Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Friday, May 27, 2005
 
A Watery Crossroads Through the Ages

It occured to me that the extrordinary thing about Switzerland is the combination of high altitude, allowing a temperate climate, combined with tons and tons of water melting from the glaciers. So the countryside is the kind of lush, fragrant green I've come to associate with rainy places like Bengal or the British Isles, but with a fraction of the insects or mud. There's plenty of water, all neatly dripping out of the mountains. I wonder how worried the Swiss are about the potential effects of global warming on their nicely ordered landscape, but for now the water is all clean and organized.

Organized might seem like a weird word to apply to the torrents of the Rinefall--Switzerland's widest fall, apparentl a breathtaking 150 meters across--but even as I was awed yesterday by its roar and mist and shimmering gush, I noted that the giant rock in the middle of it has a Swiss flag planted on it, there's an elegant bridge at itshead, the edges are carefullz walled and railed, and at least part of it has been diverted for a charming turbine. This is glorious nature, domesticated. There even seem to be a small group of local seniors who calmly fish off of one of its diverted channels.

It's hard to imagine what the Switzerland of the Seduni and Helvetii was like, what kind of raw wild greeted the Celts and the Romans. I've just exited the Swiss National Museum, and even they seem to have a hard time casting their imagination that far. Richly curated, detailed (even in English) exhibitions on the Medieval era give way to an almost random array of ancient archeological finds, oddly labeled and often displayed amid dirt, as finds, rather than in any plausible historical context. What was clear is the antique position of this place as a crossroads. I was impressed by bronze-age amber all the way from the Baltic sea.

The Swiss seem much more comfortable with their Medieval heritage, and today I happily stumbled upon a miniature Renaissance Faire like event in the shadow of the Fraumunster, with puppets, calligraphers, smiths, a glassblower and an archerz booth. I eagerely tried six shots with a bow and arrow, perhaps the first time I've gotten to try one since I was 12 or 13. I remember than it was discouragingly difficult to pluck the bow, and despite my adoration of archery I haven't reallz had a chance to try since. I was surprised at how easy it was to pull the string. I didn't hit the the bull's eye, but instead got a cluster of arrows all in the same spot at the edge of the second ring. It was so much fun I almost impulsively tried to buy a bow right there, but luckily in the time it took for the owner to understand what I was asking, I came to my senses. I was probably overcome by the fact that I was at a Medieval faire in an actual medieval setting--it was very easy to imagine a similar event occuring in the same space 800 years ago, sans T-shirt clad, camera-armed tourists. We filming tourists were an extremely diverse crowd, particular dense with Asians of all hues. If it wasn't for us, the illusion would have been much more complete, but we were the ones consuming it!

Yesterday on my way to the Rhinefall a gentleman in a suit who appeared to be African asked me if I spoke English. He had a number of grocery bags and bottles of water with him, and had just gotten off his cell phone. He said his friend was supposed to meet him and help him carry all the groceries to the bus, but would not make it, and could I please watch the water while he carried some of the bags, since he could not carry all of them at once. I think he said he was from Botswana, as he ran to load the bus with some bags, maybe to explain why he couldn├Ąt ask anyone else in German. I'm not sure though. He ran back, thanked me profusely, then ran off to catch the bus. I wish I knew what his story is. One of those random interactions of the modern age.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud


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