Summer days in Switzerland

Deutsch: Raclette mit allem Drum und Dran Engl...

Raclette with all the trimmings

Switzerland is fantastic in the summer. I’ve recently come back from a week in Zürich, where I visited a friend. Almost a decade ago we lived together in halls while she was on exchange from Zürich University, and have kept in touch ever since.

As a child (and admittedly a teenager too) I imagined Switzerland was this magical, beautiful and clean land that was covered in snow all year round. Well all of that is true, except for the snow. This time it was hot, even for Zürich and the temperature hovered around the low 30s for most of the week.

We swam in the lake – so cool and clean – and enjoyed raclette and rosé. I love raclette. You just plug in the special table top grill and cook bits of meat and onion whilst melting delicious raclette cheese on a big flat spoon. Then eat them together with boiled potatoes.

Usually, my annual Swiss adventure is pretty brief but I found time to visit the national museum, the Landesmuseum, for the first time after a walk around Zürich’s beautiful old town. The museum is huge. If you plan to go and see everything, give yourself the best part of an afternoon. Interesting though, with mix of Swiss history, coats of armour, politics, fashion and furniture.

My friend and I also drove out to Rheinfall, Europe’s biggest waterfall. It was both terrifying and impressive. Terrifying because there is so much water gushing over the falls and it’s incredibly noisy. The walkway down to the bottom of falls takes you right up to it, so close you can practically touch it and your face is covered in a lovely, dewy mist. It’s impressive for all the same reasons.

At the weekend we visited my friend’s in-laws in the north of Switzerland, which is always a treat. I’ve known them for years now and they are such open and kind people. Their house sits close to the borders between Switzerland and France, and Switzerland and Germany. On the Saturday morning we shopped in the hypermarché in St. Louis, France and in the afternoon hopped over to the border to Lörrach in Germany to go to a garden centre. The Swiss franc is so strong these days it’s not surprising that so many Swiss people choose to do their shopping like this and it was definitely my most expensive trip to the country for a long time.

On Saturday night another Swiss friend had a house party and a barbecue. Her student house has a roof terrace with a fantastic view of Zürich, so the setting was perfect. It all felt very cool and kitsch. Barbecuing in the dark was interesting – one side of my burger was like charcoal and the other side was a little underdone, but it tasted ok.

I flew home with BA for the first time in years, as they were the best value. Usually if I fly it’s with Ryanair or Easyjet. Check-in and boarding were so effortless, the free copy of The Independent on Sunday was great and Terminal 5 at Heathrow was all very slick. I’m looking forward to the next trip already!

Relocation, relocation

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Thankfully I passed my exams, assignments and my thesis so have now graduated from my master’s programme. I am officially a Master of European Studies.

I left Flanders in July and moved back to the UK. There are some things I miss about Belgium – my friends, the Speculoos, the beer, the beautiful architecture and the lovely Flemish people – but it is great to be home.

Sad as it may sound, I really missed our 24 hour consumer culture – Marks and Spencer,Tesco’s, the opportunity to go shopping on a Sunday. I even missed Channel 4 and BBC Iplayer (Belgian TV can be pretty awful – repeats of Silent Witness dubbed, anyone?) Not to mention my family and friends, of course.

However, Europe is small, and even smaller with the magic of Skype and budget airlines (but no budget Eurostar – that thing seems to get more expensive by the week!). I’ll go back to Belgium soon but for now it’s nice to reacquaint myself with good old Blighty.