• Places

    what’s ahead 2018?

    The last couple of years have been strange for just about every soul I know in this world. All the things we face: the pressures of time, the rapidity of change, the demands of work and looming above it with an oppressive shadow the threat to our very existence, which, thanks to some bizarre decisions made by electorates around the world, can sometimes seem greater than ever. Yet strangely, I’m still optimistic, even grateful. Why? Because you’re reading this right now. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your time. Just know that it’s a lot. Which is why I will do my best to update this page weekly, so that you can count on some fresh content. Please share your thoughts with me, on the stories you like and why you like them. Also feel free to send me some ideas. I’ve had a busy couple of years.…

  • Places

    goldau nature park

    Until we find a way to restore this planet to its former glory, the ethics of animals in confinement will remain contentious. However, an appreciation of nature in all its many forms is something I’m completely behind. As a species inhabiting so many artificial environments which seem to cater to our needs we humans seem to forget that we are not separate from this Earth but of it. Contact with living, breathing animals other than ourselves might help us to appreciate all that we could gain by caring for our world rather than simply exploiting it as a stockpile of resources. At Goldau, amid the rubble of he 1806 landslide tragedy, has risen a wildlife centre where you can take an up-close look at a variety of wildlife, from fierce and formidable predators including bears, wolves and lynxes and much more docile and approachable fauna such as deer and mountain sheep.…

  • Places

    wintery wonder in poschiavo

    Southeast of St. Moritz is a remarkable little town called Poschiavo in the Graubünden canton. Accessible on the Bernina Express, which begins in Chur and terminates in Tirano, Italy is well worth the effort, especially if you kick your legs out on the train and watch the incredible landscape wash by your window. Craving a little change after the festivities of Christmas and New Year, we took a little journey to this Italian-speaking locale and soon saw ourselves in the grip of a snow heavy spell while Zürich became quite balmy as of New Year’s Eve. Surrounded by mountains, intersected by the Poschiavino River, there seems to be a disproportionate number of excellent eateries and organic labels – 87% of the Valposchiavo farmland products are certified by Bio-Suisse. During the heavy snowfall we were content to hunker down and be catered to by the staff of the Hotel Albrici, a palace…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  Books & Lit,  People

    basel creators: hadi barkat

    One of the things that is always satisfying about the season ahead, and the memories I have of those behind, are some of the amazing books I have read and the joy of relaxing and playing a raucous game or two together with family and friends. Recently I sat down with a man who has made the pursuit of a good read and an entertaining challenge his business. While working in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a successful CEO coach in the field of venture vapital, Hadi Barkat was also studying to take his Swiss citizenship test. Already responsible for his company’s gatherings and offsite entertainment, he employed the services of a game designer, and decided to brainstorm a way to turn his study into a form of entertainment. Out of this was born Helvetiq, initially a trivia game based on Swiss knowledge, and two years on, a fully fledged Swiss publishing house, committed to…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  Places

    swissmas at bellevue

    If you are one of the bah humbug set and in Zürich, avoid Bellevue’s Zürcher Wienachtsdorf at all costs. There is so much Christmas cheer it could quite possibly kill you. We experienced it for the first time last year before we moved and were duly impressed by the show put on by Zürich in general, but with special mention going to the organizers responsible for Bellevue. So at the risk of imperilling anyone who loves to cringe at Christmas, here are some shots of all the mania from this year and last year. And anyone who needs gift ideas for me can also check out the cool stands by Lekka, Circle Sustainable store and Freitag among the many stalls with some pretty good swag. Just saying. So perhaps I’ll see you around for some mulled wine and some hot smoked salmon … thinking perhaps this Christmas thing might just catch on.

  • Mind / Body,  Places

    masaola regenwald – another zürich hotspot

    Winter, when it arrives, can knock me sideways. This year, with the change in city, being farther north was a doozy. So for a dose of wellness and a mental escape from pervasive greyness, I sometimes like to visit Masaola Regenwald, a simulation of a Madagascar Rainforest at the Zürich zoo. This 11,000 m2 lush, oxygen-infused dome teems with life. Flora and fauna abound. Razor-edged ferns and soaring bamboo, trees and countless other species of plant provide a home to low swooping fruit bats and colourful birds to tiny geckos and multi-hued chameleons, tortoises and even tree-clambering lemurs. It’s more economic than a plane ticket, and yet still a transporting, mind-bending experience. The Treetop Walkway is particularly elevating, like a path to endless summer. And who doesn’t dream of that?

  • Food & Drink,  People

    zürich creators: shem leupin

    At consumer-level, Zurich is not a trend-setting place. The Swiss have built a world class reputation perfecting products of enduring quality, not flash fads. In my opinion that’s a good thing. In such a culture, innovating profitable products, or commodities, especially those that already work so well and satisfy so many, without apparent reason, can hardly be seen as a worthwhile venture. Unlike hugely populated markets hungry for the next big thing – places where creating novelty is a relentless thirst, here in established Zurich it’s a difficult proposition. Yet Zurich doesn’t lack for creativity. In fact, the creativity that succeeds here might just be the kind that matters. For instance: coffee. An essential, mostly overlooked daily ritual, your cup of joe is what it is, and as long as it performs and tastes in the manner expected, who cares? A perfectly valid viewpoint. Food and beverage snobbery is often tiresome,…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  Places

    candle-making at bürkliplatz

    As a child I was always getting into trouble playing with candles. My name was regularly cursed after several tablecloths ended up coated with thick gobs of hardened wax. What fun it was to dip my fingertips into the melted goo and feel it harden into a seal. I couldn’t resist. If only I’d had a chance to make candles instead of mess them up at the dinner table I might be a different person today. Or not. Anyway, right now, underneath a tent enfolding the music pavilion at Bürkliplatz there is beeswax candle-making, a meditative pursuit where kids can put their little mitts to good use making candles rather than trashing them. For a reformed candle-vandal such as myself this is great development. Perhaps I can even repay my debt to society by helping my daughter to light the way with these all natural mini crafts. It’s also a…

  • Places

    sukkulenten sammlung – a zürich winter hotspot

    In recent years succulents and cacti seem to have become resurgent in their popularity. Perhaps you even have some of your own. Before we moved we had to redistribute our modest collection that soaked up the sun and spilled over our windowsills in Istanbul. I remember loving them as a kid, and to this day still find their shapes and patterns hypnotic. The other day when I was craving some heat, I decided to drop into the Sukkulenten-Sammlung at Mythenquai in Zurich. Divided into geographic-specific arrangements the diverse selection is really satisfying. Also the warmer, drier, oxygen-replete air is a boon too. If you want to commence your own collection there’s even a self-service table with the right soil and some junior succulents and cacti to take home. It might take you a while to rival their heights, but there’s no time like the present to get started. If you’re…

  • Photography,  Places

    ticino: switzerland’s mediterranean

    Hailing from a country as vast and underpopulated as Canada, the idea of escaping the dominant cultures surrounding you in a significant way without boarding an aircraft once seemed a serious undertaking. Massive expanses of incredible nature surround you, making the absence of human culture the best option to escape your daily reality. Living in Zurich, you can hop on a train and witness dramatic changes in both landscape and culture in the time it takes for some people to commute home in a big city. Which is why I recently caught the train to Ticino canton. Just over two hours from the main Bahnof, Ticino canton is hailed as Switzerland’s Mediterranean. Given the lack of seaside, it’s most likely the fact that the primary language here is Italian, which in and of itself delivers a refreshing jolt of energy. Italian, when it smacks me upside the head, still feels…