The Alps from Uster

The Alps from Uster

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Settling into Lenzburg

On Friday, shortly after Peter and I went to the market in Uster, my cousin Werner arrived at the door.  He packed my luggage into his car, and we went to Lenzburg, located about 35 miles to the west of Uster on the other side of Zurich.  The previous day Werner had driven my Ohio cousin Gail and her husband Wes to Lenzburg at the end of their guided tour of Austria and Switzerland.  Lenzburg is just down the road from our ancestral village of Othmarsingen, and upon Werner's recommendation, we had booked rooms at a hotel there.  
We are staying at the Hotel Krone, which is a part of the European Accor chain of hotels.  The hotel has a modern wing (in which we have rooms), but the old part of the hotel has been a landmark in Lenzburg for more than 200 years.  

Werner said that our ancestors, even if they might not have been able to afford to eat there, would have certainly been familiar with this establishment.

The old-style decoration on the corner of the building clearly shows the meaning of the hotel's name.  "Krone" means "Crown" in German.

The hotel is located on the edge of Lenzburg's "Altstadt", Old Town.  On the hill above the hotel is Schloss Lenzburg, Lenzburg Castle, one of the oldest and most important castles in Switzerland.  The earliest record of the castle goes back to 1077.  

The castle is now a museum.  I had visited the castle on my first trip to Switzerland, but Werner took Gail to see it when they arrived in Lenzburg the previous day.

My hotel room is small, typical of European hotels, but it is clean, comfortable and functional.

I have a small balcony.  I does not look out over the Old Town, but it is a pleasant view.

So, now that we are settled into our Lenzburg accommodations, we will spend the next few days exploring the region of our Swiss ancestors and getting together with even more cousins.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Market

On Friday morning, before leaving Uster, Peter asked me if I wanted to go with him to the outdoor marketplace.  We drove to downtown Uster, which unlike the downtown districts of many cities in the U.S., is pleasant and thriving and filled with independent shops.  On the plaza in front of the "Stadthaus" (city hall) a daily market is held.

In the background you can see the steeple of the principal church and the tower of the castle.

A couple of stands sell fresh baked goods.

Others offer organic fruits and vegetables.

One stand had exotic fruits imported from Africa.

The flower vendor sold not only cut flowers, but also arrangements and flowers to plant in your garden.

It was small compared to the large "tianguis" (outdoor markets) of Mexico, but, in typical Swiss fashion, it was tidy and organized and everything was of high quality.

Twilight in Uster

A beautiful twilight sky captured from the balcony of Brigitta and Peter's home in Uster, Switzerland...

Friday, August 16, 2019

Alsatian Pizza

"Flammkuchen" is a dish that originated in the region of Alsace along the border of Germany and France.  It consists of extremely thin bread dough, traditionally topped with "creme fraiche" (similar to sour cream), cheese, pork fat and sliced onions, and then baked in a wood oven.  In the supermarkets here you can buy packaged "Flammkuchen" dough which comes in thin sheets. 

That is what Brigritta and I prepared Thursday night for supper.  She adds additional toppings to it, so that it is very much like a pizza.  Two sheets of dough come in the package.  Since she is a vegetarian she prepared one without meat and I prepared the other one which included Serbian dried beef that a friend of Peter's had given him.  

The dough was spread with "creme fraiche" and we both added thinly sliced zucchini, two kinds of cheese, diced tomatoes, chopped Spanish olives, and thinly sliced green onions.

Fresh out of the oven.  Peter slices the "Flammkuchen" that Brigitta had put together.

And here is the "Flammkuchen" that I had prepared.

They were both delicious!

Up to the Castle

My cousin Brigitta is a school teacher, and on Thursday she had to attend meetings in preparation for the beginning of the new school year next Monday.  Her partner Peter, however, is a retired teacher, so today he and I took a walk up to Schloss Uster… Uster Castle... the most prominent landmark in the city of Uster.

