Hiking route: Valle Verzasca, Ticino, Switzerland

Autumn is the hiking period for my family and this year we did three amazing routes. The first one was the 5 Lakes Route, an alpine route on Mount Pizol in the canton of Saint Gallen, described already in a previous blogpost. The second one was the Verzasca valley route, in the canton of Ticino.

For our hiking, we chose a cute small valley in the geographical centre of Ticino, the Verzasca valley. It is a rural and largely untouched valley with steep inclines and numerous waterfalls. It is formed by the Verzasca river that flows over rock through the narrow valley and has many natural rock pools and places to bathe. The Verzasca valley extends over a length of 25 kilometers in north-south direction. The altitude of the valley floor is from 500m to 900m above sea level, so the hiking routes along the valley are not too demanding. The surrounding mountains have an average altitude of 2400m, so the routes that includes crossing over a pass are of moderate difficulty.

We decided to do the Verzasca valley route from north to south, starting at Sonogno, the northest village of the valley that is accesible by car, and finish at Lavertezzo, more than 17 km away, from where we could take the bus back to Sonogno. The duration of the route depends on the website you check and the person that wrote about it and can vary from 3 to 6 hours. In any case, we considered it a full-day activity, especially since we did it two days after the alpine hiking at Mount Pizol and we were not planning to hurry around.

We reached the Verzasca valley by car from Tenero, at Lake Maggiore. Via Valle Verzasca runs north, along the Verzasca river. At the southern outlet of the valley the river is dammed, forming the Lago di Vogorno. We stopped at the 220m high dam, which is considered to be one of the highest dams in Europe and is famous for the “GoldenEye” Bungee Jumping, the setting of the opening scene of the James Bond movie “Golden Eye”. It is absolutely scary! Then we continued further north, to Sonogno, where the street ends.

Sonogno is a cute alpine village, with traditional stone houses and narrow alleys. A bit northern of the village and only about 15 min away, there is an impressive waterfall. You can walk right next to the small pool that the waterfall creates or a bit higher on a hill that give the opportunity of beautiful pictures.

The waterfall at Sonogno

The following morning we woke up early and got ready for our excursion. It is a rather easy to moderate route, with not big ascents and desents. Nevertheless, it is advised to wear proper shoes, especially if the weather has been rainy. In addition, it is better to carry your supplies of water and snacks, as there is nowhere along the path to get supplies.

Our starting point, the village of Sonogno is at 919m above sea level and more or less the highest point of the route. The path starts at its south end past the athletic facilities, with a beautiful bridge over the amazingly coloured river.

Verzasca river from the bridge at Sonogno. The colour is amazing.

From Sonogno, the path runs along the river from the right bank, till the village of Frasco, while the street is from the left one. At Frasco, we had to cross over the impressive Vecchio Ponte stradale and head to the left bank of the river, while the street continues from the right bank. This is quite common in all of the route: the path and the street are on opposite banks.

The path continues from Frasco to Brione firstly through meadows and traditional farm houses and then approaching again the riverside. At about the middle there is Gerra, where we saw a beautiful waterfall.

At Brione we stopped to have our lunch break. There were turquoise natural pools formed by the river around here and it was the perfect place to have our own outdoor bbq swiss style, with cervelas, the most typical Swiss sausages. We collected wood from all around the river banks and while I was cooking our sausages my husband decided to go for a swim. Well, it was a bit cold the water!

After a quite long break, we continues our hike towards Lavertezzo. As it was already past midday, the route became a bit less populated and it was nicer for us to pay a bit of attention to the river, that becomes more impressive from this point further. There are bigger boulders and formations where the turquoise and emerald colour of the river is more distinct.

About six hours after our start in Sonogno, we reached Lavertezzo, which is at 545 meters above sea level. It is a typical Ticinese picturesque village, with several stone buildings. Its main attraction, though is the 17th century double-arched bridge over the Versasca river, called Ponte dei Salti and known also as the Roman Bridge.

The impressive Ponte dei Salti

At exactly this point, the rock formations are enormous. Even if you don’t want to do the whole of the hike, it is worthy even just to drive up to this point and stop at the parking that is available exactly before the bridge. The river is much deeper here and it is a common place for bathing, although it is considered dangerous due to the currents.


