Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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Celebrating Switzerland’s birthday

Saturday was the 1st of August (what? How did that happen?!), which in Switzerland means Bundesfeier or Swiss National Day. Supposedly, 1 August was the date on which the original three cantons, Uri, Schywz (which gave Switzerland its name) and Unterwalden (which no longer exists as a canton) signed the Federal Charter of 1291. Unlike in Germany, where Reunification Day is a solemn occasion, in Switzerland National Day means fireworks! Lots of fireworks! And Basel isn’t content with just celebrating on one evening… the unofficial fireworks display (unofficial in the sense of not on the right day, they were organised by official people!) was on Friday evening on the Rhine then there was a second celebration in the Bruderholz area of the city on the actual day. We attended both, but I got the feeling most people only went to the celebration on the Rhine… things were certainly a lot more crowded there anyway!

Our first stop on Friday evening was at Marktplatz. The town hall was all decked out in Switzerland and Basel-Stadt flags, there were food stands, and a Dixieland band was playing. We each purchased a sausage then ate it while watching the band for a bit before moving on.

On the banks of the Rhine, there’s a statue of a boy holding a fish (don’t ask me why!). Some revellers had decked him out in a Swiss flag for the national holiday:

BundesfeierLots of people go all out for the national holiday. There were flags, bunting and lanterns in red and white everywhere!

Bundesfeier

We found ourselves a spot next to a stand selling Basel beer (very tasty, by the way). It wasn’t too crowded there – the Mittlere Brücke and the opposite side of the river seemed to be where most of the crowds were gathered – and we could see both sets of fireworks. A selection of photos:

After the fireworks, we walked down to the next bridge, crossed over to see what was on the other side of the river (lots of loud music, cocktails and a much younger audience!), ate raclette from one of the stands there and then headed home.

The next night, we went to the official celebrations for Basel-Stadt in a field up on the Bruderholz. Our own town was holding its own celebrations, but we chose not to go as there weren’t any fireworks (the place they would have been set off was subject to a ban due to them being too close to the woods after the extremely dry weather we’d been having – ironically, it was raining when we left the house!). Being official, these celebrations involved a speech by the president of the Gemeinderat (municipal council), but also various forms of entertainment, including presentations by the Schweizer Tambouren und Pfeiferverband (Swiss drummers’ and fifers assocation). They were very good, with even the youngest performers keeping perfect time! The final group of drummers wore skeleton masks and played with fire, which was kind of fun.

In between drummers drumming and pipers piping, people in traditional dress danced and we ate yet more sausages. Also, I couldn’t resist the Swiss cows on sticks being sold at the cake stand!

After the speech by the official and the drummers’ final performance, there was a fire show then two singers performed what they called “a tribute to the national anthem”. I think the organisers had expected them to actually sing the national anthem, which is why the progamme for the events had the text printed on the back, but oh well! What they actually sang was something weird in English with one line from the national anthem in each of the national languages in between. Not what I was expecting! Then, finally, those who weren’t already standing out in the field headed over to the bonfire to watch the main event… fireworks! Actually, people had been setting off their own fireworks all evening (there was an official area for it), even before it got dark, but of course only “official” people are allowed the really impressive ones!

The fireworks went on for about 20 minutes, after which we headed off to find a tram that would take us home – we had walked across the fields to get to the event, but I didn’t fancy taking the same route back in the dark!

Yesterday, I read that there is also a regular fireworks display over the Rhine Falls on 31 July, so I’ve now decided I need to see that one some day. A fireworks display over the largest plain falls in Europe has to be pretty spectacular! (And by the way, if anyone would like to explain to this idiot what a “plain waterfall” is that would be fabulous ;-) ).

It’s Monday, so I’m linking up with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey again for the latest edition of Monday Escapes.

Packing my Suitcase


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The year so far in cross stitch

I just realised that I haven’t actually uploaded any of my cross stitching so far this year. Not that I’ve done much, what with the move and everything,but I did manage to make a few cards. Unfortunately I have a habit of forgetting to take photos before I send the cards so there are at least three missing, but here are the ones I did remember to photograph! For each one, I’ve included a picture of the full card and a close up shot of the actual stitching.

