Delémont, Switzerland

After a very few hot days, July 31st promised to be a lot cooler, so Jan and I decided to go hiking… just in time for me to sneak it in for July’s contribution to take 12 trips ;-). Jan suggested heading bit further afield than we had on previous hikes and mentioned Delémont, so I looked for a hike that started there and found one that took roughly 2 hours and went up the hill beside the town. We were supposed to come past the Chapelle du Vorbourg and the ruins of Vorbourg castle, but the route description wasn’t very good and somehow we missed them. Oh well.

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As you can see from the photo above, it was chucking it down when we arrived in Delémont. It was also thundering, but we decided to continue with our hike anyway and see how things went. After all, skin is waterproof…

It wasn’t long before we saw the Jura coat of arms in the side of the mountain… just in case we hadn’t realised which canton we were in 😉

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The first part of the hike took us around the outskirts of town, past housing estates along paved roads. By the time we reached the part where we were to enter the woods, the thunder had stopped and the rain had died down, so we decided it would be safe enough to enter the trees…

Having difficulty following the instructions I had printed, we decided that the place where we were must have been where it wanted us to start heading up through the trees. In hindsight, we were wrong since we never did come across any chapel! We did, however, eventually find a break in the trees from where we could look down on the town.

Just up the hill from there was a proper viewing platform, so I had shoved my way into the gap between the trees for nothing!

With all the rain, the snails were out in full force. We had to be careful not to tread on the ones that were hanging out in the middle of the path!

How pretty is that shell though?

After admiring the view, we headed back down the mountain and towards the old town. Pretty much as soon as we were away from the woods the sun came out!

The whole old town was full of flag bunting. I’m not sure whether it’s always there or they had hung it up specially because the next day was the national holiday. I only recognised two of the coats of arms – the one for Jura and the one for Delémont town. You can see both of those on the first picture below. The others are presumably from the other towns that belong to Delémont district?

The old town of Delémont is small but very pretty and we had a nice wander round in the sunshine.

Too soon it was time to head back to the train station – we were meeting people to watch the fireworks and wanted to shower first. We grabbed some tasty food from the station café and a beer from the little Coop supermarket at the station and ate and drank those while waiting for the train.

This is a nice little hike for a day that you don’t have time for a longer one (just make sure not to miss the chapel and castle like we did!) and Delémont old town is worth a look at, although it’s so small that I wouldn’t make that the entire itinerary for your day trip!

Monday Escapes has been revived with new hosts, so I’m linking up with Travel Loving Family, Extraordinary Chaos, Tin Box Traveller and Mini Travellers for that. And of course I’ve already mentioned that this was my July trip for #Take12Trips, which was originally the brainchild of Clare at Need Another Holiday.Travel Loving Family

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Views from the top of Basel cathedral

Apparently after posting every single day the week before last I was slightly burned out, hence no post at all last week! We also had Jan’s dad staying this weekend so there wasn’t really time for the blogosphere. I promise to come and read everyone’s blogs soon though!

The day after we went to the Rhine Falls with my mum and brother, I took them to Mariastein Abbey and the ruins of the Landskron castle. My photos from that day aren’t much different to the ones here though, so I will move straight on to July when Jan’s mum and her partner were visiting. We decided to climb up the tower of Basel Cathedral, which I hadn’t even known was possible until then! It was a gorgeous sunny day, which made for some great views:

The red tower in the last picture is part of the town hall (Rathaus) and the interesting looking roof at the front is the Museum der Kulturen (Museum of Cultures).

It was nice to see the roof of the cathedral up close – I think it’s really pretty!

Finally, some photos of the gargoyles. They always amuse me 🙂

And once again I was left thinking “Wow, I actually live here!”.

The two towers of Basel Cathedral – Georgsturm and Martinsturm – can be climbed any time that the cathedral is open for a fee of 5 francs (payable at the information desk).

Graubünden – June 2016

I’m slowly catching up on blogging my Take 12 Trips adventures for 2016. With this post, I’m only two months behind!

