Up in the Swiss Alps — Alpetta Restaurant.
The Alpetta is a rustic stone ski lodge in the Engadin Alps. With a cozy restaurant and large sun terrace, the Alpetta bravely stands out among other gentrified (the Swiss would say chici-mici) taverns. They offer traditional, freshly cooked local dishes, including delicious polenta with Bergkäse (cheese made up in the Alps) and white truffles, authentic Swiss fondue and Raclette and game specialties which Dorigo the owner hunts down himself, such as stag and venison, chamois (alpine goat-antelope) and Murmeltier (something like a groundhog).
For those who are less adventurous, there are also excellent dishes and desserts such as Tafelspitz, a slowly cooked filet of beef, Bündnerfleisch (air-dried meat), grilled sausages, salads, and Swiss-style fruit pies. You will not leave feeling hungry!
The Alpetta is located at 2,272 meters on the Corvatsch mountain, halfway down the ski slope between the Alp Surlej middle station and the valley chairlift station. The restaurant is easily accessible by ski or snowboard, unfortunately there are no winter hiking trails to the restaurant, so dress properly and follow the ski run if you are crazy enough to go by foot.
> Alpette Mountain Restaurant, Corvatsch
> Alpette’s webcam
> the Chamois
> the Marmot
> Swiss Raclette
Part I: The Erasmus Writings — A Modern Translation.
Desiderii Erasmi Roterodami: Colloquia familiaria, originally published in 1518 (this edition was published in 1747 in Ulm).
21 February 2017 — It seems appropriate to look back into history in search of some insight to help us cope with the difficult times the world faces today. This is the first part in a series highlighting the writings of Gerhardus Gerhardi, better known as Erasmus von Rotterdam, the humanist born around 1466/69 in the Netherlands.
The Colloquia familiaria (literally dialogue of acquaintances) is a collection of written works on a wide variety of subjects. It was first published in November 1518 without Erasmus’ knowledge or consent by Johann Froben, a well-established printer and publisher in Basel. His print shop was located at Totengässlein 1/3 in the Haus zum Sessel, where the Pharmacy Museum is located today.
Erasmus’ work remains an inspiration to this day and — in his spirit — we have taken the liberty to modernize the English translation of this work, using both English and German sources. This might help non-native speakers understand Erasmus’ strong opinion on war, something that one does not necessarily take into consideration today. But first, check out the beautiful book design!
This edition begins with a four page biography of Erasmus.
In German, you could call this a Bleiwüste — a desert of lead (type).
The epitaph which is found on Erasmus’ tomb at the Basel Minster is also included:
Christo Servatori S.
Des. Erasmo Roterodamo, viro omnibus modis maximo, cuius incomparabilem in omni disciplinarum genere eruditionem pari coniunctam prudentia posteri et admirabuntur et praedicabunt, Bonifacius Amerbachius, Hier. Frobenius, Nic. Episcopius, haeres et nuncupati supremae suae voluntatis vindices, patrono optimo, non memoriae, quam immortalem sibi editis lucubrationibus comparavit, iis tantisper, dum orbis terrarum stabit, superfuturo ac eruditis ubique gentium colloquuturo, sed corporis mortalis, quo reconditum sit, ergo hoc saxum posuere. Mortuus est IIII. Eidus Julii iam septuagenarius anno a Christo nato MDXXXVI.
Christ consecrated to the savior
Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, a splendid man in every respect, whose unparalleled education in all forms of science (combined with equivalent wisdom), will be admired and praised for future generations to come, Bonifacius Amerbach(ius), Hieronymus Froben(ius), and Nic. Bischoff as heirs and executors of his last will to him, the distinguished patron, not for his memory, which he himself has made immortal through the publication of his intellectual labors, by which he will continue to live as long as the world is, and will speak with all educated people, but for this mortal body, so that it may be buried, set this stone. He died on the fourth day before the Ides of July (= 12 July), already 70, in 1536.
Hanno. Thrasymachus. — A Soldier’s Confession.
The discussion. The immoral life of soldiers is criticized and shown to be quite miserable. War is a place of confusion, corruption and all types of evil habits. During war there is no distinction made between things that are sacred and things that are vulgar. The desire to plunder others’ belongings attracts many men to becoming soldiers. The lack of any proper respect in military life is illustrated by the confession of a soldier and just how youth may be enticed into joining the army.
