Wednesday, 31 January 2007

What The Swiss Believe In (part 1)

It is a well known fact that the Swiss love their flag. Ditto that they are heavily involved in the military. It is less widely known that the men apparently like to wear very short dresses and dance with each other, but all these fascinating aspects of Swiss culture come together and are celebrated at the Aarau train station:

Similarly, the value of stretching is revered by the Swiss. Specifically, stretching while naked and elevated and in public. In some countries you might be arrested for such behaviour, but here you are more likely to be immortalised in bronze:

And once you are appropriately warmed up, why not try a spot of tai chi?:

I'm sure all these statues (and all the other ones that you are yet to see) commemorate worthy things (like soldiers and dead people and actual things that the Swiss do hold dear), but really. If you are going to make art, and you want it to have a serious meaning, why not try to make it a little bit less funny looking?

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

First Things Fifth

It occurs to me that maybe you lot (whoever you are) might want to know where I live. Not more pictures of the flat (that would get repetitive pretty quickly), but dull facts, figures and maps.
There, as you can see, is Switzerland. I am in Aarau, which is in the middle in the north, in the west of the light blue section (the light blue section being the canton of Aargau). I realise the map is too small to see, so try here for a better view. Aarau is the capital of Aargau, but in spite of that, the population of Aarau is only something around 15 000 people. This, for those of you who don't realise what I am saying, seems very small. I grew up in a town of 10 000 people, and although it may have provided some sort of quasi-idyllic childhood experiences, it was tiny and didn't have much stuff. There was no movie theatre, for example. Movies were held once a week or fortnight or something in the local Town Hall, where the seats were uncomfortable and it was always cold (I remember turning up there one night to find my friends, who shall remain nameless for their own sakes, wearing ugg boots and carrying blankets, and this was looong before it was socially acceptable to wear ugg boots in public. Not that it is, by the way). This being Europe, though, everything is closer than you think and 15 000 people is probably quite a few. There is a cinema (which I fully intend to frequent), there's a bunch of stuff, and far larger cities (Zürich, Basel) are only half an hour or so away.

There are a bunch of undoubtedly important historical features of Aarau, but me being Australian, I don't really care for all that vague stuff that allegedly happened hundreds and hundreds of years ago. For those of you that do, here are the (heavily edited) highlights:
  • Aarau was apparently founded in 1240;

  • There is a bunch of old stuff here (churches and so on);

  • There's a river called the Aare;

  • Aarau was once the capital (only for 6 months) of the Helvetic Republic (which was apparently what Switzerland turned into briefly during the late 1700s/early 1800s when those pesky revolutionary Frenchies got a bit fed up with their own back yard);

  • Albert Einstein lived here for some time in the mid 1890s. Now there is a vaguely excellent cafe that bears his name and sells overpriced coffee;

  • The mayor is a chap called Marcel Guignard. This is what he looks like:

  • Aarau turns into a "carrot wonderland" (I'm not kidding, although I'm hard pressed to find a photo that proves it. You'll all just have to use your imaginations) in November at the annual Rüeblimart (carrot festival).

In order to help you cope with all those vowels, Aarau is pronounced something like "aah-row" ("aah" as in the moment of realisation, and "row" as in argument, or for those of you familiar with recent-ish political scandals in Australia, "row" as in "Rau" as in "Cornelia Rau"). Not "aroo" (like a dingo howling), not "arrow", not "aaargh" (like a pirate).

Monday, 29 January 2007

Save The Graffiti

As you may know, I recently embarked on a stickering campaign around Sydney to draw attention to the axing of the Glass House, one of the few shows on telly that I actually watch(ed). Thanks to the largesse of my former employer I made a bunch of stickers, which I then proceeded to stick all over Sydney. Sadly this had no effect (apart from entertaining me and annoying my boss) and the show has now slipped quietly into the halls of posterity. Or possibly the halls of victory if you are some sort of conservative ABC board member.

Anyway, for months there I was wandering around town with a handbag full of stickers, occasionally* surreptitiously affixing one to a convenient toilet wall or telegraph pole. And then the show was gone and suddenly it seemed like a bit of a waste of time to stick any more stickers anywhere. Which left me with about 40 spare stickers. And happily, as you can see, my contribution to arts and culture in Australia lives on, albeit in Switzerland where I don't watch the Glass House (plus no one knows or cares what it is), where I don't vote, and when it's too late to save the show anyway.


* ridiculously frequently

Friday, 19 January 2007

Chez Nous

And for those of you who are interested, this is where we live:

As you may be able to tell, this is the living room and bedroom. There really isn't that much more to the flat (apart from a couch, which is only just out of the picture, a kitchen, which is in the same room, a toilet, which is in a different one, and an excellent walk-in wardrobe which is probably really a broom closet or something).

Arguably the best thing about the place is the view from the window:

or, if you're after something more picturesque,

and, if you're an early riser (not that the crack of dawn is actually early at this time of year)

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Abandoned By A (Potential) Psycho

My boyfriend owns a bayonet. Actually, I'm not sure if it's really his or if he is just borrowing it, but either way it makes me uncomfortable.

He has just left to spend 3 weeks in the army, and as I helped him lug all his army accessories to the train station, I noticed that he was surprisingly heavily armed. Having already discussed the gun in some detail, attention turned to the knife. "That's a very big knife you've got" I said, and had we been other people, or had he not been wearing cammos (which also make me uncomfortable), it might have turned into innuendo or a Crocodile Dundee type conversation ("That's not a knife.."), or maybe even a combination of the two (perhaps with reference to the small size of Swiss Army knives, too, if I had been feeling mean). "Actually, it's a bayonet" he said, and I had visions of him stabbing people visciously, or possibly being stabbed himself. After all, what else does one do with a bayonet? Open letters?

Wikipedia tells me that

"In a modern context, bayonets are known to be particularly good for controlling prisoners, poking an enemy to see whether he is dead and for when the fighter is out of ammunition or so close to the enemy that firing a round is impossible."

Reto is in the Swiss army and so is unlikely to find himself needing to control prisoners, having enemies or fighting anyone (unless it's over the last piece of army-issued chocolate), so really, why does he have a bayonet? And does he keep it in our flat?

Let The Complaining Begin

Well. I have been meaning to start a blog for some time now, so that I can complain about things but not have to complain in group email form, nor type out the same complainy rant over and over and over again, and so here I am. Happily, the starting of the blog leads naturally into the first round of whinging.

All the instructions for setting up this site are in german! I don't know why this is happening. It was in english when I began, and then suddenly I was trapped in some sort of monolingual blogger's nightmare. My extremely useful boyfriend, Reto, who usually translates everything out of german for me, and who also usually fixes all my computery problems, is sadly absent (off on 3 weeks of enforced shooting, which is another rant entirely), and so here I am trapped in german, wondering if everything is going to go hopelessly wrong. Sigh.