Monday, 20 February 2012

fondue party

A fondue party on top of a mountain is a pretty regular winter event here in the Swiss Alps.

Last weekend, we were invited to the local Saanen Skiclub annual fondue party on top of the Eggli.  There was much debate in our household about whether we would go.  I was a little nervous (ok, a lot nervous) because I do not know a single other parent of any of the local kids nor do I speak their language.  And if that's not enough to scare me off, Jeff is Canada so I'm picturing myself in a restaurant full of family and friends, standing alone.  Ahhh!  The boys were also anxious - while they have been training with the local kids, and have made a couple of friends, I wouldn't say that they've really bonded with the group.  We are not from here, do not speak quite enough Swiss German and they go to the international school, not the local one.

As we were deliberating about whether or not to go, this simple, but oh-so-powerful image arrived in my inbox....

That was it.  We were going and in search of magic no less!  

I wasn't totally sure of the format or etiquette as this was our first real fondue party.  I asked around - "we wear our ski suits, right?", "do we bring poles or not", "do we need to bring our own torches?".  As part of my research, I wanted to ensure that one of the coaches, Stefan, whom I know a little was going with his son Rhys.  Stefan speaks several languages, including Swiss German.  He has been living here for a long time so he was the perfect guy to latch onto as we tried to move from our safe circle into the other one!  Once I confirmed that they would be there and as fate would have it, with 2 Canadian guests, it was game on.

We took the last lift up at 16:30, arrived at the restaurant, I had a glass (maybe two) of gluhwein and we all took part in a couple of ski boot dual slaloms races.  It was freezing (-15) and when we were finally called into the restaurant, the setting sun was projecting its alpenglow on the peaks all around us.  

Stefan + Sherry and Grant, fellow Canadians
Eli, Rhys and I enjoying our fondue

The fondue was delicious, of course, and the company wonderful.  I even met a local guy (Thomas) who lives here in the winter and runs a fishing lodge outside of Whitehorse in the summer.  In that small world, somehow never surprising way, he knows my cousin Braden who lived in the Yukon.  His wife, Corin, came bounding over to our table, demanding to know which one of us was Braden's cousin.  She was thrilled to meet me, full of praise for Braden who had kept her sane during her first summers in the Canadian North.  They had all first met over 10 years ago at Ryan and Ali's wedding here in Saanen.  Corin's father was the priest who married them and the wedding reception had been in the very restaurant in which we were all now sitting, enjoying our fondue dinner.  New friends made in the crossroads, what's not to love about that?

Warmed by all that melted cheese and more than a few schnapps, we armed ourselves with torches and headlamps (for those in the know) and made our way out into the cold night.

The torches were sword-like with long cardboard handles wrapped in a waxy, oily cloth that lit quickly when dipped into the communal flame.  Many of the kids couldn't resist fencing with each other while bits of flaming torch sprayed around them.  Once everyone was lit, the group assembled at the top of the hill. It was a truly beautiful site, standing there with all these people bundled up against the cold, holding their glowing torches, eager for the excitement of the descent.

Headed towards the twinkling lights of Saanen, we snaked across and down the hill in a long line until we safely reached the bottom.  Our first fondue party was a total success and whether it was your thirtieth or your first, there was more than just a little magic in the air.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

the neighbourhood goes to punk

As a family, we have been intrigued, ok maybe obsessed, with this van since we arrived in September.  

We see it everywhere - at the barn down the road, driving past our chalet, at the grocery store, outside the bakery, and most hilariously, in the parking lot of the youth community centre.  It's hard to miss because it is so striking and inappropriate and funny.  It has become familial practice to half sing, half shout out "the fucks" whenever we see it. Charming.  

At first sight, the kids pointed and giggled.  I tried to justify the shocking use of language by reminding them that people here speak german and swiss-german.  Perhaps, I said, it means something else.  "Nice try" they howled, "fuck is the same in every language".  Maybe there is a colloquialism that we are missing?

I have tried to find out more, but googling "the fucks" leads to some REALLY inappropriate results, ones that I choose to believe don't have anything to do with our local red van.  What I have uncovered so far is that The Fucks are a punk rock band based here in Saanen.  They have been making music since 2003 and released their first CD in 2010.  Not much to go on, so the fascination endures.....