Last week I spent two days with Swiss friends Marcel Buchele and Stefanie Wirz who live about 20 minutes from Zurich in Baden-Aargau. We met in late 2014 while traveling southward through Peru. When we said goodbye a few weeks later in Bolivia – just after completing the infamous Death Road Bike Ride – we promised to meet up in Europe. As luck would have it, I ran into Marcel and Stefanie in New Zealand and again in Bangkok, and they kept insisting that I visit them in Switzerland. Well, I’m here and Marcel and Stefanie lived up to their word, despite very short notice, by hosting me for Easter Brunch.
After brunch we hiked to the top of a large hill (small mountain?) to get a view of Baden from Schloss Stein or Stein Castle. Built sometime before the year 1000, the castle was home to the Lenzburg and Kyburg families before it passed to the Habsburgs in 1264. Members of the Swiss Confederation seized and ultimately destroyed the castle in 1415. It was rebuilt in the 1650s and demolished again in 1712. To this day it remains in a state that real estate agents in my hometown would call a perfect “fix and flip.”
If all that climbing was designed to fire up the appetite, it worked. We headed back to Marcel and Stefanie’s for Raclette and red wine by a roaring fire. (Okay, the kitchen table.)
The next day Marcel and I drove about 90 minutes to Bern where we met up with another couple that we know from South America, Kasper Walser and Leonie Jaccard. They’re a bit younger and a lot more energetic than I am but I managed to keep up as we climbed to the pinnacle of the Bern Minster. At 100.6m or 330 ft it’s the tallest cathedral in Switzerland.
After a whole day of strolling the town, climbing to another lookout known as the Rose Garden, and watching the town’s famous bears as they emerged from hibernation and frolicked in their riverside enclosure, it was time for dinner. Leonie had reserved a table at Altes Tramdepot, a large beer hall / brew pub that overlooks the town.
It was so nice to catch up with some really great people, and even better that I got to do it over traditional Rosti (potatoes) served with a side of applesauce (just like my mom’s) and pints of Canadian ale.
Yes, they were celebrating ‘Kanada Week’ at this particular restaurant. The special menu featured such traditional Canadian favourites as Bison Burger, Canadian Sockeye Salmon, Mounties Salad, and Horse Filet (???).
The wine list included Vineland Estates (ON) Cabernet Franc and a Calliope Wines (BC) Merlot. I know precious little about wine so I stuck with the house-brewed ale which for the week had been christened “Canadaian Golden Ale.”
The beer was excellent, especially when enjoyed in the company of some very nice people, under a host of Canadian flags and tourism posters from each of the provinces and territories. Thanks again to Marcel, Stefanie, Kasper and Leonie for showing me around your hometowns and sharing several amazing meals! We’ll do the same in Canada one day. Promise.