What to do? Shops exhausted. Christmas markets all ticked off. Singing Christmas tree marveled at. What I needed was a dose of mountain air and some snow. So we headed to the hills – the Alps – for lunch. As you do. When you’re in Switzerland.
My Swiss geography isn’t great so it wasn’t surprising that I’d never heard of Glarus. All I knew was that it was in the mountains and had some vague connection with the great Emperor Charles the Fat (what a fantastic name!). Apparently the town was practically wiped out in a fire in 1861 and few buildings remain that are older than that time.
While the signature neo-Romanesque Church is something to behold, and the town itself pretty as a picture, one of the things that fascinated me most was a pair of cowhide boots I spotted for a mere 790 CHF. That’s a lot of money in any currency. And someone was trying them on. There’s no shortage of dosh in Switzerland but I suppose with a quasi minimum wage hovering around €20 per hour, depending on what you read, it’s only to be expected that prices will match accordingly. Switzerland doesn’t actually have a minimum wage written into law but enough signatures have been collected to vote on a proposed minimum wage of CHF 2500 per month next year (about $2800). Interestingly the first ever labour law in Europe was introduced here in Glarus, back in 1864, forbidding people to work more than 12 hours a day. And last month, the general populace voted down the 1:12 proposal which would have ensured that the highest paid worker was paid no more than 12 times the lowest paid worker in a company…
It was here in Glarus that I first tasted raclette. This cow’s cheese is perfect for melting and indeed has given its name to the dish that is primarily melted cheese. The term itself term comes from the French word racler, meaning ‘to scrape’. It was so good that I went back for seconds and just last week, on my return to Budapest, actually invested in a raclette grill which is guaranteed to produce just the right degree of melting complete with room to grill the accompanying veg. A little fancier than the pickled gherkins on offer at the market but hopefully just as tasty. Watch this space.
So there we were, wandering through the Christmas market in Glarus, sipping gluhwein and scoffing raclette. All we needed to complete this rather typical Swiss picture was a yodel or three. The words were literally just out of my mouth when my raclette guy abandoned his cheese and stepped outside to join a rather motley looking crew of carolers that turned out to be the local yodeling group. When they finally started to yodel, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I couldn’t have ordered a more picture-perfect afternoon. There’s a lot to be said for wishing out loud… you never know who might hear and oblige.