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Easter is almost here and it’s time to celebrate! If you’re wondering how to celebrate the Swiss way, here are just a few ideas…

Easter Surprises

You’ll probably hear the church bells ringing joyfully this Easter morning! It’s traditional in Switzerland to attend church, followed by brunch or dinner and a family get-together. A typical Easter menu could include lamb with potatoes, pastetli (a meat pie with mushrooms and cream sauce), chicken in lemon thyme butter, fish with couscous and yogurt sauce, pork, or rabbit.

Most children—and adults—also look forward to an annual Easter egg hunt. Easter eggs (usually real eggs, not plastic) are normally painted the day before, and then in the morning are hidden outside in the park or garden, in the house, even inside boots and shoes!

And don’t forget the Easter Bunny. Many children wake up on Easter morning to a magical nest or Easter basket filled with a chocolate bunny and candy eggs.

Easter Treats

Chocolate bunnies

There are lots of Basel specialties to look forward to any time of year. Here’s a quick guide to a few Easter favourites:

Biskuithässli and Biskuitlämmli: Bunny-shaped and lamb-shaped almond cookies with a delicate lemon flavour. Try the chocolate ones too!

Ostertauben: Pastry “doves” with candied fruit, hazelnuts, and almonds.

Osterfladen or Osterflädeli: A cross between a custard tart and a cake, often filled with rice pudding, speckled with raisins, and topped with frosting or powdered sugar. It can range from a very simple custard-like filling, to something more decadent with several layers of jam, cream, and nuts.

Praline Eier: Big candy eggs with a hard praline shell, filled with chocolates and decorated with piped frosting. These gourmet (and somewhat costly) praline eggs are given to close family and friends…a gift that tells a loved one just how very much they mean to you!

And everyone knows, Switzerland is the place to be for chocolate. Walk into any confiserie or bakery and you’ll be overwhelmed by all the choices—chocolate bunnies, candy eggs, marzipan carrots. Migros and Coop sell plenty favourites as well, from Lindt to Cailler, to Milka and beyond!

Easter Extras

• Another fun event to check out is the Basel OsterTango, 17 – 21 April. Hosted by the Basel Tango School, the event brings everyone together for a colourful weekend of music and dance, with a Tango Concert and Show, AfterHour Tango, a special film presentation, DJs, and more. Stop by their website for tickets and more information: www.tangobasel.ch.

• In Switzerland, Easter Monday is a public holiday as well as Easter Sunday. It’s another time when families and friends get together for more festivities, or just to relax. Just remember that some stores may be closed, but in a pinch you can find almost everything you need at the SBB train station shopping center.

• The forecast for Easter Sunday is mostly cloudy and 20º (68º F). (But mostly cloudy could be called partly sunny, right? : )

What are some of your favourite Easter traditions?

Happy Easter from Basel Community!

Frohe Ostern

It’s Valentine’s Day! Hectic week and no time to plan? No stress! There’s plenty to do in this lovely, romantic city by the river…

Chocolate, of course.

Nothing says love like chocolate! And what better place to find it than in Switzerland. Bakeries, patisseries, confiseries…there’s so much to choose from. Sprüngli, Bachmann, Beschle, Läderach, and Schiesser are all right here. These are the ‘jewelers’ of chocolatiering, where every truffle is a work of art. Stop by to see their Valentine’s specials! You can find them online here:

Bachmann: confiserie-bachmann.ch
Beschle: www.beschle.ch
Läderach: laederach.com
Schiesser: confiserie-schiesser.ch
Sprüngli: spruengli.ch • They have two locations in Basel—Gütterstrasse 115 and Steinenberg 14.

Dinner is served.

If you find Basel’s restaurants booked up, no worries. One of the most romantic ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day is with a traditional fondue dinner at home. Here is a fun list of “Fon-dos” and “Fon-Don’ts” from world-renowned cheesemakers Emmi of Switzerland:

“Fon-Do”

Chocolate Fondue1) Variety is the spice of life! Be creative and serve a wide variety of dippables. Crusty bread, fresh fruit and veggies, boiled shrimp, marshmallows and cookies are all wonderful in fondue. Just be sure everything is prepared ahead in bite-size pieces.

2) Mix it up! Fondue is the perfect appetizer, main course or dessert. If you want to start with chocolate and end with cheese, it’s up to you!

3) Swiss Kiss! It is tradition when eating fondue, to kiss the person to your right if you drop your bread in the cheese. (It’s ok to do it on purpose…)

“Fon-Don’t”

1) Don’t forget to stir. As the night keeps moving, be sure to keep your fondue moving. Stir it up to so your cheese or chocolate fondue remains smooth.

2) Don’t double dip. Every fork- or skewer-full should contain a new, unbitten morsel. (If a piece falls in the fondue, see fon-do tip #3 above!)

3) Don’t hide any surprises. While fondue offers a lot of interactive eating enjoyment, it is not a good place to stash an engagement ring or other surprise gifts for your sweetie.

Ready-made fondue is available at Migros and Coop (along with fresh flower bouquets and wine or champagne), or you can visit a specialty cheese shop. Two other stores to check out are Manor at Schifflände and Globus in Marktplatz—specialty department stores with everything you need to create something special at home, complete with table settings, candles, and Valentine’s cards.

Away from you…

I-Heart-UOne of the unique and often challenging things about Basel is that for many it is not a permanent home — it is a stopping place for travellers, for business people and backpackers and adventurers. Many expats in Basel are on temporary work assignments, or are away from loved ones during the holidays. What do you do if you can’t be with that special someone on Valentine’s Day?

The good news is that in today’s high-tech world, it’s hard to stay disconnected. If you have apps like FaceTime on your smart phone, your sweetheart will love seeing the Rhein River and Markplatz, and all the sights and sounds around Basel. You could make it a memorable Valentine’s Day with a virtual tour of the city, or a romantic Skype dinner at home. Technology now lets us be more creative than ever before.

How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day? We’d love to hear about it!