Autumn Holiday Week 03…

Well, the last week of our holidays came and went… the main highlight of that week was our Farmstay, or in German “Ferien auf dem Bauernhof”.

Last year we did a “Sleep-in-Straw” farmstay (read about it here). This year Tobias wanted to bring his best friend along, who may or may not have an allergy to straw so i decided that would not be good to sleep in straw. So we chose a farm where they had a little apartment for us to stay in; it was the Guggishaus (that’s the name of the farm), near Köniz, Bern. We booked it through the Reka website; a travel agency of sorts which handles holiday homes and has travel vouchers which you can purchase as gifts.

i find that these adventures are best shown in pictures so warning this will be a very picture-heavy post.

My beloved husband, who had to work, was unable to come with us but he did drive us there on Sunday afternoon. And the first resident of the farm to greet us was the ever-energetic farm dog – Xenia. She is such a sweetie! Once she gets to know you, she is always coming up to you, asking for a little love and attention.

Xenia – the lovely farm dog… i would love to have a dog like her at home too 😉

Here you can see the farmhouse and the barn. i was told that this farm has been in their family for 4 or 5 generations now. So these are truly people of the land. We stayed in the apartment on the second floor.

Left: The Barn, Right: The Farmhouse.

It wasn’t a huge apartment and it wasn’t new but it was clean and comfortable, and had more than enough room for me and the boys. Here’s a mosaic of what the inside looks like.

The view from our balcony was lovely as you can see (i was sorry not to have taken a picture when it was sunny).

In the left picture, you can just see the lookout point we walked to on the second day.

Once we were settled and had unpacked, it was off to help the farmer with the cows. The boys helped to shovel the cows’ evening feed into the feeding trough. Then they were allowed to walked the cows down into the barn. The farmer gave careful instructions that we should stay clear till the last cow came through the gates, then we could walk behind them. He said the cows will charge down and he wasn’t kidding. They knew it was time to go home and most were already at the gate the moment they heard the farmer’s voice. There was a stubborn one which lingered behind chewing the fresh grass. It was interesting to watch the farmer get each cow into the correct position; they all have a specific place to go to with their names clearly labeled at the top.

The boys working hard for their stay at the farm.

There was more shovelling of the feed while the cows were being milked. i didn’t get a good picture of the milking so i can’t show that to you. He had a portable milking machine which could be wheeled around to each cow in turn. The boys helped with moving the machine around for a bit. i also learnt that the cows’ tails had to be tied up with a string attached on a line above their backs. They could still move around freely but when they sat down for the night, it kept their tails out of any poo which may have accidentally fallen outside of the poo drain. The farmer said you really didn’t want tails full of poo swinging around all over the place. And they do swing their tails quite hard; the farmer got smacked in the face several times quite hard!

After the milking, it was dinner time. i took the option of having dinner and breakfast provided so i didn’t have to think about preparing food while on holiday (Not every farmstay can provide this service so do check if you want meals provided). We ate with the farmer’s family. It was a lovely Swiss meal and afterwards we sat around and talked, had tea and ice cream. They have 5 children, 2 girls, 3 boys. The older daughter lives away, doing an internship. The second girl speaks a little English as does the farmer himself. The older boy is a good lad who helps out around the farm. The 2 younger boys are about Tobias’ age which was just great. It was also great to find out that they are Christians and go to the local church when work on the farm permits them to go.

The next morning, the farmer and his wife were up very early and the children left early for school (they start school a week earlier than us). We had breakfast while the farmer read his morning devotion. Then it was off to have a ride in the tractor – this was the favourite part of the whole day for the boys. The corn feed for the cows was freshly cut each day from the farmer’s fields down the road. The boys also spent a good deal of time playing with the farm kitten and the rabbits. Then we helped the farmer and his wife to pick apples which would be juiced the next day. The apple juice they make is yummy! We brought home 5 liters which was gone in a little over a week. i have a good mind to go back up there just to get more apple juice! 😉

Left: Playing with the kitten, Middle: See their big smiles at being able to ride in a tractor? Right: Helping to pick apples, most have already fallen to the ground.

i made a simple lunch for us – this was the only meal i cooked on this trip. In the afternoon, it was rest time for the animals. While the farmer took the apples to be pressed and his wife ran errands, we took a little hike up the neighbouring hill to a lookout point with an amazing view. It took us about 25 mins to get to the top so it was a nice walk, not too difficult at all.

Top Left: Lots of choice of Wanderweg (hiking trails). Top Middle: The 2 tired out boys sitting on the road. Top Right: The tower we climbed to get the view. Bottom: The View.

When we got back to the farm, everyone was home already. The boys along with the 2 younger farmer’s boys gathered the water and pellets for the sheep, which were in the field a little way down the hill. Then the boys played some soccer on the street. After which, they went to feed the calves with milk from the evening’s milking. Those calves were hungry little things!