At the beginning of June, a colleague of Jan’s was playing at an accordion festival in Disentis Abbey. Disentis is in the canton of Graubünden (of Grisons in French), which we had herd was a beautiful area with lots of amazing scenery and many hiking opportunities, so we decided we would go down there for a weekend, watch the colleague perform on the Saturday and then spend the Sunday hiking before returning home, ready for work on Monday. We booked a hotel in Breils or Brigels (Graubünden is trilingual canton!) and set off bright and early on Saturday morning. The plan was to walk from Brigels train station to the hotel, but it turned out to be at least an hour’s walk up the mountain, so instead we took the Postauto (bus run by Swiss Post). Brigels is a cute little town that probably has a beautiful view on clear days… I wouldn’t know, we had clouds 😉 After checking in to our hotel, we bought a sandwich from the supermarket and ate it on a bench overlooking the town. Here are some photos from Brigels:

After we had eaten, we took the bus back down to the train station. After checking what time the last bus back to Brigels would be (pretty early!), we took the train to Disentis and went in search of the accordion festival. The festival was also part festival, so we watched a number of groups play the same pieces before Jan’s colleague’s group took to the stage. This group was more professional than the others and was taking part non-competitively so they could just play without worrying about points. Even non-musical me noticed that they were much better than the others! We decided not to stay for the rest of the competition and went for a quick walk around Disentis. It turned out there wasn’t much to see and I took a grand total of four photos there!

Soon it was time to head back to the train station so we could catch the bus back to Brigels. Once up there, we walked around for a bit (but I took no photos because I had forgotten my memory card and had only the memory on the camera itself, meaning I was limited in how many I could take!) then had a delicious dinner at the hotel before getting an early night. We wanted to be up early the next day to fit in a nice hike before we had to go home!

After breakfast the next day we headed out to catch the bus back down to the train station and from there took a train to a station called Oberalppasshöhe on the Operalp Pass, a pass high up in the mountains. We wanted to hike to the source of the Rhine, which is considered to be at the Tomasee (Lag da Toma, or Toma Lake), but the hiking paths weren’t officially open yet and there was still some snow around so we didn’t quite make it. We could see that some people had already crossed the snow and presumably gone all the way up, but my shoes weren’t quite good enough and I was scared to cross the largest expanses of snow! We had a lovely hike anyway though and ended up walking around for roughly 3.5 hours, which isn’t bad (especially since it rained part of the time)! I’ve promised Jan I will go back with him when the weather is better and actually go all the way to the lake.

The Rhine ends in Rotterdam, where it flows into the North Sea, so near where the train stops at the start of the hiking trail there is a lighthouse, a smaller replica of one in Rotterdam. Apparently the replica at the Oberalp Pass is the highest lighthouse in the world. But enough rambling, I’m sure what you really want is photos!

 

A second gallery… too many photos for one! (As always, click photos to enlarge)

The staff at a restaurant  near the train station had kindly agreed to look after our luggage for us, so when we went to pick it up we decided we deserved a treat after all that hiking in the snow. Beer and Bünder Gerstensuppe (barley soup). We also had cake but I scoffed that too quickly for a photo 😉

Finally it was time to be on our way. The train home took us on a beautiful route, over a gorge and then around the other side of Lake Lucerne, through Schywz (a tiny canton, but the one that gives Switzerland its name). Two train changes later, we were finally home where we went straight to bed ready for a week of work starting the next day!

This first trip to Graubünden was incredibly short, but it’s okay – it definitely won’t be our last!

Linking up with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey for Monday Escapes.

Travel Monkey

Two castles and a cathedral

On Saturday the sun was shining for the first time in what felt like weeks, so we thought we’d better make the most of it and go out for the afternoon (and it’s a good job we did – on Sunday the rain was back!).

