Top news from our partner swissinfo

  • Nina Bader: "Life is much more relaxed in Vancouver"

    Sun, 22 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    During her studies, Nina Bader fell in love with Vancouver. She also found herself a job and a partner in the Canadian city. The 27-year old likes the relaxed lifestyle of the west coast and the many different culinary delights a city by the sea has to offer. When and why did you leave Switzerland? Nina Bader: My story is a bit complicated. In 2012, I went on a six-week trip through Canada and fell so much in love with the country that I came back here to do a language course. Initially, I had planned to stay for six months, but the decision to do a Master’s Degree kept me in Vancouver for yet another year.  After that, I still didn’t have enough of the city and when I met my boyfriend, I looked for a job. I have now been working for the Swiss Chamber of Commerce for seven months. The first few months were a rollercoaster.  Everything was new and exciting but at the same time, I was a bit homesick. However, I am lucky that my boyfriend lives here and that a lot of ...

  • Returning to Switzerland, voting by smartphone, and healing with yoga

    Sun, 22 Oct 2017 10:00:00 GMT

    Here are some of the stories we'll be following the week of October 23. Monday The next story in our LBGTIQ series features Stella Glitter, a 68-year-old transgender artist. She talks about her early years in Zurich – which took her from studying veterinary science to radical activism to driving a taxi – as well as her transition and ultimate rejection of binary gender classifications. Tuesday Each year, some 24,000 Swiss living abroad return to their home country and many more are considering it. But what financial, employment, and social resources are available to citizens looking to make the expensive transition back to Switzerland? We answer this question as part of our “Curious Switzerland” report, in which we respond to queries from readers on Swiss politics, life, and culture. Thursday In 2015, the Swiss capital of Bern decided to allow foreigners to bring their ideas to the city parliament for consideration. But more than two years later, the policy ...

  • The privileges of being a farmer in Switzerland

    Sat, 21 Oct 2017 15:00:00 GMT

    No other profession in Switzerland has such a strong political lobby. And it pays off. The agricultural sector is protected through import restrictions and state subsidies, and farmers receive a number of other privileges too.   Low-cost fuel One litre of petrol or diesel costs a farmer about 60 centimes less than other road users. Farmers can submit a request for a refund of the mineral oil tax surcharge and mineral oil tax. Depending on the size of the business, they also benefit from a certain amount of discounted fuel. (According to the Federal Customs Administration, a total of CHF65 million was refunded to farmers in 2015.) Family allowances Normally, people receive family allowances as part of their salaries. In the case of farmers, the money comes from the federal and cantonal governments. Not only the farmer, but also family members who work on the farm are entitled to family allowances regardless of their income level. In 2015, this privilege cost taxpayers CHF 97 ...

  • Legends and their artistic marketing

    Sat, 21 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    William Tell plays in Interlaken have a long tradition. Markus Bertschi and Severin Jakob took a journey through the Middle Ages as part of their book project. Halberds, torches and knights' helmets meet stuffed chamois mountain goats, fake beards and state-of-the-art lighting technology: Friedrich Schiller's drama "Wilhelm Tell" is performed annually from June to mid-September in Interlaken in the open air. In 1912 a teacher staged Tell's play with his class for the first time. Since then, with an interruption during the World Wars, the play has been performed regularly, and since 1954 has become a permanent fixture. Around 130 amateur actors and actresses take part in the production. In addition to residents from the region, asylum seekers and people with disabilities are also part of the cast and crew. In their book project “Fabulous!”, Zurich photographers Severin Jakob and Markus Bertschi travelled to Interlaken. They went behind the scenes to uncover the fact and fiction ...

  • Foreigners arriving in Switzerland more likely to be highly skilled

    Fri, 20 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    ​​​​​​​ The demographics of Switzerland’s immigrant workforce are changing; unlike during the post-war decades, most new arrivals today are university educated. takes a look at the stats.  As in most developed countries, immigrants in Switzerland are overrepresented in unskilled and low paid jobs. In some sectors of the economy which largely depend on immigrants – construction, plasterers, cleaning or domestic jobs or unskilled industry services – the proportion of immigrants can be higher than 70% of workers.  At the other end of the spectrum, people born outside of Switzerland represent less than 15% of the workforce in sectors like farming, early childhood and primary school educators (to mention only the main occupations). The technical or related occupations of the tertiary sector, as well as the public service, are also characterised by a lower representation of immigrant workers.  ​​​​​​​ The proportion of skilled immigrants is also growing constantly. That ...

