Alpabzug

 

We finally got to see a Swiss tradition that we have been wanting to experience for years.   In the springtime the cows are taken up the mountains to graze for the summer. Then, at the end of summer, the Swiss farmers bring their cows back down from mountains. It is called the Alpabzug.  Not every Swiss town participates,  you can check out the Swiss tourism site  for participation towns. Usually the Alpabzug takes place in the month of September.

 

 


Just near the north entrance of the San Gottardo tunnel, which separates the German from the Italian speaking regions of the country, is a little village called Wassen. We have driven past this village many times but have never stopped.  Wassen is such a quaint Swiss Village.

 

 

 

 

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The Alphorns are very traditional and actually used by the farmers to call the cows into the barns at milking time.

 

Alpabzug celebrations are a big deal in these villages. Typically there is a town market where you can get all the local goodies, including raclette and bratwurst for lunch.

 

Each cow is adorned with a head piece and giant bell. It really is quite the sight to see.

 

 

Switzerland has different cantons, which are like states, each canton has their own flag. Wassen is in Canton Uri, which is represented on the yellow flag.

 

The blue shirt, worn by this farmer, is a traditional Swiss costume. Each Canton has their own type of costume.  Between the 26 Cantons in Switzerland there are over 700 types of tradition Swiss costumes.

 

The local farmers and their family walk their own herd of cows down the mountain.

We really enjoyed our first experience at the Alpabzug and would highly recommend seeking out one if you are in Switzerland during the month of September.

 

Our Move Abroad

A few years back I was bitten by a travel bug and this is how it came about.
Our first trip to Europe was over 9 years ago
We traveled to Italy with my parents and  Fell.in.love.
Then 6 months later we found ourselves living in Europe.

I know we sound crazy and looking back I think we were crazy but wouldn’t change it.

A time-line of how our move abroad came to be……..
 

March 2007 – We took our first trip to Europe and loved it but my husband wasn’t quite sure he wanted to move.  We lived by family & friends, had a great job and home and loved where we lived. But it couldn’t hurt to send out a few emails, right?  I started to send out emails all over Europe, focusing mainly on The Netherlands. I spent a lot of time on IT Job board.  I must have sent out a 100 emails.  We started hearing back, most with a response like below sent in April of 2007.
 
Do you have a work permit to work in Europe? That was the million dollar question. And of course, our response was no, we needed someone to sponsor us.
April 2007 We received emails from 3 companies in Germany and Switzerland, all wanting to set up phone interviews.  We had never considered Switzerland and knew nothing about it besides the Matterhorn was there. Screenings went well, followed by more phone interviews. They wanted to meet face to face.
 
May 2007 My husband made his journey out to Switzerland to interview with the companies.  He called me after the interview and I asked him, “So what do you think of Switzerland?” His response, “It’s ok, it’s kind of cold” but by this part I was sold. I wanted to go.
June 2007
Offers were made. We weighed our options between Germany and Switzerland.  Besides the 2 day interviewing we had never been to either country, neither of us spoke German, we knew nothing.  No company at this point could guarantee a working permit either.
July 2007
We submit all passports and documents to start the process to see if we could get a working permit. We still had no idea if this would be a reality. I spent a lot of time on the English Forum, a forum for expats in Switzerland.  I read all about the permit approval process and people’s stories of getting denied, the quota of permits they give out, etc.
 
August 31, 2007
After 8 weeks of waiting we woke up to this email……
 
And just like that, we were moving to Europe! We were on a permanent local hire, so that meant we were moving ourselves.  That also meant, no relocation package, no car, no shipment,nothing.  Most people who move abroad, transfer with companies and get relocation packages. I became our own personal relocation specialist, we spoke no German, making the whole process a 100% harder.  But hey, it was the adventure we signed up for and the reason we decided to move to Europe in the first place, to give our family the experience of living abroad.
September 2007
We sold almost everything we owned, kind of a liberating feeling. We purchased our one way tickets to Switzerland. We said our goodbyes and flew out the last week of September. This is our story of our move abroad in a nutshell.
   Yes, that is all of the luggage we took to move abroad, 8 bags

Fasnacht

Fasnacht is like Carnival, held every February. The Swiss tradition is everyone dresses up. But these are not batman costumes, they are usually amazing, unique costumes, many homemade.

