This weekend has brought me a wave of Heimweh and nostalgia for Switzerland. I was never homesick for California during our sabbatical, but I suppose that is because I knew I would be back within the year. At this point, I don’t know when we will see Zürich again. We will, I am sure, but I don’t know when.

IMG_6302Then this blog post from Newly Swissed popped up: 17 Nostalgic Signs of #GrowingUpSwiss. While most of the signs were foreign to me (although they have American counterparts), I smiled at the Migros Chocolate Popcicles which we ate during this past hot, hot summer. They were just like the ones I ate as a kid, but smaller.


If you scroll down the list there is picture of a boy holding a cow bell, and that is from a story called A Bell for Ursli. One of my friends gave me a mini copy of this book when we left as a small remembrance. The author is a popular classic Swiss children’s writer.



Freiburg, Germany

Our first stop in the Black Forest was actually not in the forest, but in the city of Freiburg im Breisgau, or, just Freiburg. I guess there is another Freiburg in Germany (and a Fribourg in Switzerland), so when programming your GPS, make sure you are clear on just where it is you are headed.

Apparently, Freiburg is the sunniest and warmest place in Germany, and even though a light rain came in a few hours after we arrived, it was still warm, and we managed to continue our walk though the old town.

One of the first things we saw in town were the Bächle, a system of gutters (but not for sewage) with water diverted from the Dreisam River. The water from these were originally used for firefighting or for animals to drink, but the cutest thing we saw were children pulling little boats on a string through the gutters. Then we found the little stall selling these boats. So cute!

The big church in town, the Freiburger Munster, served as a great place to stop in when the rain started, but not before we looked at the outside at the interesting gargoyles. We had read in our guide that there were medieval measuring markers on the outside of the church showing the standard units for trading purposes, but we did not see them, either because we just didn’t, or because part of the church is hidden behind scaffolding (as is at least 20% of Europe at any given time). We were also supposed to see the unusual gargoyles, which we did, but the one of someone’s rear end out of which the rainwater pours is probably hidden. (The Swabian’s Gate, one of two original gates still remaining is completely covered by scaffolding.)

The mosaics on the street are made from split pebbles from the Rhein River indicating what goes on in the building, although this one probably means something different.

IMG_0036Encircling the cathedral is the daily market with your typical produce and flowers. We almost bought the local Lange Rote (long red – which is a wurst), but we headed to the Markthalle for lunch where we had a huge plate of Indian vegetables and rice for about half of what we’d pay in Zürich. After lunch we had to go back to the market and find Stefan’s Käsekuchen (cheese cake) for dessert. We knew it was a great place because of the long line. We were glad we ended up with the smallest size, because it was a good amount for two people. This cheese cake it not like what Americans think of. It’s much softer in the middle and not nearly as sweet, but oooohhh, is it ever creamy.

Everywhere we went we saw Spargel and Erdberre for sale – asparagus and strawberries are in high season, especially the white asparagus.


When the rain let up, we decided to climb up the Schlossberg. We didn’t go all the way to the top, but we did get a good view of the city.

One day was not enough in the city, even though we came back for lunch on Monday on our way back home. Maybe we’ll feel like returning this summer and taking some hikes nearby.


It’s been real spring here for several weeks, and we’ve had lots of sunshine and warm weather. I’ve been out more, taking afternoon walks, and I have noticed something. People are happier than they were in the winter. I was so used to walking with my eyes looking down, or away from people, but now I notice that I can get almost half of the people I pass to give me a slight smile. An occasional Grüezi, too. On Monday I decided to walk down through the Niderdorf and take some pictures. I saw this fountain which someone had strewn with flowers. IMG_9939 A woman was taking photos of it, so I thought that would be a nice thing to do, too. She started talking to me as I stepped up to the fountain, and at first I didn’t know what she was saying (I think it was about how pretty the fountain was), and soon I figured out that she wanted me to take a few pictures of her with the fountain on her phone. We actually carried on a conversation for over a minute. I told her that her face was in the shade, so perhaps she should move into the sun, and maybe push back her hat. Okay, maybe my German sentences weren’t so elegant, but she didn’t feel the need to switch languages. We parted with a cheery Schönen Tag.

Then on a recent tram ride I ended up standing next to a father and his daughter who looked to be about 8 months old. Daughter was not happy sitting in her Kinderwagen, so he took her out and stood her on the ledge. Father and I exchanged smiles, and then I did a little peek-a-boo with the baby who kept wanting my attention. We had a wordless 10-minute ride with plenty of smiles from all three of us. At the end we exchanged a Schönen Abend and a wave. These are the two most memorable of the handful of exchanges I’ve had lately, but it reminds me to keep my face up and see if I can bring even a small smile to someone’s face as we pass.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

The other day on the tram around lunchtime, there was a group of kids, probably about 8 years old. That’s not unusual here. Kids walk to kindergarten alone, they ride the trams by themselves (although I usually see them in pairs or groups).

This group of kids were entertaining themselves with a singing and hand game. It looked suspiciously to me like “Rock, Paper, Scissors”, and I listened closely to the words. Yes. They were singing “Schneider, Stein, Papier” as they shook their fist before making their choice.

I really wanted to take a video or a photo, but that would have been out-of-bounds, so I just imprinted it into my memory.

Swiss Cultural Laws

One of my Swiss friends has just found out that she will become a grandmother (to twin girls, no less!) and she is very excited, of course. I had met her daughter and remembered that she is not married (though happily living with her boyfriend). So I asked about Swiss laws and cultural expectations. These girls will automatically take the surname of their mother. Their father will have to file papers to acknowledge his paternity.

Registered Partnerships between same-sex couples has been legal since 2007. However, at this time, registered partners may not legally adopt children. Surrogate mothering is not legal.

Prostitution is legal. One must be 18 and register. Pimping is illegal.

It is not easy to become a Swiss citizen, but it is easier if you marry a Swiss. Especially if you live in Switzerland.

Until recently a woman had to take her husband’s name when they married. Now the choices are wide open.

Women got the right to vote as late at 1990 in one canton, and as “early” as 1959 in another.