Events in Switzerland to look out for in 2014

After seeing its fair share of unique events last year, including the Zürifäscht and Eidgenössisches Schwing-und Älplerfest (I don’t even want to try to translate this), it’s time to have a brief look at which events will be having an impact in Switzerland this year.

Film Festivals

Switzerland will see its fair share of film festivals in 2014, starting this month with the Solothurner Filmtage (23.01-30.01) which focuses on Swiss movies and starts off the festival calendar. In summer, fantasy film fans will be able to attend the Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival (04.07 – 12.07) before the stage is set for the two biggest festivals in the country. The Festival del Film Locarno takes place in the beautiful town from August 6 to August 16. One month later, the Zurich Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary starting September 25 and running through October 5.

Movie fans should definitely mark these dates in their calendars as they often represent a chance to see movies that struggle to find distributors and of course, to soak in a little of Hollywood glamour.

Music Festivals

As every year, the festival summer in Switzerland offers choices for everyone. The most renown festival internationally, the Montreux Jazz Festival, takes place from July 4 to 19. Indie fans will get to see their favorite acts in St. Gallen (26.06 – 29.06), Zurich (28.08 – 31.08) and on the Gurten (17.07 – 20.07), while hiphop an rap fans can enjoy their idols in Frauenfeld (10.07 – 12.07) and Biel (22.08 and 23.08).

Of course, the festivals are not only the only chances to see popular musical acts these years. Pop sensation Justin Timberlake is stopping by Zurich on April 15 for his world tour. Rock Legends Metallica will play in Basel on July 7th. The Backstreet Boys will be in Zurich in March. Of course, more stars are bound to announce their concerts throughout the year.

World Cup Public Viewing

With the Football World Cup taking place in Brazil this year, Europe benefit from very advantageous kick-off times. With Switzerland being drawn into a group with Ecuador, France and Honduras, I hope our national team will be able to progress into the knockout stage of the tournament. But even without a successful Swiss team, bars and pubs throughout the country should be showing the games on their TVs, creating spots for public viewing. It remains to be seen if large-scale screens will be set up in cities, but it has been done before and might be repeated this summer. This would give sports fans the opportunity to watch the games with likeminded people, especially if it coincides with terrific summer weather.

These are just some of the more interesting events taking place in Switzerland this year. Of course, should I come across anything else interesting, I’ll make sure to let you know.
As you might have read, I’m changing posting days to Tuesday and Thursday, so I’m back the day after tomorrow with the 31st chapter of my story. Until then, I remain

sincerely yours,
Albert

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An Elusive Hero in 2013 (Recap)

As 2013 ends tomorrow, I’d like to wrap up the year with a short review of my posts this year.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who has followed and read my posts since I started writing on “An Elusive Hero” in March. The feedback and support I’ve received has been invaluable for me to improve. Wednesday will look forward to the plans for 2014. But until then, let’s recap some of the most interesting posts from this year.

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Cinemas in Zurich

Winter time is movie time. I mentioned my favorite movies of the year in last Wednesday’s post, so today it is time to give a bit of love to the cinemas in Zurich.

The city has a large and diverse population of cinemas. Moviegoers can find everything from the old-school arthouse theatre to the sprawling multiplex with the newest technology. So, let’s have a look at some of my preferred cinemas and movie theaters.

My preferred cinema because of its location is the Corso between the Bahnhof Stadelhofen and Bellevue. It is operated by Kitag, the leading cinema chain in Switzerland. The Corso mostly shows the newest blockbusters and studio movies in original language with subtitles. It has four screens. One criticism of the cinema has been the distance of the balcony to the screen. Sitting in the last row of the balcony can make it difficult to see the happenings in the front.

Another cinema I frequent often is the Metropol near Stauffacher. Also operated by Kitag, the Metropol has one cinema hall with a screen capable for screening movies in 4K and HFR. The Metropol also has comfort seats (which I’ve never used) in the front and back rows. It’s a large cinema made for the biggest blockbusters. The second theatre is much smaller and doesn’t offer the same technological benefits, but the seats are comfortable with a lot of legroom.