We took a "Wanderweg", another one of those hiking trails that are ubiquitous in Switzerland.  Our path took us through a pleasant residential area, but we also saw fruit orchards, cows, sheep and chickens.  

 A city dweller from the U.S. might find it odd that we were passing cows grazing in pastures within the city limits of a town of 35,000 people.  However, in Switzerland forests and farmlands are protect by law from development.  Nearly 45% of the land in Uster is agricultural.  The one thing that these cows lacked were cowbells.  Those bells are a delightful sound which are so much a part of atmosphere of Switzerland.  

It was an easy walk up to the top of the hill where the castle is located.

 The castle was originally built in the 1200s, but has been rebuilt and renovated many times since then, most recently in 1917.  The building today is used as a private boarding school and is not open to the public.

Across from the castle is a restaurant which for many served traditional Swiss food.  Since 2009, however, it has been a steakhouse called "Argentina".  We went inside for lunch.  

Our waitress was a lady from Colombia.  I spoke some German with her, but I spoke mostly Spanish.  Who would have thought that I would be speaking Spanish to a Colombian in an Argentinian restaurant in a small Swiss city!

We did not order steak, but rather the lunch special of the day, which was chicken cordon bleu.  It included a starter of soup or salad.  Peter had salad, and I had carrot soup.

We also had dessert.  I had a scoop of raspberry sorbet and Peter had an apple tart.

I treated Peter to lunch, and fortunately I had brought plenty of Swiss francs with me.  Switzerland of course is a notoriously expensive country.  Even though we were not eating in a touristy restaurant, and we ordered the special of the day, the bill came to 72 Swiss francs, about 73 U.S. dollars.  At least in Switzerland you do not have to tip much.  Peter said that the tip of 5 francs... less than 7%... was generous.

Although it was raining on our way up to the castle, during lunch the sun came out, and after eating I took some pictures of the view from the top of the hill.

At the upper right you can see a small sliver of the Greifensee, the lake which I mentioned in my previous post.

On the hillside to the left is a vineyard which produces a local wine.  Peter served some the night before at supper.  I am not a wine connoisseur, but I thought it had a very unique flavor which I liked.

  This Swiss Reformed Church was built in 1828.  It stands at the foot of the castle hill.

Looking toward downtown Uster

Thursday, August 15, 2019

When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain

Whenever I fly to Europe, even though I cannot sleep on the plane, and I am hit with jet lag, my strategy is to never give in to the desire to take a nap that first day.  I force myself to stay up until 9:00 or 10:00 P.M., and then the next day my body will have adjusted to the new time zone.

So after supper yesterday evening, my cousin Brigitta and I decided to take a short walk along a nearby  "wanderweg" (hiking path).  The entire nation of Switzerland is crisscrossed with "wanderweg"... you can hike to most anywhere in the country.  

We drove a short distance to a path that goes along the Greifensee, a lake on the edge of the town of Uster.

At the start of our walk, there was a small observation tower from which we could look out across the marshlands to the lake.

My cousin Brigitta

I happened to look in the opposite direction, and I saw the full moon (or nearly full moon) rising over the mountain.

As it turned out, we never hiked to the lake.  Instead, we watched the moon as it came over the mountain.

A Home with a View

Yesterday morning I was met at Zurich airport by my cousin Brigitta and her partner Peter.  They drove me to their home where I am spending my first two nights in Switzerland.  

Their house is located in Uster, a small city not too far from Zurich.  It is a beautiful home.

Their house is located on the very edge of Uster.  In one direction you can see the town.  Left of center in the photo is the tower of Uster's small "schloss" or castle, which today houses a school.

In every other direction, there are glorious views of the Swiss countryside, and on the horizon, the Alps!

Let's zoom in on those mountains...

What a magnificent place to begin my stay in Switzerland, enjoying the warm hospitality of Brigitta and Peter and beautiful Swiss vistas.