Tuesday, 15 January 2008



Maybe I'm biased as Baden was the first town I lived in when I came to Switzerland, but I think it's lovely.

As you can see, it is picture-postcard lovely, and has a beautiful old town with buildings dating back to the 14th century.

Of course, the internals have been modernised, the Swiss have a great, non-sentimental way about doing that, but from outside they are unbelievably authentic.

Starting with the covered wooden bridge (now you know where Madison County got the idea from) the walk up the hill towards the centre takes you past some unlikely, and thriving shops.

My favourite used to be the violin maker, but he became so successful he's moved. So it's best just to wander around and see for yourself.

Many of the shops sell child-related (unusual toys, clothes etc) so it can be a fun place to go as a family.

If the town hall is open, try to get in and have a look at the walls and ceilings. Quite outstanding.

Should you go late in the evening, there is a casino, not Las Vegas style, but quite popular these days. I tend to lose, so stay away, apart from eating in the excellent restaurant there. Sunday brunch is a favorite, especially in summer when you can sit outside.

Take your swimming gear in winter, the thermal baths, after which the town was named, are still very much the place to visit. Very relaxing in winter, but don't except to be able to swim laps. Its more about having jets of water aimed at those painful joints that you got while walking along the Lägern.

Photo: Adrian Vogt

Monday, 7 January 2008

Appenzell - Silversterklausen


We've had quite a lot of winter sports recently on TST, so here's a traditional custom to be getting on with.

To be honest, the more I write about this country, the more I am convinced it's a great (and diverse) place to live or visit.

Silvesterklausen takes place in Appenzell, particularly in the communes of Urnäsch, Schönengrund, Schwellbrunn, Waldstatt, Herisau, Hundwil, Stein, and Teufen.

Apparently (and I may well be wrong on this!) the idea is to distinguish between different types of Santa Claus - beautiful ones, ugly ones and the natural  or forest ones. And I thought there was only the one in the Coca-Cola sponsored suit...

The Chläuse (or Klause) are apparently based on a demonic cult that apparently merged with vegetation and fertility cults near Urnäsch, situated in the valley below Schwägalp.

It's now become more widespread (as listed above) and Old New Year's Eve, January 13, is the main cause for celebration. Something to do with the Julian calendar change apparently; Appenzell isn't known for being progressive, women there have only had the vote for nearly 40 years...

If you'd like to get involved, or at least see strange men and boys dressed in costumes, pop along to one of the villages on 13 January; Urnäsch probably being the place to be.

The action starts at dawn, but there'll be something to see all day.

See http://www.urnaesch-tourismus.ch/e/brauchtum/alter_silvester.htm for a better explanation of what it's all about!