BOOK | Blue Window | A Food Journey into the Past via Europe’s High Peaks and River Valleys — Switzerland (Pre-Alps)

Freedom of Will

We are in Bern standing on the pavement of a bridge over the river Aare. This is where the opening scenes of the cinematic version of Pascal Mercier’s novel Night Train to Lisbon take place. Here and in the underbelly of Bern railway station where Mercier’s protagonist inexplicably boards a Swiss regional train, his destination Portugal’s capital city, a reality that astounds his superior who wants to know who will teach his class at the university. These opening scenes are dramatic, they set the tone for the story that will unfold.

Pascal Mercier is the pseudonym of Bern-born philosopher Peter Bieri, a man who has proven to be as illusive as some of his ideas over the years. We have never managed to be in the same place at the same time and we are in Bern with hope for a meeting now that he is retired from teaching.

He is arguably the first philosopher in modern times to address the issue of practicality in the context of the philosophical maze where the core elements are seemingly impossible to locate. Several philosophy professors have identified the maze as a problem that cannot be resolved when the ground is always shifting.

Among these are Professor Sonja Rinofner-Kreidl, at the Karl Franzens University in Graz.

‘Freedom of will is one of the most difficult philosophical questions, and the history of the problem is correspondingly long and complicated, and it has produced a wealth of subtle distinctions and arguments.’

Bieri identified the core elements in his Das Handwerk der Freiheit: Über die Entdeckung des Eigenen Willens | The Craft of Freedom: About Discovering your Own Will and his attempts to address them make him a successor to Arthur Schopenhauer. Among these are the following.

  • The concept of freedom of choice.
  • The difference between arbitrariness and free will.
  • The distinction between freedom of action and free will.
  • The problem of responsibility and the legal and moral sanctioning of actions that are subject to norms.
  • The phenomena of weak will and willpower.
  • The role of deliberation, imagination and time experience in will formation.

He also identified appearance, experience, imagination and sensation as factors in free will association.

‘The openness of the future, which we need for the experience of freedom, lies in the game of the imagination. As presented possibilities they exert real and actual influence on the will that becomes a free will through this influence. There is no difference between appearance and reality, so there is no point in assuming that one can also find something else, beyond the sensation, about the nature of an experience.’

Rinofner-Kreidl came to Bieri’s defence after some neuroscientists said free will is a consequence of neural processes. She said The Craft of Freedom is to be taken seriously because it is ‘a philosophical book based on [successful] self-experimentation’.

In his own defence Bieri argued that freedom belonged to concepts such as intention, action, reason (in an interview with Der Tagesspiegel’s Gregor Dotzauer). ‘In intention, action and reason the concept of freedom has its logical place.’

‘Philosophy, as I understand it, is the attempt to orientate oneself in one’s own thinking – as alert, articulate and precise as possible. Undoubtedly we are often not free directors of our life, but stumble through this life with more or less luck. But the question is not: are we free in our will at every moment throughout life? But rather: what is free will? And the answer is: free will is the will that conforms to our judgment of what is best in each case.’

This is significant. If we are open to the sensations that result from our experience and knowledge, and, if our imagination is an integral aspect of the process that allows us to make a decision, more often than not we will make a decision that is a reflection of our worldview. Whether that is a free choice does not matter, what is relevant in such a scenario is our intention or instinct from experience and, if we have the knowledge, our reason. Experience is subjective.

According to Bieri it eludes the perspective from the outside, it is personal and that is significant because we can only know ourselves, ‘our inner being’. We are what we are and we do what we do because we know we are free to act.

Obviously, if freedom of choice or free will is an instinct that some of us are born with (we will address the genetic component later), it is just as likely we will make wrong decisions, then learn from the experience. Over time that instinct becomes intuitive.

Moral philosophers who understand the concept argue that knowledge is not relevant when a course of action is undertaken that would appear instinctual because we are capable of misunderstanding our ideas and our experiences. These would be quantum moments and this is where imagination takes the place of realities that are yet to happen. Free will is also imagining what we want or what we don’t want. This might be also be described as quantum consciousness and there is the feeling that Bieri would reject the neurobiological aspect.