  • Autumn shows its most colourful side

    Fri, 20 Oct 2017 10:04:00 GMT

    The high-pressure system over central Europe is coming to an end, and with it, the unusually warm autumn days and clear skies. Many Swiss spent the first three weeks of October in the outdoors enjoying the mountain views and autumn colours.

  • Snail's pace of Brexit negotiations vexes Swiss firms

    Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    While Switzerland is not involved in Britain’s divorce from the European Union, many Swiss businesses are closely watching negotiations unfold. And if a recent British Swiss Chamber of Commerce (BSCC) meeting is anything to go by – most don’t like what they are seeing.  “In both the UK and Europe, the negotiators are ignoring business interests. At the moment, Brexit is a big vanity project for politicians and not at all about the reality of what will happen,” said one participant at the event in Zurich. “It took Switzerland three years to negotiate a solution with the EU on migration. Britain has to negotiate everything from scratch. I dread to think how long this could drag out,” added another. British and EU negotiators come to table on October 19-20 to thrash out some of the basic outlines of a future deal. This includes the option of a transition period to help smooth the path to the new landscape, migration and work visas plus the size of Britain’s divorce bill. ...

  • Around the world in 200 days for people power

    Thu, 19 Oct 2017 15:00:00 GMT

    It took Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout 80 days to circumnavigate the globe in the famous 19th-century French novel. Bruno Kaufmann has no manservant but more time, and in his pocket is a Global Passport to Modern Direct Democracy. A few days ago, Swiss-Swedish author and journalist Kaufmann set off on a tour through more than 20 countries on four continents, with a first stop in Boston on the east coast of the United States. The Pacific region is a key focus of the six-month trip, which will take him to destinations as diverse as the island country of Palau in the Micronesian archipelago, as well as China, Japan, Australia, Laos and Hawaii. In between he will also travel in the US, Canada, and several countries in Europe, including his native Switzerland and the Scandinavian region, which has been his home since 1990. The tour is due to end in Canada’s east coast city of Halifax next May. During the tour, he will meet democracy activists, independence campaigners, ...

  • Switzerland is no longer a cinematic island

    Wed, 18 Oct 2017 15:00:00 GMT

    The traditional image of Swiss cinema lies on the cutting room floor. International co-productions have become the norm and a significant number of young film-makers have an immigrant background or were born abroad. Many live and work outside Switzerland.  Of the 15 Swiss films recently shown at the 13th Zurich Film Festival (ZFF), only a third were made by Swiss directors living in Switzerland.  “People talk a lot about Swiss cinema here in a very nationalistic way. But I’m not nationalistic at all in my perception of the world,” Berlin-based Katharina Wyss, director of “Sarah joue un loup-garou” (Sarah Plays a Werewolf), her first feature film, tells  “That said, my film is very ‘Fribourgeois’: it’s geographically and personally based around Fribourg; it’s nurtured by the city I come from.”  “But I’m also influenced by long-established European culture, especially the German and French culture that I grew up with and which gives all my work a very European ...

  • The stolen childhood of the factory children

    Wed, 18 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    During the industrial revolution, children slaved away in Swiss factories to the point of collapse. A political outsider is to thank for the fact that child labour was banned relatively early. “Workers sought: Two big working families with children capable of work will be well cared-for at a spinning works.” With this advertisement placed in the Anzeiger von Uster gazette, a Swiss factory owner was looking for employees in the 1870s. It was a matter of course that the children of labourers had to work too. Child labour was nothing new when the first factories opened, but the industrial revolution turned it from a day-to-day reality into exploitation. Peasants and home-workers saw their children primarily as labourers before the industrial revolution. The family was first and foremost a labour unit; working children were essential for its livelihood. As soon as a child was old enough, he or she helped out in the farmyard or the workshop. But they were spared the more demanding ...

