Swiss customs: Banntag

Banntag is a tradition in the canton of Baselbiet (another term for Basel-Landschaft), some parts of Solothurn and some parts of lower Zurich. On Auffahrtstag (the Swiss German for Christi Himmelfahrt – Ascension Day) or a selected other day in May, the community divides into groups and walks around the boundary of the the parish. Originally, the point was to check that all the milestones/boundary stones were in the right place and the neighbouring parish hadn’t sneakily moved any to make their own area bigger. Back then, only men were allowed to take part and in Liestal that’s still the case. This year’s ascension day was bright and sunny, so we decided to take part in our town’s Banntag celebration. Here are some photos:

Part of the way round, we stopped at a local vineyard where we were given wine and a sort of bread with bacon bits in it (water and soft drinks were also available, but who over the age of 16 drinks those at a vineyard?).

Later on the route, a large tent had been set up and there was food and drink for sale.

Bunting with the coats of arms of all the cantons had been strung up in the tent. The two to the very right in the photo below are Baselland (in red) and Basel-Stadt (black). The symbol is a Baselstab or Baselerstab – a crosier or pastoral staff. I was sitting on the wrong side of the bunting, so they’re actually facing the wrong way – the Baselland one is supposed to face to the right!

Banntag

All in all, the walk was 10 kilometres. I must admit, I was glad to see the farm that was our goal! Once there, you could get more food and drink – someone was giving out tokens for a little parcel containing a piece of bread and a sausage, but somehow we missed out on that. We did buy a small cake each though – which I had demolished before I even thought about getting the camera out 😉

It was a beautiful day and a nice walk… and also a good opportunity to discover what ground our town actually covers! We left before the real party got started – it’s not much fun when you don’t know anyone, and almost everyone was way older than us – but on the way home I couldn’t resist taking a few more photos of the cows at the farm and the scenery. I still can’t quite believe that this beauty is within 20 minutes walk of my house!

Let me show you my new neighbourhood

Well, not exactly. I’m not daft enough to show you my actual street or anything 😉 But I did take a photo from my balcony so you can all see how green and natural it is outside my window. Sadly, birds don’t really like to stay still so this is the best I could do:

BirdUgh, so blurry! Hopefully soon we will get a bird feeder so I can entice my feathered friends to come right up to my balcony. That tree is standing in a little “garden” area (some grass with a hedge around it which I haven’t figured out whether we’re actually allowed to go in yet) and beyond that is the street my building is located on, although you can’t actually access it from the street. If you look out the window at the other side of our flat, you can see more trees plus a kind of courtyard that’s between two building complexes – ours and the one opposite are connected by an underground parking garage that’s below the buildings and both complexes belong to a hospital in Basel. Apparently this kind of thing is common (hospitals randomly owning and renting out apartment blocks I mean, not parking garages under courtyards). The courtyard is where you enter the building. Here have a photo of a random street near mine. Because I won’t sure you a photo of my home but I have zero problem posting one of somebody else’s. Note all the trees/green plants. That’s pretty typical for the area we’re living in. (Also, construction. But ignore that.)

StreetTechnically, we don’t actually live in Basel proper, by which I mean Basel city. After looking at multiple flats there, we ended up extended our range to the surrounding towns in Basel-Landschaft (that’s the other Basel half canton – a canton being something like a German Bundesland/federal state. Basel and a few others are split in two, so you get half cantons. Obviously.). The place we ended up getting is in a small town (village?) just over the border from Basel city. But, although it’s technically Basel-Landschaft, we’re so close to Basel that it’s more like living in a suburb than a separate town. Just as an example, the tram to Basel Swiss train station (Basel SBB) takes 8 minutes – which is pretty much exactly as long as the tram journey to the train station took from my old flat in Karlsruhe (the one before Jan and I moved in together). Also, we’re only a couple of tram stops (or 10 minutes walk) from the zoo, which is clearly important 😉 Sadly, there are no red pandas at this one. Just around the corner from us is a little stream. It’s close enough that I can walk along it in my lunch break if I want to, and in fact the photo below was taken during a lunch break when I decided to walk along the stream to get to the post office (actually just a post counter in a supermarket, but the actual post office closes over lunch time!)

