Archive for February, 2011

Feb 16 2011

Evaluating the Swiss-ness of Ski Resorts

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Now that I’ve spent a few days in Zermatt, I feel that I am able to write somewhat knowledgeably about ski resorts in the Swiss alps.  That, of course, doesn’t mean I ski in the resorts.  We’ve been to Villars, Leukerbad, Saas Fee, and Zermatt, but I think I’ve only skied once.  Seth and I are more into the snowshoeing/winter hiking side of winter sports.  So is Ruben!

I always thought the ski resorts must be like Switzerland Disneyland.  I thought they were for tourists only.  Yet, I am always surprised by how authentically Swiss they feel.  First, the same shops are there that are everywhere else, including the obligatory Migros and Coop.  Granted, the supermarkets are open later and there is a glut of expensive sports stores, but there are also dairy shops and butcher shops, lots of bakeries, and lots of restaurants serving Swiss food.  I largely think the resort bakeries and restaurants are far superior to their city counterparts, which seems odd given that that the resorts are not exactly rural villages where one would expect to find authentic, home-style cooking or ingredients.  I have also come to realize that these resorts have some stable population as well, and not everyone who lives in them works in the tourist industry.  The apartment building where we stayed in Zermatt (thanks, Alex!) has full-time residents and a shared laundry room resembling the one in Renens (which, I can’t believe I’m saying, I pine for now).  I’m also always surprised to hear that most people around are speaking the language of the place where the resort is located, and all the signs are in that language.  So if they are tourists, they are local-ish ones.

These resorts basically feature the essential Switzerland packed into a tiny little city in the mountains, where everyone is clomping about in ski boots and eating incredible amounts of cheese, and where everything is slightly more convenient and expensive than in the cities below.  They seem far less fake to me than I would have imagined.  I’ve been in mountain villages and countryside villages, and they are basically quieter, smaller versions with one bakery and one restaurant and a Migros with shorter hours than in the cities.  On the other hand, I imagine coming on a visit to Switzerland and ONLY staying at one of these resorts.  As many people do.  And I just know that despite that surprising resort semi-authenticity, they are barely catching a glimpse of Switzerland, and they have nothing for comparison to determine what was fake and what was Swiss.  They are missing the quiet, the inconvenience, the timely transportation, the vegetable markets, the rolling fields of cows and sunflowers, the vineyards clinging to the foothills, the realization that almost all stores are chains, the lakes, the bureaucracy, the universal tidiness that is not just for the eyes of visitors.  They are missing the small places, where there is nothing in particular to see or do other than observe and have a glass of wine made on the premises.  And if all they are doing is rushing down the slopes, they might be missing even more.

When people back home expect that the slopes are the only Switzerland I’ve seen, and then berate me for never skiing, because that’s all anyone they know who has been to Switzerland has ever seen and done, it makes me sad.  I know I’m missing something by not skiing, but I feel proud of how much I have tried to learn about and see this place and live as part of it.  There is so much more to Switzerland than skiing, cheese, and chocolate.  And the resorts are better seen on foot, anyway.

Here’s Zermatt (note the Matterhorn theme):
Threesome and the Matterhorn

Sisters Dining by the Matterhorn

Ruben and the Matterhorn

Morning in Zermatt

And here’s some recent scenes from regular life:
Adar, Jackie, and Babies

Ruben peeks into pump fountain

Grüsch Station

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Feb 02 2011

Winter in CH, overshadowed by Egypt

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In  between desperately trying to do as much reading and thinking as I should, we have had a series of visitors: my cousin Matthew, Allison, Seth’s parents, our friend Quinnie, my parents, and soon, Michelle (who is looking forward to her escape to a nicer climate than Cambridge’s!).  Also, my choir went to Graubünden for a weekend to participate in a choral festival, and we did some hiking and singing in the mountains while we were there.

I decided I already culled my photos enough to be able to just share a few from the last month and a half on the blog.  Instead, peruse our flickr set, starting when the photos get snowy.  Don’t let that fool you into thinking it is always that snowy–it is only rarely so in Lausanne (but almost always so high in the mountains).  Ruben, obviously, has become quite the Alpine dog.

Other than that, what news is there, really, besides the protests in Egypt?

Here’s some:

  • On gun control in Switzerland.  And you thought this place was super peaceful—that’s only because of all the guns!!!  There’s a big vote here on this in a couple weeks, and the scary sheep are out again in force on billboards all over the country (as they were with the minaret vote and the deport foreign criminals vote).
  • February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month (the third annual, in the US and promoted mainly by the Reform Movement).  I didn’t know this existed until I read this URJ blog post, but I’m glad it does.  One rarely hears discussions of inclusion and access in Jewish settings, where debates over gender and sexuality still dominate the conversations of those who want to make Judaism egalitarian.  Visit the Religious Action Center‘s page to figure out how you can contribute to disability rights through a Jewish lens.

Ok, back to the books and the BBC.

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