Swiss National Day Fireworks

On the 1st of August in the year 1291, three men from three of the 26 cantons (member states of the Swiss Confederation) in Switzerland, namely Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, came together and swore eternal allegiance to one another, promising mutual help and assistance. This oath ceremony, which denoted the birth of Switzerland, took place in a small meadow called Ruetli. To mark this occasion, Switzerland has celebrated its birthday with a National holiday on the 1st of August, since 1891. Every year, on this special Day, Swiss President and other members of the council visit Ruetli and give speeches. (Ruetli is accessible only by boat or on foot; there is no way one can drive to this place).

Fireworks Display 1

Celebrations take place in most of the cities in Switzerland. However, a special kind of celebration takes place at the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen. Since mid-nineteenth century, the waterfall has been illuminated on special occasions. But in the year 1966 and thereafter, it has been lit exclusively on Swiss National Day. A magnificent fireworks display attracts throngs of visitors to this place.

Fireworks Display 2

Unfortunately I missed the National Day celebrations in my first year. So I was too happy to be witnessing the fireworks this time at the Rhine falls. The best part was it was happening very close to home (We live close to the Falls).

Fireworks Display 3

Before leaving home, I made sure Mike was carrying his Canon EOS 70D camera to capture the fireworks display. Mike’s college-mate Mirjam, who is a great photographer, and her boyfriend Marco agreed to join us for the occasion. When we arrived, I was very surprised to see the crowd. It was totally packed! Mike and Mirjam began setting up and positioning their cameras on the tripod, while discussing the different techniques to be used to capture the pictures.

Fireworks Display 4

We learnt so much from her..

Fireworks Display 5

Watching the display, I felt too dazzled, like a child.

Rhine Falls

Thanks to Mirjam, Mike not only captured the spectacular display of fireworks, but also the sparkling Rhine falls and the brightly-lit castle, Schloss Laufen, located over the Rhine falls, to share with you all…

Schloss Laufen Castle

(To learn more about the history of Switzerland and its National Day, you can visit this website or read this book.)

(Pictures Courtesy- Mike)

Cheers,

Madhurya.

Munot Ball

The Munot is a 16th century Roundel (circular fortification) at the center of the Swiss city of Schaffhausen. It is an undisputed landmark of the city. No other city in Switzerland has constructed a building of comparable beauty and magnanimity.

History goes like this- After Schaffhausen became a part of the Old Swiss Confederacy in 1501, the council decided to strengthen the city’s fortifications. After years of planning, in 1589 the Munot was finally built. Soon after completion, doubts surfaced whether the Munot could withstand the ever-more powerful artillery. Luckily, only once, the Munot was militarily occupied: in 1799, during the French Revolution.

Now, it is a tourist attraction and hosts a number of events.

To enter the fortress, one has to climb quite a number of stairs (I don’t know how many exactly). The Interior of the fortress has a huge arch, which has a thick ceiling of about 4 meter, made of gravel and supported by nine pillars. Through 4 circular chambers, light falls into the casemates (a small room in the wall of a fortress, with openings from which guns or missiles could be fired, according to Google). The fortress is surrounded by Rose gardens and vineyards.

On top of the Fortress is a bell, which was mounted in September 1589. The Bell has a diameter of 90.5 cm; a height of 70 cm and a weight of 420 kg. It is rung every evening at 9 pm for 5 minutes by hand by the guardian of Munot. This guardian is responsible for the maintenance and order around the Munot, and also helping around during the events and taking care of the visitors.

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There is an open area at the top of the fortress, from where you can view the entire beautiful city of Schaffhausen and the river Rhine.

Breathtaking views of the city.

There are seating arrangements where visitors can relax and buy refreshments in the summer. This open area is where most of the cultural programs take place and one of them is the Munot ball.

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Between June and the end of August the traditional balls take place on the Munot.
The Quadrille, also called Française, is a ballroom dancing, which began in the 17th century in France and England for the first time. This traditional square dance is being celebrated in the Munot balls for over a 100 years. The Munot Club was formed several years ago; Members of the club can learn the Quadrille and take part in cultural programs. They also help the state in taking care of the Munot.

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This year in June, my mother-in-law and I decided to see the Munot ball; It was my first time. Casuals are a big no-no. So we both got dressed up for the occasion. But by the time we climbed the stairs and reached the top of the Munot, we were exhausted and soaking- wet. We had to pay 10 CHF (10.17 US Dollars) to enter the Ball. It was only 7 pm and hardly 10 people were around. The musicians were getting ready. The restaurant was doing its final preparations. We ordered some cold drinks and fries to eat. As we waited, we started checking out the dresses worn by the other ladies, remarking `Oh she looks good!` or `look what she has worn!`. As the people began gathering, I noticed that 70 to 80% of them were older than 60 years. It was fun to discover that there’s no age-limit to enjoy a bit of dancing!.

