Saturday, February 7, 2009

Switzerland: Where I avoid repeating my mistakes

After returning from Berlin, we had classes begin in earnest. I actually already made one change, and dropped my class on cultural and national identities, because it focused entirely on the Middle East. These topics are doubtlessly interesting, but I'm in a European Union program for a reason, and a slot opened up elsewhere, so my schedule for the semester will be as follows:

MW 9-1030 - EU/US Relations
MTWR 1225-125 - Beginning German I
TR - 245-415 - European Economic Policies
TR - 430-6 - European Integration Seminar
TR - 615-745 - European Political Cultures

The econ class promises to be delightfully easy, as some students in the class had not heard of Adam Smith beforehand, so we had to define who he was for ten minutes. And despite the fact that I probably will not end up doing the Brussels internship after the program for financial reasons, I'm going to try to see if I can go to some of the courses for it, since there will be French review, and I would like to not forget everything I learned last semester.

After our first two days of classes, a very strenuous courseload indeed, yesterday we were bussed to the Alps ( for a day of, well, winter. More specifically, we took the 6 AM bus to Grindelwald (, one of the better Swiss alpine winter resort towns. Personally, I spent the majority of my day doing sledding and tubing. Tubing was actually a little lackluster - the course was rather tame and predominately a series of lazy curves. I was hoping for a bobsled run. Sledding (in German-speaking places known as sledging), was indescribably ridiculous. Essentially, they gave us one of the old Citizen Kane style sleds. And told us to sled down the bus road that they drive up the mountain with. The buses had giant horns that played La Cucaracha, or at least some Swiss equivalent that sounded highly derivative, when they neared so you knew to get out of the way, lest you and Rosebud get run down. This was a 4 kilometer sled route, complete with mattresses on trees and fences to attempt to prevent you from plummeting down the mountain side. So where tubing failed me, at least the Swiss got the sledging right.

As one last note on the trip, last time I was in Switzerland, in Basel you might recall, I had to pay 18 dollars for a personal pan pizza. The Swiss have institutionalized highway robbery as their food-service industry. Yesterday, I learned from my mistakes and smuggled a loaf of bread and jar of Nutella across the border, so I could teach those Swiss a lesson.

Anyway, I'll leave you with some pictures of the Alps:

The sunset (sadly, could only be taken from a moving bus) over Lake Thun (

Alpine trains.

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