Excursion to Ticino, Switzerland

In September there were a few nice days and my husband and I grabbed the opportunity to enjoy the autumn nature. We went for a small excursion to Ticino, Ticino is special for two reasons: it is the only italian-speaking area of Switzerland and it is in and south of the Alps. Thanks to the latter, this area is a bit warmer than the rest of Switzerland and as a result a common destination of holidays inside the country. They advertise themselves as the most Mediterrenean of Switzerland!

Driving up the San Bernandino Pass. We didn’t go through the tunnel.

There are two ways to reach Ticino from the north: you have either to cross either the San Bernandino Pass from the east or the Gotthard Pass from the west. In both cases there are tunnels that can save the time to drive up the pass. But if you have a bit of time and the weather is nice, it is an always nice drive up the Passes. For our excursion we drove to Ticino from the San Bernadino Pass and we didn’t use the tunnel and on the way back we took the tunnel at the Gotthard Pass.

A nice bridge on our way from the San Bernandino Pass to Bellinzona.

My husband spent several of his childhood holidays in Ticino. So we drove a bit around the nice mountainous but sunny even in the end of September area. We drove through Bellinzona, the capital of the canton, and Locarno, which located at the northern shore of Lake Maggiore.

We then continued up to the picturesque village of Arcegno (387m above sea level), one of places my husband has been spending summers and walked around the small streets that are surrounded by stone houses.

And then we headed again down towards Lago Maggiore. The view of the lake from the village of Ronco is amazing!

Lago Maggiore. Switzerland on the left and Italy on the right edges.

We continued our descent towards the lake shores and the touristic town of Ascona (196 m above sea level). There we had a walk along the paved promenade and enjoyed the sun and a swiss-italian icecream!

The paved promenade at Ascona. It was a bit windy, but sunny and warm

After Ascona we decided to start heading towards the Verzasca Valley, which was our main destination in Ticino. We wanted to hike this beautiful and narrow valley, but the description of the hike will follow in another blog post.


Alpine hiking route: 5 Seen Wanderung, Pizol, Switzerland

Hiking is considered to be the national sport of Switzerland. The hiking season starts around May and finishes around November, depending of course on the weather. This year, my husband and I did a bit of hiking and I am starting to enjoy it more and more. One of the most amazing hikes we did this year was the alpine route of the Five Lakes at the Pizol mountain, a peak in the canton of Saint Gallen.

The Saint Gallen Rhine valley with Lake Constance (Bodensee) in the back and Lichtenstein on the right.

The Five Lakes route, or Funf Seen Wanderung as it is called in German, is a mountain route that takes its name from the five alpine lakes that can be reached along the route. Besides the beautiful hidden lakes, it offers magnificent views of the mountain ranges around including the Churfisten and Alps of Graubünde and the Saint Gallen Rhine valley across to Lake Constance and Lichtenstein.

The Alps in the background

The total distance of the route is about 11 km and its estimated duration 4 to 4.5 hours. The easiest approach of it is to start from the Pizolhütte at 2227m and finish at Gaffia Station at 1861m. In total, it involves ascenting of 600 m and decenting of 1000 m. and is of moderate difficulty. The opposite direction is obviously a bit more demanding.

We reached Pizolhütte, the starting point of our hike, from the town Wangs, located at 509m above sea level, on the south of the canton of Saint Gallen, through a combination of gondola and chair lifts. The hut is located close to Wangersee, the first lake of the route. From there the path started climbing up and it offered broad view over the East Swiss and Austrian Alps. After about an hour of climbing, we reached Wildsee, the second lake at altitude 2493m above sea level. It really appeared as a surprise around a turn and it was breathtaking with its turquoise colour. From this point, we even got a glimpse of the Pizol summit (2844m).

The amazingly turquoise Wildsee (2493m above sea level)

From Wildsee, the path descented briefly, so as to reach Schottensee, the third lake of the route and a turquoise one as well. From the banks of Schottensee (2340m), the ascent began again, so as to reach the highest point of the route at 2500 m above sea level. From here we had an absolutely amazing view of the Churfirsten, the mountain range dominating over Walenstadt, my husband’s hometown.

