Switzerland becomes “normal” with the snow

Photo from: blick.ch

This week Switzerland has been crossed by snow storms for days. Some mountain cantons have many villages isolated…

And even Zurich city is blocked: trams and public transportation are stopped.

The snow, with its silent white cover, makes everything the same. Even Switzerland, the organised country, where everything is planned, is shut down by the snow like every other “normal” country…

Wettingen… Raven nest at the roundabout

Today I observed it again… it is always surprising!

In Wettingen, at the roundabout Landstrasse-Staffelstrasse, four ravens are watching the traffic from their nest in a curious and a little scared way.
This is an interesting wooden work made by the artist Alex Schaufelbühl. According to the newspaper Aargauer Zeitung (online article from 16.8.2012), the sculptor was inspired by the hundreds of ravens which are spending the night on the trees near the artificial lake of Wettingen.
The masterpiece is made of driftwood and the birds are not painted black, but their dark colour is the result of a flame-thrower. The sculpture was installed at the end of 2009.

This is one of the street with the highest traffic. The big wooden baby birds of the roundabout are probably reminding us that nature, even if dark, even if sometimes hidden on top of some trees, is always to be preserved and shall not be disturbed too much…

The best Swiss specialty!

Photos: On the way to Livigno (IT) from Switzerland. Queue for the train with car loading (Vereina) plus queue before the tunnel (Munt La Schera) afterwards. Total waiting time: 7 hours! Unbelievable in a civil country!

What is Switzerland famous for?

Banks, chocolate, watches, mountains, rösti, heidi and…. RED TRAFFIC LIGHTS AND QUEUES!

Traffic regulation belongs to Switzerland as human life to Saturn! Absolute zero!

His majesty, the speed radar!

This morning, while accompanying my daughters to school, I noticed a new glorious temporary installation: his majesty, the speed radar!

“It” was proudly watching the internal street of our village, to check any possible car driving faster than 30 km/h! Right decision: no car will put small children in danger any longer.

Call “it” as you wish, but as a matter of fact, the horrendous radar / speed trap / camera / big red eye is a real institution in the Confederation! Exactly like chocolate, watch, bank, cheese fondue and mountain.

And “it” is also a great money collector for the public administration, whenever some car falls under its claws.

I was so impressed and frightened by this steel policeman, that I almost wanted to modestly introduce myself to “it” and, bowing, already leave “it” a small monetary contribution…

“Refreshing” roundabout

Wettingen is proudly the biggest “village” (as opposite to city or town) of Switzerland!
Basically a big village near the city of Baden, historical home of the multinationals ABB and General Electric (former Alstom).
Even if Wettingen is not a city, on its streets you can find something unique! A roundabout with some figures wearing swimsuits and taking… shower! And the showers are real, they have real water!
Of course the showers are working only in summer! We are in Switzerland, everything is planned!

Money, money, money

[Photo of ABBA’s “Money money money”: from hitparade.ch]

Even if the title is the same as the successful song by ABBA, this story is just a boring “black and white” matter of Swiss francs, bills and burocracy.
Due to the fact that Switzerland is the country of all welfare records, including the highest prices of the world, a lot of people living near the border prefer to buy stuff in Germany.
Some weeks ago we went to Germany to buy some tyres. Coming back, with the tyres proudly making themselves visible from the trunk, we were stopped by the severe customs officer.
Having bought these tyres in Amazon with delivery in Germany, we did not have any receipt. By the way, for some ununderstandable rules, the tyres shall always be declared and the relevant 7.7% Swiss VAT shall be paid! (Apparently, also tyres which are lying in the trunk shall be considered as a single piece with the car, and therefore their VAT shall be paid).
How did the custom officer calculate the VAT? Basing his figures just on my verbal declaration of the possible price of the tyres!
Strange, right?!
Price and rigorous VAT calculation starting from a verbal supposed price, but the relevant receipt given to me as bumptious bill with Swiss flag and four languages to say “Swiss Confederation”.

Very vague about the rules, but very precise when it goes to money!
Should the famous ABBA song eventually be proposed as new national anthem of the Confederation?