  • The legal difficulties of online expression in Switzerland

    Tue, 17 Oct 2017 08:45:00 GMT

    Drawing the line between freedom of expression and discrimination was difficult enough in the pre-Internet era. Social media and instant communication have made it a nuanced minefield, as a case in Switzerland shows. Last week in the western Swiss town of Delémont, an altercation between two boys outside the train station was filmed, then posted online. It showed one approaching the other, throwing him to the ground, before both went their separate ways. Some 50,000 views and 20,000 shares later, the video was taken down by the mother of the assaulted teenager on the advice of local police. The reason? Many of the (hundreds of) comments below the video focused on ethnicity: the aggressor was black, the victim was white, and the discussion veered into a spiralling storm of abuse, much of it anti-immigrant. Before the boy’s attacker had even been found, the regional prosecutor’s office had warned that any further comments inciting hatred or retribution would be pursued and ...

  • Why Switzerland feels like ‘heimat’

    Tue, 17 Oct 2017 15:00:00 GMT

    The German term 'heimat' means, roughly, having a home or a sense of belonging. The term can have profound meaning for members of the Swiss diaspora. For Beth Zurbuchen, president of the Swiss Center of North America, connections to "heimat" are both very personal and an integral part of her everyday work.  People living in Switzerland have their own perspectives on the term, an issue explored by a current exhibit on "heimat" at the museum Stapferhaus in Lenzburg. As part of the exhibit, organisers asked people riding the Ferris wheel at fun fairs around Switzerland different questions around what home and belonging means to them. Zurbuchen recently spoke at the Stapferhaus about her experiences finding "heimat" and her work with members of the Swiss community in North America. (Additional footage courtesy of the Stapferhaus Lenzburg).

  • Swiss help to illuminate the Middle Ages

    Tue, 17 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Researchers at the University of Fribourg hope to reveal more about the Middle Ages by piecing together fragments of manuscripts.  (RTS/ In medieval times, the vellum of discarded manuscripts was not thrown away, but reused as bookbinding material to strengthen or decorate new volumes. Thus, over time, hundreds of thousands of manuscript fragments became scattered all over the world. Twelve different research teams in leading manuscript libraries across Europe and the US are now working together on significant fragments for a research platform called Fragmentarium. Using this platform, reproductions of medieval fragments can be uploaded from different servers, catalogued, scientifically described, transcribed, and collated online. By properly identifying and studying these fragments, historians hope to create a more accurate picture of the Middle Ages. The University of Fribourg is leading the project, because it has dominated the field of digital manuscript ...

  • A breakthrough in natural crop protection

    Mon, 16 Oct 2017 15:00:00 GMT

    With their bug-banishing products the Andermatts have been proving for years that natural crop protection works. Swiss public television, SRF meets the entrepreneurs behind this success story. (SRF, The Andermatts, Isabel, 59 and Martin, 58 are partners in life as in business. They are Switzerland’s pioneers in organic crop protection. Thirty years ago the only products for crop protection were chemicals. The Andermatts then established themselves as important organic crop protection innovators, with their virus-based product. In 1986 the Andermatts researched and developed a method that used granulosis virus to combat the codling moth, a pest that at the time infested up to 50% of Swiss farmers’ apple crops. By 1987, after successful field trials they had received the provisional approval to market their product, which is now known as 'Madex'. At present the group Andermatt Holding has a diverse product portfolio of biological plant protection and biological ...

  • ‘I feel like a man and a woman’

    Mon, 16 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Edward learned he was intersex at age 16 – a diagnosis that changed his life. After years of what felt like a nightmare, he’s learned to accept himself, but he often feels misunderstood. He wishes doctors had taken him more seriously from the start. Somewhere between man and woman. Hate and love. Passion and despair. Long torn by these contrasts, Edward bewilders the people he meets. With his hard shell and soft centre, he struggles to be understood in a society that has trouble accepting what is different. With his tattoos and piercings, Edward sits with his mother Kate in the living room of his family home – complete with a breathtaking view of Lake Geneva. Above his head, old black and white portraits of relatives seem to lend an ear to his story. “You’re a mutant. You’ll never be able to have children or live a normal life.” These were the words of Edward’s doctor when he told him about being intersex. Edward was 16. He was sitting alone in the doctor’s office at the time. ...

