Category Archives: Zurich Kids

Pets and the holidays

So after a prolonged stretch of time in Zurich many people will inevitably have picked up a pet along the way, or sometimes even arrived with one.\r\n\r\nPets like children are sometimes an unexpected but much loved part of the household.\r\n\r\nUnlike children though pets can be difficult to travel with and will result in you jumping loops though a series of complicated and expensive procedures and requirements for transport or holiday care

Holiday care –




EF petsitting

network Kennels

 travelling with the pet 

moving your pet flights

car train boat

It’s Good To Be The King (Of The Dreikönigskuche)

I am the King!Today, January 6th, sees people across Switzerland buying their Dreikönigskuchen (three kings cake) and sharing them with friends and family. Similar to the ha’penny in an English Christmas pudding, finding the King is considered good luck. I am pleased to say that I just picked the piece of cake with the King in it and here he is — 20120106-101329.jpgIt was tense, of the six pieces (the centre piece never contains the King), only two were left meaning that if I chose wrongly then only the King piece would remain. Although I have to admit that a low carb start to 2012 means I didn’t eat the cake.Note that if you accept responsibility to get the cake, don’t let your colleagues down, it is something that is genuinely looked forward to and get the traditional fruit instead of chocolate!

Cheap Train Tickets In Switzerland


As someone who has just arrived to Zurich I have not yet purchased a “half price” train card or a “GA” reduction card. Especially since the cost of using public transport encourages me to cycle as much as possible. This however has its drawbacks and the exorbitant costs of full price train tickets becomes painfully clear when you try to book an intercity train.

Paying anywhere in the region of 6-60 Swiss francs for a one way ticket is not the ideal situation for someone on a budget. However there is hope for people here visiting or just without a card, as the National Swiss train company the SBB are currently running a “Supersaver” ticket scheme. This scheme allows you to book tickets on line at a much cheaper price than buying them at the train station.

Supersaver Tickets can be a whopping 60% cheaper than the regular fare, making them even cheaper than what you would pay with the half price card. The supersaver tickets are also available for half price card holders, but here the reduction is only a few swiss francs.

The catch. Obviously this is not just a cheap ticket free for all, and there are only a certain amount of cheap tickets available per route. Also the tickets are not usually available for more popular travelling times. The most important point to note these tickets are only available until the 20th of February 2012.

While the scheme is limited until the 20th of February it has been popular before and this is the 4th time these types of tickets have been available, so hopefully they will relaunch the scheme again after February or even make it permanent.

A couple of quick tips on Supersaver tickets.


    • the ticket is only valid for the train you booked so don’t try and change it after


    • you can only book the ticket a maximum of 14 days in advance


    • print your ticket at home. you can not print them at the train station and they do not accept smart phone screen shots


    • be flexible as the availability of tickets can sometimes be limited


    • make sure you type in Zürich correctly with the “ü”. The search wont recognise the city with out it.


However on one of my journeys the first train was delayed and as a result I missed my connection. Worried about receiving a fine I went to the ticket office and the clerk stamped and signed my original ticket making it valid for the next train. Remember though I missed the connection because the train was late, not me.

Another point to note about buying tickets at the train station is that recently they have added a 10CHF charge for this service. Kinda of like a tax for the non computer savvy. But I suppose there is a point to this concept and the SBB could only be considered to be falling in line with cost reduction policy’s that certain airlines have been pioneering for quite some time.

So if you are planning on travelling around Switzerland and need to book a train do it on line and print it at home.


Schmutzli – The Bad Santa

 Samichlaus and Schmutzli


Every country has its traditions and rituals and one of the more quirky and oddly satisfying of the Swiss Christmas season is Schmutzli.


Just like Venom to Spiderman, Dr. Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes and Magneto to Dr. Xavier, Schmutzli is a more sinister counter point to the good that Santa represents.

The answer to how this tradition came about is once again representative of another classic battle between Christianity and paganism. Originally it was a pagan ritual called Perchten which involved good spirits driving out the bad old spirits. With Samichlaus taking the Christian “good” role Schmutzli some how managed to evolve into the dark figure.

Samichlaus is not Santa Claus however and the celebration of “St Nicolas Day”is on the 6th of December, while both Christmas and St Nicolas Day both have the same origins they take on different forms, with the latter having much more in common with its original tradition of paganism than its commercialised American brother.

What is personally appealing about this tradition is the fact that it actually give children something to fear at Christmas. No longer is the classic taunt “Santas’ watching” applicable, the phrase “Schmutzli is watching” has far more fear behind it, and only rightly so, the black faced nemesis is associated with stealing children, carries a broom of sticks with which to hit misbehaving children and is even called  Père Fouettard or Father ‘Whip’ in the French speaking part of Switzerland.


