Sunday, 24 July 2011

Uf Wiederluege mitenand!

So, this is the 79th and last entry that you will recieve from the alpine:penguin. It's been at once a long and a short year. It's gone incredibly quickly, looking back on it. I have met some amazing people, been to some amazing places and drank an amazing amount of Oettinger. I started the year with vague plans of what to do after it, and am finishing about to move in with the boyfriend and start to study an MA in German and Dutch C20th literature.

Switzerland is a strange little place. Before I arrived I only had a vague knowledge and little understanding. Whilst my knowledge has vastly improved, my understanding hasn't; it seems that here you solve one mystery whilst unravelling a dozen more.

If you wish to keep reading, you'll find me over at


Thursday, 30 June 2011

Fast am Ende

The Birsköpfli

My time in Switzerland is almost up, dear readers! However, that hasn't really inspired me to travel the length and breadth of the land to see as much as possible before I leave; rather it has made me remain largely in Basel to enjoy the city as much as possible before I leave. And temperatures in the mid 30s has helped this a lot.

I did go to Vaduz, though. There isn't much to do there, and it rained so much I didn't dare take my camera out of my bag, so no photos from then.

However, I do have photos from Neuchatal, where Matt and I went last Friday. It is down in Romandie and is apparently the most-French town in Switzerland. It had a lovely, relaxed atmosphere and the buildings are a beautiful, golden colour. We lazed by the lake, explored the Old Town and soaked in the atmosphere. It was a lovely day.

The Lake at Neuchatal

Inspired by being in French-speaking areas, and forced to be by my mentor teacher, I cycled from Mulhouse to Basel on Saturday. It's only 25km, I know, but I am not a big cyclist and am, well, quite inactive, apart from the odd hike here and there. But I did it, and the route was quite nice- along a canal and then the Rhine down into Basel. We passed farmhouses and canal buildings and some lock gates designed by Le Corbusier, which was fun.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


The Rhine Valley, as seen from Gonzen

Gonzen is a mountain that looms 1,830m above the town of Sargans, in eastern Switzerland. As I was there for a party last evening, me and a friend decided to go for a hike around the town during the day, and ended up walking about half-way up the Gonzen, to a height of 1,100m, through the forest.

I'm not going to lie, it was hard work. The first section was ridiculously steep and very very hot; we had to take a bit of a break on a bench and watch numerous older people tackle the path with ease whilst we floundered. But once we got further up, the path levelled out a bit and took a steady route upwards, curling around the west side of the mountain, giving us views over the Rhine valley and down over Vaduz and into Liechtenstein.

Fortunately the weather was good the whole time, neither of us burnt and so far neither of us has found a tick. Good times. However, we have both been bitten by the Wanderung-tick, and are heading back to them there hills tomorrow to tackle another hike.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Kanton Jura

The town hall in Porrentruy

Jura is the youngest of the Swiss cantons. It was only founded in 1979. Originally, it was made part of Bern by Napoleon, but the people of the Jura were unhappy with this, being Catholic and French-speaking, whereas the Bernese are German-speaking and mainly Protestant. Leading up to the end of the 70s, there was an independence campaign that included some arson attacks, and the country voted in 1978 on whether to create a new canton.

The view from the chapel we walked to above Delemont

This weekend I had a visitor, and on Sunday we decided to take his car out for a drive, first to Delemont, the cantonal capital, and then on to Porrentruy, another town close to the border with France. It took us about forty minutes to drive from Basel, and we went for a walk up a hill to a Church above Delemont, and then in Porrentruy we wandered around the town and then checked out the castle. It was very nice, very warm, and very French.


Lake Geneva as seen from Ouchy

Ok. I know that this is a hugely delayed post, but I haven't really had the inspiration to update this in the last week or so. Matt is now back home and the weather is still baking hot. Whilst he was here we spent most of our time sunning by the Rhine, drinking beer and reading / doing crosswords. It was really nice. People have now started swimming in the river again, and on Friday I bought a pair of swimming shorts. There is a plan with my flat to go and barbecue on Thursday by the river and perhaps go for a swim. We shall, because it's raining and a chilly 21c today (yesterday it was just over 30c...).

Anyway, while Matt was here we also went for an overnight stay in Lausanne, down on Lake Geneva. It rained a lot on the Saturday so we sheltered in bars, but on the Sunday it was mostly nice again so we went down to the Lake for a wander and visited the Olympics museum, which was actually very interesting.

Then we got the train to Montreux and from there a boat to Chillon, which is an amazing castle perched in the lake. You may have heard of it because it inspired Byron to write the poem "The Prisoner of Chillon", and one of the pillars in the dungeon has his name carved into it. Whilst we were looking round there was a thunderstorm, which added to the atmosphere perfectly.

Chillon, as seen from the ferry

Sunday, 8 May 2011


The weekend was more awesome than I expected. I got the train over to Sargans on Friday night and stayed over at Becky's house and had a catch-up and drank some wine before going to bed. Saturday morning we got the train to Chur and then got on the Glacier Express to Zermatt. The whole point was the journey, and it was amazing. We started by going through the Rhine gorge, following the river as the altitude rose; then we had a break at Disentis before travelling on to the Oberalppass, which is at 2033m- there was still snow everywhere and the lake that is the source of the Rhine was still partially-frozen. Then we descended through the Rhone valley to Visp before climbing back to 1604m to Zermatt where we stayed over in an amazing hotel.

This morning we got up and ate breakfast, then tried to go up to the Klein Matterhorn, but because of cloud decided to go up the Gornergrat on a cog-wheel railway instead. It was quite scary to go over bridges over gorges that dropped hundreds of metres below us, but on the top it was amazing. Glaciers and snow and views across to the Matterhorn .. I can't describe how cool it was to be sat up there at 3100 metres and drink a beer...

Thursday, 5 May 2011


So I'm back from my jaunts around Western Europe. Is the world a better place because of this? I'd like to think so.

First stop was Brussels, where my time was spent drinking, dancing, attempting to speak Dutch, lazing around in parks and having a good, ol' Sheffield-style weekend. It was immense. Perhaps it was made even better by the fact that I've been to Brussels before and that we did nothing touristy at all; in fact, I think you had to have a local with you to find some of the places- they were literally just doorbells next to unmarked doors with clubs behind them. Drag queen clubs.

Then I got the eurostar to London and spent a wonderful week there, too, marvelling at the flags strung up on Regent Street and avoiding the wedding like the plague (we went for coffee during the first showing, and got drunk during the second) ... wish I'd known about the republican street parties!