Switzerland


I had a flying visit to Bern in Switzerland for work back in August, just as they were having a bit of a heat wave. I hadn’t been to Switzerland for a while (my last and only visit was a day in Zurich) and I’d forgotten how expensive the country was (an old work friend from Oslo even claimed Switzerland was pricey!). Here’s how I whiled away my time outside work (with a day free in the city) and the relatively budget decisions I made with regard to food.

I flew into Basel and then caught a train to Bern. From the main station it was a short walk to my Airbnb flat – having a flat with a kitchen is a definite budget helper. I didn’t have time on this trip to do any proper cooking but it’s nice having a space for a morning coffee.

It was straight out again for dinner and I settled on a cute restaurant’s beer garden for my meal – this was Restaurant Beaulieu. My kind waiter talked me through the entire (Swiss German!) menu and I decided to have schnitzel with rösti (Bern is known for its rösti). Excellent stuff it was too. The schnitzel were thick, unlike the thin kind you get in Vienna, and with a good crisp coating. The rösti had been cooked with onions and bacon, never a bad thing!

First evening in Bern and it's gotta be rösti (with schnitzel)!

I somehow managed to fit in a lemon and yogurt mousse as well. Delicious. As it’s quite a casual place with a beer garden, prices weren’t too high.

The lemon and yogurt mousse with strawberry salad was calling out to me. 🍋🍨🍓 What you don't see it the lovely outdoor dining space.

It was only after my work days were over that I had time to properly wander through this UNESCO World Heritage city. Here’s the famous Zytglogge …

Zytglogge Again

… and the Alps in the distance. One of those is Jungfrau.

The Alps in the Distance

The old town is surrounded by the river Aare …

The Aare

… and it’s small but beautiful.

Town Hall

Dinner that night was with a friend at Lötschberg, a casual, contemporary Swiss restaurant with a seriously impressive wine selection, all on display along the wall. My friend’s Hausgemachte Rösti mit Speck und Raclettekäse was a large rösti topped with bacon and melting raclette cheese.

Hausgemachte Rösti mit Speck und Raclettekäse

My St. Galler Kalbsbratwurst, a very tender, finely ground veal sausage, was served with an onion sauce and more rösti. This was probably the most rösti I’d ever had in my life up to now – good thing I like rösti!

St. Galler Kalbsbratwurst IGP mit Zwiebelsauce und Rösti

A green salad with lots of honeyed sunflower seeds on top helped us feel a little better about all that potato! The restaurant is expensive by London standards but seems about normal for Bern.

Grüner Salat

The next day was my free Saturday in the city, the one I dedicated to some sightseeing. I was in luck! Not only were all museums in Bern free that day (something about it being August and too hot for most people to bother with museums) and there was a festival celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the train line between Bern and Solothurn. In addition to getting my photo snapped as a driver of a vintage train, there was freshly pressed apple juice for all.

Freshly Pressed Apple Juice!

The rest of my morning was then filled with a visit to the art gallery and then to the Zentrum Paul Klee, a beautiful Renzo Piano designed building set out in the outskirts of the city. The latter is definitely worth a quick visit if you can. (Of course, it’s a lot better when it’s a free visit…)

Untitled

I had purchased a takeaway sandwich from Migros, a supermarket chain, in the centre for lunch prior to catching the bus to the museum. This turned out to be the smart budget option!

Takeaway Sandwich Lunch from Migros!

It was back to the city and a quick visit to Einsteinhaus to see Einstein’s actual desk …

Einstein's Desk

… and a quick view of what must be my favourite fountain in Bern (there are many fountains – all beautiful and most featuring bears) – the Kindlifresserbrunnen. Yes, he’s eating children…

Kindlifresserbrunnen

I made a quick pit stop at the tea room of the Confiserie Eichenberger – iced coffee and a paper cake, the latter being a delicious chocolate sticky meringue baked in a slip of paper.

Paper Cake

Then it was a late afternoon spent on Gurten, the local mountain where the locals go for picnics and I go to ride the toboggan!

Untitled

It was another bus to the Rosengarten (rose garden) above the old city, with its fantastic views.

View from the Rosengarten

It was also goodbye to Bern’s resident bears in the Bärengraben. Yeah, poor things – it had been a very hot day.