Stream

Slightly nicer than walking along beside the tram tracks or down a street that’s in the process of being dug up, which would have been the alternatives to the route along the stream. Also, remember when I said my perfect rainy day would involve going to see ducks during a lull in the rain? Totally possible from our new home!

Back at Easter, when I went down for a visit, we decided to go and find the local woods. It turned out they were only about a 20 minute walk from our flat! Here’s a mouse (I think?) that we spied on our walk:

Mouse?I was so proud of myself for managing to get that shot. Yay for my new camera!
There are various supermarkets close to our new flat. On the main street there’s a Coop, which I haven’t actually been to yet. Then just down the road from that is a Migros, which I have been to. Supposedly Migros is the cheaper of the two, which is why I’ve only been there although Jan occasionally stops at Coop in town on the way home from work. 10 minutes walk in the other direction (along the stream) there’s a Denner – the discount supermarket I told you about in a previous post. The relative cheapness there brings the prices down to about level with a non-discount supermarket in Germany, but it’s still better than doing all my shopping at Migros! I will still have to continue shopping at the expensive places though because Denner doesn’t see everything I want. Or at least that one doesn’t. And I don’t mean exotic things either… I’m talking things like tins of kidney beans! Apart from that, there’s a Migrolino in the neighbourhood. For those of you who are familiar with the UK, it’s comparable to a Tesco Express – basically a smaller supermarket that doesn’t sell everything but is conveniently located with better opening hours that normal supermarkets. Our particular Migrolino is open 365 days a year (so even on Christmas!) until 9 p.m. I don’t know if that’s common to all Migrolinos though.

This is my local Denner
This is my local Denner

So, nature in one direction, Basel proper in the other and excellent tram connections. What more could we need? Oh, and it’s also possible to walk to the Tinguely fountain in 25-30 minutes – we checked. Not bad at all! I don’t know what else to say, so just have some more pictures instead. Some are more “my” neighbourhood than others – a few are over the border in Basel Stadt.

So, that’s where I live now. Pretty isn’t it?

Bad Bergzabern

The day we went to Sukie’s for breakfast was so gorgeously sunny that it seemed a waste to spend it indoors doing housework, so after breakfast Jan, K and I decided to drive over the Bad Bergzabern for the afternoon. I knew nothing about the town other than that it was close (about 40 minutes drive from Karlsruhe) and the Internet said it had pretty buildings. What we found was a quaint little town that was just starting to show some signs of autumn colours. It was a beautiful day for a walk, so walk we did. I don’t really have much to say about the town, so this post will basically be a giant photo dump. Here are some of the town… my favourite thing was the bright red leaves on some trees in front of a church:

We also went for a walk around the Kurpark, or spa gardens. Like all towns with “Bad” in the name, Bad Bergzabern is a spa town. The park was still pretty green, with just a few hints of yellow and red starting to show up – everything stayed green for much longer than usual this year!

When we’d had enough of walking around, we stopped at a café for a drink then headed back to the car. On the way home, we stopped off at a roadside stand to buy some Neuer Wein (new wine), i.e. wine that hasn’t yet matured and still tastes a lot like fizzy grape juice (but don’t drink it like grape juice or you will regret it!). It was a lovely Sunday afternoon with unseasonably fantastic weather. And Bad Bergzabern is quite a nice little town as well – quaint, as I said above (actually, that description came from my dad when I posted the photos on Facebook). There’s not a great deal to do there, but on a sunny day it’s a lovely place for a wander around.

