Le Lac de Joux – The Watch Valley


The lake Joux is on an altitude of 1004m in the northwest of Switzerland. It is one of the bigger lakes (9km long) in the hills of the Jura.

La vallée de Joux (the Joux valley) is in the French speaking part of Switzerland and belongs to the canton of Vaud. During winter often the surface of the lake freezes up and becomes a natural ice skating range. There is a modest skiing area too. In summer this spot is also nice to visit for the beauty of it. Some great fish restaurants are easily located.

In la vallée de Joux you will find four famous watch companies: Audemar-Piquet, Blancpain, Breguet and Jaeger-Lecoultre. Also, if you are interested in watches, check out the small watch making museum in Le Sentier.

The border to France is in close proximity. Over 300 years ago many Huguenots (French protestant Christians) escaped a religious persecution in France by slipping across the border into the Jura of Switzerland where they lived in isolation. There some of them continued to develop the art of watch making. Many of today’s famous watch making companies in this area have roots going back to the Huguenots.

Le Lac de Joux – The Watch Valley 2016-04-23T12:09:30+00:00

Voting on Referendums / Initiatives


On the last weekend of February the Swiss are called to cast their ballots on four different issues. The most controversial one pictures the peaceful Swiss (the white sheep) kicking out all foreigners who are criminal offenders (the black sheep).

For many decades Switzerland has experienced a steady influx of foreigners. In the 60ies a wave of Italians arrived who came for construction labour. Later refugees from Vietnam, Tibet, Sri Lanka, the Balkan countries, Africa and other countries applied for asylum. However there are also many Europeans (Germans, French, Italians etc) working in Switzerland (about 2/3 of all foreigners). According to the official statistics the foreign population is around 15% (others even claim 25%).

Foreign tourists are most welcome.

However, nowadays many Swiss are quite sensitive about the growing number of foreigners residing in Switzerland. And now, to make matters worse, scores of refugees are pouring into Europe. Many Swiss are really alarmed. They feel that our small country can’t cope with this huge influx. There are fears that the many Muslims arriving here will not integrate easily and cause trouble. Indeed, 73% of the prison population consists of foreigners. The billboard above reads: “Finally let’s achieve security!” (German: Endlich Sicherheit schaffen).

At the same time many Swiss are genuinely touched by the suffering and misery of the many new refugees seeking shelter in Switzerland.

The major political parties as well as the government are against this initiative. They say that there are enough laws in place to deal with delinquent foreigners and that such a new constitutional law would violate international law.

The Swiss democratic system is very direct! Any citizen can try to bring about a change in the constitutional law with a referendum or bring in a new one through a federal popular initiative. All that is needed are at least 100’000 valid signatures within 1 ½ years for an initiative or 55’000 valid signatures within a hundred days for a referendum. When that target is reached it takes a little while. But then the Swiss are called to cast their ballots on the issue.

For years the Swiss government wanted the country to join the EU. The Swiss have resisted these moves. That is certainly one area where the direct democracy has made a difference. However in reality the Swiss reject most initiatives or referendums.

This democratic process is one of the main reasons for the political stability of Switzerland.

Addendum: The initiative above was rejected by 58.9%.

Voting on Referendums / Initiatives 2017-08-03T12:14:27+00:00

Berne, the Capital City


This city is a hidden gem.

The old city of Berne is surrounded on three sides by the Aare River and thus on a peninsula. It dates back to the 12th century. The river offered a magnificent natural protection from enemies.

We start our tour at the main train station and mostly keep to the main street. After exploring the generous city square with the Bundeshaus (Houses of Parliament on the right) we go back to the main street. The next stop is the Zytglogge (the famous clock tower). The Münster is in a parallel lane on the right (that is the cathedral with stairs leading to the top with a great view of the city). Towards the end of the tour we cross an old stone bridge over the Aare River and hit Berne’s famous bear park on the right. The restaurant there is a microbrewery with the best beer in town. Street musicians add another layer of beauty to this city. Lot’s of interesting shops and restaurants have found their niche in the old city, adding colour to the laid back atmosphere. Many shopkeepers speak German, French and English.