They hold a kids Fasnacht party every year in Zürich. It includes a cart of confetti being paraded around old town with kids and music. We also have a similar parade in our small town.

Halloween

We try and keep the American tradition of Halloween going in our village, even though no one really participates. The kids trick or treat to a few houses and most people entertain our tradition. The kids had a few unique treats though…..a bag of chips to share, a box of cookies to share and my all time favorite……a bowl of minestrone soup. I guess that Is what we should expect in country that doesn’t celebrate Halloween. They do have fall festivals with pumpkins and even carve giant radishes, a tradition we are really coming to like.

When Grandma comes to town…..

A Sprüngli tea party. If you are ever in Zuerich this is a must.

We’ve been fortunate to have grandma visit us quite a few times. And she has 2 favorite cities nearby… Lucerne and Colmar, so we visited both

 
 Enjoying the blue skies in Colmar
 I love this picture of the kids. Who doesn’t want their own delicious baguette?
 We enjoyed bike rides and playing chess in the park
 Grilled bratwurst behind our house
 And a first for us all. A tour of an old Swiss Military bunker.  It was a pretty fascinating look into the paranoia preparedness of the Swiss.
A visit to a family favorite castle was needed.  I think Jacob is no longer enthralled with castle visits, when did he grow up so fast?
My mom can testify to our constant walking.  We have trained the kids well, but that doesn’t mean we can’t rest our legs once and awhile.
 Enjoying our bonding time 🙂
 If you know my parents you know they are really into gardens and have an amazing one themselves. We knew my mom would appreciate a visit to Mainau, a flower Island in Germany. It was a hit. We picnicked and wandered through the gardens.
Like Father, Like Son
 She swiped my hat and began posing…… oh such a girl
I had to included this picture for a few reasons….
1.My child is about to attack me with silverware (have I mentioned dining with a 2yr old is really lively)
 2. Focus….yes, my kid is putting mayonnaise on his fries (he has lived here too long)
 My mom’s favorite rock in Lucerne
 Random happenings with Grandma….Golden lions, balloon hats, circus treats, and sunshine days
They loved all the attention
 Walks with the dog
 Feeding the pony
 The night before my mom left we got tickets to Circus Knie.  It’s a family tradition to go yearly and it was great sharing it with my mom this year.  Now, before you get too excited, this is an old school circus. Think: giant tent, politically not correct performers.
And I wish I had a video of this….. But I will paint a picture. I’ll start with 1 known statement:
It is not possible to train a Zebra.
There is a reason we use horses and not Zebras to ride. Anyways…..Ringmaster calls out the horses, tricks are done, then the Zebras, are called out. No joke, all hell breaks loose. The Zebras act as if they are being tortured.  Audience members who payed an insane amount for the front row seats are wishing they were sitting in the back with us.

Are we crazy?

 Yes, I’d say so. Now let me digress…..

Who takes a 2 year old skiing? Wait, I know, the Swiss, they begin the day the child walks.  Did I ever tell you about the time I was skiing next to a little girl with a pacifier in her mouth? Yes, it happened.

Only for the purpose of humoring the grandparents, let me reenact her first skiing experience……

First, a tow rope is involved
Me: stand up and Mommy will hold onto the tow rop
J: OK
Assent up mountain begins
Me: keep your skis straight
J: OK
Skis veer over mine
Me: Stand up please
J: OK
Skis veer over mine entire way up but disaster adverts us, the top finally appears…….and the adventure down begins. I look down and think “This is way steeper than a beginner hill……
Me: Please, Stand up
J: OK
J: WEEEEEEEE
Me: Stand up
J: WEEEEEE
Me: Stand up, hold your skis straight (Repeat 100 times)
J:WEEEEEE
Me: I don’t think I’ve ever felt my thighs burn like this
J:WEEEEEEE
Me: Wow, we aren’t even half way down, my thighs are killing
J: WEEEEEE
Me: What was I thinking? I am not sure we will make it down??? MY THIGHS! This is torture. (Repeat thought 100 times)…….
J: WEEEEE

FINALLY we make it down.
J: Again
Me: Go ask Daddy…..

Daddy takes over, maybe he will have better luck

 

Is she on the ground? Appears so, so much for better luck, maybe next year

 

Wow, that was exhausting, we need a lounge chair

 

Despite the excitement shown, he did have fun

 

Contemplating the Pipe…..maybe in 5 years
Well, if she can’t get mommy and daddy to take her down again, at least she can enjoy some hot chocolate in the Alps.