To explain this we must enter a dialogue.

Anne 'Making decisions, don't you mean?'

Robert 'Making deliberate decisions. When I was young it was not long before I realised this and made sure I did not do it the next time. So if you don’t take action you don’t get a reaction. From a selfish point of view I don’t care whether people trust their lives to luck, that is their choice. All I know is this. I knew nothing of free will when I was a teenager and a young adult, therefore my actions and reactions must have been instinctual.'

Anne 'You cannot know that.'

Robert 'From this perspective I cannot explain the decisions I made as a teenager. I was always curious, I always wanted to know, I craved experience and knowledge, and while I was not always happy with the broken bones and the slings and arrows (and stings) of misfortune somehow I survived. On two occasions I avoided being blown up, once making last minute decisions that took me out of the path of two explosions, on another occasion disembarking a train that would later be blown up. Was that luck or instinct?'

Anne 'A devil's advocate would say you were lucky'

Robert 'What is luck?'

Anne 'What do you believe it was?'

Robert 'I can tell you what I think it was in this moment, I cannot go back to those moments and explain it, I can tell you now that when I was young I did not listen to anyone. I always wanted to make my own decisions, I did not do what I was told to do because I had to know, I had to imagine what would happen if I did something or if I did nothing. I was and still am a great believer in doing nothing!'

Anne 'Was the outcome always favourable?'

Robert 'Some of them were outrageously naive, not thought-out, yet when I had to trust my instinct I usually got it right! I suspect Peter Bieri went through his life doing something similar. You get that feeling from the characters in Night Train to Lisbon. For him this is the gradual acquisition of the will. It is an ideal, to be developed and refined. Firstly it must be articulated as an aspect of the self, then the content must be understood through self-knowledge, and finally there must be fidelity and self-awareness, a self-image that is pure and true. Ultimately free will is rooted in experience and knowledge and the ability to develop it, to become autonomous and independent, and to own it, in time to articulate it.'

Anne 'Are you saying that as a teenager you exercised free will?'

Robert 'I don't know, I can tell you a story.'

Anne 'Go on.'

