Switzerland, Travel

Switzerland on a Budget!

Its no joke that Switzerland is one of the priciest places to visit but after living here for a couple of years I’ve learnt how to live life on the thrifty side! If the land of cheese is on your list of places you must visit but you’re not a private banker or hotel heiress, then follow these simple steps to make the most out of your trip without blowing your overdraft!

1. Accommodation 

For some people, a nice hotel is at the top of the list for their travels, I’ll admit that I do enjoy to come back to a nice hotel room after a day of sightseeing. hotelroom

To search for a hotel room I always use Booking.com, in my experience, I’ve had the most success on this website finding great hotels for the best prices. Alternatively you could try Airbnb, I’ve looked on here before and have seen some great places but haven’t booked through Airbnb yet. If you’re looking for a shared room and the opportunity to make some new friends, check out hostelworld.comtent

The summers in Switzerland are amazing. Something I didn’t actually expect (I stupidly assumed the weather would be fresh and cool all year round!) It can be blisteringly hot in the summer and a campsite in the mountains or by a lake to jump in is the perfect option! You can book good quality campsites through TCS and on the ‘my switzerland’ homepage! One of the best ways to see Switzerland is to travel around the country, seeing its impressive mountains and beautiful lakes. Pack a tent and take a tour!

2. Getting Around

If you’re already strapping that tent to your back and heading over you’re going to need to know how to get around! Everything that you’ve heard about public transport in Switzerland is true, its extremely efficient, incredibly clean and worth every penny. train

The Swiss public transport network is called SBB, (their website is conveniently available in English!) They offer great prices for travel cards valid around the whole of Switzerland which also gives you discount and free admission on a variety of mountain railways and museums. Visit this page for more information on their travel passes! car

Another alternative, which gives you a lot more freedom is to rent a car. Renting a car isn’t cheap in Switzerland but it does allow you to see a lot more on your own time plan! You can rent cars from Europcar, Sixt, Easycar and Avis. One thing to remember is that some companies don’t allow you to rent a car in Switzerland take it into a neighbouring country such as France, Germany, Austria or Italy. One tip I suggest following is that if you are flying into Basel Mulhouse or Geneva, you could go over to the German or French side and rent a car there, this would actually work out cheaper and you’ll be allowed to drive it over borders!

3. Eating

Switzerland has some of the most amazing food on offer! But it can be very expensive to eat out, even simple meals such as Schnitzel and Pomme frites, (Or even Mcdonalds!) can cost around 20chf, times that by three meals a day and you’ve blown your budget! schnitzel

Schnitzel and Pommes is probably my favourite thing to eat in Switzerland, especially when you’re perched at the top of a mountain in a restaurant with a panoramic view! Budget to do this AT LEAST once! Now.. theres a reason why Switzerland has a cheesy reputation, their cheese range is so good that sometimes I just want to fall into a cheese induced coma! When you’re planning a day hiking in the mountains or sitting by a lake, pop into Migros, Coop, Lidl or Aldi and buy a tasty Butterzopf or seeded loaf, some salami or cured ham and a packet of Gruyere, Emmental, Alpkäse or Appenzeller! (Good luck choosing just one!) Here is some vocabulary that might help you on your picnic provisions purchasing! Cheese is Käse, Bread is Brot, Ham is Schinken! Looking for a beverage to accompany your picnic? Try the popular Swiss beverage ‘Rivella‘! picnic

Looking for a late night picnic? Spruce it up a little with some breadsticks, gherkins, fresh tomatoes and, of course, some red wine! My current favourite red wine to buy in Switzerland is in Aldi and Lidl, I have no idea what its called but I know that its 2.79chf and thats good enough for me!

Other food that you HAVE to try are: Raclette which is boiled potatoes which delicious melted cheese poured over them, Fondue a big melting pot of cheese that you can dip bread and potatoes into, its great for sharing! Rösti which is kind of like a massive hashbrown, Butterzopf which is the big loaves of braided bread Alplermagronen which is macaroni traditionally teamed with potatoes, cheese, onions and cream Nussgipfel which is a pastry filled with a sweet, nutty filling and usually topped with a little icing.

4. Drinking

One of the perks of living in Switzerland (while you’re an English person that enjoys to drink!) is that you can drink pretty much anywhere! Theres nothing better than buying some cold beers and heading down to the lake or hiking up a mountain and cracking open a bottle of wine. It’s also a great way to save money as bars in Switzerland are super pricey!

beerlake

Just be careful not to go too overboard because nobody wants a night in the Swiss cells for being drunk and disorderly! The most popular beer in Switzerland is probably Feldschlossen, and you can buy a cold can or bottle in almost every supermarket, corner shop and kiosk! Just remember that the supermarket Migros does not sell alcohol at all, but they are usually located near a Denner which is like a discount supermarket and has great deals!