The smaller but cute Schottensee (2340m above sea level) and in the back the Churfirsten mountain range

From 2500m, the path descended to the Schwarzsee at 2368m. As its name implies, this is a dark-coloured lake and it makes quite some contrast to the previous two lakes. It was about 5.5km to this point, so it was about the middle of the 5 Lakes route. As a result, we decided to have our short lunch break at this point and we were not the only ones!

The dark Schwarzsee (2368m above sea level)

After a half-hour break, we start the second part of our hike. 2.5 km or about an hour away from Schwarzsee, we reached the fifth and last lake, the green Baschalvasee (2174m).

The small green Baschalvasee (2174 m above sea level)

From this point starts the big and final descent of the route to the Station of Gaffia. It was quite some relief to reach it 4.5 hours (including the break) after we started!

From Gaffia we took the lift down to Wangs, enjoying the last views of the Saint Gallen Rhine valley with the Bodensee (or Lake Constance in English) in the back.

I am absolutely happy to have done this magnificent hike and, although as tiring as a 4-hour alpine hike with ascents and descents can be, it is so rewarding to have seen so beautiful views of alpine lakes and impressive mountain ranges! I do recommend it to anyone interested to see a beautiful area and experience Switzerland and the Alps!


What to do on a leisure day in Basel

Hmm April is almost over! It has been such a busy month! It started with my best friends from the Netherlands visiting me and continued with two Easters. Why two? Because my husband is Catholic and I am Greek orthodox, so we had two Easters one after the other. In case you are interesting what is a typical way to celebrate Easter day in Greece, check my blog post from last year: Easter customs in Greece.

Anyway, today I don’t want to write about Easter, but about my new almost hometown: Basel. I say almost because we are not living inside the city. Although I grew up in Athens that has about 10 million inhabitants, I find cities far too big, crowded and stressful. But they are still interesting to visit, and definitely Basel complies with that description.

As I mentioned already, in the beginnning of the month three of my closest friends were visiting me. We were blessed with summery weather and of course I had to take them to visit Basel.

For most people, Switzerland is mountains and lakes. Well, Basel is not inside the mountains and doesn’t have a lake, but that does not make it boring. It is the third most populated city in Switzerland (after Zurich and Geneva and before the capital Bern), and it is really expanding with suburbs to France on the west and Germany to the north.

Basel’s heraldic animal, something like its mascot, is the Basilisk. It is an imaginary animal, a hybrid between a rooster and a serpent. Although it looks like a dragon, it should not be mistaken for one, as it has the head of a cockerel. A basilisk is not a big animal, but is so venomous that it can kill people with only its breath and wherever it touched was doomed to die. With a single glance, he can kill a person or turn stones to dust, the latter only as long as the sun is shining! Quite a frightening creature, no? According to the legend, there was a basilisk living in a cave in the Old town of Basel.

The city of Basel is full of statues or depictions of basilisks, so if you visit the city, you should or will see one of them. One of the biggest statues, is the basilisk standing at the south entrance of Wettsteinbrücke. It is one of the four old guardians of the bridge and it is quite impossing!

And if you walk around the city, the possibilities are quite high that you will meet a basilisk fountain. By the way, the fountain basilisk are in the actual size of the legendary basilisk.

One of the several basilisk fountains you can find in Basel. The legendary animal is supposed to be exactly of this size.

As I mentioned earlier, Basel doesn’t have a lake, but it has a big river: the Rhine. It has crossed almost of Switzerland, and at the point of Basel it is big enough to see the big riverboat going up and down. Except from the big boats, there are four small ferries too, spread between Basel’s five bridges. They offer a slower and cosier alternative to cross the river, compared to using the bridges. They are environmentally friendly, as they have no motorised assistance. They move with the power of the current of river and assisted by nothing but a steel cable, so that they do not drift downstream, but move back and forth the two banks.

Another fun activity in the Rhine is swimming it! It is still a bit too cold in April to do so, but as the summer will be peaking, there will be more and more people swimming down the Rhine. My husband and me did it last August, so you can see our experience here.

The view from the Mittlere Brücke last August! Do you see the swimmers?

Two of the most visited buildings in Basel are its Minster and its City Hall.