First of all, a birhday card for a friend’s little girl whose birthday was at the beginning of February. A fairly simple one to stitch, but I thought it was incredibly cute.

Next, a Mother’s Day cardI stitched for my mum. I decided the little girl looked like me. Please take note of all the French knots – there were loads of them and I hate French knots! With this one I didn’t actually take a picture of the completed card for some reason.

I’ve made two New Home cards so far this year, but only took a photo of one of them. Both were of bird houses, but in slightly different styles. Here’s the one I did remember to take a photo of.

Finally, my most recent piece of stitching – a card for the wedding I attended at the weekend. Try to ignore the weird pink splodges! I had to block out the names to protect the innocent!

Next up will be a birthday card for my godson, then I think I’ll need to get started on Christmas cards based on how long they took me last year!

Would you appreciate being given a cross stitch card, or would you just throw it away?
Which of these cards is your favourite? Let me know in the comments!


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A Wedding in Wokingham

Bearwood College

My cousin got married this weekend at Bearwood College in Wokingham, so I had a (literally) flying visit back to England: flew out on Friday morning, attended the wedding on Saturday and flew back yesterday afternoon. It was worth it though – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many members of my mum’s side of the family in one place! In fact, the last time I saw some of my cousins some of the other cousins weren’t even born! (That includes the bride, who I hadn’t seen in at least 12 years and unfortunately didn’t really see at the wedding either, other than to say congratulations as we left the room the ceremony was held in. She had a baby a few weeks ago and by the time I went looking for her she’d already taken him home).

I can’t post any pictures of people because I don’t like to do that without permission, but I can show you few of the venue and the decorations. The location was amazing! We even saw a deer when we first arrived and were waiting outside for things to start happening! Unfortunately my camera ended up on a wrong setting and most of my photos turned out blurry or too dark, but a few are vaguely okay.

Here’s Bambi, plus a shot of the hall (yes, there are people on that one but I think they’re far enough for it to be okay).

The groom’s mum  made the cake! I was amazed – it looked so professional. And she also made the chocolate lollies that each person had at their place at the table.

Wedding cake

Instead of a number, each of the tables had the name of a place that holds some significance for the bride and groom. Ours was Bruges, which I presume is just somewhere they’ve been on holiday. The most important tables were Slough, which is where they met, and Windsor Great Park, where the groom proposed.

The food was delicious! Pork belly with Bramley apple sauce and chorizo to start, followed by steak with hand-cut chips and then Tart au Citron for dessert. The vegetarian’s obviously got something different, but I don’t remember what that was.

We continued partying until around 11:30, took a taxi back, then headed to the bar at the hotel for a night cap as it was my mum’s birthday the next day and she wanted to stay up until midnight. It was a really nice wedding, the bride looked beautiful (I’m sure I won’t look anywhere near that amazing less than 2 months after giving birth!) and it was amazing to see so many members of my family. It had been four years since the last big family gathering. Hopefully this time it won’t be as long before I see them all again!


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Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge: Month 1

Remember the Literary Ladies Summer Reading Challenge I was participating in? Well, it’s time for the first check in. Sadly, I haven’t actually been doing very well with it… I’ve managed a grand total of two books (I have read a few others this month, but they were either too short or didn’t fit the categories). Here’s what I’ve read so far:

  • A novel written by a non-US authorSea Sisters by Lucy Clarke (4 stars)
  • A book with “summer” in the titleI Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan (yes, the book the film was based on! 4 stars. See my GoodReads review here.) My copy of this book only just managed to qualify for the challenge – it has precisely 200 pages!

So I still have 8 categories to go. Hopefully I’ll do a better job over the next month! I’m flying to England for my cousin’s wedding on Friday so at least I’ll have plenty of reading time while hanging around airports and on planes/trains.


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Olten Street Food Festival

I’ve mentioned the Olten Street Food Festival on my blog before because it happened to take place on June’s photo an hour day. However, I also meant to write a full post dedicated to the festival and Olten, and that hasn’t happened yet. There’s another Monday Escapes linkup happening today, so it seemed like a good opportunity.

Olten is only about half an hour from Basel by regional or inter-city train (faster by ICE – express train – but more expensive), but it’s already in another canton, namely Solothurn, and some of its surrounding towns are in another one again – Aargau. The town, which has a population of roughly 17,300, is located on the River Aare.

