Christmas in Switzerland felt so far away when we first started our travels, so when we finally arrived in Zürich seven months down the track it all just seemed a little surreal. The two weeks that followed were a whirlwind of warm welcomes, action-packed activities, sensationally scrumptious meals and regrettable farewells, but we loved and cherished every second spent with my Swiss family and friends.
We were greeted at the airport by my uncle Helmut and taken on the train back to his house in the little town of Knonau. There we were met by his lovely wife Silvia and treated to a massive three-course lunch, the first of many incredible meals to come. We then went for a short walk, caught up on some sleep, and headed to my cousin Patrik’s house in Besenbüren where we would be spending the next week with him and his wonderful wife Connie and kids Flavia and Marco.
Once we arrived and got settled in, Connie and Patrik treated us to our first typically-Swiss raclette for dinner. For those who don’t know, it’s a type of cheese which is placed on a small shovel, topped with ingredients such as diced bacon, onions and garlic, then slid under a mini table grill until perfectly melted. You then tip your shovel of gooey goodness onto a heap of baby potatoes, and proceed to devour them while another heaped shovel of cheese bubbles under the grill. Sure, it can be quite rich, but entirely awesome.
The next morning Connie was determined to take us above the thick layer of fog that coats the area during the winter and show us how beautiful the surrounding scenery could be. We were driven to Lindenberg, a nearby area which sits close to 900m above sea level. There we were blessed with amazingly warm sunshine, and a view that stretched across the fog and out to the snowy mountain peaks in the distance. After a long walk and a nusskipferl and Rivella, we returned home to get ready for dinner at my Uncle Guge’s apartment in Rapperswill.
Guge treated us to an amazing three-course dinner as we spent several hours catching up on the time that had passed since we’d last spoken. He mentioned that he would be spending Christmas and the start of 2017 in Celerina, and invited us to visit while we were travelling through Switzerland. I’d never been to Celerina or neighbouring town St Moritz and Anita quite liked the idea, so we told him we’d consider his offer and get back to him after Christmas.
The following day Patrik took us to the top of Rigi mountain where we would again be out of the fog’s reach at 1,800m above sea level. The day was again stunningly beautiful and had a view from the mountain to match. We spent some time walking the winding dirt tracks before heading back to rest up for another sensational dinner, this time at a favourite restaurant of Patrik and Connie’s named Restaurant Niesenberg.
Most of us ordered different starters and mains so that we were able to share, a common strategy amongst foodies. Let me just say that I’m certainly glad we did because it was there that Anita and I were first able to try horse. Yep, horse. Not generally eaten back home but found on a few menus in Switzerland and after trying it for the first time we could definitely understand why. It’s an incredibly tender meat which isn’t overly gamey but instead has a wonderfully subtle flavour not too dissimilar from beef. Although feeling a little guilty, we actually really liked it. After again filling our bellies to capacity we returned home to relax before Christmas Eve the following day, a day celebrated in Switzerland more than Christmas itself.
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, we all jumped in the car and headed to Oberägeri, where we were spoilt with yet another amazing view from Connie’s sister Nicole’s new house. Before sitting down to dinner, we attended church with everyone where Anita and I were singled out and reluctantly seated front and centre of the entire service. We fumbled our way through the carols, prayers and communion before escaping back to a fondue chinoise feast. As always, I managed to put away a few plates, but certainly not as many as Patrik who was the last at the table to finish. Hat off, mate. After a bit more wine and some exchanging of presents, Anita and I retired to a cosy, traditionally-built house nearby where Nicole’s family had stayed during the year-long construction of their new home.
Christmas day featured yet another delicious meal cooked by Patrik and Connie, and in attendance was special guest Aunty Elena. It was a great evening spent eating good food with good company, and a little more relaxed than previous nights as everyone was coming down from the very busy few days prior. After dinner we said our gute nachts and laid our heads to rest, as the following morning we would be heading to my mum’s hometown of Interlaken to visit my aunt Claudia and cousin Efrem.
I’d like to take this opportunity to again thank everyone who welcomed us into their home, spent time making sure we were always looked after and/or entertained, and stuffed us silly with ridiculous amounts of delicious food. In particular Patrik and Connie, for making our first week in Switzerland so very eventful, enjoyable, and memorable.