The idea, proposed by the New York Times, is simple: make the most of this often too-fleeting season by consciously choosing to change your days, weeknights and weekends to better savour summer. Weekly suggestions of activities are offered; tweaks on daily routines or flashbacks to summers past. The underlying principle is that focusing on how you spend your time and varying your standard routine enriches your experiences and subsequently your life. The planning and anticipation will heighten enthusiasm, carrying the plans through ensures you get out and enjoy the season before the nights start to grow dark and long sleeves are once more reluctantly donned, and the activities themselves are about embracing time with family and friends, frequently in the great outdoors.
Apart from the fact that I love both a list and a challenge, I’ve dearly missed summer, and as our Swiss one is allegedly fleeting I’m keen to make the most of it. I already have the luxury of a fluid schedule with my lass that – amongst the household chores and playgroups – enables daily trips to the lake to splash in the increasingly warm water, build sandcastles and eat iceblocks, but the notion of planning a little more and enjoying things outside our (at times admittedly mind-numbingly dull) schedule was appealing. I signed on immediately.
The first challenge was to pick a place nearby to which you normally drive, and either walk or cycle there instead. Coincidentally, after nine months of deliberations, research, road testing and dilly-dallying (and not a few arguments), we recently bought a bike trailer for Laides and figured there was no better time to take it on its maiden voyage. We hit the road last Saturday to do a loop from Luzern to Horw (a township in the Luzern canton), and then back via Kriens (another wee village just outside Luzern). Admittedly we don’t normally drive this route, but we do frequent the Ufschötti – the local beach – so we decided to make that our final destination for a dip in the lake.
It was a glorious day, and as we cycled through dappled streets we spied people out swimming and sunning themselves along the banks of Lake Luzern. I confess I was happy to be cycling merrily along solo (taking bad and slightly dangerous iPhone snaps) rather than lugging our 12kg monster up the Swiss inclines; her papa did a brilliant job.
There’s a very different approach to cycling here than there is in Australia – in fact, to road occupancy in general. I cycled semi-regularly at home: to work before the lass was born, around the neighbourhood for dinners or to meet friends, to the markets. There was always an underlying current of fear: Sydney drivers notoriously cannot abide cyclists and there is no comprehension of ‘public’ roadways. Here, however, there is a much more relaxed approach in general. Many people cycle, and carry their little ones with them either in trailers or perched on kid seats. While there are many designated bike lanes, there is also a lot of communal traveling space. Cars are patient, and willingly share the road (both with cyclists and with other cars – I’ve found it to be far more relaxed here on the roads in general). It’s a refreshing and relieving change, like I’d been holding my breath but could now finally relax (it also helps that they’re chilled about helmet rules here. While in principle I am pro-helment, and it’s certainly not negotiable for the little one, I confess cycling down the side of a hill with the Alps in the distance and the wind through my hair was a glorious, liberating feeling. And, according to Tim aka Nerdy McHelmetWearer, a bad example for our daughter).
A few hours later, we arrived back at the local beach. Our German teacher told us that its name – Ufschötti – means to pile up, to build. The beach itself is man made, using the sand that was excavated from the Sonnenberg Tunnel. The tunnel, just outside Luzern, was built in the 1970s and was at the time the world’s largest nuclear bunker with capacity to hold 20,000 civilians in the event of disaster. (The tunnel was tested in the 90s and, despite some minor pickles closing its doors due to years of use by cars, it did manage to hold the required number of people. Air circulation and water availability were also fine – but there had been no provision made for plumbing, and as such the experiment was abandoned reasonably quickly. Tours of the tunnel can be done, but sadly our lass is too young to enable us to check it out.)
Regardless of its origins, Ufschötti is gorgeous. We took our first dip in – Addie and I had been wading up to our knees, but after our cycle a full body immersion was warranted. It was surprisingly temperate – cool and refreshing and nowhere near as chill as I was anticipating. I had forgotten, however, how revolting and slimy lake beds are which gave added incentive to dive in quickly.
Our first summer challenge ticked off, and not before time. Already the storms are rolling in – I’ve just run around the house to do some serious battening down of hatches – with the rest of the week projected to be wet and thundery. That won’t stop us working towards the next few challenges though, with fingers crossed that we won’t have to utilise the bike trailer’s rain cover too frequently.