I suggested that we could take a trip to Arlesheim in Basel-Landschaft to see the cathedral, which is famous for being the only “Dom” in Switzerland. For those who don’t speak German, I shall explain. Dom means cathedral, and the one in Arlesheim certainly isn’t the only cathedral in Switzerland, but the others are either called Kathedrale – as in the Kathedrale St. Mariä Himmelfahrt in Chur – or Münster (minster), such as the Basler Münster (Basel Minster). Not that I’ve personally ever understood the difference between a minster and a cathedral even in English, but there you have it!

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Arlesheim is a cute little village – well, of course it’s cute, this is Switzerland! I’ve yet to see a village that isn’t cute! The cathedral itself is also kind of cute – it doesn’t look big enough to be a cathedral! But I suppose size isn’t a criterion. I felt kind of bad taking photos inside because everyone else in there seemed to actually be praying. It didn’t stop me though… I just tried to take my photos respectfully.

After visiting the cathedral, which obviously didn’t take long, we decided to try and find a castle that we had spotted from the tram on the way to Arlesheim. It turned out to be very close to the village, at the top of a hill. To get there, we had to walk through the Erimitage (Hermitage), which you would expect to be some kind of religious building where hermits went to be along, but in this case is actually a landscaped garden. Apparently the original garden, which was destroyed, contained things like a suspension bridge, artificial tower ruins and a waterfall. These days, it’s basically a hill with steps that lead through various caves. It still looks pretty cool though!

The castle turned out to be Schloss Birseck. We couldn’t go inside because it’s not open yet (and wouldn’t have been on a Saturday anyway). The opening times are May to October on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.

The Birs, by the way, is a small river – a tributary to the Rhine – and Eck (or Ecke) means corner. So presumably the castle is in a corner of the Birs. There’s also an area of Basel called Birsfelden, meaning Birs Fields.

Across the road from Schloss Birseck, we saw a sign pointing to Burg Reichenstein, another castle. After about a 10 minute walk – during which I very much regretted my choice of thick tights and a winter coat (the temperature was more like mid-September than early-February!) – we found this second castle.

A sign on the gate told us that a private function was currently in progress at the castle and only invited guests were allowed in, so after taking some photos of the outside we headed back down the hill via a different route, this time through the woods. My research tells me that, while you can book the castle for events, it’s not generally open to the public. There is a picnic area beside the castle with a public grill for barbecues – you just bring your own meat and (I presume) coal!

On a sunny day, Arlesheim and its surrounding castles are well worth a visit, and there’s even the option of taking a slightly longer walk (about 30-40 minutes) through the woods to visit a third castle – the ruins of Schloss Dorneck in nearby Dornach. In fact, I might even suggest that to Jan as a hike for us at some point…

Okay, that’s enough advertising Basel-Landschaft as a tourist destination for one day 😉 It’s time for lunch!

Laufen, Basel-Landschaft

Last month we decided to go and watch a choir perform at a church in Laufen, which just happens to be the nearest town to where Jan works. I’d never actually been there before, so I jumped at the chance to see where he walks most mornings (sometimes he gets off the train in a neighbouring town since his work is between the two). Laufen is small (population just over 5,500) but it has a very pretty old town, and luckily we arrived for the concert before it got dark. Here are some photos:

The concert itself was in the Katharinenkirche (St Catherine’s Church). No matter what setting I put my camera on, I couldn’t managed to get a decent photo inside. Behold:

Grr, I should be able to use my camera by now!

There isn’t really a great deal to do in Laufen itself so you couldn’t really spend a whole day there, but various hiking routes pass by, start or end there – for example, you could start in Flüh and finish in Laufen, ending your afternoon of hiking with a look around Laufen’s old town followed by a meal.

I’m linking this post up with Monday Escapes (and yes, I am aware that today is Tuesday!)