The Basel Münster stands out thanks to its red sandstone and its distinct coloured roof tiles. Its construction spans through several centruries, as the Minster underwent several expansions and alterations. The foundation of the building we see today took place on 11th October 1019, so this year it celebrates the 1000-year anniversary. It started as a building of the Romanesque style, but its final form has Gothic characteristics and was completed in 1500. It was first a Catholic church, but in 1529 it was transformed to Reformed Protestant one. There are several important people buried inside the church, such as Queen Anne of Habsburg, but I was more interested to the tomb of Erasmus.

If you are strawling in the Old Town of Basel you won’t manage to miss the City Hall. It is a massive, eye-catching red building. It is the seat of the Basel government and its parliament. Its foundation dates back to 1290 and it dominates the massive Market square. In front of it there is most times a market (surprise, right?), so the whole area is busy with people.

The impressive Basler Rathaus (City Hall)
And there is Market at Marktplatz!

Basel has several museums and loves art. One of its most beloved artists is Jean Tinguely. If you have not heard him before, do check him! His works of art are full of motion and consist of kinetic sculpturs created mostly from pieces of machinery that he was finding thrown. The only common characteristic of this creations is motion or noise. There is a big museum with a lot of his works eastern than the centre of the city, which my husband and I visited several years ago, when we first visited Basel. I totally recommend it, as it is an absolutely interactive museum. In most museums, they discourage you from touching the exhibits, but in this one they welcome you to press the buttons.

But in case you do not have enough time to visit a museum, you can still see a speciment of Tinguely’s art: the Tinguely fountain. It is located quite close to the central train station, just behind the Basel Theatre. You will see a few crazy creations moving and spitting water! It is mesmerising!

The Tinguely fountain (Tinguely Brunnen) at Klostergasse 7. The photo is not as interesting as the fountain is in reality!

P.S. Thank a lot girls for the nice visit and for the nice photos you made, so that I could use them in my blog post!


Carnival in Switzerland: Liestal Chienbäse

This week was the last one of the Carnival in Switzerland. Most of the cantons celebrated the week before, but for general area of Basel the celebrations were the weekend 9/10 March and the big activities in the city of Basel were from Monday to Wednesday this week. The big Basel carnival was included in 2017 in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list!

Carnival is usually about masquerades and parades right? Last Sunday evening a special event took place in Liestal, the capital of Baselland. It is called “Chienbäse” and it involves a procession of burning bundles of pine wood and bonfires on carriages.

The big bonfire at some distance outside the city centre

According to the tradition, burning large piles of wood breaks the power of winter and with carrying the blazing bundles of pine wood, the Chienbäse in the local dialect, the warming power of the sun is transferred from the hill to the dark valley. So on Sunday evening after Ash Wednesday, in the town of Liestal they make really big bonfires on a hill outside the city centre from which they light their bundles and piles of wood and they carry them through the city gate and the centre of the town. The Chienbäse procession started in 1902 and has been taking place every year since 1946.

The first Chienbäse are coming

The procession is spectacular! It starts with torches and laterns followed by the Chienbäse in different sizes, based on the strength and zeal of the carrier. There are children, women and men who wear appropriate cover and carry their burning bundles proudly!

It also includes carriages with piles of wood. In one of them they had sausages around the bottom of the fire, which were getting cooked!

The big fire with the sausages on the bottom
The gate of old town Liestal

Another interesting flight from Athens, Greece to Basel, Switzerland

Well you may have noticed that I was not blogging in February. I was on a long travel back south (something like down under as the Australians say!). By now I am back to my base in Switzerland.

I have flown countless times until now. But I always find seeing the world from above fascinating! In most case I have no idea where exactly we are. I find that when the airlines show where we are is quite interesting. Nevertheless, this is not so common anymore I think. By myself I can assume our relative position only where there are islands around or big mountains.

