Showing posts from October, 2011

Post-election thoughts

Last week's Swiss parliamentary elections resulted in left and right parties losing votes and seats in the Nationalrat or Lower House. Losing the most votes was the Swiss People's Party (SVP), this country's right wing party best known for spreading xenophobia with its provocative posters. Remember the three white sheep kicking one black one out?

Upon reading the voting results, I sighed in relief for my American half and for my foreign friends. Perhaps, the strong Swiss Franc cannot be blamed entirely for the drop in occupancy rates in area hotels.

I have often thought that Switzerland was a land of contradictions. For example, our municipality nearly always votes SVP. But, I've noticed a rash of rich foreigners buying property in our area. How can a region sell property to foreigners and grant them large tax breaks while voting to stop immigration? Money? No! Duh!

Finding Late Gothic art at the foot of the Alps

Coming came down from the mountains to get some shopping done in Bern didn't turn out that way. I ended up checking out a few churches and walking through the old town.

If you ever make it to Bern, go to the Münster. It's a large Gothic cathedral in the old town, dating back to 1421. (Interestingly, a small romanesque chapel existed there as early as 1191 during the founding of Bern.)

My legs were too sore from yesterday's training to go up the Münster's tower which is 100 meters tall. Apparently, it's the tallest cathedral in Switzerland. I did, however, enjoy looking at the Last Judgment sculpture above the main portal. As it turns out, it represents one of the most complete Late Gothic sculpture collections in Europe, and it is the only sculpture in Münster to survive the iconoclasm of the Protestant Reformation.  I had never heard of him, but the artist was Erhard Küng from Wesphalia. It totally reminded me of Hieronymous Bosch's "Last Judgement."…

At the grocery store today

While rushing to check out at our local Coop grocery store this morning, I found myself in line behind a woman arguing for a refund in broken French. I slowly emptied my cart of its contents--amazingly fresh organic vegetables and fruits--onto the conveyor belt and listened.

The woman explained in broken French that she had purchased six yogurts, and six yogurts only, and she felt she should be paid out SFr 80. The checkout girl, who was obviously Swiss German speaking,  nodded her head, filled out a yellow slip, and answered the woman in even worse French.

One thing was for sure. This discussion was not going to end soon, and as I glanced at my watch, I realized I would be late for my appointment. So, I placed my produce back into the cart and stomped over to the next lane, uttering complaints under my breath. When I spotted a neighbor in line, I said something about continuing to shop at competing grocery store Migros, which has a customer service desk. While unloading my cart yet …

Open-air museum closes for winter soon

If you haven't been to Ballenberg yet, I urge you to go. Ballenberg is an open-air museum located near Brienz. There, you will find more than one hundred century-old buildings from all over Switzerland as well as farmyard animals, demonstrations of traditional crafts, vegetable gardens and fields and more. Houses are grouped according to region and are linked through a series of paths that lead through enchanting rolling hills and forests.
Ballenberg closes for the winter Monday October 31, 2011 at 5 p.m. The museum reopens Good Friday, April 6, 2012. For more information, click here.

Football with a view

If you ever get a chance to go to a football game in Thun, we recommending getting an upper level seat facing the mountains. This past August, we enjoyed an incredible sunset, while watching the beefy Brits score their one goal against the lithe and quick Swiss. Better next time FC Thun!

A taste of Sunday out of the mountains

A few days ago, the children's school fall holiday began and we hopped in the car and drove south. Six-and-a-half hours later, we arrived in the Principality of Monaco. When we left the Alps, mid-day temperatures hovered in the single digits; and when we arrived at our destination around midnight, we rejoiced at feeling 18 degrees C.

During out stay in newly married Prince Albert's land, I was struck by more than just balmy temperatures. While enjoying a black coffee and writing post cards under the arches of the Place d'Armes, I sat back and observed the scene around me.

It was Sunday, yet a produce market was in full swing. Stylish women wearing sunglasses and carrying wicker baskets picked up and sniffed red peppers; salespeople argued loudly about politics; children played at a nearby playground while their care-keepers chatted.

My eye stopped on a bevy of smartly coiffed women at a nearby table. They spoke in fast French, chain smoked, and drank a cloudy beverage tha…

First hike of the year

A few weeks ago, I over-exerted myself by going on a hike from Reusch (1,350) to Scex Rouge (2,971m), the last part of the Glacier 3000 Run course. It may have been an unwise idea for me to attempt 1,621 vertical meters for my first hike of the year.

The two girlfriends who had invited me, had--unbeknownst to me--been going on weekly hikes since April, one of them actually participating in the Glacier 3000 Run. I figured if people can run up that mountain, I could certainly walk it. I had been running five to six miles on the flat four times a week all summer.

So upon their advice, I purchased expensive walking sticks. Later I would be glad I had them. Our planned Tuesday hike was delayed because of fresh fallen snow. We let a few days pass, and then Thursday evening, we decided to go the next day. I packed a small rucksack with a bottle of water, a spare shirt and sweater, some almonds, and a hat. I decided to leave the dog at home. I had a feeling he might be too much of a distract…

A land of contrasts

In the USA, the eff-word is generally considered obscene and reserved for rated R or PG-13 movies. In Switzerland, where there are rules for everything, none seem to exist to prevent the commercial use of such a word.

And here in the Swiss Alps, the eff-word seems to have passed our local skate park propriety test. We thought the noise emanating form the van's speakers was well paired with the name of the local band "The Fucks." The what? That's right!

Perhaps, we're simply getting outdated... although my children thankfully agreed with me.