Packing my Suitcase

A New Year’s walk

Not much has been going on recently, hence the lack of blog posts. Luckily I still have a few things to write about from back when I was too busy cross stitching to even think about my blog…

On New Year’s Day, it actually stopped raining for a change (although it was cloudy), so after a large brunch we decided to take our friends out for a walk. First, we went to Bottmingen, a fairly nondescript small town just outside Basel, but which has a castle (not really a castle as such, although that’s what it’s called. It’s more of a huge house, surrounded by water. It’s now an expensive restaurant). I took photos of it from every angle – it seemed to deserve it!

Did you spot the photographic evidence above that the castle’s haunted? No? How about a closer look:

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Even closer…

No, I don’t know either! Maybe left over from Halloween?

Continuing our walk, we spied a little kitty in the undergrowth on a hill:

Those photos were the best I could get – it wasn’t all that keen on coming to say hello (probably because there were 9 of us!).

Jan and I then decided that we should continue our walk by going to a water tower that’s on a hill above Basel, called Bruderholz. For the price of one Swiss franc, you can climb the tower and see Basel and its surroundings.

It was cold and windy at the top, and by the time we had walked back home we were all ready for a nice cup of tea! It was worth it though, for the fresh air and the view.

I love where I live!

Bern and its Christmas markets

Back in December, we decided to finally visit our new capital city, Bern – and also add another Christmas market to my list. We took advantage of another RailAway offer (I love that site!), which gave us money off the train ticket – I don’t remember how much – plus a voucher each for one Glühwein or tea from the Christmas market on Waisenplatz and a 5 CHF voucher for money off anything but Glühwein from one of the stands at the Christmas markets on Münsterplatz. There was nothing we wanted to buy at Münsterplatz, so we used our vouchers towards some food 😉

On arriving in Bern, we first walked to Bundesplatz to see the Bundeshaus, or Federal Palace – the place Switzerland is governed from.

In some of the photos above, you might have noticed cantonal coats of arms going around the top. Half cantons have to share a space. Here are the ones for Basel-Stadt (the black one) and Basel-Landschaft (ours! The red one):

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Basel staffs for Basel-Stadt and Basel-Land

Here’s a photo of the front of the Bundeshaus. The market is a normal one, not a Christmas one.

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Confoederatio Helvetica is Latin for the Swiss Federation and is where the country code CH for Switzerland comes from. So now you know 😉

According to a local legend, Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen, who founded Bern, vowed to name the city after the first animal he met on the hunt. Said animal turned out to be a bear. Obviously this isn’t true, but the bear has been the heraldic animal of Bern since the 1220s and appears on the coat of arms. There are various bears all around the city, and even some real live ones in the Bärengraben (bear pit) at the eastern edge of the old town. We didn’t get to see any live ones though – the weather may have been incredibly mild for December, but bears’ body clocks aren’t affected by the temperature and they were all hibernating.

The balancing bear is my favourite 🙂

After a bit more wandering around, we eventually came to Waisenplatz and the first of the Christmas markets. Of course, we claimed our free Glühwein – who cares that it was far too warm for hot drinks? Free is free!

After drinking our Glühwein and looking at the Christmas market for a bit, we continued our wander through Bern. Our walk took us past the Rathaus (town hall), down to the river and the Bärengraben and finally to the Münster (cathedral)

Next to the Münster was the next Christmas market. We had a look round all the stalls before deciding it was about time for food. I had a hamburger with garlic sauce and Jan had a sausage. I didn’t really take any photos of the market, so the next few are mainly of the Cathedral and things on the square. We did also go inside, but no photos were allowed in there – even without the flash!

After eating, we had our Glühwein cups refilled – this time with white Glühwein -drank up, then continued walking round Bern. We were trying to find somewhere to eat that evening but everywhere was fully booked! Eventually we decided to head back to Basel and eat there, but not before passing by the Münsterplatz Christmas market again, where the lights above the archways were now on!

Bern was my 5th Christmas market that I’m willing to count towards the list (my “home” market doesn’t count!), and marked the achievement of that goal for my 35 before 35!

I’m linking this post up with Monday Escapes. Click the button to see where everyone else is virtually escaping to this week!

Packing my Suitcase