Keeping track on the tracks

As the lights from the carriage flash by, reflecting off the dark, Cold, damp walls of the tunnel, the locomotive races toward the distant light and then explodes from the tunnel mouth, where snow and a mist so thick it could hide a wolf’s cry, mingle and the mountains soar higher than the Eagle flies and the train starts its long descent into canton Uri, winding its way through short tunnels and the river, as cold as the snows that feed it, accompanies us down to where the snow has not yet arrived.  It is January but it is not yet cold and this long valley, with its steep, slate-grey sides, which now hide it from the low winter sun.

Higher up the valley from where we’ve just come, the mountains have lost their shroud as the grey clouds give way to the sun, and emerald banks are dressed in green cloaks that are almost springlike except for the absence of lambs but, before long, the train now kisses the edge of the Four Cantons lake, which mirrors newly-formed low, lumpy clouds as they pass, distorted in the ripples and a wind blows from the north.

Upon our return, just outside Zug on the Zurich side, I see a field of small wooden chalets which at first I take to be large allotment sheds, although the allotment alloted to each appeared small.  Planning wisely, one could possibly grow a season’s lettuce in summer or a winter stock of greens later in the year.  Behind this field rise rounded green hills which are sugar-topped with a thin white crown of snow, tinged with yellow in the late afternoon sun. A sprawl of angular concrete a mile further announces our arrival in Zug.

After a stop of only a few minutes we leave Zug behind and snake our way around its lake, reflecting the growing shadows as the first mountains, their features dark with the setting sun sitting behind, frown down upon us, their peaks gripped in ice and snow as we rise slow and easy up the incline towards Arth-Goldau.

Arth-Goldau is flanked on both sides by white-crusted mountains, the snow level low, only a hundred metres or so above the railway line.  Our journey will now continue upwards and we return to skirt the Four Cantons lake, this time from the north, where straight, slab-sided cliffs rise shear from the still, leaden water, now mirroring the evening sky.  The one regret of travelling by train in this beautiful, ancient mountainscape is the views that are missed as so much of this journey necessitates tunnels.  As the white peaks stand strong against the ever-darkening blue sky with its high, pink clouds floating in the cold airs the view s suddenly lost with guillotine abruptness as another tunel is entered, as we head back to the long Gotthard tunnel and descend into Ticino for the homeward run thereafter.

And now for something completely different: A little rap and pickle…

I’ve never been a woman, at least not in this life, so it stands to reason I’ve never been pregnant.  I do however currently nurse a craving, a food craving.  Nothing so severe as Whiskas on toast on a bed of Marmite but a craving none the less.  Pickled red cabbage.  Yep, mainstay of many an English Christmas larder.  Larder? I haven’t used that word since I was about 15… Anyway, it’s now mid September and I have this craving – pickled red cabbage with Cheddar cheese.  So what? you reply.  Go to the supermarket and buy some.  Ha!  Too simple, this is Switzerland and I can’t find any.  Anyway, what I actually want is that my Mum made years ago.  So, following a week of this craving I decided to make some…yes, you read me right, make some!

Actually it was a spur of the moment thing.  I saw the cabbage in the supermarket, thought about it for a few seconds, put it in the trolley then went in search for vinegar.  That’s another thing, I can’t buy malt vinegar for love nor money, although if truth be told I’ve only ever tried with money, so I bought wine inegar instead.  Then I thought about spicing said vinegar, and after visiting 48,324 different websites came up with the answer.  And so it began.

I'd love a shirt this colour!
I’d love a shirt this colour!

On Monday, I chopped the cabbage, laid it in a bowl and smothered it with salt and left it 24 hours.  Tuesday came round, I rinsed it well and let it drain while I prepared my spices – whole peppercorns, cloves, dried chili, bay leaves and fennel – just that which I found at the back of the cupboard.  Cutting up an old, clean tea-towel I laid the spices inside, tied itup and laid it in the now-simmering vinegar for five minutes before taking the latter off the heat, leaving the spices in and putting it out on the balcony to cool.  Then the jar sterilisation; jars in the oven at 150 degrees for 10 minutes while boiling the lids for the same amount of time.

Spice is nice
Spice is nice

With both the jars and vinegar now cool, I initiated my first pickling, ever.  Here is the result.  I’ve never been a woman, hence I’ve never been pregnant, but I can’t wait for these babies…

The babies!

The babies!