DAY 1 - Arrived at Zurich Airport yesterday and followed my host, Luisa's, very clear instructions: Take train S2 on Gleis (platform) 1, destination, Zieglebrucke. Go to the last stop. Sit upstairs on the left and you will get a view of Lake Zurich as you travel along. She wasn't wrong. It is a stunningly beautiful train ride. Fast, punctual and picturesque. Luisa met me at the station and we drove to her house along a scenic route which is full of picture postcard images. We arrived at the house and were greeted by Luisa's husband, Josef. Over a cool beer, we started chatting and did not stop until well into the evening. This is a fascinating couple, who are so hospitable and warm that I immediately felt I had known them for a very long time.
Sitting on the terrace, we had a Raclette, a famous Swiss dish of grilled cheese poured over potatoes, with pickles, Sun dried tomatoes, home made and delicious, and chilies. The conversation never flagged. It was fun and we had quite a few laughs. The Rose wine was very slippery and I went to bed in a mellow mood. I woke in the night and looked out the window at the stars. Because the area is away from light pollution they were spectacular. And yes, they were in the sky, I wasn't seeing stars! This is a really magical place.
DAY 2 - Woke up to the sound of the birds and the sun streaming in the window of my loft room. Sat down to a breakfast of farm fresh eggs, ham, home made bread and coffee. Lots of chat around the table. Really important decisions to be made, like where should we go for our picnic. Looking across the lake to the imposing cliff with its spectacular waterfall, we decide to travel to the top, by car I hasten to add, and look at the view from there.
On arrival we make a short walk along a road through farmland populated by cows grazing peacefully in the sunshine. Everywhere you look it is like a postcard scene. The land is fertile and pristine. The smell of new mown grass is sweet and sublime. At the top we stop at the viewing platform and gaze at the view which is really beautiful. There are boats on the lake, pleasure craft, and water buses, kite surfers, water skiiers and swimmers. Below us, an eagle soars on the thermals. This is nature at its best.
Alongside the natural lake, there is a canal,built to combat flooding, which links to Lake Zurich. The only sound is cowbells and birdsong. Back in the car for a short hop to our picnic spot. We find a patch of green and pull up some small logs and spend an idyllic hour sharing food and conversation surrounded by wild flowers.It doesn't get better than this. We visit a small reservoir where there is an hydroelectric power plant , completely underground, which generates electricity for the surrounding area with no impact on the environment whatsoever. Then it's back to the house for a well earned beer and a lie down. Enjoying yourself is very tiring, you know! As we approach the house, we see a neighboring farmer, stripped to the waste, cutting grass with a scythe. That's something you don't see everyday. Now I'm pressed into service to help with dinner. I have to do one of my favorite things, make a fire. The wood is carefully chosen from the store room. Joseph, and yes I spelt his name incorrectly yesterday, has a wood stack which is neat and tidy with all logs of the same size and we take our chosen specimens up to the top of the garden and light the fire. Once the embers are hot, we put the sausages on to cook. There is nothing like the taste of food cooked over an open fire in the company of friends. The piece de resistance is Luisa's apple tart, mmmmmmmm. We stay there chatting until dark and then it's time for bed. Another day in paradise comes to an end. Night night. More tomorrow. Gaetano.
Spaghetti aglio e olio
DAY 3 - There's a song that goes: woke up this morning feeling fine............that was me today. Another great sleep and another day in Paradise begins. This time it was eggs sunny side up on home made brown bread. Luisa makes marmalade like you have never tasted it. Not the normal English bitter stuff of which I am not a fan. This was fruity and delicious. If you come here, and I suggest you do, ask Joseph to tell you the story of the marmalade. Be prepared it has an unexpected ending!
After some more lying around, it was time for lunch. Time flies when you are having fun. Here, Luisa's Italian heritage came to the fore. We had a plate of spaghetti, aglio e olio with home made chili oil. I may have to have a seat to myself on the plane home. I am now chilling on the terrace in 25 degree heat soaking up the last rays of sun. The weather has been amazing.
I have been lucky with the weather. I have been fortunate also with my hosts. If you are looking for a place where you can totally relax and do as much or as little as you like, this is it. The scenery is truly stunning. The company is really good. The food is excellent. Nature is all around. And there are no shops anywhere near! Luisa and Joseph have had guests who would like to stay to themselves and this is fine. If, like me you enjoy company and chat this is also fine. They are always there to make your stay enjoyable and have an extensive knowledge of the area and what it can offer. For someone travelling alone, it is ideal. We had a guest staying who was studying for an exam and found the solitude he needed in this place. But if you like to be alone for walking or sightseeing it is nice to chat over dinner about what you have done that day.
For someone who would like to see different parts of this wonderful country, we have hosts to the east and west of here who are waiting to welcome you to their homes. Check out Angelika, in Alstatten, and Eve in Murten. Between these locations you could have a lovely week in Switzerland experiencing the different foods, wines and geography of each region. Travelling here is really easy. The road system is superb and the trains are reliable and always run on time. The history is also fascinating. Switzerland has always had to chart a course between the surrounding countries. The Swiss are very disciplined and are a pragmatic people. But it is not all serious. There is fun to be had. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to visit more than one host on this trip but I have made a promise to myself to come back at a later date and put that right.
So, in summary, if you would like to experience a country of surreal natural beauty, whatever the season, Switzerland is the place to come. Check out our host Luisa and do yourself a favour!
Be as free as a bird!