5. Things to do

walking

There is so much to see and do in Switzerland! You can hike up mountains and roam around with the cows, you can ski or snowboard and frolic in the snow, you can swim in the crystal clear lakes, sail, kayak and SUP, you can wander through the old towns of Geneva, Bern and Zurich and shop in the boutiques and designer stores, traipse around museums and galleries or you can simply check in to one of the famous ‘wellness’ hotels and enjoy a holiday of pampering! trotti

Ski lifts can be a little pricey, no matter what the season! But if you are visiting in Summer there is so many more options than to take a return trip! You can hike up and take the lift down or you can take the lift up and take one of these ‘trottinettes’ down, they go super fast and have big, grippy wheels which make them perfect for zipping down the rocky mountain paths! summer

Or you can spend the days sat by a lake with a tasty Swiss picnic, watching the world go by! Have I convinced you to visit yet?! Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading! Yasmin x

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Travel

5 reasons to visit Piedmont, Italy

We’ve been visiting the Piedmont region a lot recently and I think its pretty great so I’m going to give you loads of reasons to go visit it!

  1. Reason #1 – Wine. I love wine. Winey wine wine. Here it goes down, down into my belly. I have never been a connoisseur of wines, I’ve always been more of a pint of Heineken kinda gal but within a year I’ve learnt so much about Italian wines. I’ve even discovered my favourite wine,  how friggin’ grown up is that?! The Piedmonte region has so many different types of grapes, the grapes in my mums vineyard are of the Dolcetto variety and I CAN NOT wait for her wine to be ready to try!  My absolute favourite wine is a Dolcetto Dogliani, called ‘Papa Celso’ and it comes from the Marziano Abbona vineyard which produces the most amazing range of wines I have ever tried! We had many bottles of their  ‘Metodo Classico Brut’ over the festive period and I’m addicted! The company has been run by the family for like 60 years. Contact them via their website to arrange a tasting! marzianoAnother vineyard that we visited for a tasting which offered a really amazing experience was the Poderi Einaudi vineyard. I wrote about them in my post ‘Why wine tasting isn’t scary’. This tour is a lot more in depth and you learn a lot about the actual making of the wine! Contact them by phone or email to arrange a tour! wine

    The Piedmonte region is so famous for wine that there is special wine coach tours that take you around the entire region. I know this because every time I’m in Barolo, a massive coach tips up and a hundred Swiss and Germans hop off!

  1. Reason #2 – Shopping. everyone knows that the Italians are stylish bastards; I feel that I will never achieve the effortless, ‘just rolled out of a boutique’ look no matter how casual I try to make my facial expressions. Every town has a great selection of chain stores and independent clothing shops, and its impossible not to spend a lot. My favourite shop is ‘Primadonna’  which sells amazing shoes and handbags at killer prices! PrimadonnaThere is a primadonna located in the city of Alba, a really beautiful old town with the best range of shops you could ever imagine. Spend a morning there shopping and then head to one of the bars and restaurants in the square to recharge after all that spending! Mondovi also has an equally stunning old town and enticing shop selection, however, If shopping is your game and you’re not too bothered about the scenery, head over to the shopping centre and designer outlet in Mondovicino  where you can pick up some bargains and work on your italian fashion sense! The markets are also a great way to spend a morning. Every tuesday, wander around the market in Dogliani where you can pick up freshly made pasta (the gnocchi is amazeballs), quirky fashion and must-have kitchen equipment for italian cooking! Theres something about perusing stalls selling packs of Fila socks for 1 euro that I find fascinating.market1
  1. Reason #3 – Bars & Restaurant – So more wine.. (I don’t have a drinking problem I swear!) What is better to pair with your amazing italian wine than some amazing italian food?! But for good food you generally have to pay a good price. For a special meal, head over to the Barolando restaurant  in the main street of Barolo, or for a cosy evening meal pop over to ‘La Farinel’ in Dogliani for some traditional ‘Piemontese’ cooking and homemade Limoncello by a lovely couple (who also speak perfect English!) If you don’t want to go out for a mea or if you’re on a budget, head to the Caffee Della Riveria or the Civico Uno wine bar in Dogliani where tasty treats like antipasti, pizza and bruschetta are brought out with your drinks. caffeedellaThe longer you’re there and the more drinks you order the sooner the pizzas come out – its a good way to judge when you’ve been out too long and should go home! The 400 trading post in Dogliani is hidden away amongst the back streets and offers the most delightful glass of prosecco! civico
  1. Reason #4 -Proximity to the Coast  –  Going from living a metres walk from the sea to living in a landlocked country was a little bit of a culture shock to me. The lakes in Switzerland are of course incredible but theres something about the sand and staring out to the horizon that is a little hard to beat. savonaFrom Dogliani to Savonna, it takes about 1 hour 15 minutes which isn’t a bad shout if you want to dip your trotters in the Ligurian Sea. the town is full of restaurants, shops, hotels and camping. The coastline here is very ‘covey’ and although you may not be able to swing your cat, you will find a spot to lay out a towel! Take the coastal road down to ’Noli’ for a more local experience or continue down the coastline to Monte Carlo for spectacular sights and designer shopping.montecarlo
  1. Reason #5 -Historic Villages – Piedmonte is abundant (yes, abundant!) with historic, hilltop towns and vineyards. Drive up to Monfort D’alba, abandon your car and wander through the paved streets, looking for a nook to have an early evening apero. The key to finding these hidden gems is taking time to drive through the winding roads through the vineyards, stopping for photographs and to explore the villages. oldtownClimb the hill up to the old town of Dogliani and look down over the terracotta roofs and the impressive architecture of the cathedral. Or stroll through the streets of Barolo down to the castle and gaze over vineyards at impressive churches.old-town-3