The power of Swiss nature

Last Wednesday I just arrived home when the fury of the sky fell on the Earth.
In Ehrendingen and surroundings a violent hailstorm started and went on for half an hour, followed by violent rain!
The main road crossing the village became an impetuous river with half metre water, and all the fields and streets became white as in winter!
The force of nature was impressive!
The buses and cars still on the road became like insects into the sea.
In some neighbouring villages they even remained without drinkable water for some days, because everything was contaminated with mud.
A lot of basements, houses, shops where flooded and invaded by water and mud.
A real scary scenery.
But thanks to the assiduous work of the fire brigade, in a couple of days all the main damages where fixed and the mud and water sent away and dried.

Unfortunately, as in this case, even the quiet Switzerland can sometimes become very… angry and upset!

Nussbaumen… Carnival at the roundabout

Yesterday I was driving through Nussbaumen (Gemeinde – community of – Obersiggenthal) and I noticed again its main roundabout.
We can define it as a “seasonal” or “multi-purpose” roundabout.

Thanks to the various poles, depending on the season or on some particular event, the roundabout can be “made up” with suitable flags or decoration.
Now we are approaching the Carnival time… or, as they say here, “Fasnacht”.
And that’s why the area is now full of flags showing a funny character with fake nose, laughable hat and pretending to dance.

Welcome in Nussbaumen, a town with more than 30% foreigners, where you immediately see when it’s Carnival time!

Gotthard tunnel…again! (Now in English!)


Dear Readers,

as promised in my previous post “Gotthard tunnel…again!“, here the English version.

I am Italian and I have been living for 15 years in Canton Argovia.
Therefore, especially on public holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Ascension Day, Whitsunday, summer weekends, I have been dependent on the scandalous (not to say disgustingly managed) Gotthard tunnel for 15 years.
Just for the few who might not know, the Gotthard tunnel is a 17 km long, 2 lane (one for each direction) tunnel separating the Italian from the German part of Switzerland and it is located on the main highway connecting Southern and Northern Europe through Switzerland!

As examples, my second last horror journey in the third world of Gotthard and surroundings: the return journey from Milan on Monday after Easter, on 28th March, and my last one: the return journey from Milan on Sunday, 8th May, at the end of the long weekend for the Ascension Day.
First of all, some tunnels before Gotthard, everything starts with a nice red traffic light lasting almost two hours!
What for?
Then the traffic light blinks and becomes orange (green would be too adventurous: attention! on the highway there are a lot of cars: danger! danger!) and finally, at the third attempt (the orange lasts only a couple of minutes without considering the inertia needed to restart the engines!), I succeed in passing the barrier.
After few kilometres (10 km before Gotthard tunnel) there is again a semi-still queue which is moving very slowly: some 10 metres every 5 minutes!
What is this?
A showdown to frustrate the drivers not to drive through the Gotthard tunnel?
It is obvious and easy to understand even for a child that, if you concentrate all the cars stopping them and blocking them with red traffic lights, you create useless and artificial queues!!!
If you let the traffic flow, the queues would dissolve by themselves or would be much shorter.
And who is deciding the timer for the traffic lights? Someone who perhaps does not even have a driving license? (Which would not be so unusual in Switzerland).
The green light in front of Gotthard is so short that the first cars with caravans cannot even start, slowing down all the group and making even the very traffic lights quite disputable!
Despite the meticulous and scientific traffic light timer which all the drivers have to undergo before entering the mouth of Gotthard, the dangers and risks in the tunnel are for sure absolutely not diminished, on the contrary!
In the tunnel you can still have queues which are moving very slow, or even stop, and all the cars, buses, trucks are willingly grouped one after the other within a very short (too short) distance!

Therefore I would like to know the main reasons of this fallacious and retrograde “access rule” to Gotthard.
There are even mathematical disciplines studying the theory of queues.
In case these were the background for such traffic regulation, for sure they would have found the biggest exception to their real applicability here near Gotthard!

Finally some data:
The journey “Argovia”-Milan normally takes a little less that three and half hours for about 300 km. With the Gotthard crisis, this journey becomes an odyssey of at least 6 hours (in the best cases…) or even seven!
These figures should make the responsible persons think, the people responsible of encumbering the connection between Northern Europe and a wide part of Southern Europe.

