It's wonderful to be back. Back among the mountains that remind us of our vulnerability, our ultimate lack of control over the world we live in. Mountains that demand humility, and yield so much peace in return.Autumn is my favorite season and it is also the perfect moment to take a vacation in the dazzling Swiss Alps, and more particularly in the Berner Oberland. It has to be said that nothing can quite beat the unique splendor and romantic ambiance of canton Bern's highlands when the trees have turned an intense shade of crimson and the fading sunlight bathes everything in gloriously fiery hues.
- Alex Lowe
As a child, this is where I used to spend my October school holidays. Back then, I was already fascinated by this astonishing region and nowadays I am still profoundly attracted to its incredibly spellbinding magnificence. Hence, I incessantly keep returning there no matter the length of my stay - for one short day or for a week, it doesn't matter as long as I get my countryside "fix".
It is absolutely impossible not to fall madly in love with the Bernese Oberland. With its rugged snow-capped peaks, drop dead gorgeous waterfalls, stunning glaciers, soft and lush green dales, high-altitude emerald lakes, idillyc chalet villages and crisp clear air, this unbelievably beautiful and enthralling rural area of central Switzerland is a nature sanctuary which I like to compare to the Garden of Eden. And a paradise it is indeed as its spectacularly transcending landscapes, staggering panoramas as well as limitless trails through deep pine tree forests, rolling hills, rocky mountainsides and delightful meadows make it a hiking eldorado for both advanced and beginner trekkers. Whether you are a person who needs constant action and movement or somebody who is happy loafing around, there is no better place to enjoy your leisurely time.
Like most touristic havens, the Bernese Highlands are very popular during the summer and winter months. Personally, I prefer to go in this neck of the woods when fall is fully in bloom and the golden sceneries are so amazing that you lose the power of speech and tears of wonder/joy appear in your eyes. It is also a lot wiser to visit this lofty province at this period of the year, because rental prices are at their lowest and it is less crowded - you'll scarcely meet another soul (backpackers or skiers); the only living beings you'll come across will be the locals (mostly farmers) and their animals (cows, goats, cats, dogs, etc...).
In the past, my parents and I resided in a basic, yet comfy appartment with 70's retro furniture, an antique fire stove, a veranda and creeking/shaking pine floors which was part of an imposing and ancient (a few hundred years old) traditional farmhouse in which the owners lived. It was located outside the minuscule "town" of Zweisimmen (check out my posts on the subject) and was a bit isolated. The back of the building faced a thick and somewhat gloomy wood and the front overlooked the majestic Spillegerten (link to picture: 2nd photo from the top) and sublime Simmental valley. Apart from the muffled sound of the MOB train whistle in the distance, the bored moo of the cows and the soothing ring of their bells, silence prevailed. A sensational and extraordinarily relaxing experience!
For my very first getaway with P. since 1998 (!!!), I wanted to break the routine and rent an apartment which would offer similarly mind-blowing settings and an equally impressive scenic view, but which would be in another municipality. Our choice went to a small, simple, snug and welcoming two room duplex (self-catering) situated in the picturesque "suburbs" of Lenk (the district's population is 2450 and ruminants outnumber people), in Zelg, a tiny, bucolic and calm hamlet at the foot of the striking Mt. Wildstrubel and not far away from (only 500m) the tumbling Simmenfälle (waterfalls).
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.
- John Muir
Aside from being a dreamlike accomodation with a view to knock your socks off, another plus point of "Haus Salvisberg" is its handy proximity to cable car stations (Metschbahn & Betelbergbahn) as well as to numerous exquisite footpaths, (both easy and moderatly difficult) leading to moon-like summits, verdant montane grasslands, rustic alpine huts and magic cascades. Valuable assets that cannot be underlooked and which will enchant admirers of untouched wildness and passionate walkers alike.
As a matter of fact, from this ideal location, many fantastic excursions on well-marked and maintained tracks can be done. Since that is what P. and I came for, we indulged in a little sport by going out every single day and trekking from morning to evening through the harshest terrains as well as smoothest pastures. The vistas were so grandiose and entertaining that we could have wandered for hours on ends without being bored. There's so much overwhelming beauty in this corner of the world that we forgot how tired our limbs were and how numb, heavy and achy they felt - at the end of each journey we were knackered, but we were gleefully content and our heads were full of ravishing memories...
After having spent one week cooking uncomplicated meals, not baking at all and hardly being challenged culinary-wise, I was glad to rebound with my kitchen and put my brand new oven to work again. In order to celebrate our coming home, I prepared a semi guilt-free tart* with the last plums (one of my favorite dessert fruits) of the season and my trademark low-fat pastry.