Independent and non-US films are mostly shown at the Arthouse cinemas scattered throughout the city. The biggest one is the Arthouse Le Paris close to Bahnhof Stadelhofen. With its red seats, this cinema brings up memories of the Golden Age of movies. Like the Corso 1, this theatre also has a balcony. It mostly shows the bigger independent movies such as the French sleeper hit “Les Intouchables” or the latest Woody Allen movie “Blue Jasmine”.

A gem with a small screen, but a very cozy and old fashioned feel is the Arthouse Alba next to Central. It is perfect for these small, understated films that don’t need a huge room to work.

Another big cinema chain is Pathe, which operates the multiplexes at Sihl City and outside the city in Dietlikon. They have just received the clearance to extend their cinema at the Sihl City. However, they dub most of their movies in German, so I’ve only been to a Pathé cinema once.

Kitag has one large multiplex cinema, the Abaton, which also has access to the newest technology. The Abaton has very comfortable seats and large screens. I don’t frequent it as much as others becasue it also shows a large number of movies in German. Located between Bahnhof Hardbrücke and Escher-Wyss Platz, it does have a great location in one of the premier party districts of the town.

So, if you’re going to catch one of the many great movies coming out in Zurich, be sure to check one of these cinemas out. Prices range between 13 Francs (Mondays) and 21, depending on cinema and movie.

Have a great week and please like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

Swiss Classics as Holiday Gift Ideas

With Christmas approaching rapidly, I sincerely hope you’ve got all your presents ready or ordered. If you haven’t, I’ve prepared a little post about literary classics either playing in Switzerland or by Swiss authors that you can put under the Christmas tree for your loved one.

Gottfried Keller – Kleider machen Leute 

Gottfried Keller is one of Switzerlands most important writers, poets and politicians. Living in the 19th century, he became famous by writing a collection of novellas about the people from Seldwyla. One of his best known stories is “Kleider machen Leute”, which can be translated as “Clothes make the man”. The novella is about Wenzel Strapinski, who despite his poor heritage, always dresses and composes himself elegantly. Due to this fact, he is mistaken for a wealthy Polish count and makes his way up the social ranks.
The story is often read at Swiss high schools and is an interesting example of the style of the 19th century.

Friedrich Dürrenmatt – Die Physiker (The Physicists)

Die Physiker (The Physicists) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt is a fantastic play. Dürrenmatt, one of the most influential Swiss writers of the 20th century, sets his story in a Swiss sanatorium. Two of its patients believe to be Einstein and Newton respectively, whereas the third scientist is Möbius, who claims he hears King Solomon talking to him. At the beginning of the plot, the murder of a nurse brings the three physicists to a room together to discuss and unravel their many secrets.

Friedrich Schiller – Wilhelm Tell (William Tell)

While Mr. Schiller was a German who never set foot in Switzerland, his account of Switzerland’s most famous hero, William Tell is a fantastic read. Set in the early 14th century, the people in central Switzerland are being oppressed by the tyrant Gessler. William Tell, a huntsman, draws the ire of the lord by helping a man escape his capture. His reluctance to greet the hat of the tyrant leads to the world famous scene where Tell shoots an apple of the head of his son. Mr. Schiller’s play may be difficult to read, but offers a glimpse into the history of Switzerland.

If you’re interested in reading books from Swiss authors or set in Switzerland, hopefully these tips will give you an interesting place to start. Have a great week!

Sincerely yours,

Albert

A Primer on Swiss Plebiscites

Yesterday, Switzerland went to the polls for the fourth and last time this year. The country has a unique political system with an almost unrivalled amount of influence given to voters. Today’s post tries to give you a quick summary of our plebiscites, a pillar of our direct democracy.

Apart from electing a parliament featuring 200 members of the National Council (Nationalräte) and 46 members of the Council of States (Ständeräte) every four years, the Swiss Public votes on crucial issues four times a year. There are three types of questions that can be answered on these voting dates.

1. Mandatory Referendums

Any modification of the constitution and any participation in supranational institutions have to be voted on by the public. Two of the best known mandatory referendums were the vote to join the EWR (declined in 1992) and the vote to join the United Nations (narrowly accepted in 2002). Important to know is that an amendment does not only have to be voted for by the majority of citizens, but also by the majority of cantons (Ständemehr). This is to ensure a form of parity between smaller and larger cantons.