Left: Going to feed the sheep. Middle: Playing soccer. Right: Feeding the calves.

Then it was dinner. The farmer did not join us as he had to go for a fire drill; he was a volunteer fireman. The wife and myself chatted while the boys played games or watched a movie. She made a really nice dessert of baked apples. At about 8.30pm, we (the adults) tried to get the kids off to bed. It took a good half hour before they moved; they got along so well with each other and, i think, were a little sad to say goodbye.

The next morning, our last morning, we watched the farmer clean out the pig pens and feed the pigs. Then it was off for our little trekking outing with the donkeys. First, the boys helped to groom the donkeys and get them ready. Then off we went. The boys took turns on the donkey (only one was harnessed for riding on). On the walk, the farmer showed me the farmlands and which families were still actively farming and which were giving up. It was sad to hear that farmers have to give up on farming because they have no children to pass the farm and land onto. But he did say the land either remained with the farmer’s family till a grandchild can take over or else they sell to another farmer in the area. This way at least the land would likely remain farmland.

Left: Getting ready for the trek. Right: On our way!

We had a quick snack after our trekking with the farmer and his wife, and then the farmer very kindly drove us to the train station. We were tired but we had a good time and learnt a lot. In fact, Tobias is so happy with this experience that he wants to come and stay again, next time for 4 nights!

There are more pictures but too many to share here. So i’ll just leave you with a shot of the happy boys coming back from the donkey trekking outing.

Love seeing those big smiles on their faces 😀

Oh i do want to say, the weather forecast for those 2 days was not looking good a week before we went. We prayed real hard for good weather and thank God that we only had rain overnight and one overcast morning. Praise the Lord for the good weather those 2 days.

Oh and you can find out more details about the farm here.

Have you been to a farmstay? How was your experience? Do share.


Autumn Holiday Week 02…

So what did we do to occupy our time during the second week of the three-week Autumn hols? It was all about transport!

We had planned to go to a pumpkin maze but the weather didn’t hold out… so we went to the Swiss Transport Museum, known as the Verkehrshaus in German.

We have not been there for quite a long while and met our good friends there for an afternoon of travelling through the various forms of transport. LOVED IT! We had only a few hours there but it was great. We did not manage to cover the whole museum but what we did manage to see was fantastic.

Left: Huge Pinball Machine, Right: 3D train display

There was a huge pin-ball machine on the 2nd level of the first hall – it required 10 people to play in order to get the balls up to the top end of the board. There were also a few other interesting informative and interactive displays about trains and train lines. But the one which capture the attention of all the children, big and small alike, was the big 3D display of the trains going through the Gotthard Tunnel! (By the way, you can see the huge drill bit they used to dig the tunnel out by the front of the museum building.)

Top: the Wall of Cars, Bottom: One of the first automobiles

We saw more trains and tried to wait our turn to get on a train-driving simulation but there were just too many waiting. So we went on to the hall with all the cars! This was amazing. There was a whole wall of cars to look at. People sat around voting buttons to vote for which car they want brought down from the wall. There was a whole lot of banging noise at each voting session. After which a special car lift brought down the chosen car. We saw a F1 race car and then what i considered to be a more interesting choice was picked; one of the first automobiles from Mercedes!

Time ran away from us and after a drink break with the kids, we had only a little time left so we went to see the airplanes! i loved the interactive display where you could feel like a paraglider, flying over different parts of Switzerland. We saw a whole lot of planes. There was also an actual model of a Swissair plane which you could visit.

Left: Ceiling of Planes, Right: Swissair Plane

There are a few other halls which are very interesting but we had to give those a miss this time; the boats, space travel and communications bits would have to be covered at another visit. The kids loved it and the adults can learn a lot. This is one museum which is always worth coming back to. That’s why our friends who live nearer to it have a year-long pass for the family! i recommend reserving a whole day for this museum if you are planning seeing everything.

Our next travel adventure came in the form of a Falconry in Locarno; the Italian part of Switzerland! The travel bit was getting there. It took us more than 4 hours, almost 5 hours of travelling on train and bus to get there but it was good. We like riding the trains here and the scenery was amazing. We had books, games (both non-digital and digital) and food to keep us entertained as well.

Wonderful Views from the train

The Falconry isn’t very big. It has about 10 or so cages with about 15 varieties of birds and about 25 or so birds. It is a lovely little place, right in the middle of a residential area, which greatly surprised me. But once inside the park, you don’t notice the buildings around very much. We were early for the show so we walked around the park. It didn’t take very long but it was a nice walk and we saw all the birds in their cages.

Lovely Snowy Owls and the short walk around the park…

i really liked the stage area; it is open and very well-kept. It gave me a very peaceful feeling, sitting there waiting for the show to start.