I flew from the Athens International Airport to the EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg. If the weather is good and my seat nice (which means far enough from the wing) I distinguish quite a few parts of the route from north or central Europe to the south or the other way around as this time:

  • In Greece can see a bit of Athens, although I can’t tell exactly which part of the huge city it is, unless I see the Acropolis or the port of Pireus. Then follows the coastline to the north, with most distinct the interesting peninsulas of Chalkidiki and Mount Athos. Unfortunately this time Greece did not have the best weather. There was light rain in Athens and clouds in most of the country. I was also sitting from the left side of the plane, so probably I would be looking towards the mainland of the country and not the coastline.
From Google maps, how the Chalkidiki peninsulas look like from above.
  • After the general area of Thessaloniki, the plane flies over land, which is far too uniform for me to understand where we are. I can start getting an idea again, once I see a coastline with a lot of small islands scattered around: we are over Croatia! And in the distance over the sea it is the coast of Italy! I think it takes about an hour of flight from Athens to reach this point and by this time the weather had improved a lot.
A small plane rushing next to us and the coast of Italy in the background
  • At a point the sea finishes and we meet again the land. At this point we are flying over Italy! The pilot was kind enough to inform us about our position: from the left side I was sitting we could see Venice.
The end of the Adriatic and flying over Italy, with Venice in the background
  • Shortly after the end of the Adriatic, start the Alps! I love seeing the Alps from above. They are magnificent! Especially now in February they were full of snow.
  • Through the Alps we crossed over to Switzerland. Unfortunately, I have no idea which route we followed. Countries can seem to be so small when you fly over them… It did not take long to see another type of water I recognise: the Rhine. To be honest, I know that it is the Rhine because we were descenting to the Euroairport.
The Rhine from above and next to it probably the Grand Canal d’Alsace.

Swimming in the Rhine!

There is something common between the two countries I have spent the last almost ten years of my life, the Netherlands and Switzerland: the Rhine. The Rhine starts in Switzerland, somewhere up in the Alps in the canton of Graubünden, and finishes in the Netherlands, going into the North Sea. And now that we live close to Basel, we go for a walk along the Rhine quite often.

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The view from the Mittlere Brücke Monday last week!

Monday last week we were once again for a walk and shopping in Basel and the weather was so nice that we decided to take the walkway right next to the Rhine. As we were approaching the centre of Basel from the north, we started noticing people floating in the Rhine holding colourful floating bags. It looked so funny! The closer to the centre and the Mittlere Brücke, we were seeing more and more heads and more and more colours! It was an absolutely brilliant sight!

A closer look to the previous photo. You can notice the small human dots in the river! They are uncountable!

As my Swiss husband explained, it is common in Basel to swim downstream the Rhine. It has nothing to do with normal swimming, where you leave your clothes outside at a point, go into the water and swim for a while back and forth and then you exit at about the same point and retrieve your clothes. The Rhine is a river with currents, so you enter at a point and the currents take you down to another point. As a result, you have to take your clothes with you. So the Swiss invented the Wickelfish!

Our wickelfish
Our two wickelfish

The Wickelfish is a watertight bag, resembling a fish. You put your dry clothes and belongings in it, you roll the opening of the bag (seven times according to the instructions), leaving the air inside. The Wickelfish floats thanks to the trapped air and doesn’t allow water to enter thanks to the tight wrapping.

wickelfish ready
The wickelfish ready for swimming!

Once you are finished with the packing, you enter the river together with your bag. There is a designated area where swimming is allowed, and you can enter at any point within this area. Of course it makes sense to enter as much upstream as possible. And then the fun part starts!

The official map of the swimming area. We are allowed to swim in the green areas (Source: SLRG)

Definitely, there are a lot of precautions that the municipality and the authorities insist on, so that swimming the Rhine remains fun. I list only the most important for me:

  • You should pay attention that the strap for hanging the wickelfish around you is connected to the end that has the velcro, as this will open by itself if there is tension on it (as for example if the bag gets tangled with a buoy or something).

  • The wickelfish makes it easier for ships to spot the people swimming, thanks to its bright colour. Nevertheless, swimming is only allowed in an area close to the shore. There are police boats patrolling all along the swimming area.
  • It is important to note, that the wickelfish is not a floating aid. You should be able to swim in order to enter the Rhine, as there is no lifeguard. The use of inflatable swimming aids is not allowed and you can get fined if the police sees you using any of them.
  • It is recommended not to go alone for swimming. It is also recommended to go with somebody that knows the swimming area.