 

Have I convinced you to go yet?! Yasmin x

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Life, Switzerland

How I quit my job and moved abroad

I turned 26 last weekend and although I know that I’m still (relatively) young, I did stop and think about the stage I’m at in my life and if its where I thought I’d be. insta4

I spent my birthday in Italy with my family, we had some really good food, a lot of good wine and definitely a lot of laughs. The only downfall was on the Sunday, my actual birthday when we all got sick from a virus that I must have caught at work. In between running to the toilet I thought I’d wander outside to catch some Vitamin D and try to feel a little less dead than I already did, in doing that I stood on a bee which went kamikaze into the sole of my foot and made me forget about the ominous gurgling in my stomach. 

Switzerland was never a country that I thought about, had a desire to live in or even visit really. It just didn’t tickle my fancy. In 2013 I was nearing the end of my third year working as a Graphic Designer for a footwear company. I loved the job, I had a lot of responsibility and pretty much free run with the projects I was working on. However, the salary was abysmal, my boss was a knob and I worked such long hours that I had stopped seeing people outside of work. I started drinking a lot as a stress relief from my job and perpetual loneliness and decided I would just quit it all and move to France. I realise now that this probably isn’t the motivational story you were looking for to encourage to move somewhere else, and I don’t normally like to talk about negative things on here but I would like to give a realistic account of my expatriate experience, not the idyllic, instagram filtered version that bloggers like to spew out and release ebooks of. I will give you some semi helpful information about living in Switzerland though so don’t trot off just yet!

So anyway.. I handed my notice in, packed up my life and moved in with my Aunt for my last 3 weeks in the UK. During these 3 weeks I stumbled back into contact with a friend from school, we actually had a small romance when we were 15 and I was too scared to pursue the relationship because I’d just moved from an all girls school and didn’t really know what boys were – but thats a story for another time!insta7

So we started seeing each other and Tim had already accepted a job offer in Switzerland and was leaving a week before I was. We long distanced for a bit and after the second weekend I’d driven the 9 hours from L’absie to Wünnewil I decided to pack it all in and move again! The first year we spend in Switzerland we just had fun, we didn’t try to learn any German or French or make a plan for the following year, we just travelled around Europe, worked hard and then booked a massive 3 month trip for the winter. Before we left for Russia we signed a contract on an apartment in the most beautiful (in my humble opinion) place I’ve ever been in Switzerland: Schwarzsee in Canton Fribourg.insta5

When we got back from travelling I had a positive and unrealistic idea of how easy it would be to get a job. Tim had signed a contract for another year at the Golf Course, he’s a qualified Greenkeeper which is a rarity in Switzerland. They didn’t want me back.. it might be because I crashed a lot of the golf buggys.

So began my summer of discontent! I spoke basic French and was living in a town which was one hour away from the nearest big town. Jobs were not abundant and I quickly felt very depressed and useless. I took a French course at the Migros Klubschule and started writing craft and home decor DIYs on my blog to build up my confidence. I sent unsolicited resumes (beautifully designed and presented might I add!) to every single Graphic Design and Advertising Agency in the Cantons of Fribourg and Bern. Out of about 150 resumes I had one reply and we arranged to meet in Fribourg. This man was the most arrogant and rude Swiss-Frenchman I had ever had t the displeasure in meeting. He described himself as the creator of the street art scene in Switzerland and made me feel so small that I lost about 5 litres of water through sweating in our rather short 30 minute meeting. Needless to say, I was not offered a job from the Godfather of Graffiti! Luckily enough I was later offered a ‘one day a week’ (20%) position at the ski shop opposite my house, I was designing their advertising and massive posters which was actually good fun, despite having to work in German, a language which I had never once uttered a word of. Tims job was only seasonal at the time as the golf course was closed during the winter so we started to worry about what we would do, as he had been supporting me, we were pretty broke and sought to look for a winter position. Through sheer luck we were both offered jobs in a ski shop in Gstaad. To those of you who are not familar with the wonder that is Gstaad let me offer you a brief description. It is an incredibly beautiful and incredibly expensive ski resort where, every winter, a flock of rich, reasonably famous, slightly crazy people arrive. I was working in a five star resort in the centre of Gstaad and it was possibly the weirdest 3 months of my life. I was yelled at for no reason, tipped for no reason, I had to pick out ski outfits for a Saudi Prince and I also had a very nice conversation with Mark Ronson. Unfortunately for the shop, but luckily for us that season had absolutely no snow whatsoever, business was slow and we were released from our job early. insta3