The Stage…

The show opened with a little introduction about how animals have helped man to hunt. The whole show is done in both Italian and German. They showed off falcons, eagles, vultures and owls! The show was fantastic, well-organised and it kept the audience on the edge of their seats. The birds’ natural talents was so well highlighted.

You always had to be on the lookout for where the next bird was going to fly in from. And the birds flew so close, the tip of one of their wings brushed across my face and you could feel the downdraft from them zooming by.

Top Left: The Opening, Right: Barn Owl flying at us, Bottom Left: a funny little bird which looked like a cross between a flamingo and a falcon to me… it was a clever little thing…
American Bald Eagle in flight – amazing!

There was a lot of demonstrations of how fast the falcons can fly and their hunting skills and great eyesight. The show was 45 mins but it didn’t feel all that long. You could tell that people who have been happy to sit there for longer.

Top: a Vulture swooping in near us, Bottom: See the blur on the bush next to the man, that’s the falcon chasing his prey which the man swings around.

Oh, i have to tell you; near the end of the show, they got a bird called the Karkar (i think) to stand on people’s head and my head got picked! But i don’t have a picture cos there was a bird on my head (mind you, he was a heavy bird). You will just have to take my word for it that it happened to me. i do have a picture of the bird on someone else’s head though.

Top: The Karkar on a man’s head, Bottom: The Closing

So was it worth the 9 hours roundtrip? No, not for just 2 hours of entertainment. But i had a holiday train pass and special discounted entry so it was ok. And besides, we liked the journey there.

This little guy kept screeching… the lady said he was talking…

However, if you are planning to be in the Italian part of Switzerland, a stop at the Falconry should be on your list. A fair number of people do come for the shows (our show saw about 200 people) so do go early to get a good seat. There is a small snack bar and souvenir shop. We bought a couple of cute owl keychains 🙂

Well, that’s it for now. i leave you with a cute Snowy Owl, less than a year-old and hatched at the Falconry earlier this year.


Autumn Holiday Week 01…

So we have been on Autumn holidays – it’s 3 weeks of holidays 😉 i just thought i recap some highlights of Week 01.

We had a couple of restful days at home to start with. Then we went to Basel to meet a friend and to watch the latest kids’ movie, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. We loved it!

i was expecting more of the same running away stuff and the same used jokes but this one had heart… the previous 2 had heart too but this one just did so much more in taking the audience along on the journey and much more emotional investment without loss of any of the most funny moments on-screen.

i thought the cinema would at least be a little filled up, it being the holidays but here we are again, all alone in the cinema (we were later joined by a mum and her 2 kids who sat behind us):

Once again, the lone figure in a sea of red.

See here for the other empty cinema moment.

Oh, before we went for the movie, we met our friend and her little gal for a Sushi lunch; Tobias’ favourite all-time food! He broke his record and had 8 whole plates of Sushi all by himself! My Sushi Monster 😉

He loves his Sushi!

Then we enjoyed more home time and got started on our Christmas presents for grandparents. i’m not going to say what we are making as we would like to keep it a surprise 😉

On Saturday last week, we went to the Suisse Toy Fair in Bern. i think i mentioned it a couple of times before but never got round to posting about it. This year we all felt that the fair seemed a little smaller or maybe it was because this year was held in a few larger halls instead of the usual various smaller halls all over the BEA Expo.

Tobias enjoyed some time on a mini ATV (you have to pay for these rides, they are like amusement rides):

He was concentrating very hard, not to hit the sides of the track.

We saw the ProJuvenTute get their Guinness World Record for the largest 3D Lego model to be build. They had lots of people over the period of the toy fair come and build different 3D models out of Lego and fixed them all onto a huge Lego map of Switzerland. It was quite cool.

This photo doesn’t quite do it justice. It really was quite a sight.

Of course the thing that one does at a Toy Fair is to try out the toys!

Trying out a new balance board and Slackline.
Of course, we could not miss out on trying the new DS & Wii games!

The highlight for Tobias was getting a photo with his favourite Skylander Character, Gill Grant:

That big smile on his face says it all 😉

The highlight for me was Creaktiv, the section with all the handicraft materials and stuff. i got stuck at the one stall for so long that husband and son came to find me after finishing at the remote-control section 😉

If you like toys or have kids, the Toy Fair is a great way to spend the day. Do take note, food and drinks are more expensive so if you are planning on staying longer than 4 hours (which i recommend), then remember to pack food and drinks, especially for the little ones.

There are quite a few rest areas (Ruhe Zone) with a whole bunch of Fat Boys (large bean bags) where people can just relax or wait for their family members or mothers can feed their babies.

That was Week 01. Will post about Week 02 soon.