Hanno — How does it come about that you went away as a Mercury and came back a Vulcan?
Thrasymachus — Why do you talk to me about your Mercuries and your Vulcans?
Hanno — Because you looked like ready to fly when leaving, but you’ve returned home limping.
Thrasymachus — That is usually how soldiers return.
Hanno — Why are you a soldier at war, you run away quicker than a deer when the enemy is at your heels.
Thrasymachus — The hopes of filling my pockets made me courageous.
Hanno — Well then, have you brought home a big pile of plundered goods?
Thrasymachus — Just the opposite, my pockets are empty.
Hanno — Then you’re traveling with a light load.
Thrasymachus — Instead I am carrying the heavy burden of sin.
Hanno — That’s heavy baggage indeed, if the prophet is correct in saying that sin is like lead.
Thrasymachus — I have seen and taken part in more crimes than those in the course of my entire life beforehand.
Hanno — How do you like the life of a soldier?
Thrasymachus — There is nothing more sinister or disastrous.
Hanno — Then what are those people thinking, for such little money, or some do it out of curiosity, running with great haste into battle as if it were a banquet?
Thrasymachus — I cannot explain it other than that they are possessed by demons, a pact with the devil, where they then experience the misery of hell on earth.
Hanno — So one would think. They cannot be talked into doing an honest business, if there is no money involved. But tell me, how did the battle go? Who is getting closer to becoming the winner?
Thrasymachus — There was such an uproar and confusion — trumpets blaring and the thundering of horns, whinnying of horses, men shouting —, I couldn’t see what was going on, I hardly knew where I was.
Hanno — Why do others come home and are able to recall all of the details, what they did and what they said, as if they were just casually drifting along during the actual battle?
Thrasymachus — In my opinion they must be lying through their teeth. I can tell you what happened in my tent, but as to what happened during the battle, I have absolutely no idea.
Hanno — So you don’t know how you injured your leg?
Thrasymachus — I honestly can’t say. I suppose it was hurt either by a flying object or the hoof of a horse or something.
Hanno — I know how it happened.
Thrasymachus — Really? Did somebody tell you?
Hanno — No, but I am guessing.
Thrasymachus — Then tell me!
Hanno — When you were running away in a panic, you fell down and hit your knee on a stone.
Thrasymachus — Send me to hell if you haven’t hit the nail on the head!
Hanno — Go, get yourself home now and tell your wife of your triumphs!
Thrasymachus — She won’t be singing a friendly song of praise when I come home in such a mess.
Hanno — But how will you repay what you have stolen?
Thrasymachus — I’ve already done that.
Hanno — To whom?
Thrasymachus — To the whores, the barkeepers and those who beat me playing dice.
Hanno — That’s like a true soldier. Win nasty, lose even more disgustingly. This holds true, but you certainly didn’t disgrace the church, did you?
Thrasymachus — Nothing is sacred in war, we did not spare private homes nor churches.
Hanno — How will you make up for this?
Thrasymachus — They say one must not repent for what happened. Everything is lawful in war.
Hanno — You mean by the law of arms, I suppose?
Thrasymachus — You guessed it.
Hanno — But that law is the highest of injustice. It was not the love for your country, but the desire to plunder that made you become a soldier.
Thrasymachus — I confess, but I believe very few go to war with better intentions.
Hanno — That is indeed some excuse to go mad with the greater part of mankind.
Thrasymachus — I once heard a preacher in his pulpit say that war was lawful.
Hanno — Pulpits indeed are the oracles of truth. But war may be lawful for a Prince, and yet not so for you.
Thrasymachus — I have heard that every man must live by his trade.
Hanno — A very honourable trade indeed! Burning houses, robbing churches, raping nuns, plundering the poor and murdering the innocent!
Thrasymachus — Butchers are hired to kill animals, so why is our trade wrong because we are hired to kill men?
Hanno — But didn’t you ever worry what would happen to your soul if you were killed at battle?
Thrasymachus — Not really! I hoped for the best and I entrusted myself to St. Barbara (the patron saint of artillerymen).
Hanno — And did she protect you?
Thrasymachus — I guess so, as I got the impression she gave me a little nod.
Hanno — What time was it? In the morning?
Thrasymachus — No, no, it was after supper.
Hanno — And at that time of day I suppose the trees seemed to go for a stroll too?
