It is one of those fine hot, humid summer days in this “slow” town (other Swiss mention how SLOW Berners are).
And the solution (literally) is Salta in fluvium b.i.d. A prescription that many Swiss follow, but the Berners really have it mastered.
I learned about swimmer’s itch (aka cercaria, or misnamed as duck “fleas”) in lac Leman (lake Geneva) a week ago: if you swim around ducks in a lake, you could get a horrible case of Itchy Polka Dots.
But the fast moving Aare leaves the waterborne fleas no chance to find you. Three days of Dantean full-body fingernail raking, I am now able to sleep but I fear the polka-dot scars are here to stay.
Yesterday was another one of those perfect days, beginning with a fond farewell to the brilliant artists Beatrice Nunlist and Markus Capirone, who over 30 years have developed the most sophisticated integration
of transit infrastructure, road and path signage, and map applications I have ever seen or experienced. They began small, with the Solothurner Radwanderweg, a carefully signposted series of small car-free or nearly car-free paths, farm lanes and dirt roads for cyclists to get from Solothurn (extremely beautiful baroque town about 30 km from the artist’s home village of Rickenbach) to Olten and nearby towns.
It grew into a network, and the network became a full time independent think tank/agency called Swiss Mobility. In their free time they travel by bicycle to Spain, Italy, Tunisia…always with trains, and loaded with panniers…
And the spaces between travel and work (and painting; both are trained artists) they refurbished the inside of their 275 year old millhouse. Words (at least my words) cannot do their three story masterpiece justice.
I rode about 4 hrs southwest to Bern on my cherished Gaudy-designed Papalagi loaner (thank you Oli Busato, Visionen City Cycles!) all along the 50, the 71 and the 34 regional routes. Clouds of bugs peppered my face as I sped through the farmland. Didn’t want to be late for my appointment with Silvia Furst, another artist I know from the good old racing days. She won the race in Bromont Quebec back in 1992, and probably still has a rainbow jersey stashed somewhere.
My arrival was nearly punctual, and I called her up to come over. In the interim hour, Oli took me for a plunge in that river–a baptism of chilly refreshing water in the middle of the Swiss capital.
The town may be slow, but the waters are higher than they have been in years. I would guess the speed is 20 knots per hour….fast . But rather than swim, all you do is jump in, and carry on your conversation while floating downstream. Trying to swim upstream is impossible. When you want to get out, you angle over toward a destination (river ladder, or one of the town’s two vast public baths), then you walk back upstream to your glasses, clothes, whatever. And then jump in again, or go find a cafe, order a Rivella, and chill. Oli had to get back to work, but Silvia picked me up and brought me to the part of town called Matte, where the poor and the rich lived together. The rich spoke French to keep the rest of the citizens in the dark…and the citizens created their own patois called Matte Englisch. We hung out from 2 to 4 in the shade of the chestnut trees at a little cafe. The white couches beckoned, and even the Not Serving Lunch rule was gently ignored by a very indulgent server. I had ridden four hours in a rush, and failed to eat properly (though I did wipe out all the cold drinks in the refrigerator at Visionen).
Satiated, we parted ways and I vowed to figure out a way to get back to Switzerland and get paid to work here… I just gotta find a business partner who loves heavy lifting, and can sell my Fat Tire Finishing School ™ to a dozen or so women.