109445708518666443

so close, yet so far away.
i spent the past three days visiting my cousin & and her husband in bern, switzerland. it’s confounding to think that italy and switzerland share a border and that i’m really not so far away (the train ride is about seven hours, all told). some observations:

1) the elderly swiss move fast. italian old people tend to sit languidly in one place for lengthy periods of time, looking over passers-by. or they stand, huddle in groups on the sidewalk, preferably near some unfortunate accident or some other exciting disaster. swiss old people will mow you down mercilessly. plus, they’re also dangerously equipped with serious hiking boots and walking sticks so they can go trek through the mountains at a moment’s notice. the shit is serious.

2) the swiss are an extremely anal bunch. this makes for punctual trains and very clean cities. and clocks. lots of clocks, all over the place. the anal retentiveness is probably less positive on a more personal, individual level, where it borders on mania or some variant of OCD.

3) the swiss reputation as arbiters of peace extends all the way down into the more mundane details of their lives. much like the anal retentiveness. in many apartment buildings where the residents must share the washing machine, they often implement some kind of system whereby each resident is allowed to wash one particular day (and time) that week (or month, in some unfortunate instances). if one is unable to do wash at that time because one must be at work, etc. etc., then one must figure that shit out (swap or whatever) on one’s own. i don’t recall this system ever being the case in new york buildings — it’s always every man for himself (and his laundry). but the intent is to pre-empt conflict. how very swiss, right?

4) switzerland has many, many mountains. many, many, many, many mountains.

5) here’s a possible example of swiss anal retentiveness. one thing i noticed as i took the train up from milan was uniform prettiness of the countryside. the terrain is steep in most places (see #4, regarding mountains) but lushly green. and the effect is almost sort of a funny filtered, soft-focus green. like in a fabric softener commercial. and the land may possibly be even more well-manicured than england’s countryside. that’s probably because there is some poor guy that has to mow all the grass up and down these mountains. i kid you not.

6) switzerland supermarkets (which are far better than their italian counterparts) combine the yogurt obsession of france (to a somewhat lesser degree) with particular attention paid to muesli (excellent here) and also offer cuts of wild game on shelves in season!. this is very exciting to me. next to your vacuum-packed free-range, pastured poultry and sundry cuts of pork and beef, there’s also deer loin, ibex flank, and the like.

7) the swiss make excellent bread. whether sour german-style seeded loaves or rustic french pains de campagne, they do it all, and they do it well. (which i definitely cannot say of the french.)

8) bern, a lovely little fairy-tale of a town, has a beautiful, busy center, and lovely views of the surroundings from various hilltops. it also has a bear pit. with real, live, actual bears. photos forthcoming.

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