The food festival was taking place in Kirchgasse and Baslerstrasse. On the way there, we admired the streets of the old town.

Before deciding what to eat, we had a walk around the festival to see what was on offer. It wasn’t particularly large, but there was still quite a range of foods! Quite a lot of Indian stands, but also Japanese, Argentinian and Italian, just to give a few examples. And, of course, there was raclette!

Finally, we decided to start with something “local” – there was a stand offering tiny burgers (just the right size to be able to fit more food in afterwards!) and proudly proclaiming that the beef was from happy, Swiss cows.

The choice was a good one – the burgers were delicious! Tasty beef and yummy melted Swiss cheese.
Next up was a Columbian/Venzeuelan speciality – Arepas, corn bread with various fillings! Jan chose a vegetarian one with black beans and cheese while I went for chicken, which also came with cheese. It tasted a bit like the enchilada fillings you get in Mexican restaurants, but less spicy. Very tasty though! We had to wait a while for our order to be finished, so while I queued and Jan fetched drinks, the camera came back out ;-)

As you might have noticed from the photos, it was a bit of a weird weather day. One minute it was bright sunshine, like in the photos above, the next it was cold and chucking it down, only to clear up again and become far too hot for rain coats 10 minutes later!

From one South-American cuisine to the next… we were getting quite full by this point, but we decided we still had time for a little Coxhina from a small Brazilian stand. This time, Jan chose chicken and I went for beef. Jan’s was delicious and mine had a nice flavour but unfortunately was still slightly cold inside. The filling was precooked though (they just reheated them at the stand), so I ate it anyway.

CoxinhaAt that point, Jan decided he would like a coffee and I remembered seeing a sign for Turkish coffee at the entrance to the festival, so we headed to the Turkish stand. I chose a homemade lemonade, as I’m not a fan of Turkish coffee. The stall owner tried really hard to get us to also take one of his pastries, so we chose a pistachio-filled one to share.

The lemonade was lovely and refreshing and the pastry was not too sweet.
Having done enough eating for the day, we decided to have a walk around the rest of Olten while we were there. The old ton area is pretty but fairly small. Outside the old town, the buildings aren’t quite as nice, but the entire town is surrounded by mountains and greenness – a description that could apply to anywhere in Switzerland really ;-)

Once we were back at the river, we were also almost back at the train station. With no room inside for more food, we decided to take the next train home. All in all, it was a lovely afternoon out and after reading so many other bloggers’ accounts of food festivals I was happy to finally get one of my own to try! There are more street food festivals planned by the same company for Lucerne (7-9 August 2015) and Berne (14-15 August 2015) and I’ve just read about another one in Solothurn (the city that gives the canton its name), which is taking place on 29 and 30 Augzst 2015, so hopefully I’ll make it to another one this summer!

Have you been to a street food festival? What would you have chosen to eat if you’d been in Olten with us? Let me know in the comments! And if you’ve got a travel tale for Monday Escapes, click the button below.

My Travel Monkey


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Bird tales

The weekend before last, Jan’s mum and her partner came to Basel for an afternoon as they were on holiday at the Bodensee (that’s Lake Constance to English speakers). They came by the flat to have a look at it and eat some lunch, then we all headed into town. It was really far too hot to do much though, so after taking the ferry across the Rhine, briefly dipping our feet in the water and walking along the river for a bit, we decided what we really needed was a drink! We took another ferry back across the water and headed to the restaurant of the Basler Papiermühler (paper mill – a fascinating museum by the way!). Jan and I had been before, so we knew they had good cake – and also coffee, according to Jan, although I settled for ice tea. Even the idea of coffee made me feel like melting!

While we were enjoying our drinks, we noticed a commotion going on at the corner of the restauarnt building (we were sitting outside). A waiter from the restauarant and an older man (presumably a customer) were pouring water on a bird who was obviously too exhausted to fly away. Eventually, they scooped the little guy up and placed him in a dog bowl filled with water. One by one, the other patrons of the restaurant went over to see what was going on – us included. What we saw in the bowl was a little swift, huddled up at the edge looking very sorry for himself. Later, from our table, we saw his little head poke up over the edge of the bowl and noticed him spreading his wings a bit. When we went over for another look, I took a photo. He still seemed a bit dazed and confused, but much better than before! Shortly after taking the photo, we paid and left. I wonder what happened to Mr. Bird?

