Thursday, 31 August 2006

Armed neutrality

Greetings from Berlin. I'm at an internet cafe with a European keyboard right now so forgive any typos (the z and the y are switched!). I freakin love this city. I want to live here so bad. It's incredibly cheap and so much fun. I'm having a great time.

My friend Pierce arrived in Zurich Monday and we've been doing various activities. One of the more amusing things we did the past couple days was explore the bomb shelter in my dad's building. By law, every building in Switzerland must have a bomb shelter. Seems kind of counter-intuitive for a neutral country. The bomb shelter in my dad's building has cots for people to sleep and food rations, and also an escape tunnel for if the building is destroyed. It's pretty weird.

Last night we hung out with a friend I've made in Zurich, Gianmatteo. He had just come back from a day of military service (all men in Switzerland are obligated to be in the military reserves, with three weeks of training every year, until the age of 40) and we were quite surprised to see him walk into the bar with a machine gun strapped to his back. No joke! Apparently you keep your own gun at home and bring it with yuou when you go to training. I had seen someone on the train holding a big machine gun, so he must have been coming back from training as well.

So, based on our surprise at him joining us at the bar armed, we got into a discussion about the lengths Switzerland has gone to to make sure it can defend itself in the event of war. Apparently all of the main tunnels and bridges in the country can be exploded at a moment's notice to prevent invading troops from reaching the cities. The reservist army can be called up at any time, with the idea that they would be immediately available to fight. John Mateo said that with the end of the cold war there has been some talk that this kind of military preparedness may not be necessary, but none of it serious.

Seems like an odd concept to me, the only small country I can think of having such extensive defenses is Israel, and Israel is certainly much more likely to go to war than Swityerland. So odd...

Tuesday Pierce and I went to the Swiss National Museum, which was pretty extensive. There's some kind of huge party going on in the courtyard, so there was a giant disco ball in the center. Seemed a little out of place.

All in all I'd have to say I don't think I could live in Zurich. It's just way too small. There isn't much in the way of nightlife, and my dad lives quite far out so it's kind of a pain to get into the city proper. Though I really want to move to Europe, I need to move to a big city. So hopefully the London thing will work out. Man I wish I could find a way to work in Berlin, it's so amazing here.

Saturday we fly back to Zurich and get in around 8, then we meet up with Hale and tear up the town. Sunday Pierce Hale and I are going to watch my brother's rugby game and then take a scenic train through the alps. Ah, this is the life (-:

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