The Röstigraben Letters – January 2021

Röstigraben letters, Swiss culture

Welcome to the The Röstigraben Letters, monthly letters between Kristin from Swiss Family Travel, and Laura from Let’s Explore. Married Swiss, Kristin, an Australian living in german-speaking Zug, and Laura a Dutch, living in french-speaking Geneva, unfold through their letters the cultural differences between both sides of the Röstigraben, learning more about Switzerland along the way. Read their letters (Kristin’s & Laura’s) and replies, and share your thoughts in the comments. 

My letter is a reply to Kristin’s first letter from the other side of the Röstigraben. You can read her January letter here.

January 2021

Dear Kristin,

‘Bonne année’ to you and your family as well! 

Was that really an extra week of school holidays? We had 2 weeks and it still felt really short. The kids went back to school on January 11th but they worked through until December 23rd, which usually gives us a bit of stress to travel to family for Christmas. This time though we did celebrate Christmas at home which actually was only the second time we ever did that! 

In the first week of January, we kind of took advantage of those Cantonal school holiday differences and went for a bit of winter fun in Canton Vaud. As their holiday was over, we almost had the ski slopes to ourselves, which was really awesome! I’m not a very good skier compared to the rest of my family and so I went snowshoeing on one day as well and I love that too! The silence around you, and how you can get close to nature. Just you and the crackling sound of snow under your snowshoes! 

I’ve been snowshoeing for a few years already and I do see an increase in popularity, but maybe less than on your end as the ski slopes on our side didn’t close, while in other Cantons they did. I guess a lot of people were looking for alternatives to enjoy winter wonderland. 

Grey January is here indeed and we usually get a lot of fog here as well. However, we did get some snow this week, and to be quite honest, it doesn’t snow that often in Geneva! It made the kids really happy as they could sledge right in front of the house and it made me happy to walk in the vineyards covered in snow! Since we stayed home so much this year, I’m rediscovering my own surrounding nature in different seasons and I love that! 

I never knew your ‘köningskuchen’ was actually a bread type! Or maybe I did, as we have 2 different ones here. We have ‘la couronne des rois’ which could be more like your bread version, but we always eat ‘la Galette des Rois’ which is indeed filled, either with almond, or with apple. It’s always a discussion here, as some of us prefer the almond filling, and some the apple one. The hidden king comes in a lot of forms and shapes these days, and we have been collecting the hidden treasures (fèves) ever since our eldest was about 3. Counting our fèves collection, I can see we eat on average 3 ‘Galettes des Rois’ in the first week of January! That sounds like a nice tradition that kids dress up as Kings and ring the doorbells to sing in the village! We do not have that tradition at all on this side of the Röstigraben. Here, you just wear the crown which comes with every pie when you buy them. I really need to try and bake one myself once, but I haven’t tried that yet! 

Your hiking goals for 2021 sound great!! I have also set some hiking goals, and I was also thinking of adding some wild swimming spots to my list for 2021. The fact that we stayed more within Switzerland in 2020 has definitely changed the way I look at travel. Switzerland is so beautiful! 

I have never been to Zug and would love to visit your area once! About Zug, I saw the dance challenge performed by Zug’s Cantonal police on the news this morning. Yay for some positivity to lift up people’s spirits! 

Oh, I would love to try your Gulash soup! I do understand German, but that has more to do with my own mother tongue language being a bit similar. Do your kids have French in school at young age already? On this side, they start to learn German in primary school, and it is one of the main subjects in high school as well. For children who have only French as a first language it seems quite difficult to learn German as the languages are so different. I would have liked if they had also added Italian to the program to have more of the national languages. 

There has been an enormous amount of snow fall across Switzerland this week! Will you head out this weekend for more snowshoeing adventures? I think we will just stay local this weekend, head out for a walk, but snuggle up at home a lot as well. Your gulash soup had me thinking of some of my favorite soups. I love the Barley soup from Graubünden, but also the ‘Soupe de Chalet’ from this side of the Röstigraben. Do you ever make that? I may make it this weekend by following this recipe on Gruyère tourism’s website, although I do not add the nettles. We still have a nice local pie from the Canton Valais to go with it for dessert. 

Don’t you just love trying out all the different Swiss foods of all the regions and sometimes even as local as a small town?

Talk to you soon!

Gros bisous from Geneva,



  1. Well done Laura & Kristin! What a fun idea. My husband lived in the center of Fribourg for the past 6 months but worked in Schmitten, just over the Röstigraben. He experienced the ‘outre Sarine’ life and came home every weekend with stories like yours.
    I Love your explorations of life!

    1. Oh thank you Helene!
      Glad you liked it and there will be many more letters and experiences to come! The diversity in Switzerland is amazing! It would be interesting to see if your husband would recognize some of the differences along the letters. What is funny is that my Swiss husband also learns from this 🙂

  2. What a great idea! Loved reading your letter. I have landed in Geneva 15 years ago. We have been living in Luzern for the last 5 years. It’s great to learn/notice the differences and appreciate the rich culture/traditions in a small spot on the earth. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your reply and good to hear you liked the letters! There are indeed so many differences in this small country and Kristin and I are excited to both learn a lot through our letters as well!
      You have lived on both sides of the Röstigraben then! Luzern is such a pretty city! Looking forward to hear about things you recognize in our future letters. Thank you!

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