  • How decisions in Geneva impact all of our lives

    Mon, 16 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    What actually takes place behind the scenes of the United Nations in Geneva? In a new series, longtime Geneva correspondent Imogen Foulkes provides insights into the often criticised institution, from the drama to the humdrum.  The United Nations in Geneva, known affectionately as ‘the Palais’, has been my place of work for over a decade. There is a danger, when you have become so familiar with a place over a long period, to get a bit blasé about it. The working days are full of meetings, press conferences, and deadlines. We Palais residents tend to scurry from one to the next, breathlessly racing, often, down the many kilometres of corridors.  But to really understand this Geneva landmark, and perhaps to regain some perspective about what we are actually doing inside the Palais, it is worth slowing down from time to time, and taking a careful look around.  Look, for example, at the door handles in the oldest part of the building, they are a carefully crafted art ...

  • When love turns to hate

    Sun, 15 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Indian and international film star Irrfan Khan talks about the twisted relationship between men and women showcased in his latest film, The Song of Scorpions.

  • Tree of life’s a beech

    Sun, 15 Oct 2017 12:00:00 GMT

    In autumn, Switzerland’s beech trees are aflame with red leaves. However, they struggle with the higher temperatures that come with climate change.  If it hadn’t been for the interference of mankind, the European beech would be the most common tree found in central Europe. Already in the 600s, people made books using thin boards cut from the versatile tree. In fact, the German word for book, “Buch”, is a derivative of the German name for the tree, “Buche”. Along with spruce and silver fir, the European beech is one of the most important trees for Switzerland’s timber industry. Yet like many species, it is under threat. As the climate becomes warmer and drier, it has to adapt. Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research have been experimenting with growing seedlings at different elevations.  A European beech tree can reach a height of 40 metres, and its leaves grow anywhere from five to 15cm long. The beech nuts, encased in prickly husks, ...

  • Olma fair turns 75

    Sat, 14 Oct 2017 15:00:00 GMT

    The Olma fair in the city of St Gallen, showcasing agriculture and traditional food from around Switzerland, is one of the country’s biggest and most popular. This year it celebrates its 75th birthday. Visitors can expect pig races, cattle shows and of course the wafting allure of grilled local Bratwurst (sausage). Here we present some images from over the years.

  • Immortal portraits

    Sat, 14 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Sébastien Kohler’s portraits are mesmerizing and confrontational. The subjects gaze directly in to the camera, resulting in images of depth and intensity. And: he uses an old technique for his art. Born in Switzerland in 1969 and resident of the western city of Lausanne, Sébastien Kohler is a self-taught photographer. He has focused on the wet collodion process of photography for several years. The method was developed in 1851 by the English sculptor, Frederick Scott Archer. The principle is simple: if one places a negative in front of a black background while lighting it from the front, it appears as a positive, because the light illuminates the metallic silver, which develops the picture. The wet collodion process produces excellent negatives on glass, which creates a timeless impression. The full richness of Kohler’s photos can be savoured in person at the Camera Museum in Vevey until March 14, 2018. In the exhibition, a video shows him at work in his studio, how he prepares ...

  • Planning permission by popular consent

    Sat, 14 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Have you ever come across a collection of metal pylons on a patch of grass next to a house and wondered what they were for? In this episode Diccon Bewes explains how democracy works when the Swiss build new homes. (Diccon Bewes for

  • How to implement successful people's initiatives

    Fri, 13 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    After the people vote in favour of an initiative, parliament gets to work. It’s their job to figure out how they can make new decisions compatible with existing laws. It's not always easy to implement a decision taken by the people. Popular initiatives in Switzerland are often launched as ‘elaborate drafts’ - a complete text. When a majority of the people vote in favour of an initiative, this text is added exactly as it is proposed, directly into the Constitution. Neither parliament nor the government may alter this text.  When initiatives are unclear or contradict the Constitution, parliament has to create additional laws in order to best reflect the people's will. Law scientist Nagihan Musliu is working on a manual to help this process of implementation along. In our series, 'Inside the Democracy Labs', researchers answer all kinds of questions about democracy.

  • What it takes to start a Swiss business

    Thu, 12 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Their mum started it all by using caffeine to fight wrinkles. Then Tom and Amy Derrington came up with the idea of recycling coffee beans to make a body scrub. The British siblings, who live in Bern, explain how they went about launching their brand in Switzerland. (Veronica DeVore, Julie Hunt,  After mixing their first batches and working out the logistics of a business plan, the Derringtons decided to set up their business, Buff Coffee Scrub, as a sole proprietorship, learning a lot along the way.  More details on the various options for starting a business in Switzerland are available here, on the Switzerland How To guide to life in the country.