Tim accepted a job offer in Bad Ragaz, on the other side of Switzerland, I was pretty excited – new place, new opportunities. It just meant that I would have to learn German instead of continuing with French. No big deal… I thought. Tim started his job in March and my life went back to the way it was in Schwarzsee apart from I was living in an apartment or “granny flat” if you like, which was attached to the house of our landlord. Who was absolutely bat shit crazy. He would play the violin at insane hours of the day, which, despite practicing constantly, really wasn’t good! He would force us into accepting his kind gestures of borrowing a table, using his ‘sitzplatz’, coming around for dinner etc which doesn’t sound so bad but when you’re British and faced with a man that speaks no English is an absolutely toe curling experience. insta2

I got pretty down again, there were no job prospects for me and my German skills were not of a standard where I could work with them. I started looking for an escape and would lose myself in films and books about Paris, I started to think that I had made a massive mistake leaving France after only 3 weeks living there but I couldn’t be without Tim and I really needed to get a job and make this work, not just for me and my own sanity for him and for everything that he’s given me, done for me, tears that he’s dried when I’ve felt completely useless and laughter he’s caused when I really needed it. I cracked on with learning German, I had to be strict with myself and make sure I followed a learning timetable and then actually went out and tried to use what I had taught myself.insta6

For some reason, which I wish had occured to me when we were living in Schwarzsee, I decided to do a TEFL course. Knowing that TEFL isn’t recognised in Switzerland but as my budget couldn’t stretch to CELTA I thought I’d just give it a razz and see what happened. Nothing happened. Until a couple of months later when I spotted a job at a daycare with vague requirements and lo and behold I got the job! I’m still working there now, 9 months later. It is by no means my dream job, it makes me cry on a regular basis but I’m earning money, we no longer have any stress and I even bought myself a new car! Its taken 3 years for me to get to a point that I never in my life ever thought I would be at, I never thought I would work with children and I never thought I’d be speaking German but sometimes you just have to go through the tunnel of shit to come out the other side for something good.insta1

If you learn anything from my cautionary tale, please let it be that never move to a country expecting to get a job in your own native language and not that of your new homes, because that rarely happens. Always research the areas you move to, make sure that there are job prospects in your industry and if not, restudy otherwise you will spend a lot of time unemployed, miserable and addicted to xbox (maybe that last one was just me!)

 

 

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Life

instax mini 90 NEO CLASSIC

For Christmas I was lucky enough to be gifted the amazing Fujifilm Instax mini 90 Neo Classic (bit of a mouthful!) from my extremely thoughtful better half. I have a thing for real life photos that you keep and display and aren’t just dumped onto Facebook which brings me to my second pet peeve – quantity over quality: I don’t want to see a photograph of a bridge that you can get on google images, take one good photo for every 10 generic ones! Anyway..camera

You may have seen the Instax Mini 8 around quite a lot, they remind me a bit of eggs in cute pastel colours, you get me? Great. So the main reason Tim got me the Mini 90 Neo Classic is because of my love for retro things but it also has a lot of great features that the older Mini 8 does not have. Its not only a lot lighter and easier to shoot with but you have options such as macro, brightness control and double exposure. 5

I am still getting used to it which is difficult when you don’t want to ‘waste’ a film on a photo that may not look so good, and even though I followed the guides on the Fujifilm website, I still feel like my photos don’t turn out as clear or vibrant as I’ve seen online.. 4

From my experience so far, I’ve realised that it doesn’t work so well in the sunshine, I have started to use the darker setting when photographing outside on a sunny day. I also think that the brightness should be adjusted when using the macro setting. 2

I think that all of my photographs come out with a sort of 70s haze over them, which I’m perfectly happy with but will continue to experiment with different settings combinations to achieve different results. I’m also hoping that this particular camera adds 20 pounds and my arms aren’t actually as chunky as they are above!! (I love food).3

One of the things I love about the Mini series is that they take an instax film that produces credit card sized photos, this a lot more versatile than the square photos that Polaroid uses as you can keep them in your wallet, in your phone case, in your bra or wherever takes your fancy with a lot more ease. 1

At the moment I really like displaying the photos I’ve taken in albums with washi tape around the bottom to mark which place or period of time they were taken in and I can also write on top of it without permanently marking the photograph (This s the only area of my life that is painfully organised). I bought the most adorable photo albums for mini instax photos on the Wish app. If you don’t know what Wish is, you’re seriously missing out! Its like shopping roulette. Everything is from Asia and its a gamble if it turns up looking like the photos or if it turns up at all!

I’m looking forward to getting to grips with this camera a bit more in the future, follow me on instagram to see my progress! Have any of you got this camera? Or another instant camera that you want to shed some light on?! Comment below!

Thanks for reading! Yasmin x

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Travel

Weekend in Italy: Venice, Verona & Lake Garda!