Weihnachtsmarkt

Wow, somehow time has escaped me. Don’t ask me where, I wouldn’t be able to say. But now it’s   time for low-quality-blog-catch-up.  Mainly for the sake of my family, it may only prove to be entertaining to the grandparents. So all others be warned or stop reading now.

Back in December before the cold insanely freezing weather hit, we made our way up to Freiburg Germany for a Christmas market.  Christmastime is magical in Europe. I love the markets.  They all seem to sell the same junk but sometimes great finds are found. (pictured above- don’t you want a family set?)

Now onto the food.  Not pictured was the 1 foot sausages downed by the boys. For dessert he settled for a chocolate covered apple.

He was a little more adventurous eating a dough fried surprise.  Nothing a little sugar and applesauce can’t make delicious.

Hmm, I think we will have to order another one of those dough surprises, yum!  And now for a few random shots.  This is where the low-quality blogging comes in. I could narrate them all but not today…..

 

 

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate & Cheese

 

This past weekend I overindulged in chocolate along with the rest of my family.  We visited The Callier Chocolate Factory which is every kids dream (and chocolate lovers).A chocolate factory with all you can stuff.your.face.with chocolate. Yum!

The factory just opened  in April and was by far the best Chocolate factory we have visited.   The factory was crowded when we arrived and we had to wait over an hour. We spent the hour wisely, buying chocolate and watching movies about chocolate. Not a bad wait if you ask me.

 

Each tour group consisted of about 20 people. We toured through many rooms telling a story about the history of chocolate.

 

When the tour began we were in an elevator that lowered, kind of like the haunted Mansion in Disneyland. Josie started yelling “Scary” which she continued until a conveyer belt of chocolate, being powered by a bicycle, appeared. Then she proceeded to yell “Chocolate” at the top of her lungs.

 

After our brief history of chocolate we entered the factory.
Checking it out

 

Honestly the aroma of chocolate was overwhelming and preparing us for the end result, chocolate overindulgence.

 

We thought this is where the tour ended. We were all happy to help ourselves to a few pieces of wrapped chocolate. This man couldn’t resist a cute little girl and must have given her over 20 pieces of chocolate, she kept going back for more.

And then, the big question…..”For you, when is it time for chocolate?”  Our answer “All the time!”  We thought we were leaving the factory but to our surprise when went through the curtain it was a giant chocolate tasting room! OH boy!

Really, one sample of all every kind of chocolate they make.  You should have seen the light in the kids eyes…. the sampling was on……

For our oldest it was also a 3 step process. 1. Smell the chocolate. 2. Ponder the chocolate. 3. Eat the chocolate. His process was on repeat mode. This kid ate one of every sample.

Rounding the corner in the testing room

 

And more chocolate……

 

Realizing it may be a bad idea to eat over 40 pieces of chocolate but on the home run stretch

 

And the tour is over, spiting us out into a store full of more chocolate, which in our case, we were too sick to buy anymore. But we did have a little klepto on our hands.  Check out her face in this picture. She ran off with 5 bars and started opening them on the floor.

Goodbye Callier Chocolate Factory, we love you!

 

A day at a chocolate factory with Grandma, what more could a kid ask for?
Having some fun in the rain

 

Daddy and his little girl

 

After stuffing our faces with chocolate, we needed something savory. So off to the cheese factory we went.  We have visited the factory before, but thought it would be fun for Grandma to check out.

     

Schweizer Frauenlauf

The Bern Frauenlauf is one of my favorite races to run. It’s an all woman race and they have races for everyone, they even have nordic walking if you can’t run. It’s a great event.  I ran again this year with the same group of gals from last year. We make it a fun girls day out, riding the train in together, all racing, and then going out to eat. So fun! The only stinky part this year was the train going to and from Bern was so full we had to stand the whole way (1hr), not fun when you’ve had a long day on your feet.

My friends were making fun of me because of my water belt, so they had to document it with a picture, but really I need it for my ipod 🙂 I didn’t think I’d be running this year because I hurt my knee a few months back and have not run at all.  I signed up for only a 5k just in case. My knee starting hurting the last  1 km, but overall I felt pretty good and thought I did ok for taking a few months off of running.  ( 27.09  mins)