So last week, I introduced you to my first ever visit to Switzerland in a lovely place called Lucerne, otherwise known as Luzern!
But why Switzerland, I hear you jealously say?
Well, it was part of my summer campaign.
You know the one – Victoria’s Summer European Challenge Campaign!
My challenge was to visit a European city. Every weekend, through the summer holidays.
For six (6) weeks!
And only to travel.
So let’s see how we’re doing.
Copenhagen was pretty cool, and you can read all about it below:
- How to visit Copenhagen on a budget. Even though I missed my last connection. Again!
- Top 9 reasons why Danish food isn’t just smørrebrød, seasonal berries & herbs, but can be awfully tasty!
Switzerland, otherwise known as the Swiss Confederation, is a small federal state or Bundesstadt!
Switzerland thankfully, has a long history of neutrality and has not been in a state of war internationally, since 1815!
In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to numerous international organizations, is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association, but notably even though it’s not a part of the European Union, or the European Economic Area, it nevertheless, allows free movement of travel, trade and living, for EU member states.
Although a small country of just eight million people, Switzerland consists of four (4) main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian, and Romansh – a sort of Swiss Romance language.
I live in Germany and Switzerland is practically next door but…
Shock & Horror!
I had never ever been!
To visit Lucerne. Sleep in Lucerne. Eat in Lucerne. And survive the horrendous prices. With young boy tween in tow.
And boy, do you need it!
Switzerland is terribly expensive and sadly, there’s no getting around it!
Prepare yourself for really high prices, and either suck it up, or go elsewhere!
You’ve really got to wonder how visitors do it, so I’m going to tell you!
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT SWITZERLAND, AND EAT CHEESE!
Swiss food is a blend of regional influences combining the cuisine of its neighbours – France, Italy and Germany, and thus, creating (like Nordic food), a new cuisine with local ingredients.
Switzerland is historically a country of farmers, and sheep-herders, so rustic dishes tend to be plain and simple, with basic ingredients such as cheese and potato!
Having said that, it is commonly accepted that Switzerland’s most national dish is a rösti, also known as chopped grated potato! It can be found in a variety of different regional varieties, but common ingredients are bacon, onions, cheese and mushroom.
Cheesemaking has been a tradition in Switzerland for hundreds of years.
Over 450 varieties of cheese from Switzerland are produced with just under 50% of milk produced, dedicated to making cheese!
High quality, naturalness, and good taste, are the main characteristics of cheese from Switzerland, which is as a result of strict production guidelines, strict quality control, and strict environmental directives!
In Switzerland, cheese is not just cheese, but a living slice of popular and gastronomic culture.
Some of the best-known cheeses are:
Sbrinz is commonly eaten in small pieces, often used instead of Parmesan, and produced in only 42 dairies throughout Switzerland!
Contrary to popular belief, the name Sbrinz does not refer to a particular place or region nevertheless, in the 1990’s, a new area called Sbrinz suddenly popped up!
Gruyère is sweet but slightly salty, with a flavour that varies widely with age. It is often described as creamy and nutty when young, or earthy and complex when it matures. When aged, it tends to have small cracks which impart a slightly grainy texture.
It is produced in small rural dairies with raw cow’s milk, natural ingredients, and no preservatives. The cheese is produced in a round shape with a natural rind, and aged in traditional cellars for a minimum of four months.
It has a savoury, but mild taste, and the large holes formed within the cheese are caused by a presence of hay particles which cause even larger holes when the cheese is matured!
The cheese is straw-colored, with tiny holes and a golden rind. It has a strong smell and a nutty or fruity flavor, which can range from mild to tangy depending on how long it is aged. It also has a herbal brine which is applied to the cheese while it cures, giving it that distinct flavour while forming the rind.
Most of the recipes are trade secrets!
It was believed that during the French Revolution, the name was bestowed by French occupation soldiers who compared the method of serving the cheese, to shaving the top of a skull to create a monk’s tonsure!
However, as far back as 1192, the cheese-making skill of the monks of Bellelay was known, and the Tête de Moine was used by tenant farmers as payment to land owners, as a gift to the prince-bishops of Basel, and even used as currency!
Tête de Moine is made from unpasteurized, whole cow’s milk and is a semi-hard cheese. It is cylindrical in shape and can weight as much as 2.5 kg!
Traditionally, this cheese is carefully scraped with a knife to produce thin shavings, which is said to help develop the odour and flavour by allowing oxygen to reach more of the surface. In 1982, the Girolle was invented, which makes it possible to make “rosettes” of Tête de Moine by turning a scraper on an axle, planted in the center of the cheese.