After learning all this information, we checked the weather for the following day and we decided to try it for ourselves. How was our experience? Well, incredibly fun!

We were lucky that we joined a few colleagues of my husband that have been living in Basel for years and knew all the small secrets, such as where is easier to enter and exit because of the stones at the shore. Now we know these secrets too! In addition, thanks to the warm days we have had, the water temperature was recorded to be around 24 C, so quite warm.

Concerning the last point in the above list, I should note that it is not difficult to see where the swimming area starts. There are so many people swimming downstream the Rhine! And the ages of the swimmers we saw varied incredibly: from youngsters that were trying to ride the buoys (don’t try to do it, as you might get a fine), to old ladies that were enjoying a leisurely swim! In addition, the closer to the shore, the slower the currents of the river. Equivalently, the further to the middle of the river, the stronger the currents and the faster the swimming.

You might get the impression that you just lie in the water and the currents bring you down. Well, that is not true! Firstly we are talking about sweet water and not salty, so there is little buoyancy. So you do need to know how to float and keep yourself up in the water. True you don’t have to swim actively to move downstream, but we all had to help ourselves, so as to stay a team and head where we really wanted and not where the water takes you. The swimming area includes several obstacles, such as bridge piers and buoys, so it is important to avoid them.

Last Tuesday that we tried it ourselves, the water level was a bit low thanks to the really warm summer we have had, so the speed of the current was slower too. We entered at the earliest possible point, close to the Tinguely Museum and exited close to the lowest point, after the Johanniterbrücke. It took us about an hour to swim this distance, which was so surprising. But it was incredibly fun!

Map Rhine Swim
Our swimming route

Such a pity we didn’t try it earlier! If the weather remains good still, we are definitely going to do it again! After all now we know the secrets and have our wickelfish.


My experience with Airbnb

By now everybody (or almost everybody) knows Airbnb. It keeps coming up in discussions about holidays and I keep reading about it in the news. But let’s start from the beginning

Airbnb logo

Airbnb is an american internet based company, which provides people the possibility to rent for short term lodging. It started in 2008 but became more known in the current decade.

Usually, my husband and I were either booking a hotel or travelling with our VW van, so going to campings. But last year we decided to visit Tokyo and we found the prices of hotels far too high, so we decided to check Airbnb. We were amazed!

For a much lower price, we found a really cute apartment only for us, in a really nice area of Tokyo. The girl that offered it was so helpful, to explain to us all the facilities in the house (of course the writing was in japanese, so we needed a bit of a guide) and she was fast to answer our questions, such as if tap water is drinkable, or about the metro tickets and even suggestions. Five stars in hospitality, for an affordable price and a more personal communication than in hotels!

Week 1
My companion during the first week we spent in Reinach

A few months ago my husband got a new job, so we had to find a new house and the one we liked was being renovated, so it would be available a month after his starting day in the new job. Under normal circumstances, paying a hotel for a month would have been far too expensive and we couldn’t have taken that house in the first place. But Airbnb gave us enough flexibility to make the choice we really wanted!

View week 2_EN
The view from our room during the second week of June, with the Goetheanum in the middle

In the four weeks of June, we stayed in four different houses in the wider area of Reinach and Dornach, at the outskirts of Basel in Switzerland. In this case we did not have a whole house for ourselves, but in most cases the offer was for a room with a separate bathroom and the rest of the house shared with the family living in it. Breakfast was included as well. It was an amazing experience!

All four families were friendly! I was staying home most of the day while my husband was going to work and I had the chance to get into talks with the people hosting us! I got to practice my german, met a nice Chinese girl working as an au pair and rocked a small baby to sleep while his mom had to run to get his sister from the nursery! We had a normal kitchen to cook dinner, equipped with everything from plates and cuttlery to oil and spices. We were offered homemade jams for breakfast, tried homemade pizza cooked in a wood oven and I even got a small basil plant as a present from one of them! Even Lukas found a nice rocking chair to spend his week in Dornach!


Usually hotel rooms are too depressing to stay for long. But a normal house, where people are living in, feels much more homely! Of course we didn’t miss the normal touristic help either. The weather was nice most weeks (as you can see from my photos) and I had the chance to explore the towns, visit The Goetheanum and had help from the hosts about the sites and the restaurants around or the closest supermarket. Especially the first week, the owners had a registered free ticket for both of us to use the public means of transportation in the wider Baselstadt and Baselland area!

