06 October 2015

Getting Kids Organized for the Outdoors - Guest Post & Giveaway!

I'm excited to welcome Kristi Pezel, author of  "Kid-Ganize!: Teaching Kids To Be Organized", who has written a fantastic guest post for us below, with lots of practical tips on helping kids get organized, particularly for outdoor activities.

Book Giveaway!

Kristi is also hosting a giveaway on Goodreads for her new book, "Kid-Ganize!: Teaching Kids To Be Organized." Goodreads is a social media network for people who love to read. It's a fun way to share and discover books. To enter, you'll need a (free) Goodreads account. Once you've logged in, click "Enter Giveaway" below for your chance to win a copy of "Kid-Ganize!"

04 October 2015

Grimmialp Panorama and Play Trail

Grimmialp is a lovely hidden gem in the Diemtigtal National Park, about 50 mins south of Bern. We rode up a chair lift, then hiked a beautiful panorama trail that connected to a theme trail in the valley, with a dozen or so interactive stations for children, including a zip line, climbing wall, bowling, memory game, etc. After ten years in this country, I love how there are still so many new places to discover. We loved Grimmialp and hope you do too.

29 September 2015

Make Your Own Swiss Army Knife

Cheese and chocolate are great Swiss gifts, but a personalized self-assembled Swiss Army knife? That's something special! At the Victorinox store in historical Brunnen, you can assemble your own Swiss Army knife and have it engraved. The helpful and friendly staff will walk you through the whole process, which is very hands-on. While you're waiting, you can browse the small museum, learning the history of knife-making in Switzerland and see lots of interesting knives on display. It's a fun activity and a wonderful memento of your time in Switzerland.

28 September 2015

Grindelwald - First - Bachseealp

The Grindelwald-First area is full of fun attractions for families and fantastic views of the famous trio: Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. At the top of the First cable car, there's a short, safe, and slightly scary cliff walk with a sky bridge. From there, it's a relatively easy hour hike (possible with strollers) to the lovely Bachalpsee, a perfect place for a picnic. You can optionally continue hiking down to the middle station at Bort (or hike back to First and ride down), where you'll find a great playground with an amazing view and story-telling hour on Wednesdays. We really liked this area and will definitely come back to try more of the hikes here.

Note: Jungfrau Railways is offering a 50% discount on First-Grindelwald full-fare tickets and 40% discount on already reduced Half-fare tickets through 25 October 2015 for their Facebook fans. See details here.

06 September 2015

Areuse Gorge hike

This lovely walk through the Areuse gorge takes you through forests and meadows along the river, with several narrow sections with dramatic cliff walls. It's a long hike (11km), but mostly downhill and not difficult. We saw many families with toddlers walking on their own. Even though it's a popular hike, you can easily separate yourself from the crowds and with many peaceful picnic spots along the way. Also, it's a good option for the shoulder seasons when mountain trails are covered in snow and mountain transport is closed. We heard this is a great spot for fall colors, so maybe we'll come back in October.

25 August 2015

Hoher Kasten hike in Appenzell alps

Hoher Kasten is a mountain in the Appenzell area, with panoramic views of Eastern Switzerland and lots of hiking options. This hike starts at the top of the Brülisau-Hoher Kasten cable car, descends ~400m over ~5.5km to the Ruhesitz guest house, where you can rent a trotti scooter to ride the rest of the way down on a paved road. In the middle of the trail, there is a nice detour to a pretty pond in the forest, an extra 3km loop but well worth it.

The views are spectacular and the hike varied: rocky steps, forests, fields, gravel paths, cow pastures, paved roads, muddy bogs, etc. The hike is not particularly difficult since it is mostly downhill, but it is long and could be challenging for very small children. Instead of hiking, you can simply enjoy the view from the complex atop Hoher Kasten, with a rotating panorama restaurant, open year round. We really liked this area and plan to go back and tackle some of the more challenging hikes along the mountain ridges to some alpine lakes and mountain huts.

04 July 2015

Hoch Ybrig Panorama Hike

Updated July 2015: Hoch Ybrig, about 30 minutes south of Einsiedeln, is one of our favorite local hikes, with fantastic panorama views and an easy downhill hike for little kids and strollers. I particularly like this trail because it starts on a ridge, so you can see everything on both sides of the mountain, including Lake Luzern to the north. The trail wanders back down through rolling meadows to a small pond, with lots of picnic spots and fire pits. There are several restaurants and picnic areas with fire pits. It's also nice for visitors as it's close to Zurich, relatively inexpensive, and usually not as crowded as other famous places. We've been several times, both for hiking and skiing. I hope you like it as much as we do.