Robert 'When I was 15 I was introduced to the fiery breath of a beast that unnerved my sensibilities, a place that was known as the training centre for new apprentices in a large aircraft factory. The breath was at once the stifling heat of the building. It was also the fetid breath of a man called Black who assumed some kind of authority over the teenage apprentices.
   In between the lathes and the machinery and the benches, where the apprentices were expected to listen and learn and practice the art of polishing a piece of coarse metal into a precise shape that would be calibrated for accuracy, a hierarchy existed.
   I did not want to be there. I had no desire to be there. I had no ambition to become a wage slave, whether or not some kind of industrial nirvana beckoned for those prepared to complete an apprenticeship to become a function in the factory.
   This was obvious to me because that was what I thought. I never revealed my thought process to anyone, not my father who wanted me to follow in his footsteps, so to speak, or the fool of a headmaster who believed that children of working class backgrounds were machine fodder for a machine age.
   Anyone who read science fiction novels, studied history, played chess and lived in nature with an eye transfixed by the movement in the non-human world, as I did, had no hope in this place.
   I did not last in the apprenticeship centre.
   After six months of 8-hour week days that offered nothing creative or meaningful I was told by the man called Black to ‘get out’. I was tempted to say nothing but my resistance was futile. I cannot remember what I said to him. It made no difference to him. He had his wish. I was delightfully bemused and bewildered, and I believe this showed on my face and in my demeanour. I can remember what my father told me. ‘He rang me in a rage and said, ‘take your fucking son out of here, he is a disruptive influence’.’ I giggled, which amused my father who was not a man easily amused, he took life far too seriously (to the extent that he lived for 92 years).
   Later that day, talking to one of the journeymen who worked with my father in the maintenance section of the aircraft factory, I learned that ‘disruptive influence’ was not the phrase Black had conveyed to my father to hasten my exit. I think it was closer to ‘evil heathen bastard’ although I doubt if it was as venomous as that.
   I was a long time living and worldly wise before I experienced the epiphany that was more like a flashback. Black had kicked me out of his world because I did not belong in it. He had realised in his own moment of epiphany that nothing he could command or instruct or announce would alter my perception of the world or change how I saw myself in the world.
   Whether he was wise enough to realise he had come face to face with a determinist being with free will flowing through his veins is hard to say from this perspective. Instead what he saw was my baleful influence on the other apprentices who were not slow to ask why I got away with ‘things’ that attracted admonishments from him and his instructors.
   That was true.
   I just arrived every morning and floated around the place and apparently, I learned later, ‘did whatever the hell he liked without a care in the world’.
   Now this raises interesting issues about free will, whether it is innate, an integral and natural aspect of being, something that is natural, that is not learned, and can be seen by others, especially older wiser others who are long enough in the tooth to realise there is nothing they can do when someone exercises their free will, whether that is what they believe is happening.
   Belief is the appropriate word. I grew up scared of the human world, of its aggression and cruelty, of its elaborations and machinations, of its industrial depth and machine culture, of its lack of awareness and empathy, of its feigned spirituality and religious hypocrisy and, as I learned later in life, of its ignorance of immanence. Humanity had lost its immanent identity, its bond with the natural world and if it knew compassion it was a weak moment or a diversion for the sake of appearance.
   I sought sanctuary in the sparse woodlands and river valleys that remained inviolated at the edge of the industrial city I refused to call home! I told myself I was free to find my own path in the world without interference from those who would deny freedom of choice, who enacted a new inquisition like it was their moral duty, who chastised and reprimanded and scolded and would, if they had been given the chance, have found a way to cleanse my immoral soul.
   I never gave them the chance and I never knew it. I just exercised my free will. I displayed my determinism with my actions and words, and most of the time I left THEM speechless. If they had known, had an inkling, that all I had done was act out of instinct, they would have reacted differently. I can say now that I disaffected them with my childish innocence.
   Then, in those moments when I challenged the illegitimate authority of those who believed they had a right to exercise it, I knew nothing of free will, of determinism, of compatibilism. I had no moral authority. All I had was a sensibility that I controlled my own destiny and that anything anyone told me meant nothing because I had to prove everything I encountered to myself. This I remember. I challenged everyone and everything. If I could not understand what it was, it did not exist.
   Morality did not come into the picture, morality was not framed in my world view, as innocent as it was.
   Neither was I a runaway reaction, I was more like a cautious mouse aware of his surroundings, cognisant of the dangers and keen to stay alive, to catch the morsel of food and flee to safety. I was, I suppose, a feral child. Yet I grew up with a curiosity to know everything so I read books and comics, magazines and newspapers, and I kept an eye out for danger everywhere.
   Gradually I developed the ability to sense the world as well as hear it and see it.
   I had been thrust into a crazy world where nothing was what it seemed and everyone had lost the ability to think for themselves. No one in that world could be my teachers, because they had nothing to teach, all they knew was illegitimate authority, a dark design and a false rote that ordered their lives.
   After that apprenticeship and early rote I acquired a practical nature, the ability to fix things with my hands, and a nature or an instinct that it would be safer to imagine the world I wanted to live in. I never abandoned my education, I simply had to plan it and execute it by myself, without a mentor or a tutor. I learned the skills of journalism – editing and writing and re-writing – and I learned the dark skills of the newspaper reporter and the gentle skills of the academic researcher, eventually of the ethnographer and subsequently of the master baker.'

Anne 'Why did you want to see him?'

Robert 'Perspectives. Bieri says you should never mix perspectives. I have always thought that, because they are different. And like I said this issue about brain chemistry, Bieri argues that the brain can decide nothing. We are free to think for ourselves and quantum consciousness if it exists at all is our ability to make decisions!'

Anne 'It is a shame we cannot talk to him.'

Robert 'Yes his agent said he no longer does interviews.'