Over the centuries Berne developed along a coherent planning concept and is now an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. It hardly needs to be mentioned that the city has a rich and diverse history.

As the capital city the Houses of Parliament and most state departments as well as the parliament of the canton of Berne are located in this city.

Berne actually is a really tiny place compared to many other capital cities of this world. It is definitely much smaller than the more dynamic Zürich, Geneva or Basel. Only about ½ million people live in Berne and the metropolitan area. During rush hour the traffic tends to jam a bit. When local people complain about those jams they have no idea what jams look like in other parts of the world. On the bicycle it takes me 30 minutes to cross it from one end to the other. Actually bikes are a great way to explore the city. There are several free bike rental stations and bike lanes throughout the city.

Since this is the capital of Switzerland all the embassies of the world are concentrated in mostly one stately neighbourhood. The city is home to a good university and many fine hospitals. It boasts a soccer and an ice hockey stadium. Berne also has an international school, a British and a French school, an International and an Anglican church, a few ethnic churches and many local churches, a synagogue, a couple of mosques and a Thai temple. Culturally Berne offers quite a few goodies too: a number of great museums, a city theatre and some other smaller theatres, a music hall, countless cinemas and even some night life too.

Berne is well connected to the rest of the country as well as internationally. It has a small international airport connecting it to quite a few destinations in Europe. The fast non-stop train ride to Zürich takes 58 minutes and on to the Zürich airport another 15 minutes. From Berne to Thun the train takes 20 minutes to Interlaken 50 minutes to Lucerne 90 minutes and to Geneva 105 minutes. Public transport within the city and around the country is very convenient and efficient but not cheap.

The quality of life here is one of the world’s highest. It is indeed a very peaceful place. There is hardly any air or water pollution. The green hills around the city invite for hikes out in nature. In summer heaps of local people enjoy swimming in the Aare River.

The locals of Berne are easy going and friendly. I love living here. Come and check us out!

Berne, the Capital City 2016-11-19T20:08:16+00:00

Vermicelles, a Delicious Dessert


This dessert is a speciality that comes from the Ticino, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. But nowadays during winter it is enjoyed all over the country.

The word vermicelles is probably derived from the latin vermiculus – small worms. Sweet chestnuts are smashed. Sugar and butter are added. The mass of the pressed chestnut mix is pressed through a form with holes. The result are the delightful “small worms”. The ready made product is found in most supermarkets and sold in smaller blocks.

This winter dessert is completed with cream and meringue. The latter is a very sweet mix of sugar and egg white that gets carefully heated up. It turns into a white brittle material.

A guete! (Swiss German, literally: “Wishing you a good appetite”) Enjoy!

Vermicelles, a Delicious Dessert 2016-02-12T13:36:20+00:00

Enjoying a Skibock in Adelboden


Switzerland is famous for winter sports. There are many areas in the alps dedicated to winter sports, some with hundreds of kilometres of ski slopes of various degrees of difficulties. Usually there is an amazing infrastructure built around those. Skiing and snowboarding are possible in a few high up areas on 365 days a year.

Mostly in February schools all over Switzerland have one week off, called the sports week. During this week most kids would join the school for a camp where they would continue to develop their skiing or snowboarding skills.

For a few years snow boarding was the big hype. In recent years however ski carving has gained a lot of popularity and most people on the slopes go down with their carving skis.

Last weekend with a group of friends we tried out something new called skibock. Especially in Adelboden, the skibock (a sawn-down ski with a simple seat) has become quite popular. It is a lot easier than skiing or snow boarding and quite some fun too. So even if people have no experience with skiing, why not try a skibock?

Enjoying a Skibock in Adelboden 2016-02-14T20:19:50+00:00