Resting

That evening, along with a bit of takeaway from the station, I bought some meringues and double cream from Gruyère, the combination being a very typical dessert in Switzerland. I just placed a couple of meringues on my plate and dolloped this incredibly thick and luscious cream on top. The combination is indeed fabulous! (And yes, it’s cheaper to get these from the supermarket than to have the dessert at a restaurant!)

Trouble! I've bought meringues and cream for an entire family and it's just me here!

But that wasn’t the end of my travels for I had to travel again to Basel for my flight back to London. For my train ride, I picked up a brunch from Sprüngli, definitely one of my favourite patisseries in Switzerland. They’re famous for their little macarons called Luxemburgerli but not this time. This time I had one of their quiches (oh so buttery) …

Train Brunch from Sprungli

… and my first in Switzerland Bircher muesli. This was, of course, a particuarly luxurious version made with lots of fruit and cream. Fantastic! And we’re now obsessed with it.

Bircher Muesli

There was a rapid tour of the centre of Basel before my bus to the airport. Highlights included the incredibly red Basel town hall …

Basel Town Hall

… and the ridiculously cute Tinguely fountain. I’m glad I didn’t miss this animated fountain which brought a smile to the faces of everyone who saw it.

Tinguely Fountain

All my photos can be found in this Flickr album. I’m hoping I can go back one day with Blai to see more of the Alps in the region!

Absolutely nothing prepared me for how expensive Zürich is. 7.50 CHF for a bratwurst from a street stand. 40 CHF for an average sounding risotto from a nice restaurant. And at a cheap Chinese restaurant (I say cheap because the place certainly looked like a budget eatery), 16 CHF for a one dish meal of sweet and sour chicken and rice. And on our last day of holiday, while waiting at Zürich airport, I saw that a Japanese stand at a food court was selling a small miso soup for 5.50 CHF. Oof.

I cannot deny though that Zürich is a beautiful city with its winding old streets, giant clocks and gorgeous location on Lake Zürich.

Kirche St. Peter

By the Lake

Our holiday in the Inn Valley in the Alps started with us flying into Zürich and staying the night before taking a train the next morning to Innsbruck. That meant we had a dinner there and with no real plans, we went to visit what is possibly the most touristy restaurant in Zürich: Zeughauskeller. The Swiss guy who sat next to us told his business colleagues that yes it was touristy but even the Swiss bring their visiting friends here as it had a very good variety of Swiss dishes. Well, that makes it ok then…

Kalbsgeschnetzeltes nach Zürcher Art was panfried sliced veal and mushrooms in a creamy white wine sauce and was served with rösti. It was certainly a generous portion of this delicious stew and we mopped up as much of the sauce as we could. There doesn’t look like much on the plate but the rest of the portion was kept hot in a small chafing dish in the middle of the table.

The Engadiner Hauswurst geräuchert was a beef and pork smoked sausage seasoned with red wine and herbs and spices and served with potato salad. This was a boiled sausage but its flavour didn’t suffer for it.

The Zeughauskeller Wurstspiess was served with more potato salad and also came with an onion gravy. There were at least three different varieties of grilled wurst on that skewer and the variety is great for a single diner.

Three main meals and three soft drinks came to a total of about 100 CHF. It was all delicious but yeah, expensive. If, like us, you don’t visit with a reservation, it’s likely that you might have to share a table with others.

The next day, we had a 3.5 hour train ride to Innsbruck and like any Asian going on a long trip, I stocked up on nice things to eat at the train station. Sprüngli was my bakery of choice that day and all their sandwiches were delicious and made with excellent bread. I’ve only got a photo of the delicious quiche mit speck I bought. That was a gorgeous buttery little quiche.

Quiche mit Speck

And a week later, back at Zurich airport on our way back to London, we encountered more Sprünglis than I could shake a stick at – and it was here that I bought a few of their Luxemburgerli to use up some Swiss Francs. Some of the flavours of these bite-sized macarons were a bit better then others and the texture if the biscuit could have been a bit lighter. Still, it was a tasty little treat.

So, Zurich – delicious but hard on the wallet.

Zeughauskeller
Bahnhofstrasse 28a, near Paradeplatz
8001 Zürich
Switzerland

Sprüngli
lots of branches throughout Zürich