  • Top Swiss guns show off shooting skills

    Thu, 12 Oct 2017 09:54:00 GMT

    Every autumn, Swiss Air Force pilots show off their professional skills at the highest aerial firing range in Europe. (SRF/ The annual Swiss Air Force live fire event is underway at the Axalp–Ebenfluh air force shooting range in the Bernese Oberland. Tuesday’s training brought hoards of hikers to the spectators’ areas at an altitude of 2,200m above sea level. The venue can only be reached on foot by taking marked mountain paths. The event, which attracts thousands, requires weeks of preparation for organizer Simon Flückiger and his team. Toilets, waste bins and food stands, as well as rescue and medical services, must be installed. The actual air force fire show lasts for approximately 90 minutes, during which the entire shooting range area is designated as a hazardous zone and closed off for hiking. Swiss public television, SRF, went behind the scenes and followed the pilots and organizers during their preparation for the event.

  • Here’s what (the new) Swiss ten-franc note will get you

    Wed, 11 Oct 2017 07:53:00 GMT

    Crisp, yellow, and adorned with train tracks and watchmaking supplies, the new CHF10 banknote will soon be in circulation across Switzerland. But what can you buy with it?  Revealed by the Swiss National Bank on Wednesday, the banknote is the third in the new series that features better security features and more elaborate artwork than the previous editions. New versions of the CHF50 and CHF20 notes are already the standard in Swiss wallets and cash registers. The new CHF10 goes into circulation on October 18. Of course the value of the new CHF10 is the same as that of the old note, and both will be accepted as payment until the old one is eventually phased out. But what can you get with Switzerland’s smallest form of paper currency – worth $10.26 or €8.68 according to Wednesday’s exchange rate?  Here’s a round-up of some basic goods and services that cost about CHF10.  FOOD & DRINK  Swiss cheese CHF10 translates into about 500g of Swiss cheese, whether it’s Appenzeller, ...

  • Is Switzerland being 'Muslimised'?

    Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:00:00 GMT

    Tama Vakeesan was born in Switzerland to Tamil parents from Sri Lanka. This week, she attends a delegates' conference of the conservative right Swiss People’s Party in Bern and finds out why they are afraid of the increase in Muslims in this small, Alpine country. (SRF Kulturplatz/ 

  • Are Swiss aid workers taking too many risks?

    Wed, 11 Oct 2017 18:00:00 GMT

    Following the recent abduction of a Swiss aid worker in Sudan, Swiss Public Television SRF asks whether it is safe for individuals to work in crisis countries, or should it be left to larger organisations? (SRF/  Reports say Margrit S. was abducted on Saturday in Sudan’s northern Darfur region. She’s lived in the country for years and built a children’s ward and midwifey school in North Darfur. This was to be her last stint in Sudan, as she is 71 and planned to retire soon.  She is said to have been taken from her home by unidentified armed men near her home in the Agricultural Research Centre area of Al Fashir. The Sudanese authorities think a criminal gang is responsible, and have stepped up a search in and around the city of al-Fashir. They believe the gang is seeking a ransom. SRF meets Christian Brunner, a former employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, who was kidnapped in Afghanistan in 1991 and spent 75 days in captivity. The ICRC ...

  • Taveyanne: far from the madding crowd

    Wed, 11 Oct 2017 13:00:00 GMT

    The picturesque hamlet of Taveyanne in the Vaudoise Alps is a place frozen in time. (RTS/ Above the clouds at 1,649 metres (5,400 feet), it’s a listed historical monument, with its timber chalets and wooden shingle roofs. Its residents have to manage without mains electricity.  To guarantee the long-term future of the hamlet and its environment, the locals teamed up with the Vaudoise League for Nature Protection in 1970 to create a nature reserve here. Most of the chalets belong to people living in the neighbouring village of Gryon and were converted from animal shelters to homes in the early 1900s. The only business in town is the Refuge de Taveyanne, where the Siebenthal family serves hearty meals like fondue in a rustic setting. There's a huge charred fireplace with a large cauldron, an ancient cash register and low-beamed ceilings. Ornamental cowbells grace the walls. The only rentable accommodation is a couple of mattresses in the refuge’s loft.

