As I explained in Part One, my family has a quest: to visit all twenty-six cantons. Last Easter we made a four canton tour to Valais, Aargau, Schaffhausen and Fribourg. With October upon us and most tourists gone, I recommend exploring Switzerland and enjoying the autumn colors.
I have already described Valais and Aargau. So let’s move on to Schaffhausen.
DAY FIVE: Schaffhausen
I often find it strange that Geneva is mostly surrounded by France. Similarly, Schaffhausen is mostly surrounded by Germany. And some parts of the canton are not even contiguous.
Historically Schaffhausen’s rise to economic power was due to the impressive Rhine Falls. Any commerce using the Rhine to transport goods had to unload and change boats in order to continue up or down the river.
Today’s economy also benefits from the Rhine Falls. Be ready for a tourist trap. If you visit the falls, which you should if you are in the area, study the Rhine Falls website so you know where to go ahead of time. We didn’t and ended up throwing CHF5 away by parking on the North Bank and then discovering we would like to be on the South Bank. We drove a bit down river where we parked again for CHF5. From there we took a nice river walk, crossing the bridge to the other side and hiking back upriver where one can pay another CHF5 per person to get a better view of the falls.
Our hotel was in the medieval Old Town. The first thing I noticed in our hospitality package was earplugs. Suddenly I was worried about what kind of place we were staying at. But as soon as we opened our shutters, we understood.
Every fifteen minutes the clock told us the time. But, unlike the Italians, Swiss practicalities overrule noise and the bells did not ring between 22:01 and 6:59.
Also outside our window was the towering feature of Schaffhausen- the Munot fortress. The simple yet impressive 40,000 ton structure invoked visions of Helms Deep out of JRR Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, with the Orks battling outside.
Fiction is so much more romantic than fact, though. The fact is, over the centuries many bloody battles were fought around Schaffhausen. In the 14th century the ruling Habsburgs had stressed the city to its limits – both economically and physically – ironically fighting the Swiss Confederacy. Finally in 1501, the city of Schaffhausen joined the Latin named Confoederatio Helvetica.
As prosperity returned the architecture developed. Schaffhausen is known for its oriel windows.
These windows were often added during renovations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Times don’t seem to have changed. The purpose was twofold: To show one’s wealth; and to allow the curious, or nosy inhabitants to look up and down the street. I read in one document that some oriel windows also had peepholes in the floor looking down in order to see who was calling.
DAY SIX: Fribourg
The drive back to Geneva is a dull 3 1/2 hour drive. I am not a big fan of driving long distances so a great way to break up the day is to stop in Murten, or Morat in French. In fact whenever we return from a trip on the A1 highway, we stop here for the famous Nidelkuchen.
The first time I heard of Nidelkuchen was on the former English-speaking radio station WRS. The Food Scout, Amy Eber, described this amazing cake. Since her broadcast is no longer available I must quote another blogger’s description, My Kugelhopf, with whom I whole-heartedly agree: “Sitting outside the bakery with a slice, I lost count of people walking out with what looked like pizza boxes with individual slices or entire Nidelkuchen (gâteau à la crème in French). It’s a rather elaborate process to make, involving a yeast dough, multiple baking times and layers of cream, buttermilk, sugar and crème double de la Gruyère. The soft dough had just the right amount of chew and the topping wasn’t at all sickly sweet as you might expect…”
Whenever we arrive in Murten we park in front of the Bern Gate. During our first trip we walked into the Old Town and strolled upon the old Murten Walls.
On our second trip we walked along the Murtensee, or lac de Morat. This time we happened to be there during the Bise (a strong, northerly wind) and discovered the wind surfing beach called la Bise Noire. The lake was chock full of windsurfers zooming this way and that. It was amazing there were no collisions.
This past Easter, I must admit we only stopped for a Nidelkuchen.
MY FAVORITE CANTON ON THIS TRIP
I loved visiting the canton of Aargau. I found the people we met extremely friendly and trusting, the architecture and church towers beautiful and the streets clean. This canton upholds every positive aspect that visitors expect Switzerland to be.
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at: http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/