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
- The Birth and Death of the AareWhen I first came to live in Bern in January 1987, only two months had passed since the Rhine had been disastrously polluted by a fire in a Sandoz warehouse on the river’s bank in the Swiss city of Basel. The water used to put out the fire had caused huge quantities of dangerous chemicals toContinue reading “The Birth and Death of the Aare”
- Cheese: One of the Basic Swiss Food Groups“A big bowl of hot boiled potatoes and some cheese? For fifty people?” Peter’s and my wedding had been in the US. Now my in-laws wanted to give a buffet dinner for us in Bern, to celebrate with Swiss family and friends. When Peter told me the main course, I was . . . well, IContinue reading “Cheese: One of the Basic Swiss Food Groups”
- A Deeply Moving DarknessIn an earlier post on Belinda Bauer’s terrific mystery Snap, I mentioned how much I enjoy adult novels with realistically portrayed children. Another brilliant example is Heather Young’s The Distant Dead (2020) . The story, set in a small desert town in Nevada, is told by three characters: Jake Sanchez, a volunteer fireman and driver forContinue reading “A Deeply Moving Darkness”
- National Memories, Myths and MemesToday, the first of August, is the Swiss equivalent of the Fourth of July, similarly celebrated with picnics, firework displays and speeches by local and national politicians. Swiss families gather with their neighbors at village-sponsored breakfasts or evening fish fries, and the huge bonfires lit on local hills are visible for miles. Already for days now,Continue reading “National Memories, Myths and Memes”