  • Paediatric palliative care still hard to find

    Wed, 11 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    In Switzerland, support services for children suffering from incurable diseases, and for their families, have been slow to develop. Change is on the way, but one of the few Swiss specialists in the field says there is much to be done. "Marc, I have had enough. I want to end it all." Marc is professor Marc Ansari, head of the paediatric oncology and haematology unit at Geneva University Hospitals. Just before he spoke to, he was told this by a teenage patient suffering from an incurable cancer. The message sums up the whole difficulty of the situation: a youngster fighting a disease which, in the end, is not going to let him go; and a doctor trying to give him the treatment and support that makes sense. Ansari says the wish to die is not an unusual one. Mostly, he hears it from patients in their teens. The reasons are many, he says. "You have to try to understand the ‘why’ of such a wish – what triggered it. Sometimes, it is an attempt to deal with problems that ...

  • Swiss engineer takes on killer landmines

    Tue, 10 Oct 2017 15:00:00 GMT

    Swiss engineer, Frédéric Guerne, has dedicated half his life to making machines that clear land mines. He has now developed what he believes is the best minesweeper in existence. (SRF/ Guerne is the director of the non-profit Digger Foundation in Tavannes in the Jura region, which has produced an armoured 12-ton, remote-controlled precision machine for clearing mines, the fourth-generation model. The D-250 is otherwise known as the “Excavator”, and it does the job of 300 people in the field. The D-250 digs up mines from the ground, removes them from trees and detonates them. Even mines with up to 10 kilograms of explosives cannot harm the device. It is used in around 15 countries worldwide. Guerne started his work in 1998 in his farmhouse. For many years he worked voluntarily on new prototypes. He says,"When I think of the children who are still living thanks to our machines, it gives me the energy to keep going.” Land mines are weapons of mass destruction, ...

  • Bridging linguistic barriers in Switzerland

    Tue, 10 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    In a small country with four official languages and an unofficial fifth, what is work like for Switzerland’s professional translators? Does any country have a greater need for translators than Switzerland? Our little country of 8.3 million people has four official languages – German, French, Italian, Romansh – and a tolerated unofficial fifth: English. Immigrants comprise 25% of the population. We are home to the United Nations, NGOs, governmental bodies, businesses, and arts organisations that need to produce documents in various languages.  So yes, Switzerland is a country rich with opportunities for professional translators and interpreters (“translators” work on written materials, “interpreters” on spoken communication).  Who are these people, and what are the challenges and rewards of their profession in Switzerland? Meet four whose home base is Geneva.  The sworn translator Patrick Lehner, French by birth, began studying English and German in school south of Paris.

  • Remembering Che in Switzerland, 50 years after his death

    Mon, 9 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    An exhibition of never-before-seen images of Ernesto Che Guevara has visited some dozen Swiss towns, as part of a celebration organised by the Swiss-Cuba Association to mark a half-century since the revolutionary’s death. The “¡Che vive!” (“Che lives!”) exhibition features photos dating from the period following the Cuban revolution in 1959. The images have been selected from a collection of thousands that were for years conserved in the archives of the Granma newspaper, before being recently published in the work “Che: the early years. Unseen photographs 1959-1964”, by René Lechleiter and Richard Frick. Ernesto “Che” Guevara, born in 1928 in Argentina, is an emblematic figure of 20th-century history. Having developed revolutionary ideas as a medical student, he travelled to Mexico to meet the Castro brothers before taking part in the successful Cuban revolution of 1959. Following this he occupied diverse public roles in the new Cuban state, as well as travelling to Africa and ...

  • Swiss baby hatches rest on a minefield of politics, religion and social justice

    Mon, 9 Oct 2017 12:05:00 GMT

    In the last four years, three new mothers have made the long winding walk from Olten railway station or bus stand to the local hospital – the Kantonsspital Olten. A small, slightly-hidden alcove at the centre of the hospital’s sprawling garden grounds is their eventual destination, where they will give up their newborn children and place them into a window hatch. Once done, the women have three minutes to make a quick exit before an alarm blares, alerting the hospital authorities to the baby’s presence. The Olten baby hatch, or baby box, is one among two hundred such across Europe (eight in Switzerland alone) in countries including Italy, Germany, Belgium and Austria. These boxes are modelled after an artefact of medieval times – the foundling wheel. In 1198, Pope Innocent III decreed that wheels should be set up outside churches so that mothers could leave their children in secret instead of killing them, a practice that was apparently common at the time. The modern version ...

