Grüetzi!

There you go. My one word of Swiss German. Which rather conveniently suits the circumstances. Its means ‘Greetings!’ in local parlance.

The situation should start to improve next week when I begin a 7-week language course to kick-start my German communications skills. I have no ambition to become fluent as I am in French but at least I should be able to function better without relying quite so heavily on Google Translate.

It has taken a good month to feel like we have well and truly landed here. Things are still falling into place, and the transition is not without its ‘hics’ (see, I still think in French: hitches, catches, problems). But despite some moments of doubt and the huge emotional turmoil of moving, I am feeling at home enough here to want to introduce you to our new  town.

View from our balcony

Brunnen, in Central Switzerland, is part of an area called Ingenbohl, population around 9,000. It is just next to the bigger town of Schwyz, which is the capital of the Canton of Schwyz. Our canton, as I now think of it even though I’m still waiting for my official residence permit, is one of the founding cantons of Switzerland. The Swiss federal charter signed back in 1291 is on display nearby in Schwyz.

Brunnen is famous for a few things. The most notable for English speakers is that Winston Churchill spent his honeymoon here. Not a particularly romantic reference but perhaps an indication of its appeal for tourists. Because if most of Switzerland is postcard perfect, this place has it going on in spades.

So now to what really drew us here: the scenery. Brunnen is at the funny bone on the elbow of the Vierwaldstättersee, the German name for Lake Lucerne. This oddly shaped lake has several crooks and arms. Essentially what is means for us is splendid views to the mountains all around and two branches of the lake. It also means access by the famous Swiss steamboats to various destinations around the lake. You can even go to Lucerne, although it’s not the fastest way to travel it is certainly the most scenic.

Last weekend we took advantage of both the nice weather and our son and his partner’s visit to take the boat across the lake from Brunnen to Treib and a funicular up the mountain to Seelisberg. Then we walked down. It was my kind of hike: all the views and none of the pain. We were able to see up close the church that is visible way up high on the mountain across from our balcony. It felt like a fairytale, but then again it feels that way here a lot of the time.

Brunnen itself has a lot to offer, more of which I’ll be sharing in the weeks to come. It even has a small language school where I’ll be able to attend German classes in a group of six beginners. (At least for now, as it seems the virus is keeping a low profile around here…)

And in a positive turn of events after last month’s unexpected hic, it looks like our house sale in France will finally go through at the end of this month. That champagne will come in handy.

What’s new in your part of the world?

Où?

This is Brunnen, in central Switzerland. It is the view off the terrace of what will soon be our home. We move in September.

If you’ve followed along for a while, you will know we spent some time searching for a new place to live. We knew we would move across the border to Switzerland from our current home in France, near the border by Geneva, to consolidate our lives around husband’s workplace in Zug, between Lucerne and Zurich. But it wasn’t easy deciding exactly where. For months, many of them in confinement, we scoured the ads for places to buy or rent. But there was little on offer that satisfied our criteria, or produced the longed-for effect: un véritable coup de coeur.

In the end we chose to rent, a bit far from our initial target area. Because, well this. An amazing view of the mountains — and Lake Lucerne, if you look closely. It is spacious and modern and has most of what we wanted. And a couple of things we didn’t.

That road, for example. It was the one sticking point. I had sworn we wouldn’t take a place that overlooked traffic. But it’s just far enough away, and with little traffic outside of business hours. With the windows closed you can’t hear anything; when they’re open, depending on the weather, it can be a bit noisy during the day at least. We decided to take the leap. We’ll only be renting, so we can always move. Besides, on the upside, roads mean connections. Z Frenchman can take the train or drive to work in about half an hour.

Image: Wikipedia / Tobias Klenze / CC-BY-SA 4.0.

Some of the advantages of our new location: a ten-minute walk to town — and no hills! — which is small enough to feel like a village but big enough to offer shops and a train station. There’s a direct local train to Lucerne, which takes 50 minutes, but means you can go into the city car-free. And it’s only a few minutes from Brunnen to Schwyz, with trains and connections everywhere in Switzerland.

Out of all the places we saw, there were three where I was able to ‘me projeter‘. All had one feature in common: they were built into a hill. This is quite common in Swiss apartments, at least the nicer ones. They are terraced, or stepped into the hills, taking advantage of the natural geography to create what feel more like homes than apartments. Large balconies with the best views. And it’s great to have the solidity of that mountain behind you, according to fellow blogger and feng shui expert, Colin Bisset. The energy just feels right.

The lakefront is gorgeous, with cafés and restaurants, swimming and boats. It is part of Lake Lucerne, or what the Swiss call the ‘Lac des quatre cantons’ because its odd shape touches four different cantons. We’ll be in the canton of Schwyz, but very close to several others.

As for the title of this post: very little separates ‘where’ (où) from ‘or’ (ou) in French. Just an accent. Yet their meanings are entirely different. Or are they? There is always an ‘or’ involved in ‘where’. You can’t be in two places at once, and we’ve chosen to be in Switzerland starting in September. And just as the accent makes all the difference to the meaning of this little word in French, so will the accent, or the language in general (German) make a massive difference in our lives. More on that later.

So that’s us. Where will you be this summer?