Knowing that Swiss prices would turn my hair grey, I opted to book a private double room at Backpackers Lucerne hostel.
Our hostel was great.
It had everything we needed, free WiFi, and two kitchens!
I hate cooking at the best of times, and on holiday or city breaks, I definitely don’t cook! But if YOU do, there is plenty of opportunity to cater for yourself.
THIS IS WHAT WE ACTUALLY ATE!
We didn’t really have breakfast in the morning, and preferred to have sandwiches for lunch, and perhaps a drink on the lake.
And for this, we found a pretty nifty supermarket at the Main Train Station – Luzern Bahnhof – called the Coop so we filled up our basket with sandwiches, salad, fruit juice and water, and that was usually sufficient to carry us through the day.
The Coop Cooperative is one of Switzerland’s largest retail and wholesale companies which accounts for half of all the organic food sold throughout Switzerland, and many Fairtrade products!
We were in fairly good hands!
Over the weekend, and for the very long train journey home, we bought:
- A salmon bagel – CHF 4.60 / €4.25
- A roast beef sandwich – CHF 5.95 / €5.50
- A salmon & Gruyère sandwich – CHF 6.70 / €6.20
- A chicken salad – CHF 5.50 / €5.60
- A ham & Gruyère cheese salad – CHF 6.50 / €6.00
- A mango & peach smoothie – CHF 2.95 / €2.70
- Peach-flavoured water – CHF 1.35 / €1,25
- A mini Calzone pastry – CHF 2.95 / €2.70
- Quiche Lorraine – CHF 2.95 / €2.70
- A sausage roll – CHF 3.50 / €3.25
- An organic ham sandwich – CHF 4.95 / €4.60
- A pulled chicken sandwich – CHF 5.95 / €5.50
- Mixed salad – CHF 6.50 / €6.00
- A cream cornet – CHF 3.20 / €2.95
- Yogurt – CHF 2.95 / €2.70
- A bottle of red Rivella – A Swiss soft drink – CHF 1.35 / €1.25
- A bottle of coca-cola – CHF 1.35 / €1.25
- Active02 orange mineral water – CHF 1.70 / €1.60
- A can of Swiss pale lager beer (to taste!) – Tell Bier – CHF 0.80 / €0.75
Don’t forget, Swiss supermarkets are only opened from 08:00 – 18:00. On Saturdays, they usually close between 16:00 -18:00 and most are closed on Sundays and public holidays. In smaller villages, supermarkets might close for an hour or two during lunch time.
When travelling away from home, I usually like to partake in the local fare however, it wasn’t easy to do so in Switzerland, but we did our best.
I wanted to sit beside the water, so we found a lovely lake-side pub and ordered a small glass of beer and a soft drink.
The view was amazing, and you could people-watch quite well, as the flea market was just around the corner!
However, a hefty CHF 25 (swiss francs) charge or €23.00 not including the tip, soon put paid to doing more of such “breaks!”
I still wanted us to have at least a warm meal for supper so I did a search on Google, and found a Department Store called Manor, which was in the centre of the Old Town, but most importantly, had a Food Hall on the 5th floor, and Roof Top seating!
We managed to find it just in time as Switzerland is traditional, and this Department Store was closing at 16:00.
It was a bit annoying but not surprising, as when I first came to Berlin, shops used to close at 13:00!
And you could forget about Sunday!
Switzerland was the same!
The staff were already beginning to pile things together, so we took what we saw, and sat on the roof-top. The roof-top view alone was worth the price, and they gave us free juice too!
WHAT DID WE HAVE?
- Bruschetta tomato – CHF 3.50 / €3.25
- A glass of wine – CHF 3.50 / €3.25
- 2 Spring rolls – CHF 5.60 / €5.20 (CHF 2.80 / €2.60 each!)
- A bun – CHF 1.00 / €0.95
- A patisserie dessert – CHF 3.00 / €2.80
- A large bowl of cream soup – CHF 5.90 / €5.45
- Freshly pressed orange juice – CHF 3.10 / €3.00
Total cost CHF 25.10 / €23.00!
We also found another lakeside restaurant which dates back to the 16th century, and is located on the river Reuss! This cute place is called Nix’s in der Laterne where we were able to have:
- A small glass of mineral water – CHF 4.80 / €4.50
- A small lager – CHF 4.90 / €4.51
The beer was almost the same price as the water!
And I’ve spoken about this before. In fact, when I first came to live in Berlin, beer was cheaper than coca-cola, and in Prague, a bottle of water was more expensive than a bottle of beer!
