A lifestyle expat travel blog about culture, history, Brexit, the Royal Family, travels around the world, Europe, and being British in Berlin!
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.
I started off with Denmark and hopped off to Copenhagen.
Copenhagen was pretty cool, and you can read all about it below:
I then went to Switzerland, and skipped and sang all the way to Lucerne, otherwise known as Luzern!
Switzerland, otherwise known as the Swiss Confederation, is a small federal state or Bundesstadt!
It is situated in both Western and Central Europe, and is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east!
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 so I told you how to spend 48 astonishing hours in Lucerne, otherwise known as Luzern – On a budget!
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!
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 – an extra hard full fat cheese produced in central Switzerland, said to be first mentioned in 70 AD thus making Sbrinz, the oldest cheese in Europe!
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!
Le Gruyère – a hard yellow cheese named after the town of Gruyères in Switzerland, and first produced in 1115!
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.
Emmentaler or Emmental – a yellow, medium-hard Swiss cheese that originated in the area around Emmental in Bern, and dates back to ancient history. It even has a place in the Historic Museum in Bern!
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!
Appenzeller – a hard cow’s-milk cheese produced in the Appenzell region of northeast Switzerland. It has a history of about 700 years with just 75 dairies producing it!
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!
Tête de Moine or Monk’s Head – a Swiss cheese produced more than eight centuries ago by the monks of the Abbey of Bellelay, located in the community of Saicourt, in French-speaking Bern.
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.
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:
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!
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:
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!
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!
Swiss wine is commonly available throughout the country, but not so much outside of Switzerland! The most famous ones are:
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:
That’s it for now.
See you next week!
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?
As usual, you can also follow me via daily tweets and pictures on Twitter & Facebook!
If you’re not in Berlin in August, what are you waiting for?!
Watch this space!
A gastronomic fest! And I thought Switzerland was all mountains and clocks…!
Didn’t we all! But nope. It surprised me too!
Thanks so much Thomas! 🙂
I remember the hefty prices when I stayed in Iterlaken for 2 weeks, it is eye watering. You did very well and manged to eat very well….maybe overdoing on the cheese a little bit? I remember loving their chocolate also and eating lots during our hikes up the mountains. Your food photos are so yummy I wanted to eat them😄
Thanks so much Gilda! Indeed, Swiss prices are eye-watering!
Thank goodness for organic Swiss supermarkets, is all I can say ‘cos my tween so could eat me out of house and home, so we simply had no choice lol!
I’m glad that you like my photographs. I do like cheese but sadly, I don’t like chocolate unless there’s lots of milk in it….!
Yum, you don’t need to persuade me to eat cheese, I love it! I went to Switzerland as a teenager and remember it being pricey, so it looks like you did pretty well cost-wise. I do remember having rosti and buying swiss chocolate, which was delicious! Wish I’d had fondue though, yum…
Thanks so much Amy!
Isn’t cheese just so fantastic! That is so cool that you went to Switzerland as a tween! It’s so embarrassing that I hadn’t previously, even though I literally live just next door lol! ‘Glad I finally did it though! Mmmm. Fondue, rosti. Yum yum! 🙂
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Cheeeese I love that… And Switzerland heaven on earth…Most beautiful country.. Great to visit there always… Thanks for this…
Thanks so much Zark! You’re always very welcome. Feel free to look around the blog. 🙂
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If you want to taste a real swiss cheese experience you should try the cheese factory: in a countryside area. You can see the swiss cows around, watch a folk presentation and of course see how the cheese is prepared a most important try some delicious they make.
Outside there’s a bakery where you can buy a great smelling swiss bread to follow the cheeses. To complete, try Rivella, the swiss soft drink made of milk syrup ! You can eat inside the restaurant or take it to some tables outside.
Thanks very much Amy.
An excellent idea. Sadly, I was only in Switzerland for a few days so didn’t have time to explore further. We did however, do exactly what you said in Slovenia. It really was a fantastic experience!
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