 

In the first week of May, Tims Parents booked to come out and visit us for a week. As we were working, they decided to rent a car and go down to Venice on the Wednesday. Stupidly on our part we didn’t realise that the Thursday was a Public holiday in Switzerland and we actually had the day off! So we begged and pleaded for the Friday off too and by some miracle on Wednesday night we were heading down to Venice! We didn’t leave work until late so we stayed in a hotel somewhere outside of Milan, planning to head on to Venice early the next morning. Feeling groggy but determined, we battled through the early morning commuters onto the morning waterbus and headed to our boat hotel to change our clothes that we’d been in for 24 hours (the hotel wasn’t the nicest!) and to meet up with Debs and DL. As we had all been to Venice before, there was no rush to head off to all the tourist attractions and boats rides, instead, we strolled along the quieter streets looking at the beautiful houses and searching for a place for a 10.30am beer. I don’t know if it was our English accents but the beers he presented us with were 2 litres! But none the less, went down a treat!

Feeling a little beer buzz, we walked along the waterfront when a man accosted us and offered us a *free* boat ride to Murano. I probably would have politely declined and continued about my business (nothing in this world is free kids) but we were feeling wild so we hopped on board to see what was good. The Murano glass factory was beautiful, we were shuttled into a little viewing room (which was hotter than hell!) Where some men performed their daily glass sculpting tricks and then of course we exited through the gift shop. Unfortunately, their wares were a little out of my budget and we hopped back on the boat empty handed and thinking about the man on the waterfront who will most likely get a scolding for sending paupers over!

After all that excitement we decided to spend the rest of the day relaxing, strolling and drinking. My three favourite things! The next day we were heading to Lake Garda so, Tim & I decided to get up early and pop into Verona for the day to have a look about. We didn’t find the balcony but we had a great time looking around the historic town, seeing the Arena Di Verona and having some yummy pizzas. For the drive to Lake Garda we decided to go through the small towns and mug off the motorways. It was so hot and the little towns were so beautiful it was well worth it. When we tipped up at Lake Garda, we found our holiday apartment and hit the swimming pool! That evening we popped down to the town to have some food, as you can see in the video, Salò is a super chilled place, there were some tourists but so many and it was so nice sitting by the lake drinking beers and eating a 6 six cheese calzone (I regret nothing!) Around the corner from the restaurant we found an amazing little ice cream parlour which had my absolute favourite Kinder Bueno Ice cream! Exhausted and stuffed we headed back to the apartment for a good sleep before the drive back to Switzerland the next day.

Weekend trips around Europe are my absolute favourite at the moment, especially in my new hot rod, Swiss Min! swissmin

 

Have you guys got any short breaks planned? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading! Yasmin x

 

P.S I shot this video using an iPhone app called 8mm, you can see it here!

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Travel

Titisee-Neustadt, Black Forest, Germany!

So one of my New Years Resolutions was to go on more weekends away. Living in the centre of Europe means you can pretty much get anywhere very easily, yet its easy to settle into a routine of working all week and slouching around at home on the weekends.

For our anniversary I booked a surprise weekend at Lake Titisee. I’ve always wanted to go to the Black Forest (I heard rumours there was gateaux there!) so the week before I booked us a hotel for two nights. A lot of the hotels were already booked up or quite pricey but I managed to find a guesthouse (see here) which was in the perfect location. We rocked up on the Friday night after battling through the commuter traffic and were greeted by the owner, who, I can only describe as the happiest man alive!

Friday night at Lake Titisee in March was quiet, deserted and cold! We soldiered on and stumbled upon an Indian Restaurant. The decor didn’t big itself up enough for how delicious the food was!curry

After a few kingfishers and some very strong mango schnapps we were ready to hit the town again! The next place being the bar in the ‘Romantik Hotel’, which although offered a wide and very welcome selection of gin, had an extremely questionable piano player, who, with his samba backing beat and shaky vocals made for a very amusing evening!

The next morning, after a very tasty breakfast we decided to have a look around Freiburg. The town was so incredibly beautiful, full of little quirks such as the water running around the entire town (well it amazed us!)freiburg2

freiburg4How beautiful is this street? I’m dying to come back in the Summer when the vines are fully leaved!freiburg1

FREIBURG3My dream front door! We walked around for a few hours, marvelling at the scenery, purchased the obligatory bratwurst and decided to head back to Titisee to walk around the lake and relax a little. titisee2titisee1

We had already decided to go to the ‘Badeparadies’ (click here) that evening. A massive swimming pool split into 3 sections: Galaxy (waterpark), PalmOasis (poolbar) and Wellness Oasis (massage and spa but mandatory nudity!). Needless to say, we spent most of the evening in the PalmOasis, upon entry you’re given a wristband which you can then scan and pay for drinks and food. It was amazing! The pool also had a revolving door so you could swim outside and underwater loungers with jacuzzi jets so you could watch the stars whilst relaxing – heaven!

On Sunday morning I was super sad to leave, the weekend had gone so quickly! We decided to take the scenic route back and visited Todtnau Waterfalltodtnau1

The weather was amazing and we practically had the whole place to ourselves as we climbed up to the left of the waterfall, across and back down the other side. todtnau2

It had such a lovely, mystical feeling about it. Hopping from stones across small rivers and ducking under low edges in the mountain was so much fun and definitely a little bit romantic! todtnau3

We had an incredible time in the Black Forest and can’t wait to get back there again soon. But for now, I have my souvenirs and instax photos to display! titisee3

Where would you like to go for a weekend getaway?

