Watching the World Cup: Hopp Schwiiz!

Switzerland World Cup win, watching in Solothurn

While I would not in any form count myself as a soccer fan, it’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement of the World Cup when in Europe. Everywhere you turn, people are wearing jerseys, hanging banners from balconies and gathering in every possible place to check out the day’s football. On a train ride in the morning, we passed by a parking lot full of scaffolding and tents. We learned that they transformed one of the parking lots in old town Solothurn into a public World Cup viewing venue. Then we found out it was only 5 Swiss Francs admission–a bargain in Switzerland! The Swiss team was playing Honduras that night at about 9:30 so headed over at about 9:00 and followed the crowd. The “beach party” was well underway. There was a jumbo-tron screen, an AC/DC cover band(!) playing and a sand pit directly in front of the screen set up with beach chairs and outdoor sofas.

The crowd watching the World Cup begin

The crowd quiets as the national anthem is played over the loudspeakers.

We made our way through the throngs of people and snagged a spot on the stairs of the bleachers. All around us were groups of friends and families of all ages. The Swiss national anthem began and we became honorary citizens for the next 90 minutes: Cheering like crazy, yelling at questionable calls and enjoying a glass of the local brew.

Football Fashion for the World Cup

No one at the public World Cup viewing was wearing this particular dress that I saw for sale earlier in the day, but had I been wearing it, I don’t think I would have stood out too much.

What struck me was not only how much fun it was, but how, in what I’ve learned it typical Swiss fashion, organized and pulled together everything was. It was general admission only, but fans could abandon their seats to hit the concession stands and no late-comers stuck in the standing-room-only section would try to take them. People did their best to make sure everyone had a good view of the screen. When the Swiss team won (hooray! Hopp Schwiiz!) the “rowdy” celebrants honked their horns as they drove home and waved Swiss flags as they walked down the street in an orderly manner.

Switzerland World Cup goal

Gooooaaaal! The fact that Switzerland won this game made the experience even sweeter.

Not only were we lucky enough to watch the Swiss team play–and win–we were able to be a part of something that, for a few moments on a lovely summer night was uniting the entire country.

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A little ramble in the hills: Weissenstein

Weissenstein Switzerland

Looking down the valley from Oberbalmberg.

We took a hike in a beautiful area above Solothurn, Switzerland this afternoon to explore the Weissenstein, known as “Solothurn’s mountain”, with the plan of seeing how close we could get to its 1400 meter peak. A relatively easy hike, in that it only requires endurance, we figured it would be a beautiful and manageable afternoon with the two boys. The trail did not disappoint!

We caught the bus at the main Solothurn train station and headed out of town until we reached the last stop in Oberbalmberg, after about 30 minutes of winding up the hill and honking to ensure no cars–or livestock–were coming the other way. We weren’t the only parents on the bus with a toddler in a backpack, so we knew we were headed to the right place.

Once we stepped off the bus, we headed to the Wanderweg sign. Small, but (mostly) noticeable, these yellow diamonds let hikers and walkers know they are in the right place, even when it seems you couldn’t possibly be.

Wanderweg trail marker in Solothurn on Weissenstein

Just follow the Wanderweg symbol and you’ll find yourself in the most beautiful areas in all of Switzerland.

We followed along meadows and valleys, with the sound of cowbells echoing between the rocky cliffs. Then we entered a forested area and the path narrowed. We climbed up until we reached a point near the peak. Then we promptly got lost. Oh well. We just continued to follow the path we were on until we hit another sign. No big deal. Along the way, we passed hillsides of wild flowers, dense forest, creeks that spilled into rocky gorges, and switchbacks.

Such is the Swiss wanderweg. Eventually, you will get somewhere, because the paths go everywhere. Getting lost just means going someplace else.

Weissenstein, Solothurn, Switzerland

That little hill up there? Oh yeah. We climbed it.

Packing list for European travel

I’m a big believer in minimal packing when possible. Lugging suitcases and tripping over piles of clothes and shoes in a small space is not my idea of a good time. But we will be in Switzerland for four weeks. The weather is a bit unpredictable and the climate changes with the elevation.

So my plan is to streamline when I can, but not have to do laundry more than once a week. Here’s my packing list:
1 skirt (can double as swimsuit cover up)
3 pairs of pants (one converts to Capri length)
1 pair yoga pants (for sleeping)
3 short sleeve t shirts
1 button down shirt
2 long sleeve shirts
2 cardigans
3 tank tops (use one for sleeping)
1 hoodie
1 running skirt
1 pair ballet flats
1 pair trail shoes
1 pair sneakers
A weeks worth of socks and underwear
1 infinity scarf

That’s it! I doubt I’ll use the running skirt for running (though I’d like to) but if there are any hot and steamy days, I can wear them in place of shorts. I have a mix of cotton and technical fabrics and everything is in a neutral color so they can all be thrown in the wash together and I can endlessly mix and match.