Under a moonlit sky…

I took both of these photos yesterday. One in the morning before I left for work and one in the evening, after I exited the train station and saw how beautiful the sky was. The one advantage of such short days is that I am reminded of how beautiful the moon can be…

Morning moonlight

Evening moon

I’m no photographer, but I think they came out pretty well 🙂

Stockholm

Now that it’s been a month and 2 days since we flew to Stockholm, I think it’s about time I actually got round to posting about it. I know, I know – I’m a terrible blogger. Anyway…

The first, and most important, thing to say about Stockholm is I LOVED IT! I loved the buildings, the food (although I did draw the line at pickled herrings for breakfast… just eeew!), the fact that there was so much water everywhere – which I know is obvious seeing as the city of Stockholm is made up of a group of islands (14 to be precise), but I miss water sooo much living in Karlsruhe. The weather was fabulous too, with temperatures between 20 and 24°C (err, Google says 68 – 75°F) all week at a time when it got up to 40°C (104°F) in Karlsruhe. I would literally have DIED!!!! 24°C is much more my kind of temperature. It only rained twice, and both times it had stopped within a couple of hours and we were able to hide inside until it had passed, so that was okay.

Some highlights of our trip:

We were there with another couple because Jan was taking part in an A Capella festival with someone he’s in a choir with (I spent most of the week hanging round with the other guy’s wife), but on the first day the workshop hadn’t started yet so we were able to spend some time together. We went to Skansen, which is the first open air museum in Sweden and was recommended to me by a Swedish friend. The founder (someone called Artur Hazelius) basically bought loads of different buildings from around Sweden, took them apart and rebuilt them at Skansen, so everything you see there is authentic. There is also a zoo bit, with reindeer, wolves, bears, etc. The place is HUGE!! We had bought some food before heading to Skansen, and the first thing K wanted to do was eat, so we walked for what felt like miles to get to the picnic area (missing out on looking at loads of cool stuff on the way! And I really wanted to go into the acquarium!). While we were walking we noticed that there were loads of squirrels about, and they were all coming really close to people – hoping for food I presume. At the picnic area we saw even more of them, including one that was being given food by a group of teenagers at another table. And that’s how we discovered that squirrels like Nutella! The teenagers had given one a slice of bread spread with it and the squirrel was ignoring the bread and licking off the Nutella. Sooo cute! Here he is, nibbling away at his hazelnut-chocolate spread:

squirrel

He came up to our table as well, hoping for a few crumbs, but K scared him away when he tried to get on the table so I never managed to get a close up picture. He never came back to the picnic area after that either 😦 There were also birds that kept flying up trying to get a few crumbs of food, including the biggest magpies I’ve ever seen! At least they looked just like magpies, only huge. Are there any other black and white birds that look exactly like magpies, only bigger? If there are I don’t know them.

After eating we decided to split up as I wanted to go to the zoo part and K didn’t, so Jan and I managed to get some time on our own. I got to see reindeer and also real Swedish moose – albeit in captivity.

Sweden
Later we met up again and went back into town for food. I ate köttbullar, clearly a must when in Sweden.

The next day the two boys had to register for the festival, so we all went across to the island it was being held on. We walked along the waterfront taking photos of boats, found a citadel and then went for lunch, after which the guys had their first workshop and us two girls went off on our own. We walked around, took photos and had tea in a wonderful little tea salon right next to a German church (those Germans get everywhere! 😉 ).

The Vasa museum was another highlight – very interesting and we had a really cool guide. He told us all about the carvings on the ship – apparantly King Gustav II (the one who had it built) was known as the Lion of the North, which is why the ship had a lion carved on the front. The lion is holding a corn sheaf – called “vase” in Swedish, which is a similar word to Vasa, as in the House of Vasa aka the dynasty that King Gustav was part of, and which the war shop was anmed after. Well I thought it was interesting anyway! Here’s a photo of the ship, or part of it anyway. It’s too big to get the whole thing in one photo.

Vasa
Other things we did included a tour of the royal palace, where we also saw the changing of the guard (pretty impressive), a boat tour called “Stockholm: Under the Bridges”, which I really enjoyed (I love boats!) and also a visit to an amazing foodhall in a place called Söderhallarna, which is a fabulous indoor market thing on Sodermalm (south island).There was all manner of amazing looking food there. I also spotted an English shop on the top floor but K wouldn’t let me have a look in. *Sigh*.

