It may sound snobbish at first, but skiing in Gstaad is actually quite cool:
large domain with varied sun exposure, giving good snow quality throughout the day;
not too many people at the ski lifts, except at the bottom station;
lots of quaint villages linked via slopes;
contrary to what was expected, not too many poorly skiing Russians on the slopes;
great accessibility from Bern (direct train from Bern to Zweisimmen in 1h20), with the added bonus of a train pass bringing multiple discounts (the bottom line comes to less than 100 euros for the day with train, ski fare and equipment rental included);
last but not least, a great view from the top of the slopes
Against all odds (and expectations), yesterday’s “popular initiative” (a text of law that had to be signed by 100.000 electors before it can be put to a referendum) named “against mass immigration” was approved by a thin margin (50,3%).
This will force the Swiss authorities to denounce their free movement of persons treaty with the EU. The issue is that the four freedom of movement treaties (persons, goods, services and capital) are linked together, which means denouncing one leads to denouncing all of them.
The upcoming months will thus lead to huge levels of uncertainty as to what become of the links between the EU and Switzerland in a vast range of domains:
can Swiss goods still be exported freely to Europe (which accounts for 55% of Swiss exports and 75% of its imports)?
what about non-diplomatic staff at international organizations in Geneva, and at diplomatic missions in Bern and other cities?
how will companies in sectors mostly filled with French, German or Italian nationals (hospitals, hotels, watchmakers…) work if they can’t recruit them any more, since there is not enough local supply of workforce?
will Switzerland still be allowed to take part in EU’s public procurement bids?
Looks like we are entering a very long tunnel with quite no light at the end…
Third Sunday spent in another canton capital, on this occasion Lucern. Though we had been there twice before, to attend concerts at the marvellous KKL art center, the 18m separating the station and the KKL were not enough to give us an actual taste of the city.
All in all, this was once again a great city escape, even though the weather was just so-so (white skies, hence a lot of “burnt” photos, and no way to enjoy the views on the lake). Still, a great find with the Rosengart Collection, heavily focused on Picasso (a solid 100+ works, mostly drawings but also with about three dozen paintings), though also offering some works from Impressionists and more recent artists (Chagall, Soutine, Braque…). Pictures of the city can be found in the galleries, or directly HERE.
Almost a month gone since the last post, but due to the holiday season, so-so weather and some extra work, there have been few opportunities to explore the country any further in the past weeks! Still, Gurten, the hill above Bern, was on the menu last week-end, with a wonderful view on the Bernese and Valais peaks (quite a few of them above 4000m). A couple of pictures should be added to the Bern album in the upcoming days.
The upcoming week-end should be dedicated to the sales seasons (plus being on-call at the office), but with some luck, the next one should be the first ski week-end since 2005!
Last Sunday, taking advantage of a gorgeous weather (just as pretty much all days since I’ve been here), I headed to Thun (in French: Thoune), a city on the eponymous (crystal-clear) lake about 15 minutes South-East of Bern. The location is wonderful, with the first ski slopes of the Bernese Oberland about 15 minutes away (surfers on the train were all set and ready to ride). The old city center is quite small but very charming, and there a big but not too imposing white castle on top of all this.
Pictures can be found in the Photo galleries, or directly HERE.
Quite a beautiful country in fact, with very varied landscapes, good food (though I expected a bit more from their rather famous wines, at least on the red side), friendly population speaking excellent English… Quite recommended as a destination for a week of wandering around the country!
Getting to the end of the first month working in Switzerland, time to do a first evaluation of life in Bern:
Everything is clean / tidy / on time / efficient, quite a change from the past seven years
The super-efficient train network (helped by the small size of the country) so as to spend an evening in Geneva or Zurich (thanks also to the location of Bern; it would be less easy from Saint Gallen or Lugano)
Greenery, greenery, greenery… everywhere, including right in the city (the office window allows a view on a field full of grazing cows, along with the Paul Klee Zentrum, with snow-capped mountains as a background)
The old city, quaint and very efficiently set up, with lots of shops in upper floors / in passages / in underground places
The variety of products in a number of fields (among others shoes, fruit & vegetable, hi tech products…)
The pace of life: after the Bombay rhythm, it’s hard to get accustomed to the short shop opening hours (everything closed on Sundays, and shutting at 5pm on Saturdays) as well as the long time to obtain information from counterparts, among others
Living costs: true, as opposed to Bombay (at least in matters of real estate), “you get what you pay for, but having to shell out 30 bucks for a plain ribeye at a supermarket seems kind of silly in a country full of cows
To change from the Swiss-based week-ends, let’s head to one of the last five countries in the EU not yet visited: Slovenia! In two weeks, big week-end (five days) scheduled in the capital Ljubjlana and around.
While living in Paris, the weekly (at least) classical music concert was a must, especially with piano concerts. Needless to say, it was difficult to keep the same pace in Bombay then Dakar during the past seven years.
The few weeks ahead therefore sound all the more refreshing:
Saturday 26/10 : Maria Joao Pires in Zürich
Saturday 16/11 : Evgeny Kissin
Monday 18/11 : Fazil Say
Friday 22/11 : Muray Perahia
Sunday 24/11 : Maurizio Pollini, all four in Lucerne
Taking advantage of an unexpectedly beautiful afternoon, let’s head to Neuchatel for a quick getaway (it was initially scheduled for next week-end). Barely further than Fribourg (35 minutes by train instead of 20), the city is on the northern shore of the eponymous lake, the largest national one entirely withing the Swiss borders.
The architecture looks a lot like Stockholm (quite strict, lots of ocher and sienna facades). The weather keeps improving, giving a superb view on the lake once we reached the castle, and its wonderful Collégiale.
The Museum of Art and History looks beautiful from outside, but the current program is not too appealing, so it is skipped on this occasion.
Like Fribourg, the local population is about 30.000 people, and life seems very (too?) quiet here. We are right in French-speaking territory here as well, even more so since the variation spoken here is renowned as the “purest” form in the country. Indeed, we here very few local idiomatic expressions, and the accent seems quite tame (even though we tend to hear in fact more Swiss-German from Eastern tourists).