Bern claims for its own the artist Paul Klee, a German who was born in a village near the city of Bern, died in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, and is buried in Bern’s Schosshalde Cemetery, twenty minutes’ walk from where I live. Klee wanted Swiss citizenship and applied for it, but it wasn’t granted until six days after his death. His mother, Ida Frick, was Swiss, and he went to school and lived in Bern until he was 19, when he left to study art in Munich, but his citizenship was determined by his German father.
The Bernese do interesting things to their male friends’ names. Aschi, Bidu, Bänts, Chrigu (“ch” like hawking up spit!), Fige, Köbi, Kusy, Res, Seppu, and Stöffu are what you call men named Ernst, Beat, Benjamin, Christian, Victor, Jakob, Markus, Andreas, Joseph, and Christoph (or Stephan). My favorite nickname of all, though, is Schämpu (pronounced more or less like “shampoo,” but with the accent on the first syllable.) That’s what a man named Jean-Pierre may be called if he lives in the canton of Bern.
Scenes of Bern
No more than a few hundred feet from the Schosshalde cemetery where Paul Klee is buried is the Paul Klee Center, which holds regularly changing exhibits of artwork by him and his contemporaries and friends, many of whom taught at the Bauhaus in Germany, as Klee did. The museum, completed in 2005, is by architect Renzo Piano, and its design reflects the light, playful quality of Klee’s paintings and drawings. I get to admire it at least once a week on my regular walks. Much as I like the building, I have to confess I don’t think it’s as breathtaking as Piano’s Beyeler Foundation near Basel.
- Beauty in Black and WhiteIt has been at least twenty-five years since I discovered a Swiss art-form called paper-cutting or Scherenschnitte. And now I’ve discovered a new Swiss paper-cutter, Marc Schweizer, who’s about to have a show of his work in the Alps. Although the Chinese had already been making paper-cuts for at least 1500 years, the craft didn’t becomeContinue reading “Beauty in Black and White”
- Thou and I Will See Him DineOne of my favorite Christmas carols is “Good King Wenceslas.” It has a rousing, easy-to-sing melody and tells a dramatic story. I especially like the verse in which, with each step, the king’s feet heat the ground, melting the snow and leaving a warm place where his page can walk. But what I could never understandContinue reading “Thou and I Will See Him Dine”
- What Do We Mean By Old?When I was fourteen, my family moved from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to West Vancouver, British Columbia. In those days, Gastown, the historic district of Vancouver, was starting to fill with interesting shops and hip restaurants, and my parents sometimes took my sister and me there for dinner. Although I found Gastown fun, I could neverContinue reading “What Do We Mean By Old?”
- The Queen InvestigatesWhen I was about twelve years old, I wanted to marry Charles, Prince of Wales, who was eighteen. I wrote him a letter, telling him about my plans for his future, and received a signed picture in return, which I stuck in a drawer. It wasn’t that I had a crush on him—as far as anyContinue reading “The Queen Investigates”