From Şanlıurfa to Delley

Wheat in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland is local! The fields of gold are always a pleasant sight to the traveller on the train from Bern to Lausanne, flowing across the central plateau that stretches Swiss agriculture from Schaffhausen in the east to Geneva in the west.

The sight wasn’t so pleasant three generations ago. The Swiss were in a bad way, food had to be imported, famously by the first sea-going Swiss ship, the Calanda, bringing grain among other products into the country during the 1940s.

The Swiss implemented the Wahlen Plan, which eventually brought the country to the levels of self-sufficiency and food security it now enjoys, a scenario that is almost unique in the world (China and Turkey are also self-sufficient in food). Wheat became an important crop for the Swiss and they want to keep it that way. They are not alone.

Wheat is classified as common (triticum aestivum), einkorn / siyez (triticum monococcum), durum (triticum durum) and spelt (triticum spelta). The main varieties of common wheat are spring and winter, hard and soft, red and white, and these make up the bulk of the wheat harvest. Wheat accounts for just less than a third of the total global cereals crop.

Wheat has come a long way from its origins in the land now called Şanlıurfa 12,000 years ago. It began with the sweet grass that carried a single seed in a little ear, a very distinctive species in the mountainous areas of southeastern Turkey that would become known as einkorn in German, siyez in Turkish, triticum monococcum in latin. It continued with emmer, a grass found across the region from northeastern Turkey to the Caucasus into the Levant and down into Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq). Both grasses were domesticated, einkorn fell out of favour while emmer, triticum diccoccum in latin, thrived at Arukhlo in Georgia and at Çatalhöyük in Turkey 8,000 years ago.

Food historian Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat described what happened. ‘The grain was naked, separating easily from the husk of the glumes. The axis of the ear was stronger, even high winds could not blow a single grain away. Modern wheat had come into being.’

The new wheats — which became known as club wheat, triticum compactum, and common wheat, triticum aestivum and triticum vulgare — were the result of cross-breeding, according to Toussaint-Samat, ‘by chance or design’.

Now there are more than 30,000 varieties of wheat with more on the way. Most are soft wheats (compared to the hard wheats that produce semolina for couscous and pasta).

Wheat has remained an important crop for the Turks. They have brought einkorn back into the picture under the name siyez, continue to develop common wheat and take great delight in the on-going history of their bread-making tradition.

Turkish bakers will even tell you a story, if you ask them nicely, about their patron saint Adam and his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. In exile Adam met the archangel Gabriel, who taught him the secret of bread making. Adam then swore this secret to his descendants, who carry it today into the everyday bread of the Fertile Crescent countries including Anatolia, the Caucasus and Egypt.

It is probably fair to argue without much contradiction that the bakers of Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey are without comparison when they employ their skills to produce dough that is made into crescent bread, loaf bread, flatbread, ring bread, small bread and into the various types of pastries. Gravitas, quality and tradition epitomise these breads and pastries, which are baked early and consumed fresh throughout the day from homes and local bakeries across the region and throughout Europe where migrants from these countries have settled.

During the Ottoman period the breads and pastries of Anatolia, the Levant and Persia made their way westwards. The techniques became known as Viennoiserie, penetrated western Europe in the late 1800s, and changed the traditional attitudes toward the sourdough bread culture of France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Scandinavia and Switzerland and the aromatic flatbreads of the Mediterranean countries, which had also begun to infiltrate the outer reaches of Europe.

Back in Anatolia and the Levant, wheat grains were also used to make bulgur, a tradition that goes back more than 10,000 years old and has remained popular, especially in Turkey where bulgar was once known as the ‘senior of the home’. There was a time when every household would boil the whole grains, dry them in the sun, then grind them in a large bulgur mill during an annual community event. Bulgar is now made commercially, fine ground for use in köfte (meatballs) and coarse ground for use in pilaf. Superfine bulgur is almost as fine as flour, and is used to make soup.