2. Optional Referendums

Any law accepted by the Federal Assembly can be brought to a vote by the public, if 50’000 signatories are found to support the referendum. Yesterday, the country voted on the new national road law (Nationalstrassengesetz), which included price hike for the highway pass (Vignette). The public voted in support of the referendum and against the change of the law, which means that the cost of vignetter remains steady at 40 Francs.

These referendums also includes votes on certain contracts between countries, such as the Schengen pact or the contracts between Switzerland and the European Union (Bilaterale Verträge).

3. Federal Popular Initiatives

An instrument that has gained in popularity in the last couple of years are the popular initiatives. Citizens and political parties may collect 100’000 signatures for one of their causes and the public will be able to vote on its inclusion in the constitution. Many of the more controversial political decisions have been made due to these initiatives. The ban of minarets was a huge topic in international media after its acceptance in a 2009.

Both of the initiatives presented to voters yesterdays were rejected. The first one, the “Family Initiative” wanted to give traditional families, who raise their own children at home, a tax discount. The second one was far more controversial as the initiative by the JUSO (Young Socialists) aspired to have a 1:12 formula for salaries in firms. The highest salary would have been allowed to be only 12 times as large as the lowest.

Other interesting initiatives voted on in the recent past were the initiative against exorbitant salaries (Abzockerinitiative), against second homes (Zweitwohnungsinitiative) and for deportation of deliquent foreigners (Ausschaffungsinitiative). And the future holds more interesting initiatives to come such as one against mass immigration proposed by the far right (Masseneinwanderungsinitiative) and for a minimal wage proposed by the parties on the left (Mindestlohninitiative).

Swiss citizens have the great chance to influence politics on so many levels. It’s a pity that not of all us make use of this extraordinary privilege. If you have more questions about Swiss plebiscites, just leave it in the comments or ask me on Twitter!

Until Wednesday, I remain

sincerely yours,
Albert

What’s going on in Zurich

During the last weeks, university work has been catching up with me, which leaves with little time to write. But luckily, that should change after Wednesday, when an important deadline passes. You can expect more content in the next weeks, including my favorite books and movies of the year as well as at least three more chapters of “An Elusive Hero”.

As for the part of my blog where I talk about Switzerland, my work has prevented me from travelling around as much as I’d like to. But I’d like to tell you about a few interesting happenings going on in the next weeks.

The Ice-Rink on the Polyterrasse

In the next two weeks, the Polyterrasse near the ETH main campus will feature an ice-rink for young and old. The rink is 15 x 30 meters big and offers guests the possibility to skate at one of the best spots of the city.  It is open mostly in the late afternoon, except on weekends, where it opens between 2pm and 10pm on Saturday as well as 2pm and 8pm on Sunday. Skates can be rented on location. The Ice Rink is supposedly staying on the Polyterrasse until November 30, the night of the Polyball, so you have two weeks to check it out!

The Polyball

The Polyball is the traditional ball at the ETH Zurich, which has been held for the last 130 years. This year, the festivities take place on Saturday, November 30, with the motto “New York Nights”. The detailed program of the party, which starts at 7 pm and runs through 5 am the next morning, can be found on their official website. However, the cost of attending is pretty high, as tickets cost 89.- for non-students if ordered before the event and 94.- on the evening itself. But since it is an event full of glamour and tradition, it might be worth the money.

The Christmas Market at Bellevue

And as the month comes to a close, the Christmas feeling will be in the air all around the city. As many German and Swiss cities, Zurich also has its own Christmas market, serving winter specialties like “Glühwein” and candy canes. It’s location on the newly built Sechseläutenplatz puts the market in an accessible downtown area. Anyone wanting to get into the Christmas spirit early will have ample opportunity start November 28 running through December 24.

That’s whats going on in Zurich in the next few weeks. If you have any more tips, please let me know!

Sincerely yours,

Albert

 

Interlude

Hi everyone,

I’m really busy with a school project due this weekend, so unfortunately I couldn’t finish my work on the next chapter of “An Elusive Hero”. I’ll release the chapter next Friday at its usual time. Sorry about that.

On a more serious note, I’m sure you’ve heard about the typhoon “Yolanda” or “Haiyan” that has devastated the Philippines.

The Huffington Post has put together a very good article with various ways of helping the people affected by the catastrophic incident.

How to help Haiyan Survivors

I can only urge anyone to help out if possible.

Sincerely yours,
Albert