Thanks for reading! Yasmin x

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Life, Switzerland

Finding a home in switzerland

During our time Switzerland we’ve had a new apartment each year, and in March, we’ll be moving into our fourth! Its not ideal moving every year but when you’re living in a country that you’re not 100% familiar with you don’t know which areas/towns suit you best until you’ve tried them out! Also, when you have no particular ties to an area such as family or schools, you’re more inclined to take job offers and move to areas further away. The reason we’re moving this time is due to work, my current commute takes about an hour and 15 minutes, so I’d be pretty stoked to minimise the 2 1/2 hours I spend in the car everyday! The only thing I’m not stoked on is starting the whole hunting process again, it seems a little more complicated here than it does in the UK so I decided to create a little guide to help you guys when you find yourself looking for somewhere to live in Switzerland! keys1

1. Where to look:

Part of what makes house hunting in a foreign country more difficult is not knowing where to look, especially if you’ve just arrived. The two main websites I use are ImmoScout and Homegate. They’ve just become my two go to websites over the years. There are of course other sites you can choose but these are the two that I have tried, tested and been satisfied with. If you know the location you want to be living, a good place to look is in the local stores: the corner shops, Coop, Migros, Denner etc all have noticeboards with adverts for that particular town. The only downside to that is that they don’t always have photographs and you might have to telephone the contact number and speak Swiss german! You can also sign up to expat groups and buy/sell/swap groups on facebook, often some people that need to leave the country or move sooner than their tenancy expires will search for someone to take over their contract for them.

2. Know what you want and what your budget is:

Renting in Switzerland is more expensive than it is in England, and you don’t tend to get a lot more for your money. Firstly, in most rental prices, the Nebenkosten is included, this pays for water and heating so the only additional bills you must pay are electricity/gas, internet etc. You often need to pay additional fees for parking spaces and garages which, if you’re a couple with two cars, can add up to quite a bit extra per month. Then figure out how much space you need: room numbers and living space size; They have a weird way of describing the amount of rooms in an apartment, you will often see 1.5, 2, 2.5 etc. Its pretty much open to interpretation as many people have differing opinions but basically it is assumed that every place has a bathroom and a kitchen so then the numbers apply to the other rooms, if its 0.5 that means one of the rooms is pretty small so for example, you could have a 2.5 apartment and that would be a bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, living space and then a smaller space maybe a large hallway or a storage room. Confusing right? For our fourth apartment I was setting a basic budget of 1500 a month including parking, a minimum of 2.5 rooms, I didn’t want to live in a block of flats, I wanted a view/balcony/garden and I didn’t want to have a communal washing room (some places have one room with a washing machine, tumbler etc and each tenant has a day allocated to them that they can use it on), and although that seems picky, I found a lot of places to view!rainbow

3. Deposits

Be aware that every apartment/house requires a deposit (Kaution) and it is *usually* two months rent (minus nebenkosten) For example, if you see and apartment that is advertised for 1500chf a month and then it might say underneath that the Net rent is 1350chf a month and the Nebenkosten is 150chf, so you can expect to pay 2700chf for the deposit, add that to the first months rent and you can expect a pretty expensive first month of living! Always question this when you go the viewing because sometimes they will make their own price i.e a flat price of 2000chf.

4. Viewing/Applying

When you’ve found an apartment that you love, then you can contact the owner/agency for a viewing! If its being advertised through an agency, its perfectly acceptable to ring them or visit their office and ask if they can speak English or if you can have the viewing with an English speaking agent. If its a private person I wouldn’t be so inclined to do this, maybe you could start by emailing them in their language (google translate is your friend!) explaining that you’re learning Swiss German/French/Italian and apologising for any mistakes and ask to arrange a viewing, if you’re lucky, they’ll speak English, if not, you can always ask someone from your work to accompany you and to translate. For our first apartment we had our Boss with us which not only helped us with the language barrier but also gave the owners a little more confidence in us as we were being supported and almost promoted by somebody here, it showed that we were trustworthy and legitimate! (Don’t be surprised or offended if they don’t want to rent to an Ausländer!) Another thing to keep in mind, its not unusual for an ‘open viewing’, meaning that a butt load of potential tenants will show up and you’ll almost have to compete if you want the place! Always get there 5 minutes early, look sharp and try your best to give a good impression!

Questions that you should keep in mind is asking about the deposit, what the nebenkosten includes, who lives above/below, parking, pets, do you get a good wifi/phone signal etc write all your questions down beforehand and have them on you so you don’t forget!