The original bread revolution in Anatolia, Assyria, the Caucasus and the Levant was replicated by the Egyptians and the Greeks who changed the tradition from the flat to the round. Then breads came in all shapes and sizes. Not surprisingly when the Romans got in on the act they employed Greek bakers, and also bakers from Gaul, who had learned how to make bread using beer yeast. Wheat flour remained in the ascendancy for a long time.

Austria’s more recent re-imagined version of the bread revolution is now being replicated in Switzerland where modern einkorn, modern spelt and modern wheat are being used to make a range of small breads with high hydration and numerous ingredients (featured in our book Handmade Small Breads).

Vaud has become the breadbasket of Switzerland, with a quarter of the bread grains grown in the arable land across the central plateau. These include modern varieties of wheat descended from old varieties with a fidelity to the ancient genetic material.

Karl-Heinz Camp works in Delley Samen, where he is developing new types of wheat in cooperation with Agroscope, the federal competence centre for agricultural research.

Wheat at Delley / photos © Delley Samen und Pflanzen AG

‘It takes about 12-15 years for a crossbreed to turn into a marketable variety from which Swiss bread is made. Of course, the best thing is always when a new variety has gained a foothold in the market. So when the seed multipliers have started to propagate the variety, and after 2-3 years it has arrived on the market or is accepted. That’s what you worked for over 15 years.’

Wheat is going to be crucial in sustainable food security systems. Whether it will be common wheat, modern einkorn or modern spelt or combinations of flours is the debate. Common wheat divides opinion among those who live in the countries where it is the dominant crop in the agricultural scheme. The use of herbicides and pesticides, especially glyphosate with its detrimental effect on bee, insect and worm populations, is more than a mere concern. Glyphosate is used as a pre-harvest desiccant on wheat crops. The Pesticide Action Network, among others, wants a total ban on the use of glyphosate for pre-harvest desiccation because ‘it leads to higher levels of glyphosate residues in our food’ and because of the detrimental effect on wildlife.

The domestication of the wild grasses was the event that led to the rise of the city-states and civilisation as we now know it. James C. Scott, an academic at one of the Ivy League colleges, wrote a book called Against the Grain. In it he argued that the first city-states were dependent on grain, wheat and barley in Mesopotamia, millet in China, maize in Mesoamerica. ‘Cereals are easy to tax, they ripen at predictable times, the size of the harvest can easily be assessed, and the grain can be divided, transported and distributed in precisely measured rations by weight and volume. It is much more difficult to tax merchants who smuggle their goods, or to tax crops such as tubers that are hidden underground and can be dispersed throughout woodlands, or chickpeas and lentils, which have an extended ripening season. If the cereal farming takes place close to a river that can be used for bulk transportation, a potent power base can be established. That is what happened among the river and canal systems of Mesopotamia and Ancient China.’

Common wheat is still a valuable commodity, traded on the stock markets, its flour desired by bakers everywhere. Whether it continues to be the choice of flour for breads, cakes and pastries is the challenge that must be met by the breeders. New varieties must be resilient, resistant to the vagaries of climate change and the market place, where the yield is pivotal to the price. But if the new varieties don’t meet the nutritional requirements of demanding bakers and sensitive consumers there will be competition, from spelt in particular.

Since the 2010s spelt production in Switzerland has doubled. This is because it can be grown in poor soil, is resistant to the cold and has a unrivalled nutritional package – magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B1 and zinc. Bread made with spelt flour has a nutty flavour and something else that has been known for a long time.

The oldest known spelt deposits in Europe have been dated to the late Stone Age, 4,500 years ago. Spelt grains were found at Cortaillotd where four neolithic villages existed close to the shore of Lake Neuchâtel, south of the modern city of Neuchâtel on the north side of the expansive lake. As the climate changed 3,500 years ago to become cooler and wetter the grain that was a natural cross between emmer wheat and dwarf wheat became resistant to that change, and thrived.