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Toddlers and airplanes: ready, set, go!

Toddler airplane tips

First off, I’d like to personally thank the FAA, TSA, CIA and any other government agency for recently allowing electronic devices during Tarmac sitting, taxiing and take off. You have improved my life and the lives of my fellow travelers tenfold.

We’ve flown with E starting when he was 4 months old. For the most part, it’s gone well, but the challenge always came during that beginning part on the plane when he was excited and antsy and required to sit still.

I know letting little ones zone in front of a screen isn’t ideal, but when you’ve got hours ahead of you, even a champion Pinterest parent will get burnt out. A carefully timed episode of Curious George can stave off melt downs and get you over the hump until the snack cart rolls by.

Here’s what worked for us on the seven hour plane ride to Europe.

1. A combination of favorite and new snacks. Fruit chews were introduced on this trip and they were a huge hit! A friend recommended them for take-off and landing and she was right–no apparent ear trouble.

2. A personal water bottle with sipper top. I just didn’t want to deal with spills in that small a space.

3. Noise canceling headphones. So worth it. Planes are loud and earbuds are not a good choice for tiny people. Over-the-ear headphones let E enjoy Sesame Street without forcing the rest of us to endure Baby Bear. (God I hate the sound of Baby Bear.)

4. iBooks with the Read to Me feature. Again, the headphones let him enjoy lots of his favorite stories without forcing the business travelers next to us to listen to Go Dog Go.

5. The blanket he uses for nap time at school. I think encouraging “a rest” worked far better than saying time for bed. The nap blanket helped him believe he wasn’t going to miss much.

When we landed after our 7+ hour flight, all my preparation was worth it. In rows both in front of us and behind us, people expressed their surprise that there was a toddler on board. They hadn’t even known he was there–until we landed and he started talking to everyone that would make eye contact. I guess hours of just talking to mom and dad got a little boring….

 

Toddler airplane travel tips

A movie and a sandwich. What else does a traveler need?

The long-haul carry-on bag

kid's back pack for travel

packed up and ready to roll

After several flights with E, I’ve developed a few rules for our carry-on bags to help make our journeys more enjoyable. While every flight is different, and needs change as E grows, we have a few tried-and-true items we never leave home without. Will they eliminate the possibility of melt-downs? No. Will they end all boredom and wiggling? No. But hopefully they will give us at least a bit of peace and quiet and keep us from being that family on the plane.

E’s backpack

Fjallraven mini back pack

Kid’s backpack, perfect for long trips and short hops.

E loves to carry his own back pack and pick out the things that will go inside. I got him this yellow Fjallraven for a few reasons:

  1. It is mini-sized, so it won’t make him top-heavy.
  2. The top handles make it easy for me to grab if I need to keep him out of harm’s way.
  3. The bright color makes him easy to spot and and the backpack hard to accidentally leave behind.
  4. The straps adjust all the way to grown-up length, so if he decides to ditch it, I can put it on and keep my hands free.

It doesn’t hold a lot, which I think is a good thing. He can find what he’s looking for and there aren’t’ so many items that I can’t keep track of them when he invariably pulls them all out and dumps then on the floor.

In his back pack, we tend to stash the following:

  • Crayons and Post-it notes in an old Altoids tin (thanks Pinterest!)
  • A stuffed animal
  • A Melissa and Doug Water Wow tablet
  • Snacks
  • A few books
  • A  rubber dinosaur
  • Fuzzy pipe cleaners
  • Tape (Tape is awesome. Make tape balls, stick it on your face to make funny faces, re-seal snacks, label stuff…)

I carry my trusty L.L. Bean Quad backpack which has traveled with us on several trips and holds an amazing amount of gear and flotsam.

L.L. Bean Quad back pack

L.L. Bean Quad back pack

In my back pack:

  • Toddler water bottle
  • E’s blanket
  • Overnight essentials dopp kit (toothpaste and tooth brush, facial wipes, contact lenses and glasses, etc.)
  • Diaper change pack
  • Set of clothes for E
  • Set of clothes for me (Do not discount this one. If your child gets motion sickness, the person they throw up on will not be themselves. Trust me.)
  • iPad and charging cord!
  • Travel documents and wallet
  • Headphones for both of us (one noise-cancelling set, one ear-bud set)
  • Snacks
  • A few small, wrapped toys to use in a emergency

Will we forget something? Of course! But we are not traveling to a remote or desolate destination. We’re traveling to a major international airport. As long as we have enough diapers to get us through any delayed flights and tarmac-sitting, I think we will be OK.