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The view in the morning from the house during the 3rd week of June

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Sunset from the same point

Concerning the costs, we paid in total for the month of June less than what would be the monthly cost of our own apartment for the same month! If we would have to stay in a hotel, except from the problems of having just a room, the cost would have been enormous. The only alternative would have been a cheap and low quality hostel or something…

Airbnb is quite often mentioned in the news I read. In my homeland Greece they are trying to get the people that are not declaring their income from such rentals. And I have read of issues where people try to rent on a long term some lodging in areas that receive tourists and cannot find anything available anymore.

The European Commission issued a press release about a week ago, calling Airbnb to align their terms with the European Union consumer rules. Airbnb is expected to improve their price transparency and state clearly if the lodging is offered by a professional or a private host, since it makes a difference in the consumer protection rules covering the booking. They are also asked to clarify some terms and remove some other that do not comply with the general EU rules.

Two days ago I read that they activated its Open Homes project, so as to provide free accommodation to the victims of the big fires in the outskirts of Athens of last Monday. They are contacting the owners and if the latter agree they offer the accommodation to the victims for free and without service costs.

If I had a property available I would also register it with Airbnb. And I am happy to have this alternative to a hotel or some professional lodging to choose when it comes to accommodation, as it keeps the prices within the budget of a wide range of people and I prefer the personal communication that the individual hosts offer. But as anything else, it also creates some problems. I really hope they are resolved and Airbnb continues to offer its service!

Have you used Airbnb yourself? Did you have a good or a bad experience? What is your opinion?



Open air musical in Walenstadt

I know I have not been very active on my blog for a while, but we are going through a move, so some of the basic things the blog needs (such as free time and a computer) are not always available.

Nevertheless, we are not arranging our new house all time time and here I am to tell you about how we spent our evening last Saturday: we watched the musical “The Beauty and the Beast” on the Walensee Bühne. It is performed on an open air stage at the Walensee shores in Walenstadt. It is a performance taking place every second summer, but this year it was an exception, as they performed two years in a row.

Whole stage_4
Bella’s father on the left and Bella and the Beast on the right

This year’s performance was the fairytale of The Beauty and the Beast. The musical started around 8 pm and lasted until a bit after 10 pm, so the first part was performed while there was still daylight, and the second when it is getting dark.

The stage was made really nicely! It did not hide the lake or the Churfirsten in the back, and once the daylight faded, it included lights that changed according to the emotions that dominated in the scene. It was definitely conveying the magical world that the story involves!

Whole stage_3
The stage from our seats with the Churfirsten and the lake in the back!

The Beauty and the Beast is a fairytale written originally in 1740 by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. According to the adaptation for the musical, a widower merchant lives in a mansion with his three daughters. Bella is the youngest and the most beautiful of the three, as well as the one with the kindest heart. The other two are vain and shallow. Gustav, the local handsome but stupid guy, is trying to get Bella to marry him, but she refuses. When the merchant’s ship sinks during a storm, they are forced into poverty. He goes on an errand to find out if something was saved, but gets lost in the forest and ends up in a strange palace, where he spends the night. The lord of the palace is the Beast, a prince who was cursed by a fairy because he had an evil heart and cared only about himself.  The merchant tries to explore the palace, something that angers the Beast who attacks him but in the end comes to a deal with him, that he can go home with wealth and presents for his daughters, but has to send one of them back in three days or otherwise return himself. The father arrives back to his house with the presents and his two older daughters are amazed and happy to get the presents. Bella notices that he is not happy and on the third day that he decides to return back to the Beast himself, she finds out about the deal and tell him she will go in his place. She stays in the palace with the Beast and through her kindness and her good mood she changes everything for the best. But she becomes homesick and begs the Beast to let her go back to see her father. The Beast takes pity on her and gives her permission to leave. When she promises that she will return, he tells her not to make promises she can’t keep. She keeps her promise, but when she leaves, the people in her village create a mob lead by Gustav and head towards the palace to attack the hideous Beast. They arrive a bit later than Bella and Gustav gets into a fight with him and shoots him. Bella weaps over the Beast, saying that she loves him and magically he is transformed to a beautiful prince. And they lived happily ever after!