Alphonse De Candolle addressed the origin issue in his book Origin of Cultivated Plants. ‘There is much uncertainty as to the origin of the species as a wild plant. This leads me to attribute more importance to the hypothesis that spelt is derived by cultivation from the common wheat, or from an intermediate form at some not very early prehistoric time. The experiments of Vilmorin support this theory, for cross fertilizations of the spelt by the downy white wheat, and vice versâ, yield “hybrids whose fertility is complete, with a mixture of the characters of both parents, those of the spelt preponderating”.’

Three thousand years ago river valley communities in the south of Ireland were cooking with spelt berries. It is not difficult to imagine spelt being grown in Ireland. There was a constant flow of tribes from the high mountains of the Caucasus to the low mountains of Cork and Tipperary. As the soil eroded and irrigation systems failed, farmers were forced to rely on spelt and for more than a thousand years, in the eroding soil and on the peripheries where the soil was poor, spelt fields provided a salvation, to the extent that some villagers could not wait to harvest the ripe grains, they cooked and ate the unripe berries.

We have been reminded of the words, nearly one thousand years ago, by Abbess Hildegard von Bingen of Rupertsberg. Spelt, she wrote in her diary, ‘makes people cheerful with a friendly disposition. Those who eat it have healthy flesh and good blood.’

During the centuries when the Roman Empire began to fall into decline, the soils of its conquered terrorities became deserts, marshlands and wastelands, from north Africa to the Levant and Persia to the Balkans and northern and western Europe as well as southern Italy and Sicily. Spelt, grown on fields in south-east England and on the slowly eroding land around Carthage, was the saviour.

It is not known where that spelt originated, whether it came from the Balkans or the Persian lands, from Ireland or England or Scandinavia or Tunisia. It is nonexistent today. Instead the modern grain we know as spelt has Swabian and Swiss origins.

Spelt has never been more popular, and not just in Switzerland, where those older varieties are being cultivated. Known as urdinkel (old spelt), the range of flours milled from spelt are going into every type of bread and pastry, replacing hard and soft wheat in many recipes.

Spelt contains beneficial minerals, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins (B and E), and has six of the eight essential amino acids that stimulate the production of happiness hormones, just as the abbess said. But it is the low GI (glycaemic index of carbohydrates) that makes spelt a primary health product. With 35 compared to 40 for wheat and 70 for rice, spelt releases glucose more slowly into the bloodstream, balancing out blood sugar levels.

The Turks have another story. A tree’s roots are in the earth, a man’s roots are in bread. Wheat no more, the future of bread will be different, it will be made with einkorn. An Anatolian native, einkorn is a hardy grain. It can tolerate extreme climatic conditions and is resistant to diseases and pests, and it could become the saviour once again. Modern wheat varieties pushed grains like einkorn and spelt into the background, now their roles are more prominent.

Einkorn is grown in the Balkans, France, Morocco and Turkey, where it is seen as a healthy alternative to modern wheat, especially genetically modified wheat. Like spelt, einkorn has a low glycaemic index and is therefore easily digested. It also has a low gluten content. It contains twice as much vitamin A as modern wheat, more iron and more zinc. 

Bread began with ancient einkorn, will it continue with modern einkorn? Let’s see. What we know is this. The Swiss are taking no chances. With climate change and too more rain or not enough rain modern wheats will have to be resilient. Karl-Heinz Camp and Delley Samen know this.

Vaud Farm Shop


Vaud Farm Shop

Lausanne to Chexbres 23 to 35 minutes, change at Cully, Puidoux or Vevey

Domaine Bovy

Domaine Bovy

Chexbres to Vevey 10 minutes

Tradition Taste Terroir

The 30 kilometre stretch of vineyards alongside Lake Geneva are not only a bountiful gift of nature they are also testament to centuries of backbreaking human toil. For generations, winemakers have terraced these steep hillsides, building stone walls to protect their vines. The winemaking tradition in Lavaux dates back to the 12th century when Cistercian and Benedictine monks controlled the land. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the region encompasses 14 municipalities and six certified winemaking sites – Lutry, Villette, Saint-Saphorin, Epesses & Calamin, Dezaley and Chardonne. The wine is complemented by the strong people place produce element of the region, with a range of products that reflect the extent of the terroir. [snip]