5. Application

This was probably the thing that bothered me the most about renting in Switzerland. In England, you view an apartment and if you like it, you take it. Here, you apply and the owner chooses who they want the most. So, be prepared for a slightly invasive application form and list of required documents. Things that they might have on the application form is the basic details about yourself, nationality, permit status, civil status, salary, whether you have insurance (contents and rental property) pets (which mostly likely aren’t allowed) and who else will be living there. One of the most important documents you need to produce is a Betreibungsauszug which you get from the Gemeinde and it basically states whether you have any debts or not. It costs about 10chf minus postage. You can also order it online, visit this page  to find out where your local office is. After you’ve submitted everything (minus blood samples!) all you can do is wait and see!driveyway

6. Moving in!

Congratulations on finding a home! The first thing you want to do whilst its empty is to photograph anything that is damaged or marked, put it all in a document with dates and that and maybe even ask your landlord to review it and sign it, so you don’t get the blame for anybody elses damage! If you don’t have a car/van to move in with theres loads of places you can rent them, for example, Europcar (little tip: buy the ‘funway’ card, its about 35chf,  lasts for 2 years and can get you up to 30% off rentals) There is also Ottos which I haven’t actually used but the prices seem quite reasonable! And don’t forget, if you’re starting off with no furniture: Ikea delivers!

 

I hope this has been some help to any of you that are looking for a place out here! Feel free to leave questions or comments below!

Thanks for reading! Yasmin x

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Life, Travel

Why Wine tasting isn’t scary

In September my parents moved from their home of 15 years in France to the Province of Cuneo in the Italian region Piedmont; luckily for me, they are now just over 4 hours away from where I live (ask me in a year if I still feel lucky!) On one of our more recent visits we decided to do a tasting of some of the wines that this region is so famous for. In the past I always thought that wine tasting was a little intimidating, maybe a bit boring.. I kind of had this stereotypical impression of bigwigs tasting expensive wines and spitting it out into a bucket, but thats really not the case.

I mean, think about how many different vineyards there are in the world, and then how many different wines each vineyard produces, its pretty much impossible to experience every wine, and you might never discover your favourite, on the other hand, the vineyards need to showcase their product to as many people as possible otherwise no one will buy it and no one will know how good it is!  I friggin love wine, my previous favourite being a 2.79chf bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Lidl (not even a little bit ashamed!)

In October We decided to book a tour of the winery and former home of Luigi Einaudi, (click here!) who was actually the president of the Italian Republic between 1948 and 1955. The building is absolutely beautiful (the perfect location for a wedding! Whilst waiting for others to arrive for the tour, we took a look around..1 2 3

Our tour started and we were shown down to a creepy cellar full of barrels of wine, you learn that the wine starts fermenting in tanks of steel with a computer controlled pump, it then matures in barrels made from French oak and then the ageing is completed in bottles. We learnt that the cellar is kept dark and cold to reduce the visual and heat impact on the wine, allowing it to do its thing naturally.4

5 6After the cellar we checked out the bottling room where they had all sorts of big machines that cleaned, labelled and filled the bottles. There was stacks of packaged wine in the corner ready for delivery, addressed to countries all over the world! 8 9

Its actually really interesting to see how much goes into making the wine, I would definitely recommend doing a tour of the vineyard as well as a tasting for your first time!13

We tried three wines in total, based on the experts recommendations and then you can buy whichever you like. I even bought a box of 6 wine glasses because they were so nice!10

The second tasting we booked was at the Abbona Winery in Dogliani (www.abbona.com/en/).We’d had some of their wine at a restaurant so we decided to buy some bottles for Christmas and of course, taste some others! This time we were greeted by the granddaughter of Celso Abbona, who, with his father Marziano Abbona worked hard to cultivate their vineyards and create delicious Dolcetto wines. My new favourite red wine is the Papa Celso from this winery, its so fruity and full bodied! We bought a case of Papa Celso, San Luigi and  their incredible Metodo Classico Brut – because everybody needs a glass of sparkly! abonna

Both of these experiences have been so interesting and inspiring that I will definitely keep going to wine tastings and discovering new wines. Each vineyard has its own story and its so magical to be able to use all of your senses to discover the journey of the wines and the families and hard work behind them.

Thanks for reading! Yasmin x

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Recipes, Switzerland

what is spätzli?!

I’m ashamed to admit but sometimes for me, trying new foods is a little scary. I remember a couple of years ago Tim and I were in a restaurant for our work Christmas meal. Sat at a table with 10 Swiss men who were looking at the menu with no confusion or fear reminded me how much of a foreigner I was! The menu was a special ‘Wildsaison’, which is basically autumn on a plate usually accompanied by Bambi’s mother. I could work out some of the other ingredients like vegetables but one thing stuck out and I ended up having to ask, What is Spätzli?! (or was ist spätzli?! in my quiet and swiss dialect-free accent). It turned out to be this super tasty pasta/noodle hybrid that looked like soggy Nik Naks and tasted like.. well… Spätzli I guess..! Its pretty much my favourite thing ever so I thought I would share some tips and a little recipe to anyone that wants to try it but needs a little extra push!01

