,
- White Peach, and
You can find Mövenpick in Europe at roadside kiosks (highly recommended for lakeside strolls), Mövenpick restaurants (worth going just to check out the insanely large and fancy menu of ice cream), other fine establishments and Co-op Swiss grocery stores (yep, we’re stocking the freezer if you come visit).
Mövenpick was originally produced in the kitchens of high-end Swiss restaurants. Eventually, they built factory in Bursins, then moved to a larger facility in Rorschach. In 2003, Nestlé (in Vevey) acquired the brand rights for the Ice Cream category, but keeps it as an independent unit (classifying it as Super Premium) in their in order to maintain the brand’s knowledge, innovation and quality.
Mövenpick doesn’t just make ice cream. In Switzerland, they make yoghurt, chocolate and coffee. We’ve heard from German friends that they sell wonderful jams and salad dressings there. I’ve heard they also do wines. They also have hotels ?!? Yes, you read that correctly. In case you’re wondering, they are high-end too. As you might have guessed, they also serve a phenomenal breakfast.
I love dogs, but I especially love big dogs. The St. Bernard (also known as St. Barnhardshund, Alpine Mastiff and Bernhardiner) is one of the world’s largest. They range from 25.5-27.5 inches ( 61-70 cm) and weigh 110-200 pounds (50-91 kg). The are most likely a cross between Tibetan Mastiffs with Great Danes, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and Great Pyrenees. Initially, they had short hair; long hair coats collect icicles.
Augustinian Monks living in the treacherous St. Bernard Pass (the western route through the alps between Italy and Switzerland) bread the dogs. 8,000 feet above sea level, the pass is 49-miles long and is notorious for its changeable weather and high winds.
The St. Bernard pass was well travelled before St. Bernard de Menthon founded the famous hospice in the Swiss Alps as a refuge for travelers crossing the treacherous passes between Switzerland and Italy around 1050. There are even remains of a Roman road there. If you were a pilgrim headed to Rome, this is a likely route you would have taken. You wouldn’t have been the only one. Napoleon famously used the pass to cross the alps to invade Italy in 1800.
In the 17th century, St. Bernards were used to rescue people from avalanches and other dangers in snowy alpine passes. Saint Bernards have many features that make them well adapted to this task. They can smell a person under many feet of snow. They can hear low-frequency sounds humans cannot, possibly alerting people to avalanches. Their broad chests helped clear paths through the snow. Their large paws helped spread out the weight and worked like snowshoes to keep them on top of the snow. Their large paws helped them dig through the snow. Upon finding someone, they lie on top them to provide warmth.
The most famous rescuer was Barry (1800-1812). He is credited with saving the lives of more than 40 people. Today, Foundation Barry (named after the famous pooch) works to educate people about and preserve the breed. They also do alpine hikes with the pups! Both Foundation Barry and the St. Bernard Museum are located in in Martingy, a village down the mountain from the pass. Both have the adorable pups on site.
This post comes with a warning for Americans (and any other country that doesn’t display items many Americans would feel are more mature or private in public spaces). Warning – While I took these pictures in the middle of a train station in Switzerland, but in the US (and probably other places) people consider these items to be more of an adult or private nature.
We’ve noticed that vending machines in Europe contain some things that are um, well, a bit different than what you would see in American vending machines (or at least the ones not found in truck stops). Take a look below and see for yourself.
Yes, that is C-ICE, “Swiss Cannabis Ice Tea,” located above. It is made from black tea hemp bloom syrup (5%), and hemp bloom extract (0.0015%) that will allegedly give you a “fantastic natural feeling.” It allegedly has low levels of THC, but appears to be marketed more as a health drink. We didn’t try it, but the Top Gear guys did when they visited Romania.
Please note that the pack of lighters (above) is located adjacent to a kid’s candy bar. Also for kids is Buffalo Jr., a children’s energy drink. It doesn’t contain either Taurine or caffeine and is marketed as providing “an additional supply of energy producing L-Carnitine needed for an active life.”
We all know that I am no Julia Child in the kitchen. When we moved to Geneva, I saw the name Betty Bossi everywhere. I saw recipes, often heard the name and saw prepackaged Betty Bossi items for sale in the grocery store. I began to wonder who is Betty Bossi? I thought she was probably a Swiss celebrity chef, like the Swiss Emeril Lagasse, Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver.
Guess what? The joke’s on me. She’s not a real person, more of a marketing concept, kind of like a Swiss Betty Crocker. Since my unfortunate kitchen accident, I’ve sworn off kitchen appliances (especially immersion blenders). As a result, I won’t be making any of her uber-Swiss recipes that are available on myswitzerland.com. May you have better luck in the kitchen than I do.
Gnome lawn ornaments are considered a bit kitschy in the US. In Switzerland, garden gnomes are everywhere. Known as “Zwergli” in German, they seem practically mandatory. I’m exaggerating, but only just a bit.
Plastic or cement, big or little, these have seen these gnome statues come in all shapes and sizes. They are usually in yards or gardens, but we have also seen them on porches, railings, stoops, on stumps and even on pedestals.
We see them out all year long. It’s a wonder that they don’t disappear. It’s Switzerland, so there isn’t too much crime, but they look tempting. Wouldn’t it be so much fun to take the gnome and photograph it in crazy places just like in the movie Amalie. In 2000, the International Association for the Protection of Garden Gnomes was founded in Switzerland (GGLF) was formed in Switzerland to combat gnome kidnapping and try to make it a criminal offense. Apparently, a few people have even been prosecuted for theft. I’m not kidding.
It would be great to dress them up in special outfits for different events, kind od like Mannekin Pis in Brussels. Who doesn’t want to dress their gnome up in a team uniform for game day? On second thought, the Garden Gnome Liberation Front might think it was exploiting them and protest.
Switzerland has a trail with gnome trail markers in Gänsbrunnen. Children who complete it receive a very child receives a “Nature and Gnomes Certificate.” Do big children count?
Here’s some fun Ricola info for you. The mountains on the label are the Eiger (the ogre) on the left, the Jungfrau (virgin) on the right and the Monch (the monk) between them. Obviously.
Ironically, the Ricola gardens are outside Zermatt home of the Matterhorn (another famous mountain, but not on the label).*
One more interesting Ricola tidbit, Michael Jackson included them in his pre-concert ritual!
* There are actually five Ricola gardens in Switzerland.