The bird actually looks a lot better here - at least he's lifted his head and started looking around!

The bird actually looks a lot better here – at least he’s lifted his head and started looking around!

Then, last Wednesday, I was minding my own business hanging some laundry on the balcony when something flew past me and into the flat. I went in to have a look and saw a sparrow flying around my living room. It saw me, flew into the window in a panic then went and hid between a cabinet and the wall where I couldn’t get to it. I tried leaving a trail of bread to tempt it out, but birdie was having none of it. At some point I went and lay on the floor with my camera and used the zoom to check whether the little bird was even alive – I didn’t want to scare it even more by getting too close. So here’s a photo of a tiny bird cowering beside my living room furniture:

Poor birdy!

Poor birdy!

Eventually, the bird must have decided it was safe to come out. I was just sitting on the sofa when she (pretty sure this one’s a female) came whooshing out, flew past me, all around the living room, round the kitchen (obviously still in a panic as she hit a few walls on the way!) and eventually made it back out through the balcony door. Phew! I placed the bits of bread on the balcony, where they stayed all night before being picked up by a whole host of sparrows the next morning. I hope the one that got trapped in the flat got some as well to make up for her awful experience with the terrifying human!

Phew, I think I’ve had quite enough bird-related excitement for a while!


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A walk to Mariastein Abbey and Landskron castle ruins

It’s time for another entry in my series of “persuade everyone that Switzerland is worth visiting” posts ;-)

Before I came to Switzerland, I joined a meetup group for Basel. We’ve been to a couple of the meet ups, but have yet to really “click” with anyone in a manner that would lead to further meetings outside of the group. However, last time we were there, one of the other members suggested Mariastein Abbey as a good place for an afternoon out. When we decided to get out of the flat for a bit yesterday evening, we remembered this advice and decided to check out, so we hopped on a number 10 tram and headed off to Flüh from where we walked the roughly half an hour to Mariastein (there’s also a bus if you don’t feel like the exercise). First, some photos from the walk up. Jan told me not to take the one of the garden full of gnomes, but how could I not?

Apparently, the Mariastein Abbey is the second most important pilgrimage site in Switzerland. People come from far and wide to worship there. Obviously we couldn’t go into the actual abbey since it’s full of monks, but the basilica is open to the public and the inside is gorgeous! There were so many little details that I just couldn’t stop taking photos! Apologies in advance for picture overload…

We decided to take a different route down, which took us into France. When we realised that the ruins of Landeskron castle – which we had seen a sign for on the way up – wouldn’t take us much out of our way, we decided to go there. The castle stands on the border between France and Switzerland and is owned by both countries. From the top, you can see Germany, France and Switzerland but don’t ask me which is where! The only thing I can reliably recognise is Basel (thanks to the Roche tower). The light was really too bright at the castle, so it was pretty much a case of keep changing settings, pointing, clicking and hoping for the best. I’m afraid I did rather a lot of clicking. What can I say… I love castle ruins! Again, I apologise for the number of photos. And believe me, this isn’t even all of them. I reluctantly narrowed them down for this post ;-)

On the way back down from the top of the castle, I spotted some bees enjoying the flowers. Obviously I had to photograph them too!

We then walked back down to Flüh via the woods, took a tram home and enjoyed a well deserved dinner!

There’s not a huge amount to do at either Mariastein or Landskron, but it was perfect for our requirements – a chance to stretch our legs and something interesting to look at along the way. The walk was fairly easy and I’d say most people could probably do it. There are a few restaurants next to the abbey where you could stop for something to eat or drink, or you could stop for refreshments in Flüh – it only took us about 15 minutes to get back down from Landskron.

And once again, I can’t believe such beauty is pretty much on my doorstep (although Flüh is in canton Solothurn, so slightly less on my doorstep than other places).

I’m linking this post up to Monday Escapes with My Travel Monkey and Packing My Suitcase. To see where everyone else’s travels are taken them this week and add your link, click the button below.

My Travel Monkey
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