A Weapon in Many Swiss Homes


The SIG SG550 is the standard Swiss Army’s assault rifle. It is the  weapon that many adult Swiss males keep at home. Officers and some specific troops are issued a pistol (SIG Saurer P220).

Every healthy 18 year old Swiss male living in Switzerland is conscripted and has to go through basic army training (RS, Rekrutenschule) that takes 18 or 21 weeks. After the basic training every year soldiers have to go on a three weeks repetitions course (WK, Wiederholungskurse).

Nowadays men who for some personal reason don’t want to join the Swiss armed forces have the option of serving with a longer civil service (serving in old people’s homes and hospitals etc). I remember the days when we were drafted, people refusing to join had to go to prison.

Women are free to join the ranks too. Their proportion is not big, but there are ladies serving in the same troops along with the guys.

The army weapons have to be practiced at least once a year at the official shooting ranges.

After having served a certain number of days and having reaching a certain age the soldiers are taken out of service. Many would opt to keep their weapons.

People keep their army weapons at home. The bolt has to be kept separately and should be locked away.

Switzerland has quite a liberal weapons law. It is relatively easy to buy a gun. There are around 2.3 to 4.5 million weapons privately owned. In that aspect Switzerland is probably not lagging far behind the US. However it is quite amazing that firearms are relatively rarely used to commit crimes. Unfortunately weapons are often used in suicides. Between 1996 and 2005 over 40% of suicides were committed with army weapons.

A Weapon in Many Swiss Homes 2017-08-03T12:14:27+01:00

Burgdorf’s Famous Beer


Burgdorf is a small enchanting historic town with a big medieval castle sitting on a rock. It is less than 25km away from Berne. The city is the gate to the beautiful Emmental.

1999 Burgdorf’s now well known beer brewery took up its business. Meanwhile they have been so successful that they moved to a bigger (actually historic) site. At their general assembly on Saturday May 21, over 1600 share holders took part. Everybody attending was treated to free beer and a pair of sausages. This kind of dividend is very tangible.

Their general assembly turned out to be the funniest I have ever attended. Everybody was in a splendid mood and enjoyed drinking all the different kinds of beer while doing GA business. The agenda of the 18th general assembly was whisked through without a glitch with crowds cheering for each item.

The brewery is still just a local company, but the beer of Burgdorf is by now known far beyond the borders of the canton of Berne. The brewery offers informative guided tours. At the end of the tour it’s hard to resist tasting their freshly brewed beer which is an a league of it’s own.

Burgdorf’s Famous Beer 2016-12-07T19:59:24+01:00

The Grand Prix of Bern


Jogging is quite popular in Switzerland. The Grand Prix of Bern (this year the 35th) is the biggest running event in the country with international competitors. It usually takes place mid May. This year 32’000 runners took part in it. It rained. But the atmosphere was still wonderful, with crowds cheering on the runners and bands playing in different spots throughout the city.

The organizers pride themselves that the longer distance run, the 16km Grand Prix, covers the 10 most beautiful miles of the world. That is a big claim – but indeed the track leads through the picturesque old city of Bern and along the Aare river. It is a uniquely beautiful race with quite some altitude (over 250m) to cover. From km14 to km15 is the worst part of the race with a steep ascent of 9% before reaching the finishing line.

There are three different categories:

The Grand Prix (16km) with about 16’000 participants, the Old City Prix (4.7km) for those building up their jogging skills and the Bear Grand Prix (1.6km) for smaller kids and whole families.

The sports event is very well organized and is great fun either as a participant or as part of the cheering crowd. There are usually around a 100’000 people watching the race and enjoying the atmosphere.

The winners in this years 10 miles GP of Bern were

  • men: Ghirmay Ghebresslassie from Eritrea: 47’00’’
  • ladies: Charity Kiprop from Kenya:  56’52’’
The Grand Prix of Bern 2016-11-19T20:10:01+01:00



Deep inside the Emmental at the end of a valley surrounded by a steep mountain range you will find the hamlet Kemmeriboden. Behind the mountains  surrounding it are three very distinct areas: the Emmental, the (UNESCO biosphere) Entlebuch and the lakes of Thun and Brienz.

The traditional hotel / restaurant there has been quite famous for several generations. A hundred years ago this place was well known for it’s bath. Nowadays people would go there rather for limited winter sports or in summer for a wide range of wonderful hikes along clearly marked trails, leading into these other three areas mentioned above.

The popular hotel offers interesting possibilites for accomodation. During winter you can choose to spend the night in an igloo. In summer you can sleep on hay. But the hotel offers also quite comfortable rooms and actually very nice food too.

From Berne it takes about 1 1/2 hours by public transport (train and bus) to get there, by car about an hour. At the hotel there is also plenty of free parking available. Public transport is very convenient, if you want to hike across into another area.

Kemmeriboden 2017-08-03T12:14:27+01:00

Summer Tires and Apprenticeships


By now most people have replaced their set of winter tires with their set of summer tires. Summer tires lose their grip below temperatures of 7°C. By law the profile of tires in Europe may not be lower than 1.6mm. Below that they also loose their efficiency and driving becomes increasingly dangerous. The police in Switzerland deal out hefty fines for offenders. Additionally when caught drivers may even have to hand in their driving license for a limited time.

Most people store their set of tires at home. For a fee your car mechanic will store your set of spare tires for you.

The work place of any the car mechanic in this country is amazingly clean and well ordered. These guys are pros and have gone through the standard Swiss apprenticeship scheme of of four years hands on training. During those years the trainees also go to school for about two days a week. During their apprenticeship years they earn a modest salary. At the end of their apprenticeship they get a federal diploma recognizing them as trained professionals in their field.

These Swiss apprenticeship schemes (3 or sometimes 4 years) are the standard for any kind of non academic job be it a carpenter, cook, bank employee, shop assistant, hair dresser, insurance agent, office clerk etc. Most young Swiss rather opt for a non academic career. After graduation they will make between CHF 3’000 to 5’000 a month depending on their field.

When young people going through their apprenticeship training discover, that they would like to pursue academic studies they have several options after their graduation. The can do a specific gap year and then go to a technical school (later graduating as engineers) or after two gap years full time studies and completed exams they can start studying at a university. In  the private sector people who have done their apprenticeship training and then completed higher studies are in high demand. They offer hands on experience along with academic knowledge.

Youth unemployment is hardly a problem for trained pros. The unemployment rate in Switzerland with around 4.5% is the lowest in Europe.

Summer Tires and Apprenticeships 2016-05-14T18:11:19+01:00