Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Switzerland Days #9, #10 and #11

Day 9- The First of August- Swiss Independence Day!  We started with a bigger-than-usual breakfast, including homemade bread with Swiss crosses cut into the tops.  We went to a very cool playground- a water wheel park.  When we make our first million, Chicago will get one of these (along with the crystal clear Alpine spring to feed it.)  It had water troughs, blocks to make dams, water wheels, a pond and great big wooden chairs.  We played in the COLD water for hours.  After long naps, we headed up the mountain to Marianne's sister, Karin's mountain farm.  Beat, Anita, Karin and her husband Hosi and kids, Thomas, Ronja and Jan and their grandparents were there.  As they finished up milking and chores, the kids played.  Violet and Ronja played with the wooden barn and toy cows for quite a while.  Play is a universal language!  Dinner was delicious- several types of grilled meat, kabobs, green, pasta, corn and caprese salad, peppers, carrots, chips, and of course, bread.  Afterwards we had a drink (Eve beer...whose slogan is "its a lady thing) and dessert...mocha mousse made by Beat, as well as blueberries and cream and a cake.  Mmmm!

The best part of the day was yet to come- we walked down the driveway and lit a HUGE (I'm talking 10 feet) bonfire- and watched others light fires all over the mountainsides.  Then we (and others all over) started shooting off fireworks- sparklers, Roman candles, and other bigger ones including a big gold one that sent of Jan's last pacifier!  Eventually thunder and lightning sent us back to the house.  We headed home to Darstetten.  It was once again so neat to see how another family lives- particularly Karin's family.  She is roughly my age, the oldest of 4 kids, married with 3 kids of her own.  Born in each other's places, our lives might look quite similar!  It was such a joy to celebrate the First of August in Switzerland!
Water Wheel Park
The kids had so much fun in the COLD water!
Blocks just the right shape for damming up the water troughs
Hard to beat the backdrop!
The treehouse at Water Wheel Park

The awkward pair of photos that looks like I dropped my baby off the side...

Some pigs who vacation near the park for the summer months

Relaxing back at "our" house
More VERY mountainous roads up to Karin's
I love how they hang the cow's bells up on the side of the barn
Violet playing cows with Ronja- "they like to sled on the roof!"
First of August dinner- isn't the table beautiful!?
The moon was almost full that night.
It got cold, so we borrowed some clothes.  

The firework to send up Jan's last pacifier
The bonfire!

Day 10- Our last day!  We had yet to see a real castle, so we headed to Spiez to see Spiez Schloss.  We started with lunch on the lake- I had wonderful risotto.  Then we went to the castle.  They were filming another Bollywood movie there!  The five Handleys toured the castle- the first tower was built in 650 ad....that is REALLY OLD!  It was built onto over many years.  We saw a knight statue of one of the owners- Adrian Von Bubenberg.  Matias kept telling us how this was just like the Magic Treehouse Book Number 2, The Knight at Dawn...his latest love.  We also saw armor, spiral stairs and other "castle-y" things.  The kids really enjoyed it.

Then we took a little "fun train" around Spiez.  We ended with dishes of ice cream and then headed back to Darstetten, to sadly pack our bags.  The evening ended on a high, however.  We had a babysitter for the kids, and Marianne, Anita, Matt and I went into Thun to sit on the side of the lake and watch an amazing production- Titanic Das Musicale!  The stage was floating, the set was an enormous front of a boat which rotated, moved and even sank.  They used boats on the lake for one scene, and projected images onto a "screen" of mist as well.  It was really neat and a great end to our trip.

lunch in Spiez
Spiez Schloss
The grounds were lovely
Adrian Von Bubenberg...Matias loved it, but didn't want to get too close- I think he wasn't quite sure if it was a statue or a person.  


Inside the castle- the kids were so excited!
King Daddy
We went up and down LOTS of stairs!
The kitchen

Peeking out the windows at the Bollywood stars dancing.
The fun train
Ice cream on a really hot day!

The floating stage at Thun
The Titanic set...the boat rotated around so we could see inside.  Amazing!
Coffee after the show
A great ending to our vacation
Day 11- We headed back to Zurich in our van with Anita and Marianne, bearing cheese, chocolate and really fond memories of Switerland and its beautiful Berner Oberland and Simmental Valley.  More than the place, we will miss the people and wait for a chance to see them again soon!  We are so thankful that we got to take this amazing trip as a family of five...we will be reliving these memories for many years to come!
The "family room"at the Zurich airport.  The Swiss are so family friendly.
Our plane flight home.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Switzerland Days #7 and #8

Day 7- This morning we took it easy.  Anita and I went to eh "mega" store (kind of like a super Target).  After lunch and naps we drove to Rossberg and walked up to a little campsite- put there by an organization called Sweiz Familie.  There was wood, a hatchet, 2 fire places, swings and a cool teeter totter- and best of all, a mountain spring that we spent hours damming up with stones.  Violet build a fairy house with mushrooms and wild strawberries.  We cooked stick bread over the fire- a fun first for us.  We also had salad, chips, weiners with bacon wrapped around them, cervelats and marinated pork.  They know how to cook over a fire, this Mani family!!  We came home to put the kids to bed, take a coffee and play Settler of Catan.

Walking up to the picnic site
We saw an ACTUAL waterwheel driven saw mill- just like the one we saw working at Ballenberg!
Family Teeter Totter

Someone left these little water wheels to play with

Totally trust these two with fire, wouldn't you?

A dam we built

Violet's fairy house

the water wheels work better when the dam isn't there!

Stick bread!

Delicious feast- yes, cast your eyes on the bacon wrapped weiners!

Happy kids!
Day 8- Today we drove to the Gruyere region, to the Nestle Cailler chocolate factory.  We took a tour from Aztec days to current Swiss chocolate making.  Turns out that the Swiss not only MAKE the most chocolate of anywhere in the world, but they consume the most chocolate per capita.  No wonder everyone is friendly over here :)  We saw a chocolate making machine, sorting robot and then went into the tasting room.  Oh my.  We could (and did) taste as many chocolates as we wanted...milk, dark, white, hazlenut, truffles...there were probably 25 varieties.  We were limited only by our own ability to consume :)  

Then we drove to Gstaad to see that ritzy town of the rich and famous.  We browsed the walking street, had a Panache bier and Ovomaltine for the kids.  Then we went to see the atelier and store where Marianne works (and alters ski clothing for the rich and famous!)  We didn't need much dinner after of course, we had Fondu!  Our days here are limited- have to seize the moment!  And speaking of seizing the moment...I also took a motorcycle ride with Anita around the Thunersee.  It was beautiful to see the mountains and lake at sunset...when I had my eyes open :)  Have I also mentioned that the Swiss idea of a "passing zone" varies slightly from our flat, spacious Illinois?!

A castle on our drive to Gruyere

The chocolate factory

During the tour

The tasting room.  Violet could JUST reach!

One of the varities

Beatrice is a fan of Swiss chocolate!

The store

A fountain in Gstaad

Have I mentioned the Swiss do hanging baskets VERY well?!

The palace hotel 

Mid-afternoon refreshment

Marianne's atelier store



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