One year later, I’m finally finding the time to document my memories of our trip. I’m calling them diary entries, because they’re mostly thought dumps to recall as many details as possible – mostly for memory sake. I’m already forgetting little details about our trip, which is sad as it was really a once in a lifetime experience that I want to remember for the rest of my life. So these posts will be long and full of pictures. Consider yourself warned. 🙂
There’s something incredibly seductive about a “clutter-free” life. Especially in a country as serene and beautiful as Switzerland. When I am there, the only thing I want to “clutter” my life with is the outdoors. Owning material things, or spending time online become secondary. How could you want to sit indoors when nature and beauty steps away? I always think when I first arrive in Switzerland that I will go crazy with boredom, but I never do. Even after close to three months of “living” there, I look back and realize that I was the healthiest in mind and body during my time in Switzerland.
Switzerland has been one of my favourite countries ever since I visited it for the first time in 2006, but Granichen had never on my radar until I met Mike. And it wouldn’t be, either, unless you know someone there. You must take a local train from Zurich station to get there and it’s so small that everyone will notice right away that you’re not from there the as soon as you start walking through it.
Without much around to distract us, our days were simple and I felt at peace. While Mike continued to work remotely for his company back in Toronto, I worked on our start up and researched our options for staying long-term in Europe. We also trained for our respective marathons, and spent a lot of time cooking delicious meals for dinner and getting to know our hosts better.
We were extremely lucky to stay with a family friend who charged us very little rent. Her farmhouse had been in her family for at least three generations. It had all the charm of what you’d imagine a Swiss house to look like. The structure was old, but each room had been modernized, and every single space had been maximized. Even the attic had been turned into an open floor loft with a huge sun roof. On any given day, you could wander into her basement or up to the “attic” (which actually operated as a bedroom for one of her sons) and find a new space or window that would lead to something else. Near the end of her stay when it started to warm up outside, she showed us how to walk out onto the top of her garage which was also used as a ‘secret’ patio.
We only ate out at a restaurant once the whole time we were there, and it was the night we arrived when all of the grocery stores were closed and we were starving. It was mediocre pizza at ridiculously expensive prices. The Swiss aren’t really known for their beer, either. But Mike survived off German beers that he’d find instead. Oh yes, and the entire city pretty much shuts down on Sundays, so if you didn’t go grocery shopping by Saturday afternoon, you were out of luck. It threw us off at first, but eventually, we learned to cope and it’s nice that everyone gets a day off to spend with their families.
Shopping at the grocery stores was like shopping at a year round farmer’s market. Everything was so vibrant and fresh. There was a wonderful small bakery a 5 minute walk from where she lived that baked delicious, wholesome sourdough bread each morning.
Our days were slow. Peaceful. Happy. We’d wake up when our bodies felt like it (earlier some days, later if I had trouble sleeping the night before) and start off with a morning run. I was on an official running streak at the time – not intentionally, but my body was accepting a 7 day / week running schedule so I embraced it. Sometimes Mike and I would run together, and sometimes we wouldn’t. You couldn’t really run anywhere that wasn’t gorgeous and scenic so I was equally happy to run solo or with company. It was quiet, but there were always people, and farm animals (!!!) around to keep us company. We’d usually come home and have a bowl of muesli with oat milk for breakfast. I’d make a cappuccino for Mike and myself – whole milk for Mike and oat milk for me. After breakfast, we’d do some stretches, strength exercises, and then take showers. Then we’d work until it was time for lunch.
Just before lunch, we’d walk to the bakery nearby to grab a fresh loaf of bread to have at lunch. When we got home, we’d slice up cheese or scramble some eggs and make fresh salads with shredded beats, arugula, carrots, and any other veggies that we were in the mood for. After a delicious lunch, I’d make coffees for us again (our friend had a Nespresso machine and unfortunately, that was the best coffee option available to us in Switzerland). We’d work during the afternoon until it was time for dinner. Sometimes our friend would cook for us, and other times we’d cook for her. We’d catch up on everyone’s day, and eventually head to bed.
On weekends, we’d catch a train somewhere close by an explore a new city, and sometimes our friend would drive us to new places for us to do our long runs in.
Maybe our routine sounds boring and uneventful to some people. We didn’t go to museums or art galleries. We didn’t cram as much as we possibly could each day. We were somewhere in the middle of travelling, vacationing, and working. I spent so many days trying to work out a strategy that would allow me to stay there long term. I knew it wasn’t realistic, but a part of me really hoped it could be possible. In the end, I realized that I had to let go of my dream to stay long-term.
I’ve realized that some places are meant to be visited often, but not necessarily lived in. Maybe living in Granichen long-term would ruin the perfect memory that I have around it. Maybe it wouldn’t be my favourite place in the world anymore. But right now it is. Of all cities that we spent time in Europe, I miss Granichen the most.