In order to grant the best possible safety at Gotthard tunnel, the first red traffic lights should perhaps be installed even at the border with Italy, at Chiasso!

Gotthard tunnel… again!


Dear readers,
during my last 10 hours’ trip (!) from Milano (Italy) to Argovia (Switzerland) to cover a little more than 300 km, I succeeded in writing the following post during the never ending queues.
My initial aim was actually to send this article to some Swiss newspapers and therefore I wrote it in Italian (this is the language spoken at one entrance of the Gotthard tunnel) and in German (spoken at the other side of the Gotthard tunnel).
Unfortunately I found out later that it is even quite complicate to send letters to Swiss newspapers!! Either in Italian or in German!!
Not to completely trash my hard work during the queues, I allow myself to publish this post in these two unusual languages…
I will translate it also in English, in case you are interested!
By the way, to be consistent with the length of the queues, I think this is absolutely my longest post ever!
If you have no clue of both Italian and German, then you can understand something about Gotthard at my previous post “Gotthard: the biggest bottleneck of Europe!“.

Italian version:

Sono italiano e vivo da 15 anni nel cantone di Argovia.
Quindi da 15 anni, specialmente in prossimita’ delle feste (Natale, Pasqua, Ascensione, Pentecoste, weekend estivi), mi ritrovo sempre in balia dello scandaloso (per non dire schifosamente gestito) tunnel del Gottardo.
Prendo come esempio l’ultimo mio viaggio dell’orrore nel terzo mondo del Gottardo e dintorni: il rientro da Milano al lunedi dopo Pasqua, 28 marzo.
Per prima cosa, un po’ di tunnel prima di quello del Gottardo, si comincia con un bel semaforo rosso della durata di quasi due ore!!
Per cosa???
Poi il semaforo diventa arancione lampeggiante (verde sarebbe troppo azzardato: attenzione in autostrada ci sono tante macchine: pericolo! Pericolo!) e finalmente al terzo tentativo (l’arancione dura solo un paio di minuti ovviamente senza contare l’inerzia che ci vuole per far ripartire i motori!) riesco a passare la prima barriera.
Dopo pochi chilometri (10 km prima del tunnel del gottardo) ancora coda semi ferma che va a singhiozzo: 10 metri ogni 5 minuti!
Una prova di forza per scoraggiare gli automobilisti a non varcare il gottardo?
E’ ovvio e comprensibile anche a un bambino che se si concentrano tutte le macchine fermandole e intruppandole coi semafori rossi, si creano inutili code artificiali!!!
Lasciando fluire il traffico, le code si smaltirebbero da sole o sarebbero ben piu’ snelle.
E chi mette il timer ai semafori? Qualcuno che magari neanche possiede la patente di guida? (Cosa tra l’altro non cosi’ inusuale in Svizzera). Il verde davanti al Gottardo dura cosi poco che i primi con roulotte non riescono neanche a partire, rallentando ovviamente tutto il gruppo…e rendendo gli stessi semafori alquanto discutibili!
Malgrado il meticoloso e (fanta)scientifico timer semaforico a cui sono sottoposti i guidatori prima di entrare nelle fauci del Gottardo, i pericoli nel tunnel non sono affatto scongiurati, anzi!
Nel tunnel ci sono lo stesso code che procedono a rilento, o addirittura a volte si fermano e le auto, i bus, i camion ovviamente tutti VOLUTAMENTE raggruppati uno dopo l’altro a brevissima distanza!

Gradirei dunque conoscere i motivi di tale paradossale e retrogrado “regolamento di accesso” al Gottardo.
Esistono addirittura discipline matematiche che studiano le teorie delle code.
Qualora queste fossero alla base della regolazione del traffico in prossimita’ del tunnel del Gottardo, avrebbero sicuramente trovato qui al Gottardo la piu’ grande eccezione alla loro reale applicabilita’!

Da ultimo alcuni dati:
Il viaggio “Argovia”-Milano dura normalmente poco meno di 3 ore e mezza per circa 300 km. Con la crisi gottardiana, tale viaggio si trasforma in una odissea di almeno 6 ore (nei casi migliori…) o anche 7!
Questi numeri dovrebbero far riflettere chi di dovere, responsabile di intralciare i collegamenti tra tutta l’Europa del Nord e parte di quella del Sud.