The palace of the Beast

The performance was in german, which is not my strongest language yet. But it is a musical, so it is easy to follow the dialogues and then enjoy the singing parts even if I didn’t understand everything. It is already the second time I watch a Walenstadt musical and I find that it doesn’t tire me as much as I would have expected.

Villagers ready to attack the Beast
The house of Bella and the villagers getting ready to go and attack the palace of the Beast

It was a really nice summer evening spent with my husband and his parents, in beautiful surroundings and with a nice performance! See you in two years Walensee Bühne!



Visit to the Goetheanum

We are waiting for our own house to get ready, so for a few weeks we are wandering around in Baselland, the canton we are moving in. In the area we spent this week, there are three towns next to each other: Reinach and Arlesheim that belong to the canton of Baselland and Dornach that belongs to the canton of Soloturn.

This week we are staying with a really nice couple at the border of Reinach with Dornach. And since I have some free time, I visited the main attraction of the area: the Goetheanum.

The main entrance of Goetheanum

It is an architecturally interesting building, based on a model of Rudolf Steiner from 1924. The First Goetheanum was built in the period 1913 – 1920 and was an impressive wooden building that got destroyed by fire on New Year’s Eve 1922/3 (it took longer to build it than to destroy it!). The current Goetheanum was built in reinforced concrete between 1925 and 1928.

Goetheanum from the south side

Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925) is famous for establishing the Anthroposophical Society, whose role is to understand that the world will be the way we think it. Anthroposophy means awareness of our humanity, and encourages individuals to develop an independent spiritual orientation, so as to avoid being swept along by all that the material world has to offer. Rudolf Steiner achieved to develop a method for gaining insight into the reality of the spiritual world. And this is what is housed in the Goetheanum, besides theatrical stages for performances, an auditorium, a library, a bookstore and many other.

Map of the area around the Goetheanum

The idea of anthroposophy is interesting, but what was really impressive is the architecture of all the buildings around! The Goetheanum (nr.1 on the map) is located on the top of a hill and all around the area are architecturally interesting buildings belonging to the wider complex of the Goetheanum, but not only. Have a look at the amazing buildings!

Transformatorenhaus, built in 1921 for public electricity supply transformers (nr.45 on the map)


Haus de Jaager, built in 1921, as a studio in memory of sculptor Jacques de Jaager. It is now a museum and residential house. (nr.5 on the map)


Glashaus, built in 1914, for cutting the glass windows in the first Goetheanum. Nowadays it is home of the Science and Agriculture sections. (nr.15)

Glashaus on the left and Heizhaus on the right

Heizhaus, built in 1914, to house the heating system for some of the buildings in the area (nr.13). In 1991, the original coal-burning boilers were replaced by a gas-fired system. It was the most impressive building around!

Detail from the Heizhaus

Haus Duldeck, built in 1915 as residency for Nelly and Emil Grosheintz, donors of the land on which the Goetheanum was built. It now houses the Rudolf Steiner Archives. (nr.19)


Rudolf Steiner Halde, built in 1924, with a eurythmy practice room and studio. Eurythmy is an expressive movement art. It now houses the Literary Arts and Humanities Section, puppet theater and finance and personnel departments. (nr.17)


Verlagshaus, built in 1924, as stockroom for the Philosophical – Anthroposophical Publishing Company. It is now stockroom for the Archives. (nr.14) And in the back a glimpse of Schloss Birseck, that is added in our list of things to-do in Baselland.


All of the above mentioned buildings are considered historical buildings and are based on designs by Rudolf Steiner. But they are not the only architecturally interesting ones around. The whole area is full of strange, unusual and innovative designs of architecture.

The cute Gärtnerei of the Goetheanum

And before I forget, if you walk up the hill and reach the main entrance of the Goetheanum, you are greeted by a couple of these nice cows!


I really enjoyed discovering these new ideas and walking around noticing beautiful buildings. In addition, the graffiti that I saw already the first day at the train station now made sense:

Train station graffiti_1