Thrasymachus — How this man guesses everything! But St. Christopher (the patron saint of travelers) was the one I depended on most, whose picture was always on my mind.
Hanno — What, in your tent? How do the saints get there?
Thrasymachus — We had drawn him with charcoal on a piece of cloth.
Hanno — Then obviously that Christopher of coal was a real trusting soul? No joke, but I don’t see how you can expect to be forgiven for all of these villainous acts, unless you make a pilgrimage to Rome.
Thrasymachus — Yes I can, I know a quicker way than that.
Hanno — Which way is that?
Thrasymachus — I’ll go to the Black Friars and make a trade off.
Hanno — What? For your sacrilegious acts?
Thrasymachus — Yes, if I had robbed Christ himself and beaten him off afterwards, they have generous pardons that would take care of things and they have the power to forgive.
Hanno — That is well indeed, if God should reconcile your acts.
Thrasymachus — No, I am rather afraid the devil should not agree; but God has a forgiving nature.
Hanno — Which priest will you go to?
Thrasymachus — One I know who has little reasoning or conscience.
Hanno — Sounds like the green fodder has found the appropriate mouth. And when it’s over, you’ll go straight off to receive communion, just like a good Christian, won’t you?
Thrasymachus — Why shouldn’t I? Once I have unloaded my burden into his cap, I’ll be free again. Then we’ll see how he deals with it.
Hanno — But how can you be certain that he really absolves you of your sins?
Thrasymachus — I know he will.
Hanno — How do you can you be sure?
Thrasymachus — Because he lays his hand on my head and mutters something. I’m not exactly sure what.
Hanno — What if he gives you back all your sins when he lays his hand on your head and mumbles something like, “I release you from all those good deeds, of which I find few or none; I restore you back to just how I found you.”
Thrasymachus — Let him say what he wants, it is enough for me to believe that I am absolved.
Hanno — But you run a great hazard in believing that, for maybe that will not be good enough to God, to whom you are indebted.
Thrasymachus — Why of all people did you have to cross my path, fueling a bad conscience, which was at peace before?
Hanno — No, I think it was a very lucky encounter, meeting a friend with some good advice.
Thrasymachus — I can’t tell how good it is, in any case, it was not very pleasant.
Militis confessio, a soldier’s confession. The main characters’ names were abbreviated to save time and space on the page.
> Erasmus’ tombstone in the Basel Minster (in German)
Go Local! Part VI: The Zurich Succulent Collection.
The collection is made up of around 4,500 different species of succulent plants from 70 botanical families and has a total of approximately 25,000 individual plants.
13 February 2017 — In the late 1920s, retiring professional cactus nursery owner Jakob Gasser tried to sell his private collection of cacti to the City of Zurich, which turned down his offer. In 1929, department store owner Julius Brann ultimately acquired the collection of 1,516 plants and donated it to the city two years later. In 1931, the Municipal Cactus Collection (Städtische Kakteensammlung), as it was then called, opened to the public on the former site of the city garden.
The Succulent Collection now includes seven greenhouses, 16 heatable cold frames and an outdoor rock garden with winter-hardy succulents. The collection owes its distinguished reputation mainly to the herbarium, a plant archive with some 30,000 preserved specimens and a meticulously updated database, which has become a vital source for research and conservation. Since 2004 the collection is supported by the Swiss Unesco Commission.
Euphorbia cereiformis is native to South Africa.
Creating such a collection from scratch would be an impossible feat today. Apart from not being able to match the sheer diversity and the size of the plants – mostly only seedlings would be available today – there are strict rules on what can be brought into Switzerland under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITAS).
Succulents have the ability to store water which enables them to survive in regions with periodic droughts. They have developed amazing morphological adaptations for this purpose. Commonly known succulents are cacti, agaves and aloes. They are native to semi-deserts, steppes and extreme rocky areas in mountainous regions. A succulent plant fills its water reserve during a usually short rainy season, when growth, flowering and the bearing of fruit takes place.
Quite impressively, roughly one third to one half of all known succulent plants are cultivated at the ‘Sukki’.
Myrtillocactus geometrizans, with a special ‘crested’ or ‘cockscomb’ formation.
Admission to the collection is free of charge and it is open 365 days a year, from 9 am until 4:30 pm.
