Monday, December 17, 2012

Switzerland - Nyon and The Swiss Way

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Annie admiring geraniums in Nyon.
10 miles - Friday, September 23

With Katy and Martin at work, we did laundry and let it swing on the spider web-type clothesline while we pedaled the five miles into Nyon. We locked our bikes to a rack full of others. It’s quite common to see a tiny cable lock securing front wheel to frame. Many bicycles stand all by themselves, propped on kickstands. Even in this small city we find 50 bikes, mopeds, and motorcycles lined up beneath shelters at a train station. Nyon is close to Geneva and also on the primary line around large Lake Geneva, connecting several communities. Local commuters are comfortable leaving their secondary transportation behind. So, like them, we give little thought to the safety of our bikes and set out on foot.

View from the castle in Nyon. Photo credit: Panaramio by 
I enjoyed walking around town through narrow streets, poking inside stores, drooling over pastries in boulangerie windows. Andy and I follow a stairway winding downhill past a turreted castle to the waterfront. As with all Swiss towns we pass through, we imagine what it’s like living there – Nyon is no exception. Waterfront homes have always attracted us, but after inspecting signs in real estate windows, we have to chuckle at the multi-million dollar views. But still, it’s fun to look.

Back in Borex, it’s lovely to catch up with Belgium born Katty (old girlfriend of Andy’s brother) and husband, Martin.  We get a peek into the Swiss lifestyle.

A vineyard maison in Borex. Photo credit: Panoramio by Fonky Gecko
Housing is expensive in Switzerland – not only along Geneva’s waterfront. A single detached home goes for over a million; homes with lake frontage, for 11 million. Less expensive are the attached homes, like Martin and Katty’s, which would be classified as condo living in the U.S. Katty says the Arabs tend to own the shorefront property; the land is the costly part.

The Swiss pay 12% in government taxes –  living is okay – their wage higher than most countries. Small farms are subsidized. Farmers’ income is dependent on weather and crop prices. Our friends can’t imagine Switzerland joining the European Community. Farmers would then be on their own – a condition of the E.C.

Martin, Katty, and little Anabelle
(a mix of Swiss German and Belgian roots.)
Before dinner, we take a stroll to a neighboring village on flat, cement access lanes, In places the way is clogged with manure and dirt clumps. I help them push their daughter Anabelle in her stroller until she eventually falls asleep. The sun drops and haze settles over the vineyards and orchards. Towards the end of the walk we pick a few apples from trees. As we get to know Martin, I can see why Katty returned to Europe and is content with life in Borex.

A Swiss-style bunker. Photo credit: Waymarking.com
There are grassed-over humps – obviously man-made – as we cross roads. The Swiss maintain these bunkers in case of nuclear war. There is one near Katty and Martin’s home. Inside are enough beds to house the people in their area. The Swiss require one year of military service from each male with 3 weeks each year thereafter. Martin laughed at the dichotomy. The country is the most peaceable country in Europe, claiming neutrality in both World Wars, yet they retain a military presence and underground bunkers. The government is strict with its service requirements too, he explains; skipping out can land a person in jail. A friend of Martins tried to reschedule his time because his wife was due with their first child. But the best the government will do is try to get him to her hospital (across the country) when the labor begins.

1 comment:

  1. That is odd about the requirement for 12 months military service there, they have the same thing in Italy so maybe it is a European thing. I know that in Italy they will also accept other forms of community service in lieu of the purely military service.

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