Or: the Trials and Tribulations of an Uptown Girl with a Boyfriend from Old Europe

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Location: Basel, Switzerland

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Alles, was Osterhasen suchen?

At first, the signs were so subtle that an outsider might have missed them: bags of onion skins being sold at the supermarket, little egg tarts that replaced the Fasnacht specialties. But when the Migros ads began to feature demented Roger Rabbit lookalikes, chocolate bunnies in various sizes and flavors began to reproduce in grocery store aisles, and otherwise ordinary branches began to sprout brightly dyed eggs, two things became obvious. First, Easter was approaching. And second, the Swiss were no strangers to Hallmark-ified holidays.

Though few Swiss are very religious (at least by, not by the standards of Jerry Falwell), Easter here is a big deal. Hundreds of different confections, from Easter eggs and bunnies to dove-shaped Columba breads, stuff the shelves. Children dye eggs and go on egg hunts. But what excited me the most was the fact that Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays, giving Swissy Pie a four day weekend. Actually, make that four-and-a-half. He got half of today off, too.

So what does one do when faced with the prospect of a glorious long weekend? Some head out for short vacations: based on the traffic reports, ski resorts and Ticino top the list of favored destinations. Others go home to visit their families. But if you're Swissy Pie, you plan daily bike tours around the region. And if you're his girlfriend, you shudder when he inevitably gets too ambitious, and when your attempts to dissuade him fail, you start carbo-loading to muster your strength. (That's my excuse, anyway, and I'm sticking to it!)

Our journey through the Alsace last weekend was a typical case of Swissy Pie overestimating my capabilities: we had to cut out a chunk of the loop he'd planned because at some point he realized I simply couldn't climb any more. The ride itself was lovely, though. We wound through bucolic valleys, where women gathered wild herbs in the fields, and up pine-blanketed slopes. We climbed past goats and sheep grazing on the mountainside. Hawks crouched on fence posts, waiting for lunch to emerge. Grey herons splashed down into mountain streams, and storks stood watch over their chimney-top nests.

For our own lunch, we stopped at a little inn/restaurant near the Col Haut du Ribeauvillé called Auberge du Petit-Haut. It served hearty, well-priced food, and seemed popular with locals. We both ordered Roestis, expecting to see golden pan-fried Swiss potato pancakes emerge from the kitchen. Instead, we got sizzling hot skillets, straight from the oven. The only similarity to Swiss Röstis was the presence of shredded potatoes. Swissy Pie got one with five cheeses and ham; mine was studded with ham, morels, oyster mushrooms, and champignons. Both were topped with a dose of heavy cream and baked until hot and bubbly. As if that weren't enough food, we got a huge bowl of salad and a basket of earthy wheat bread to share. All that for about 11 euros each! Perhaps I was just very hungry, but I liked the Alsatian version of Rösti better than the Swiss one.

The end of the ride took us through wine country. After we descended from the Vosges, we must have passed hundred of vineyards, and thousands of visitors wobbling in and out tasting Rieslings, Crémants d'Alsace, etc. It would have been nice to join them, but given I was sweaty and disgusting, it seemed like a bad idea. Not to mention, drunken AND tired cycling would have probably led to disaster!

In any case, Sunday's ride completely drained me, and despite my best efforts to do some "active recovery" this week - OK, so maybe running errands on my bike doesn't really count as cycling - today my legs were still a little weak. Fortunately, I didn't discover this until we were well on our way up the aptly named Bergstrasse (Mountain Road), somewhere in the Black Forest near Hofen. Though I was tempted to quit on a couple of steep spots, I managed to grind through to the top. (Swissy Pie's description of the last leg, after Kirchhausen, as a "bump" didn't really help.) But he seemed inordinately pleased that I'd made it all the way up. Perhaps he thought he'd have to carry me home?

So that one ride down, four more to go, if the stubborn guy sticks with his plan. Pass the bread basket, please!

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Blogger Beejum said...

Wow, that sounds spectacular! I'm going to have to check with you about a good place to buy bikes when we get over there, and what would be a good bike for that kind of riding trip, since we won't have a car! Though I admit, I'd have to do some major work getting in shape for that.

April 6, 2007 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I'm impressed you signed up for all of that. My boyfriend has been trying to get me into going on his Alpine tours near Munich and all I can envision is me having a heart attack on the first little bump of an uphill. I'll leave it for him!

April 8, 2007 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger Un-Swiss Miss said...

Beejum - If you're shipping stuff anyway, it might be less expensive to buy in the US. If you don't have a car, you'll probably want a bike mostly for commuting. Those you can definitely get for less in the US.

For high end road bikes and mountain bikes, US brands are more expensive here, but you can buy a European brand and get more bang for your buck. Happy to talk ad nauseum about bikes, so feel free to get in touch!

Michelle - Um... Those would be the boyfriend's plans. Mine, really, is to pretend to go along with "The Plans," and do only what my body is willing and able to!

April 10, 2007 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger Expat Traveler said...

I miss the bike riding! I used to bike all over switzerland as well.. There are so many great trails. I remember a few very long but great rides..

These days in Vancouver I'm too scared of getting hit by cars and don't know where the trails are!

April 11, 2007 at 3:22 AM  

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