Thinking about German in Switzerland

German-speaking Europe is a confusing place. There are so many dialects of German that some German speaking people don’t even understand eachother. Some German words have only one vowel per six consonants, twisting your tongue in werid ways as you try to pronounce it (ie. Dirndls, schloss) The German word for “Austria” looks more like “ostrich” than Austria. English and Icelandic help me understand a lot, but I’ve been wishing I could speak more German– high German, low German, Bavarian Dialect – I don’t care which version.

The slopes in Flims

Switzerland doesn’t use euros, and their Swiss Franc is illogically abbreviated as CHF. Well, the “F” makes sense, but CH stands for “confederazione Hervatica” (which I now know is recognized as the mother of Switzerland). I like the way Swiss German sounds, it’s somehow softer and sweeter to the ear. I stayed with a friend, Ursina, in Flims, a picturesque ski town in the middle of the Alps, and in this region of Switzerland they have another official language called Romanish. It’s the closest language relative to Latin, and it sounds like old Italian poetry being recited.

Ursina's mom with their Icelandic horses

Her family, the Isenbugels, is well known in Iceland because of their contribution and involvement with Icelandic horses. I visited her parents in their mountain hut near Laax, which we had to hike half an hour past ski lifts and through 2 feet of snow to get to. They had Icelandic horses there, mostly young yearlings and new foals with their mothers, and an Icelandic dog. Her father, who has eyebrows growing out like bangs, spoke English and some Icelandic. Her mother speaks Romanish, and also German with an accent I found easiest to understand.

I went with Ursina to her sisters Icelandic horse stable near Zurich, where we rode horses into the night. Gallopping through a forest without seeing anything was an adrenaline rush I hadn’t before


experienced. I would love do it again, but Iceland lacks forests, and it doesn’t really get dark in June or July when Im riding most.

my horse, almost invisible in the black background

Everything in Switzerland costs more, even though you can drive quickly and easily past the German, Austrian or Italian border to buy the same thing for less. The doner kebab trumps McDonalds and Burger King combined as the king of fast food, and I’ve been using it as a base price economy marker. In Berlin, you can get one for €1.50. In Munich, €3.50. Vienna, around €4, and in Zurich, it costs as much as €8 for the exact same thing.

But I guess prices are all relative, to the people’s standard of living and places’ economy. What really puzzles me is how wine can be cheaper than water, and beer, almost always cheaper than coke. If only Iceland could pick up on that trend.


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