Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Swiss movement

Well, it's been a bit difficult getting this post out. First of all, it's in italics because for some mysterious reason blogger in Helvetia insists on displaying postss this way. (Atrios looks like this here as well.) (Okay, it's only in italics in the editing pane.) The hotel wifi doesn't work with my computer so I'm using the hotel guest computer which has a German keyboard. They don't use the letter Y, or the apostrophe, so they''re in weird places, along with some other peculiarities. It was a real struggle signing into this account as well, because blogger doesn't like me being in such a weird location. Among other problems, including terminal jet lag.

Anyway -- more about the conference later. But, a bit about Basel. There is far less automobile traffic here than any large U.S. city. The streets are not congested at all. Pedestrians can pretty much cross at will, there's unlikely to be a car coming and there are hardly any stoplights. Why is this? First, the city is completely knitted together by a dense network of street cars -- electric trolleys similar to Boson's Green Line, if you happen to be familiar with that, but going absolutely everywhere. At just about any block, you can get on anywhere from 2 to 5 different trolleys, that come every 2 to 6 minutes, going just about anywhere.

Second, there are more bicycles on the streets than there are cars, and at least as many scooters as cars. Such cars as there are are small. I have yet to see an SUV, a pickup truck, or a hummer. There are bicycle racks everywhere. Why can't Americans be half this smart?

Yes, the city is older than American cities and it has a lot of very old buildings. That doesn't always mean charming, some of the old stuff is drab and even run down -- the city isn't richer than New York, but on the other hand it's more egalitarian, as far as I can tell. The charming and elegant are all mixed together with the ordinary, but on the whole, it's pleasant to contemplate. There are two or three bars on every block downtown here near the Rhine, and also, for some bizarre reason, two or three hairdressers. The people don't seem particularly well coiffed, but they definitely have the opportunity. I can't explain that. They don't eat vegetables here, as far as I can tell. Cured meats, potatoes, a bit of fish, and pizza. That seems to be the diet. Also beer.,

Contrary to what you have been told, they don't all speak English. In fact, even the waiters in the hotel restaurants don't necessarily speak more than a few words. The language here is German, but the look is multi-ethnic. There are lots of black people and women in hijabs yacking away in Deutsch. So that may upset some of your mental pictures. On the other hand, everybody '-- well, not everybody, but a lot of the young men, smoke. They recently banned smoking in restaurants and bars, but a lot of the bars have banded together into a kind of civil disobedience association. We'll see how that plays out.

The river is of course long-since canalized, but it very much has that old world charm. It is lined solidly with lovekly old restaurants and hotels, taking advantage of the setting for outdoor dining and cafe sitting. The weather this time of year is paradisical. Generally, there's no AC, which is not a problem right now but I have to wonder about the future.

If I spoke the language, I could get a much less superficial view, but that,s about what I can see as an ignorant tourist. Something about the conference will come later.


robin andrea said...

I love your description of Basel. Interesting observations.

Anonymous said...

Basel is a very nice city...glad you are enjoying it.