18 June 2015

Flumserberg "Wild Man" Nature Theme Trail

The Flumserberg "Sagenerlebnisweg" is a theme trail with several interactive educational stations for children along the way. Story boards tell a story of a little wild man that lived in a cave at Flumserberg, who was unkind to animals and nature. After a change of heart, the wild man is allowed to return to Flumserberg every year for three days to make amends. Using the story and information gathered along the trail, children can solve a word puzzle and enter a contest to win a prize. At the end of the trail, there is a big play area, restaurant and even a ropes courses for both big and small. It's a full day of adventure in the mountains. Flumserberg has a Oktoberfest celebration on the last weekend in September, so you might want to plan your visit then.

17 June 2015

strawberry picking

It's strawberry picking time again! It's a short season, from about the first week of June through the first week of July. I always plan to go, but some years, by the time I get around to going, the season is already over. So don't delay.

Jucker Farm is an obvious choice. I picked strawberries there a few years ago and we had a nice time. I really liked picking cherries there too. Jucker Farm has a lot of extras, like the playground, animals, and restaurant to make it a full day excursion. But Jucker Farm can get really busy sometimes. So if you just want to get the strawberries, it's probably better to find a local farm near you.

The past few years, I've been going to Sunnehof farm in Mettmenstetten. It's not closer to my home than Jucker Farm, but I don't have to drive through Zurich traffic to get there. It's just a farm, no extras for kids. But that's entertainment enough on some days. It costs about 4.50CHF/kilo, about half of what you pay in the store and of course, you can eat as much as you like in the field.

This website lists all Pick Your Own, or "Selberpflucken," farms in Switzerland.
This website lists farms near Zurich that sell direct to consumers.
Other "Pick Your Own" near Zurich: Bonstetten, Dübendorf, Riedenholzhof Zurich-Seebach (Bio)
If you have other recommendations, please leave a comment.

View Larger Map

Swiss strawberry picking is a bit more structured than I had encountered in the US. So here's a step by step for Sunnehof farm in Mettmenstetten:

Step 1. Bring your own baskets to collect strawberries. Otherwise you have to pay a small fee for the cardboard boxes. You can use any container, but it helps the little ones if it has a handle. We brought a toy toolbox one year. Anything works.

Step 2. Using the above map as a reference, drive to Mettmenstetten and turn off Zurichstrasse to Albisstrasse. In less than a minute you'll see a sign for "Erdbeeren" so turn left onto Oberdorfstrasse, then right on Hombergstrasse, which is a one lane road. Follow this up to the farm and park in the market spots after you drive past the farm buildings.

Step 3. Bring your containers to the farm shop. They will weigh each container and put a sticker on it, so that weight will not be included in the strawberry weight.

Step 4. Walk over to the strawberry fields and talk to a worker. S/he will assign you a row and you are only allowed to pick on that row. You start at the white pole (where the last person stopped picking). When you are done, you move the pole to where you stopped picking. They expect you to pick rather methodically, to help keep the field in good condition. Of course, kids will pick wherever and that's not a big problem as long as you stay in your row. You will also be instructed to only pick berries that are completely red, no white. The worker will also give you an "Abfall" bucket, in which they expect you to put any trash like rotten strawberries, weeds, etc.

Step 5. Pick and eat. My kids mostly eat rather than work. One year my 2.5yr old spent his time collecting rocks instead of strawberries (as shown below). Whatever. It's all fun at the farm. This isn't a particularly long activity. My kids are usually ready to go after about 30 minutes or so, while I'm obsessively searching for the perfect strawberry. I'd recommend an overcast day as manual labor is harder than you might remember.

Step 6. Go back to the farm shop and weigh your baskets and pay. It's always way more than I think. So remember to bring enough cash in case your eyes are bigger than your wallet, like me. I picked over 9 kilos last time. Luckily I was with friend that helped me carry them and lend me a bit of cash to cover my bill.

Step 7: Eat and be merry. The strawberries start to go bad after about a day. So it's good to have a plan before you bring home a ridiculous amount of strawberries that you can't eat quick enough.

Here's what I did with mine:

strawberry milk
strawberry jam
strawberry cake
strawberry frozen yogurt
strawberry fruit leather
freezing strawberries for smoothies, cobbler, etc.

28 May 2015

The Swiss Path: Overview

To celebrate the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation, the "Swiss Path," aka "Weg der Schweiz" was built around the southernmost end of Lake Luzern. The trail is broken into 7 sections, each easily accessible by public transportation, so you can walk as little or much as you like. So far, we've hiked sections A-D, from Rütli to Flüelen, each section with its positives and negatives. Below is an overview of the whole Swiss path, with maps and links to details for each section.