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When the music began, the couples took their positions around the periphery of the area and started ballroom-dancing. It was so beautiful! This was the ‘unofficial dance’ as the bell was not yet rung. At 9 pm sharp, after the bell was rung for 5 minutes, the Quadrille began. Quadrille is performed by 4 couples in a rectangular formation. Couples dance together in a figure or “set”, each dancer dancing to his or her partner and each couple dancing to the other couples in the set. You might have seen such dances in movies like Pride and Prejudice or Becoming Jane. The dance ended after 15 minutes with all the couples running around the periphery. Yes! Literally! Everything happened so fast, I could not capture it on my camera.. It was fun to watch though!

I had never seen such a beautifully-coordinated dance, with so many participants, in my life before. Though my mother-in-law and I did not take part in the dance, we had a great time watching it.

Love,

Madhurya

( I got all the information on the Munot and the Ball from this Website. I have translated it from German.)

My first batch of Cupcakes

I’m a big fan of Cupcakes. Have always been one. Back in Dubai, I frequented shops like Mister Baker, Cheesecake Factory and Starbucks to try their cupcakes. My best friend Israt had once bought some yummy cupcakes for me from a shop called Sugaholic. I loved it!

When I moved to Switzerland, I had a hard time finding a nice cupcake shop, until my friend, Aniko, suggested a place called `The Little Shabby`. It’s a tiny  cafe that specializes in cupcakes and coffee. They used to have 2 branches in Switzerland, one in Winterthur and the other in Schaffhausen. Unfortunately, the branch in Winterthur, got closed recently.

Little Shabby is owned by 2 sisters who bake their own cupcakes. You’ll find different flavors every day. If one day they bake Mango, Chocolate and Lemon flavors, the next day it is Blueberry, Red-velvet and Vanilla. They are super-delicious and super-pricey (5 US Dollars / cupcake), but they’re well worth it.

Along with the cupcakes, they also sell baking tools like paper cups, baking pans, cupcake decorating items, piping bags etc. Once every week my husband, Mike, and I treat ourselves to a cupcake and a hot cup of coffee or cappuccino after a long walk around the city. He likes to try different flavors while I usually stick to my favorites, red-velvet or chocolate. As a special surprise, Mike ordered their 4-tier cupcakes arranged with a beautiful fruit-cake with lemon for our wedding in Switzerland.  I was in seventh heaven!

I decided I had to bake my own cupcakes. I wanted to be that mom and aunt who bakes the best cupcakes! With this urge and a full-fledged support from my husband, I planned my first bake.

I found this recipe for  a simple vanilla cupcake with vanilla icing. I modified the measurements to suit my requirement.

I shopped for some baking equipment like a piping bag set containing nozzles of different sizes, cupcake papers (these papers can be used directly in the oven), sprinkles for decorating, vanilla essence, coloring agents (blue, red and yellow) and plastic spatulas from a supermarket called Migros.

Cupcake ingredients

To bake about 10 cupcakes, I used the following:

200 gm All purpose Flour

100 gm icing sugar (You can add more if you want it sweeter)

2 eggs

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp baking soda

1-1/4 tsp baking powder

100 gm butter

2 drops of vanilla essence

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 175°C. In a bowl, sift the flour; to this add salt, baking soda and baking powder and keep aside.

step 1

Step 2: In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar using an electric mixer. Try to keep the speed as low as possible.

Step 2

Step 3: Once it starts to become smooth, add the eggs, one at a time and the vanilla essence. Whisk it thoroughly until the batter gets smoother.

Step 4: Pour the mixture into paper cups. Fill only halfway to avoid spilling over the sides

Step 5: Bake for 18-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, I used the following:

200 gm butter (Softened i.e, kept at room temperature and not frozen)

200 gm icing sugar

2 drops of vanilla essence

2 drops of coloring agent

Decorating sprinkles

Step 1: With a mixer, beat the butter and sugar till it gets fluffy. Add vanilla extract and color. If the frosting is too thin, add extra sugar and if it is too thick mix in a bit of milk.

Frosting

Step 2: Once the frosting is done, pour it into the piping bags* and decorate the cupcakes. Top them with your favorite sprinkles.

After decoration copy

*I used simple round nozzle to get this design.

The cupcakes were delicious. The cake had the right texture and taste and the frosting was yummy; only it wasn’t as fluffy as I wanted it to be.

Vanilla Cupcake with vanilla frosting

My friend suggested I add fresh cream in the frosting to make it more fluffy and creamy, instead of using only butter (that is half portion cream and half portion butter). I am going to try that for my next batch. I’ll let you guys know if it works. (Please do tell me if you have any suggestion…)

I have to got to nail this…

(‘Cause I will be baking cupcakes for the guests at my sister-in-law’s birthday party next month. Don’t tell her this… :))