RECIPE — Dinkelbrot mit Mehrsaat spelt bread

RECIPE — Flutes au Fromage cheese sticks

RECIPE — La Pôchouse Suisse fish soup

RECIPE — Moelleux au Chocolat chocolate cakes

RECIPE — Pâté Vaudois Vaud pork pies

RECIPE — Taillé aux Greubons savoury pastries

Charlie Chaplin’s Shoes Are Made of Chocolate


Street Market


Vevey to Montreux (train) 7 minutes



Montreux to Saanen 65-83 minutes

RECIPE — Alt-Art Zwiebelsauce old-style onion sauce

RECIPE — Berner Rösti pan-fried potatoes

RECIPE — Birnenbrot pear bread

RECIPE — Birnenweggen pear wedges

RECIPE — Bratwürst mit Zwiebelsauce sausage and onion sauce

RECIPE — Butterzöpfe / Sonntag Brot Sunday bread

RECIPE — Gerstensuppe barley soup

RECIPE — Hühnerfleisch und Kastanien Suppe chicken, chestnut and bacon soup

RECIPE — Kalbsgeschnetzeltes veal in mushroom sauce

RECIPE — Käsesuppe cheese soup

RECIPE — Pilzsuppe mushroom soup

RECIPE — Rösti Ursprünglich pan-fried potatoes

RECIPE — Spiezer Frischkäsemousse latticed strudel with cheese mousse

RECIPE — Urdinkel Vollkornbrot mit Bruhstuck spelt bread with grain mash

RECIPE — Weggli breakfast bread rolls

RECIPE — Mutschli breakfast bread rolls

RECIPE — Zürcher Rösti pan-fried potatoes

The Cheese Grotto


Bernerhof Gstaad
Cheese Shop

Gstaad to Sanenmöser (train) 12 minutes

Early Beck


Les Hauts De Gstaad

Golf Hotel

Saanenmöser to Zweisimmen (train) 25 minutes

Café Life



Zweisimmen to Spiez (train) 41-46 minutes



Seegarten Marina
Swiss Bread

Spiez to Interlaken West (boat) 83 minutes

Thunnersee Schiff Restaurant


Interlaken West to Spiez (train) 16-17 minutes



Niesen Weathercam
Restaurant Niesen
Berner Oberland Webcams

Spiez to Mülenen (train) 7 minutes

Pear Bread Secrets


Adelboden to Frutigen (bus) 30 minutes

Lötschberger Express


Schüpbach Sausages

It is early morning. Hans Schüpbach is busy making the last of his summer sausages. ’We are closing at the end of the week,’ he says, turning from the shop counter display of cured and fresh meats and sausages into the back of his metzgerei (butcher’s shop). His sentiments remain unspoken. The icy grip of winter is on us.

Sausages – air-dried, cooked, smoked and raw – dominate Swiss food culture more than you would image. They are everywhere. They provide the backdrop to the seasons, at barbecues, festivals and markets, where they are eaten cold with cheese or hot with bread and sometimes hot with cheese wrapped in bacon.

The training centre for the Swiss meat industry in Spiez, the town where we changed trains after Gstaad, list 76 varieties, grouping them into three categories — scalded meat, cooked meat and raw meat.

Schüpbach specialises in cervelas, a smoked cooked sausage made with assorted butcher’s meat , and in dauerwurst, a cured sausage made with pork, beef, red wine, black pepper and coriander. His cervelas contains beef, bacon and water, with the emphasis on the beef. [snip]


Kandersteg to Goppenstein (train) 39 minutes

Lötschberg Mountain Tunnel

The soft rain hangs in the alpine air like an afterthought. It is almost invisible, a portent perhaps. We are stopped at Goppenstein, waiting? A long car-train sits alongside, droplets of rain falling onto the tracks.
The mountains are shrouded in mist. There is nothing to see, and a feeling of oppression is hard to shake. We want to get out of here. [snip]

Goppenstein to Evian Les Bains (train, boat) 3 hours

White and Wispy