Forse per garantire la massima sicurezza al tunnel del Gottardo, i primi semafori rossi dovrebbero addirittura essere installati al confine, a Chiasso!

German version:

Ich bin Italiener und seit 15 Jahren wohne ich im Kanton Aargau.
Deswegen seit 15 Jahren, besonders während der Ferienzeit (Weihnachten, Ostern, Auffahrt, Pfingsten, sommerliche Wochenende) bin ich in der Gewalt vom skandalösen (und sehr lausig verwalteten) Gotthardtunnel.

Als Beispiel, meine zwei letzten Horrorreisen in die dritte Welt vom Gotthard und Umgebung: die Rückreisen aus Mailand am Ostermontag, 28. März 2016 und am Sonntag, 8. Mai 2016 nach der Auffahrswochenende.

Erstens “starten” wir viele Tunnel vor dem Gotthatdtunnel mit einem schönen Ampfel, der etwa 2 Stunden rot bleibt. Wofür?
Denn der Ampel wird blinkend orange (grun würde zu gewagt. Vorsicht, auf dem Autobahn gibt es viele Autos: Gefahr! Gefahr!) und beim dritten Versuch (Der Ampel bleibt orange nur wenige Minuten und dann wird wieder rot, ohne zu zählen die Trägheit, um die Motoren zu starten!) schaffe ich, die erste Barriere zu überqueren.

Nach einigen Kilometern (10 km vor dem Gotthardtunnel) noch eine halb-gestoppte Schluckstau: 10 Meter jede 5 Minuten!
Ist das eine Kraftprobe, um die Autofahrer zu entmutigen, den Gotthatdtunnel durchzufahren?
Es ist selbstverständlich auch für ein Kind, dass es unnötige künstliche Staus bilden sich, wenn alle Autos, Bus, LKWs gesammelt und an eine einzige Truppe angeschlossen werden!!
Wenn der Verkehr selber fliessen dürften, würden die Staus kleiner werden und sich selbst lösen können.
Und wer regelt die verdammten Ampeln?
Vielleicht jemand, der sogar keinen Führerschein besitzt (Das würde eigentlich nicht so ungewöhnlich in der Schweiz sein).
Die Dauer des grünen Ampels ist so kurz, dass die erste PKW-Fahrer mit Wohnwagen schaffen sogar nicht, ihre Autos zu starten und das wird natürlich die ganze Gruppe verlangsamen…und das gesamte “Ampelsystem” fragwürdig machen.
Trotz des übergenauen Sci-Fi-Timer der Ampeln, der für alle Fahrer vor dem Gotthardrachen gilt, sind die Gefahren nicht im Gotthardtunnel beschworen, im Gegenteil!!
Im Tunnel gibt es sowieso sehr lange Staus, die teilweise stoppen sich oder bewusst bewegen sich, aber wie eine unendliche Schlange von gesammelten Autos, Busse, LKWs.

Ich möchte gern wissen, die Gründe dieses abwegige primitive Zutrittreglement zum Gotthardtunnel.
Es gibt sogar matematische Disziplinen, die die Wartenschlangentheorien studieren. Falls diese die Basis für die Strassenverkehrsordnung in der Nähe des Gotthardtunnels wären, würden sie hier am Gotthard sicher die grösste Ausnahme für ihre realistische Anwendbarkeit finden!

Schlussendlich einige Daten:
Normalerweise dauert die Reise “Argovia”-Mailand ein bisschen wenig als dreieinhalb Stunden, um etwa 300 km zu fahren. Mit der “Gotthardkrise” wird diese Reise eine Odyssee von mindestens sechs Stunden (im besten Fall!) oder sogar mehr als sieben!
Diese Zahlen sollten die Zuständige überlegen lassen, weil sie verantwortlich sind, die ganze Verbindungen zwischen Nordeuropa und einem grossen Teil der Südeuropa zu behindern!

Vielleicht, um die höchste Sicherheit am Gotthardtunnel zu gewährleisten, sollten die ersten roten Ampel schon an die Grenze, in Chiasso, installiert werden!