The Röstigraben Letters – August 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 August letter from the other side of the Röstigraben. You can read her August letter here.

Geneva, August 2021

Salut Kristin,

I’m writing you from the chaos of our apartment during our big clean up week before school starts! The children have to sort out their rooms, throw away what they do not need and clean their rooms to have a fresh start of the new school year. 

There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices. Ha, yes, I know that expression. As I always prefer looking at things from the positive side, I totally agree with it. We read about the floodings in Switzerland, but we haven’t been around that much this summer so we haven’t really experienced all the rain and the high water ourselves. 

I have never been to the Morteratsch area, and that open panoramic train carriage over the Bernina Pass sounds fantastic! I love train trips, and especially in Switzerland. Sorry the weather in Flims wasn’t that good, but to disconnect, and reconnect as you say, it still is a lovely place to enjoy family time! I saw you also made your own boat to follow along the Conn Bachli. That brought back nice memories on our trip to Flims as well.

We had two weeks holiday as a family, and we went to Italy for one week, and back to the South of France for the second week. Italy as always made us feel instantly on vacation! Who doesn’t love Italy, right? We spent one night around the Cinque Terre area with its lovely colorful houses along the sea, and then one week in an Agriturismo in Tuscany, which was great! The Agriturismo had a big pool and we basically stick to the same schedule for years already: do visits in the morning, and have relaxing pool or beach time in the afternoon. So far this has always worked with our kids, and the teen didn’t complain either, so that was good. 

We made trips to Florence, Siena, Volterra and San Gimignano. Florence always remains special to me as I did a ‘language stay’ there one summer when I was younger and loved that! And so it’s nice to see these places again, and also walk by the apartment I stayed in back in the time. I so hope my children will also be motivated for language holidays later on! I know your daughter did a language exchange on our side of the Röstigraben. Did that motivate her to go on a language holiday once?

We went to Italy when the kids were a lot younger too, and it was good to go again as they didn’t have that much memories of it left. Time flies when I look at these photos!

When we came back to Geneva, I finally booked us a flight to my home country, and so a few days later we were on a plane, something we hadn’t done in quite a long time! Can you believe I actually cried when the plane landed touched the ground in Amsterdam? We stayed in Holland for one week. I had to work (in home office) but I only work part-time so there was still plenty of time to see family and friends and to cycle for hours and hours with the kids and my mom and just enjoy the scenery around us. 

We also went into the city center of Amsterdam for a day, and it really wasn’t as crowded as usual. Not that many tourists. It was the same in Florence where I only saw lots of people in front of the Duomo, but less just walking around the city. Good for us as it makes it easy to move around, but a bit sad as well for those depending on tourism.

We are now back in Geneva and have one last week before school starts and to prepare everything.

Our youngest will start the last year of Primary School (8P), and the eldest the last year of the middle high school (Cycle d’Orientation, so 11P). Is that what you call Gymnasium on your side? 

It’s tough to understand the equivalent between our side of the Röstigraben and yours. Our primary school is 8 years, and not 6 like you said? But at the end, they are indeed around 12 years old. Are the first 2 years of let’s say ‘Kindergarten’ not counted as primary school on your side? After primary school here, they go to the Cycle d’Orientation, and based on your final grades in primary school, you are divided in 3 levels, R1, R2 and R3. The Cycle d’Orientation lasts for 3 years, and then you either go to College, or to professional oriented schools. I must say we learn about the system while our eldest is at it, as neither myself, nor my (Swiss) husband, have been in school in Switzerland when younger. My husband did primary and secondary education in France, and entered the Swiss school system only at the Uni in Lausanne, and later on in Geneva. 

Like you, I also need to learn all about this apprentice-based learning, but it sounds interesting. 

I totally understand you preferred to sleep in your own bed after the holidays and not stay overnight in Geneva, and of course you can just keep your Geneva bucket list for a next occasion.

I myself am also very happy to be back home in Geneva. Just relaxing and going on bike rides through our surrounding vineyards again. Our ‘big annual sorting and organizing’ also has a positive effect on me as I appreciate our own home more every day once you sorted a room or closet.

I also look forward to see if local festivals and holidays will happen like usual this year, or still not. Since we live in the largest wine producing community of Switzerland we normally had harvesting festivities in September. We also have a public holiday coming up soon which is called ‘Jeune Genevois’. I will tell you more about that, and about its origin in our next letters. 

A bientôt!


Make sure you read Kristin’s August letter here.

And you can find all our letters here. 

Röstigraben letters

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