If you have questions about your own plants, you may talk to an expert on Wednesdays from 2 to 4 pm. And if you are feeling adventurous, you may purchace small potted cacti or even seeds to start your very own collection, and the yearly Cactus Market will be held on June 1oth, from 11 am until 5 pm.
Zurich Succulent Collection, Mythenquai 88, 8002 Zurich, Telephone +41 44 412 12 80.
Directions: Take tram 7 to Brunaustrasse or bus 161/165 to the Sukkulenten-Sammlung stop.
> The Zurich Succulent Collection (in German)
> Friends of the Collection (in German)
Go Local! Part V: Tropical Greenhouse at the Botanical Garden.
The tropical greenhouse contains over 700 plants and a few animals, such as these turtles hiding out in the jungle.
5 February 2017 — There is no better way to tank up on some dazzling green foliage durings Basel’s dreary winter months. The Botanical Garden is free to the public and is open 365 days a year, from 8:00 until 5 pm from November to March, and until 6 pm from April until October. Not only is it well worth the visit, your eyeballs will be thanking you!
The Aloe ferox is indigenous to southern Africa.
Greenovia aurea, commonly known as Green Rose Buds, are native to the Canary Islands.
The Cycas is a very ancient genus of trees, with over 113 various species. Here is the Cycas rumphii.
The spiny Ceiba pentandra, kapok or white silk-cotton tree is native to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, northern South America, and west Africa. The name refers to the cotton-like fluff which is found in its seed pods.
Echinocactus grusonii, known as the golden barrel cactus or mother-in-law’s cushion, is native to Central Mexico.
And for real plant freaks, the yearly membership to the University garden club costs only CHF 10. Not only will you receive information about special projects, tours, exhibitions and publications, you can also get professional advice on your own garden.
> Botanischer Garten der Universität Basel (in German).
Pictures say more than a thousand words.
The inauguration crowds for Donald Trump at 11:04 in 2017 (left) and Barack Obama at 11:30 in 2009.
(Photos: Emily Barnes, Getty and Lucas Jackson, Reuters)
Women’s March on Washington DC (Photo: Chang Lee, NY Times).
22 January 2017 — In addition to the Women’s March yesterday in Washington DC, solidarity marches took place in other US cities, as well as in many other countries. In the USA alone, approximately 3.2 million people took part in the rallies.
Karl Gerstner: er and distinguished authority on Swiss typography has passed on.
3 January 2017 — Swiss painter, draftsman, sculptor, er and art theorist Karl Gerstner passed away on New Year’s Day at the University Hospital (Universitätsspital) in Basel at the age of 86.
Born in Basel in 1930, Karl Gerstner studied with Emil Ruder at the Basel General Trade School (Allgemeine Gewerbeschule) in the 1960s.
Swissair corporate identity, 1978
Auch Du bist Liberal poster, 1959, offset lithography, 127.6 x 90.1 cm
He founded an advertising agency with Markus Kutter in 1959, which became the GGK when Paul Gredinger joined the team in 1962. The agency produced commercial graphics for companies such as Geigy, Langenscheidt, Ringier and Swissair and later, they also focused on editorial design.
Mr. Gerstner wrote extensively on and typography theory, some of which have become standard works. In the 1960s he was active as an artist and took part in major exhibitions, including the documenta in Kassel/Deutschland.
Gerstner’s work lives from the richness of forms and colors.
One of his concerns was to make art more available to larger groups of individuals, and in the 1950s, he offered art reproductions at reasonable prices and took part in the first edition of Multiples, the MAT edition, created by Daniel Spoerri. Karl Gerstner was also a passionate art collector. In 2006, his archive was donated to the Swiss National Library (Schweizerische Nationalbibliothek) in Bern.
> A portion of this article is from the Basler Zeitung.
No introductions necessary: 2017.
2 January 2017 — According to Iggy Pop, more than all of the other rock musicians, David Bowie was interested in people — really interested, especially in other people in the arts. He would say something like, “OK, who are you and what are you thinking about? How do you do what you do?” And he appreciated oddballs — people who looked different and spoke in a certain way.
David Bowie had a strong curiosity and very absolute aesthetic values. He also had a certain rigor. If he saw something in another artist he admired, if they didn’t pick up that ball and run with it, he didn’t have any problem saying, “Well, if you’re not going to do it, I will. I’ll do this thing you should have done.” And that was very valid.
So, in memory of Mr. Bowie, let’s get on with this new year and make the most of it!