On our final day in Sweden, the music festival had finished, so all four of us went out for the day together. We got up ridiculously early and went to get a ferry to one of the islands of the Stockholm archipelago. The island we went to was called Gällnö and it has something like 40 permanent residents! There is a little shop and café, but when we were there both were closed (although the sign on the shop claimed it was open?!). We went for a walk around the island, saw loads of butterflies that even stayed still for long enough to be photographed and found a little red rowing boat, which we went out in, but other than that we mostly just sat in the sun and enjoyed the peace and quiet. It’s amazing that such a beautiful, remote place is so close to a capital city (which Stockholm is, even though it didn’t feel like one!).

 

Pretty butterfly resting on some flowers
Pretty butterfly resting on some flowers

DSCN1471

So there you have it. I would love to return to Stockholm and see all the things I missed out on – inlcuding Gröna Lund (Sweden’t oldest amusement park) and Junibacken – a museum dedicated to Swedish literature, in particular Astrif Lindgren. Or, as I kept saying every time I spotted the building across the water, “Pippi’s in there!!”.

And that is all from me. If You’ve actually managed to read this far I commend you! Now go visit Stockholm and see for yourself how great it is. There’s no way my words (or terrible photography/random snapshots) could ever do it justice!.

Autumn in the air

Standing at the tram stop this morning, I was hit by a smell that I can only describe as “Autumn”. Unfortunately it didn’t last long, as after a few minutes the only other person at the stop lit up a cigarette and my nostrils were filled with smoke instead, but not before I managed to take a deep breath of that wonderful aumtumny fragrance. The sun was just barely up and it was still pretty cold outside, with that crisp clean feel to the air that makes smells (and sounds) spread for miles. And the scent of autumn was definitely in the air. It’s that slightly dusty smell of fallen leaves, mixed with the scent of conkers. I couldn’t see any conkers but I could certainly smell them! It’s the smell of nature, but not the nature smell you get in spring. Spring smells new and fresh and green (of course green has a smell!). The nature of autumn is more mature. This is nature that’s seen things. It’s mature nature (interesting that those two words don’t rhyme). Spring smells invigorating, summer is sweet and warm, but autumn has a musty, down-to-earth smell. I love the first few weeks of autumn weather, when the days are still warm (but the sun isn’t beaming down, doing its best to give me sunstroke) and the evenings are still light. This part of autumn never lasts for long though, so I’d better enjoy it while I can!

Little Bev in big woods

I’m so tired I can barely even summon up the energy to blog. The only reason I am blogging is because I’m hoping it will stop me from falling asleep. I need to stay awake because my dad is supposed to be ringing me this evening. I hope he hurries up. I need to make myself some food, but can’t because it’s impossible to hear my phone ringing from the kitchen, seeing as it’s at the other side of the building through two thick doors.

I went for a walk this afternoon. I’d just finished a particularly difficult translation so the bosses wife suggested I go and get some air for a bit, so I walked down to the next tram stop along from the one I get off at in the mornings.
The office I work in is technically in Ettlingen, but only just. You only have to take about eight steps before you come to a sign informing you that you’re now in Waldbronn. But even for those who don’t know how close we are to not actually being in Ettlingen it’s pretty obvious that we’re not exactly in town either. The office is on a kind of industrial estate, but it’s not an industrial estate in the sense that we know them from England. Actually, here they call them industrial parks, and this particular one is surrounded by greenery. Seriously there are trees everywhere. And the buildings are all set down in a little dip, below the main road and the tram tracks, and waaay below the trees. As I was walking along I glanced up at the trees on the opposite side of the road. I was down in the dip and the trees were way up on a hill. Suddenly I had a sensation of being very, very small. It’s amazing how insignificant nature can make you feel.
No wonder so many humans seem to spend half their time thinking of new ways to destroy it…