However, with gratinated berries with yogurt ice cream costing CHF 9.50 / €9.00, a mixed leaf starter salad with fried seasonal mushrooms costing CHF 15.50 / €14.50, and a tween lad who would finish that salad with his eyes! We had no choice but to drink up, and get back to our assortment of organic sandwiches, supermarket salad, and cake!
THIS IS WHAT WE SHOULD HAVE EATEN!
- Cheese fondue: various kinds of Swiss cheese melted in a huge communal pot of delicious melted cheese – pieces of bread, as well as baby vegetables, olives, onions, and pickles, are dipped into the cheese, using a long-stemmed fork!
- Raclette: various kinds of food (bread, mushrooms, meat, potatoes) covered in molten or scalloped cheese. The melting can be done by using small slices of cheese that everyone melts in their own small pan, placed on a raclette set.
The more classical method is to take a much larger piece of cheese, place it in the holder of a raclette device (which has a heating element), and scrape off the molten cheese from time to time!
In Germany, my family and I usually have this on New Years’s Eve. It’s an excellent meal to have with a bunch of friends, and bottles of wine!
- Rösti: chopped grated fried potatoes!
- Geschnetzeltes: thin strips of veal with mushrooms in a cream sauce, served with rösti.
- Luzerner Chügelipastete or Lozärner Chügelipastete: a puff-pastry shell filled with diced veal and mushrooms, in a creamy sauce.
- Käseschnitte: a slice of bread coated with a mixture of grated cheese, flour, milk or cream and an egg yolk, and then baked with the smeared side down with oil or butter. A little bit like Welsh rarebit, but sometimes also had with a fried egg on top!
- Bireweggen: a traditional pastry with a filling of dried pears, raisins, walnuts and other dried fruit such as apples or figs. The filling is spread on a sheet of dough and rolled. It is also flavoured with candied fruit, coriander, cinnamon, star anise, anise, clove, and a bit of alcohol!
- Alpine herdsman’s macaroni or Älplermagronen: a frugal all-in-one bake, using ingredients that local herdsmen had at hand in their alpine cottages, such as macaroni, potatoes, onions, small pieces of bacon, and melted cheese. Traditionally served with apple sauce!
- Local fish caught from Lake Lucerne
- Local veal
- Pork knuckle braised in dark beer with swiss pasta and green cabbage
- Potato dumplings filled with ricotta, and seasonal vegetables
- Toblerone parfait with marinated cherries
- Apricot Meringue with curd cheese cream
- Cheese from the Alps with sweet and spicy fig mustard
- Home-made waffles filled with as much cream, fruit and sauces as we would choose!
- Cervelat or cervelas, considered the Swiss national sausage!
THIS IS WHAT WE SHOULD HAVE DRUNK!
Swiss wine is commonly available throughout the country, but not so much outside of Switzerland! The most famous ones are:
- Riesling X Sylvaner – German-Switzerland
- Chasselas – French-Switzerland
- Pinot noir – French-Switzerland
- Merlot – Italian-Switzerland
Swiss beer is not easily available abroad, so when in Switzerland, a local brewery is best to see how it’s done! Well known brands are:
- Eichhof – Lucerne
- Calanda – Graubünden
- Feldschlösschen – Rheinfelden
- Rugenbräu – Interlaken
WHAT WE TOOK HOME!
- Appenzeller Biber, otherwise known as Swiss gingerbread!
- And lastly, Swiss milk chocolate of which there’s a huge variety of specialities, made according to Swiss tradition! Such as:
- Max Chocolatier – Lucerne’s only dedicated chocolate workshop and boutique
- Chocolat Schönenberger
- Aeschbach Chocolatier
That’s it for now.
See you next week!
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT SWITZERLAND, AND EAT CHEESE!
This article is not sponsored, and all opinions and the tantalising Swiss delights that we ate, are my very own!
Throughout the summer month of August, all the museums in Berlin will be open each and every day! This will conclude with the bi-annual Die Lange Nacht der Museen otherwise known as the Long Night of Museums taking place on 27.8.16 from 6p.m. in the evening ’till 2a.m in the morning!
The Pop Kultur Festival is a new festival based in hipster Neukölln, over three (3) exciting days of new international and German bands, live concerts, performances, talks and reading, taking place from 31.08.16 – 02.09.16.
Berlin Art Week will take place from 13.09.16 – 18.09.16 so if you like contemporary art, this is the place for it!
I’ll also be attending the Down Under Berlin Australian & New Zealand Film Festival, from 14.09.16 – 18.09.16, which is the largest film festival in Europe dedicated to Australian and New Zealand film!
Save the Date!
August is going to be tasty!
I’ll be there. Will you?
If you’re not in Berlin in August, what are you waiting for?!
Watch this space!