Local teenagers have even been known to dress up as groups of Schmutzli’s and go around implementing their own style of vigilante Christmas justice on younger children.

All Christmas songs now have a new tune

You better watch out

You better not cry

Better not pout

I’m telling you why

Schmutzli is coming to town


He’s got a stick, And he’ll whip you twice;

It doesn’t matter if you’re naughty or nice Schmutzli is coming to town

He’ll steal when you’re sleeping, He’ll whip you when you’re awake He knows if you’ve been bad or good, So run for goodness sake!

O! You better watch out! You better not cry Better not pout, I’m telling you why

Schmutzli is coming to town Sounds like excellent incentive for good behaviour from children to me.

Swimming In The Limmat


The recent hot weather phenomenon has not only brought about a plethora of roof terrace “grill parties” but also seen almost everyone Zurich take to the water.

The wonderful thing about Zurich, which seems to contrast with nearly every other inland European city, is that it has a high quality of water and this means that you are able to actually swim in its rivers and lakes. The result is a huge success and nowhere can this be more clearly seen than by the banks of the Limmat or more specifically at Oberer Letten (called the Letten by locals).

For those of you unaware of the Limmat it is the river which flows into and out of Lake Zurich, part of this river is a shallow stony basin and another part transforms into a canal, originally for industrial purposes, but which seems to have a much higher popularity with the local bathers during the warm summer months.

Located on the north bank of the river just 10 minutes north of the hauptbahnhof, Letten is an integral part of the summer social scene and on sunny days the river side is packed with people sunbathing rotisserie style inbetween frequent dips, as well as volleyball players, people barbecuing and lots of just general sitting down and hanging out. The laid back beach atmosphere will nearly have you believing that you’re at the Costa del sol but without the annoying sand.

The best thing about the Limmat though is that local businesses have managed to develop along the banks of the river and beer, drinks and food are available for not an overly unreasonable cost (by Zurich standards), as well as some deck chairs, tables, grassy areas and even for the brave, bridges for some high adrenaline jumping. The bridges as yet remain a personal goal left unchecked for me.

If you don’t feel like paying out for food at the bars however you can always bring your own or nip over the more northern bridge to the conveniently placed Migros supermarket. Here you can pick up some food from the deli, or snacks and drinks from the very large supermarket located underneath. Sun cream is also an important factor (factor 30) for those of you considering a longer afternoon by the Limmat and while the sun here is not as strong as in the south of Spain for example it still has a good effect, especially on those of us not used to being frequently exposed to anything more than rain.

I personally go to swim, relax and read a book, so if this is what you are also after, here are just a few tips when finding somewhere to sit;


    • Don’t sit near the ladders that come out of the water – everyone climbing out gets the deck and you really wet


    • arrive early – these days it choc-a-bloc so the earlier the better, saying that small groups will usually find a place


    • Avoid larger groups and standing people – especially if these people are playing annoying music and talking loudly


    • try and avoid the bins – they don’t seem to smell too much but people will be constantly walking over you to put stuff in


    • if you’re going to sit on the grass bring a blanket


So with the good weather set to continue into the weekend, get your swim suit out, jump in and enjoy.

Happy Birthday Switzerland!

August 1st is Swiss National Day so I am pleased to say Happy Birthday Switzerland!

Initially it’s nice to see the holiday fall on a weekday so we actually get the day off but it’s a day taken very seriously in Switzerland.



It celebrates the creation of the Swiss Federal Confederation in 1889.

All cities and most towns will be running their own celebrations and if you have gone past a Migros lately, you will know to expect a lot of fireworks! 

Watch The Böögg Burn

Monday April 11th is Sechseläuten in Zurich and for most companies in the city, is a half day public holiday.

Traditionally, it is the celebration of the end of Winter, with the culmination being the burning of the Böögg, a snowman perched atop a huge bonfire.


The Böögg snowman burns in Zurich


The burning takes place in Sechseläutenplatz, the area between the Opera House and Bellevue:



The burning of the Böögg snowman is said to determine the quality of the Summer to come. The bonfire is lit from below and once the flames reach the snowman, the excitement in the very large crowd grows.

The Böögg’s head is filled with explosive and the shorter the time between the lighting of the bonfire and the exploding of his head, the better the Summer will be.

In 2010, his head exploded in 12 mins 54 seconds.


Sechseläuten 2010


More information is available on the official Sechseläuten website and via Sechseläuten. You can even get your own mini Böögg at home!