So here it is, (do you get the soggy nik nak reference now?!) Traditionally, its home made, probably by some kind of Swiss version of Mary Berry who lives in a beautiful wooden house, has a pet cow and spends her days wearing Dirndls and cooking (pretty much the woman I aspire to be when I retire!) For the most part I’ve been buying this semi-fresh version, maybe I’ll attempt it myself one day, but for now, this tickles my tastebuds enough. As for the ingredients, I believe its mostly egg, flour and salt, and maybe some preservatives for the store bought version. So lets move on, how the flange do we cook it?! (note: you can also get a dried spätzli which will need to be boiled before following this steps).So, to start melt a big old lump of butter in a frying pan (I never said it was healthy!) Get the pan super hot and start frying up the spätzli! Add in some Aromat (or salt) and pepper and let it sizzle and fry up until its crispy.12You want it hella crispy because the insides are quite heavy and doughy so its better to have a crispy outter and soft inside! Usually what I do is cook it all up then put it in an oven dish and put the oven on about 100 degrees celsius to keep it hot while I cook the other stuff. I have to do this because my apartment has an induction hob and I’m not about to buy 2 induction frying pans when I have no intention of ever seeing one of these hobs in my life after I move out! (rant over, I like to cook and induction is not cooking!) Anyway, the good thing is that they keep nice and moist but still crispy if you decide to keep them in the oven for a bit. See?! not so difficult is it?! So what do we eat this with? I hear you ask! As I mentioned before, the wildsaison deer/boar etc thing is pretty big here but I like to cook it as a simple week day meal with some chicken or beef. My usual easy ‘go-to’ meal is creamy chicken with spätzli. I call it easy because, it is and I’m lazy so I like that kind of recipe.4These little guys are my saviours, I usually buy a couple when we go shopping because theyre pretty cheap, when unopened they last a real long time, and you can get different versions, this is the regular one, I usually get 7% fat (because lets face it, I’ve just smothered the spätzli in butter so the least I could do is cut back a smidge!) I think you can also get a pepper flavoured one, which I haven’t actually tried but maybe I’ll give it a whirl next time! So, for dinner for Tim and I, I cut up an onion and sweat it, then I add two sliced chicken breasts, season them with salt and pepper and cook them a little (just until the outsides go white) then I add the Rama cooking cream. I do this so that the chicken doesn’t go dry, I don’t know why but some people are totally adverse to cooking their chicken in the sauce, which is just crazy to me, do not fry the chicken first, it goes dry and stringy and crusty! Cook it in the sauce, slowly and it’ll be moist and yummy, if its the ever present threat of food poisoning that scares you, take a big piece of chicken out and cut it in half to see if its cooked. Word.5Anyway, so the chicken is cooking in the cream, this is when I’d add some chopped mushrooms or something like that to cook up with the chicken, then when the chicken is cooked I add a butt load of pepper, paprika, chilli flakes, aromat and a bit of parmesan. Paprika, parmesan and chilli?! Yes, its delicious. try it and let me know how much you loved it!

Thanks for reading! Yasmin x

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Travel

Daytrip to Lindau, Germany!

Last week Tim was working split shifts due to a big tournament, meaning that he would leave the house at 5am, come back at around 10am, then leave again at 5pm to return at 9pm. We decided to make the most of his day time break (and the Austrian motorway vignette that expired the next day) and visit Bodensee on the German side. If you didn’t know, Bodensee (or Lake Constance) is a massive lake, about 63km long and stretches across Switzerland, Germany and Austria, and to get to Germany from our side we can either take a ferry across it or drive into Austria and across the German border there.

We sort of chose Lindau at random, we want to explore more of Bavaria and as the weather was so beautiful we decided to visit Bodensee, Lindau is pretty much the first town on the German side of the lake.7

Lindau is a historic town located on an island which can be accessed from the mainland by bridge and rail. Unbeknown to us, it is a MAJOR tourist attraction, which seems obvious now but at the time we didn’t expect it to be as busy as it was! There were people E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E, especially men in speedos..(I refrained from photographing this!) However, it didn’t feel like your typical ‘tourist trap’ town, there were a few stalls on the lake side selling necklaces with your name written on a grain of rice, or the airbrush tattoos that will probably make you break out in rashes but there was also artist stalls, musicians and no one hassling you in the street trying to sell tack. Its just a really lovely, historic town.1

89 10The medieval town centre has everything you would want: restaurants and shops, cobbled streets, impressive and beautifully painted historic buildings and quirky little antique shops around every corner! We only had a couple of hours so we walked around appreciating the beauty, especially this..The historic town hall, which is a typical bavarian building, painted with medieval scenes and symbols. Walking around and taking in the sights made us seriously hungry, we looked around for somewhere to get some food to takeaway, opting to find a place to eat by the lake rather than in the town centre in one of the many restaurants.We found a small takeaway (the name of which Ive forgotten!) and purchased a BBQ pulled pork bap with sauerkraut which was surprisingly tasty and found a bench with a view. 4

53It was a slightly overwhelming experience and very difficult to really get a feel for the area with the amount of people that were there, I would love to go back in the winter and get to know the area a lot better, but, for now, I highly recommend stopping off in Lindau, whether you’re passing through Germany or looking for a holiday destination by rail (theres even an airport nearby!) But you should all put Bodensee on your travel lists because its truly beautiful! 2

Thanks for reading, Yasmin x

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