Our Best House Sit Yet

We’ve looked after people’s homes and pets in some wonderful places over the years. Rome, Italy; Penang, Malaysia; Burlington, Vermont; and Charleston, South Carolina come to mind. But this summer’s five-week house sit in central Switzerland may be the best one we’ve ever had.

We’re in the village of Merlischachen on the shore of Lake Lucerne. Across the water sits the great bulk of Mount Rigi (5,900 feet high), its sides alternating patches of bright green meadow and dark pine forest. Next to Rigi, where the ground slopes away, a succession of high mountain ranges fades into the horizon. On the clearest days, we can glimpse the tops of distant snow-covered peaks.

Mount Rigi

The house we’re looking after is lovely and comfortable and clean. It feels light and airy, with balconies on every floor facing the lake. There’s also a small yard with tons of spiders, which Melissa bravely vanquishes so we can take care of the lawn and the outdoor plants. The four resident cats are friendly, though not particularly cuddly (one is semiferal). They have a small door to come and go, and they spend much of their time outside, in the yard or in a small park and meadow nearby.

The view from our windows is extraordinary. It’s fascinating to see how the play of light and clouds across the scenery changes throughout the day, highlighting or obscuring different peaks and turning the lake from blue to green to gray. I could watch it for hours. Melissa and I have both had big editing projects lately, and we couldn’t ask for a prettier “office” view.

The view from our bedroom window on a sunny day

The weather changes all the time here: We’ve gone from sunny to raging thunderstorm and back to sunny in an hour. It rains a lot, which is why everything is so green, but we’ve had clear days too. Thankfully, the mountains have mostly shielded us from the heat wave that has been gripping western Switzerland and other parts of Europe.

Our highs have mainly been in the 70s to mid-80s, which is heaven, especially since the house has no air conditioning. On the rare days that it gets hotter than that, we can take a cable car up to somewhere higher and cooler. There’s also the lake, which people do swim in, but I’m waiting for even hotter weather before I brave the cold water.

Our tiny village beach

The village of Merlischachen is small and quiet. There’s a little grocery store, an ATM, a hotel spread across three or four old buildings by the lake, a good but expensive hotel restaurant, a tiny beach, and a lakeside bar with snacks. The rest of the village consists of a mix of traditional and modern houses, a school, and a church. Sheep and cows graze the hillside farms above the village, but despite the country feel, we’re close to bigger places: the city of Lucerne is a quick train ride away.

We typically go into Lucerne on Tuesdays or Saturdays for the riverside farmer’s market to pick up local berries, cherries, greens, and wonderfully fresh dairy products straight from the nearby mountain pastures. Food is hideously expensive in Switzerland, so we only eat out a couple times a week and cook the rest of the time.

In between house chores and work projects, we try to go on two or three outings a week. So far, we’ve visited old lakeside cities with medieval buildings, ridden funiculars and cable cars up the sides of several mountains, hiked in meadows and on ridges with stunning views, and strolled through an open-air museum of traditional farm houses and trade buildings from around Switzerland. But every time we return from an excursion, I’m struck by what a treat it is to live in a beautiful, quiet place like this for a while.

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