This home classic and personal invention is easy to put together, but it is nonetheless almighty exquisite and deliciously homey. A heavenly treat which is best savored with a glass of quality Porto or a cup of tea and while nostalgically remembering past travel adventures.
* It contains about 95g butter less than the ones confectioned with shortcrust dough.
Plum Tart With Scone Pastry & Mascarpone
Recipe by Rosa Mayland, November 2012.
Ingredients For The "Scone Pastry":
338g Plain flour
2 Tsp Baking powder
1 Tsp Fine sea salt
75g Unsalted butter
38g Castor sugar
Milk, enough to form a firm dough
Ingredients For The "Filling":
250g Mascarpone, softened
120g Light brown sugar
740g Plums, halved and stoned
Cinnamon, to taste
Method For The "Scone Pastry":
1. Heat the oven to 190°C (375°F) and grease a 28cm (11 inches) tart pan.
2. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, then rub in the butter.
3. Stir in the sugar.
4. Add the milk and incorporate well (with the help of a knife) by cutting and turning the dough until it forms a clean ball.
5. Roll out the pastry and line the base of your tart pan.
6. Trim the edges and prick the base of the tart with a fork.
Method For The "Filling":
7. Spread the mascarpone over the base of the tart and sprinkle 50g light brown sugar over the cheese.
8. Place the plums, cut side up, in neat concentric circles in the tart shell. Cowd the fruits, but do not overlap.
9. Sprinkle the cinnamon and leftover sugar over the fruits.
10. Bake for about 40 to 50 minutes, until the fruits are soft and the crust is golden brown.
11. Cool on a wire rack.
You can replace half of the plain flour by whole wheat flour and the castor sugar by light brown sugar.
For this recipe I used quetsch plums (the best plums, in my opinion), but any other type of plum (fresh or frozen) or fruit (pluots, mirabelles, apples, pears, peaches, etc...) will do.
Serve for tea time or dessert, with a glass of Porto or a cup of tea.
Drizzle a little runny honey over the top of the tart if you find that it is not sweet enough for your taste.
Recette par Rosa Mayland, Novembre 2012.
Pour 4 à 6 personnes.
Ingrédients Pour La "Pâte A Scones":
338g de Farine
38g de Sucre cristallisé
2 CC de Poudre à lever/pâte
1 CC de Sel de mer fin
75 g de Beurre non salé
Assez de lait pour former une boule de pâte
Ingrédients Pour La "Garniture":
250g de Mascarpone, ramolli
120g de Cassonade
740g de Prunes, coupées en deux et dénoyautées
Cannelle en poudre, selon goût
Méthode Pour La "Pâte A Scone":
1. Préchauffer le four à 190 ° C et graisser un moule à tarte de 28cm de diamètre.
2. Mélanger ensemble la farine, la poudre à lever et le sel, puis ajouter le beurre et frotter la farine et le beurre entre les doigts afin d'obtenir un mélange qui ait une texture sabloneuse.
3. Incorporer le sucre.
4. Verser le lait, graduellement, tout en mélangeant bien (ne plus ajouter de lait quand la pâte aura atteint la bonne consistance/ni trop mouillée, ni trop collante) et former une boule.
5. Etaler la pâte et garnir votre moule à tarte avec.
6. Couper les bords qui dépassent et piquer le fond de la tarte avec une fourchette.
Méthode Pour La "Garniture":
7. Etaler le mascarpone sur la base de la tarte et saupoudrer avec 50g de cassonade.
8. Garnir avec les prunes (côté coupé vers le haut et placée en cercles concentriques bien serrés).
9. Saupoudrer avec la cannelle et le sucre restant.
10. Cuire pendant environ 40 à 50 minutes, jusqu'à ce que les fruits soient tendres et que la pâte soit bien dorée.
11. Laisser refroidir sur une grille.
Vous pouvez remplacer la moitié de la farine par de la farine complète et le sucre cristallisé par du sucre brun clair.
Pour cette recette j'ai utilisé des quetsches, mais n'importe quelles prunes (fraîches ou congelées) feront l'affaire. Bien entendu, d'autres fruits peuvent être utilisés (pluots, mirabelles, pommes, poires, pêches, etc...).
Servir à l'heure du thé ou pour le dessert, avec un verre de Porto ou une tasse de thé.
Si vous trouvez que la tarte n'est pas assez sucrée à votre goût, arosez-la d'un filet de miel liquide.