  • ‘I fall in love with a person and not a gender’

    Mon, 9 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Loving a person rather than a man or a woman: this is Runa Wehrli's philosophy. At 18, she defines herself as bisexual and speaks about it openly. Her friends and family have accepted her orientation, but it is not always taken seriously by society. An old pair of metallic aviator glasses sits atop her black hat, lending a style that gives a glimpse into her creative universe. At 18, Runa Wehrli is passionate about theatre, live-action role-playing, and drawing. On social media, she presents herself dressed as an elf, wearing differently-shaped hats, or with her hair dyed blue. Although Runa likes to take on the guise of fantastic and imaginary characters, she has also learned to know herself. Proof of this is the confidence and maturity with which she describes her feelings. She believes that love should not be confined by the barriers put up by society. “I fall in love with a person and not a gender,” she says. This principle has always been clear to her, and she has never ...

  • From Switzerland to a hut in New Zealand

    Sun, 8 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    Having left his native Broye in canton Fribourg 15 years ago, Raphael Knopf, 38, has since found happiness in the antipodes. Knopf has built his home in the wilds of New Zealand’s North Island, where he cultivates organic honey in harmony with the savage nature of his adopted country. Why did you leave Switzerland? Raphael Knopf:  It was in September 2002. I had completed two certificates of professional competence and my military service, and I had planned to go to Nepal to help build a dam. But as the civil war in Nepal was raging at that time, it was not possible. My second choice was to go to Australia, then New Zealand. I really wanted space, adventure, and to discover new things. How did the first months go? R.K.: I felt disoriented. I didn’t speak English. During my years at school, I was never interested in learning English because I thought, and I still think, that we should learn the national languages first. At first, communication ...

  • Testing knowledge of democracy in Geneva

    Sat, 7 Oct 2017 15:00:00 GMT

    It was a highlight for many participants of Geneva’s Democracy Week, for which a series of events were held last month: A special treasure hunt through the streets of the western Swiss city in search of places and institutions that have made local history. ‘Democracy between reason and emotions’ was the theme of this year’s event, which was organised by the Geneva cantonal authorities in cooperation with numerous institutions, including the United Nations. Confronted with growing populism, the motto was an obvious choice, according to Geneva cantonal Chancellor Anja Wyden Guelpa. The idea of the treasure hunt was to let competitors have fun and use their grey cells at the same time, while they were trying to find solutions and fill their score cards on their way to the finish line. About 130 people – including women and men of all ages, children, whole families, and Swiss and foreign nationals – participated in the game. The goal was not so much to outrun the other competitors ...

  • Zurich's controversial district

    Sat, 7 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    A new development is springing up in the heart of Zurich city. Directly behind the tracks of the main station, the "Europaallee" stretches right up to district 4 of the old town. A mix of work space, apartments, hotels, restaurants, shops, leisure and educational facilities are being built. Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) not only owns of the 78,000 square metre site, but also the buildings. The groundbreaking ceremony took place in 2009 and the last construction phase is scheduled for completion in 2020. Rarely has such a project, which features a dense mixture of buildings, polarised opinion to this extent. Everyone is talking about it: from conservationists to building planners, urban developers and everyday citizens. In 2006, 65% of the city's population voted in favour of the project. Some believe that Europaallee will act as a catalyst for gentrification: expensive buildings are being constructed for commercial usage, which leave no room for the "ordinary Zurich citizen".

  • The miracle of Picasso in Basel

    Fri, 6 Oct 2017 09:00:00 GMT

    The greatest artist of the 20th century, a grassroots hippie movement, super-rich chemical industrialists, direct democracy: all the ingredients of a fairy-tale story in which, 50 years ago, Basel voters said “yes” to the purchase of two Picassos. The story has a magical ending but a dramatic beginning – with an aeroplane crash in torrential rain. In April 1967, a Globe Air plane smashed into the ground while landing in Cyprus. Some 117 passengers and nine crew members were killed, and the catastrophe prompted the small airline to slide into bankruptcy soon after. The main shareholder of the company was forced to take on the bulk of the high liability payments. He was Peter G. Staechelin of Basel, whose family was known for its large collection of artistic treasures, including paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, Cézanne, Picasso, and Monet. The most important of these works hung in the Basel Kunstmuseum – assets on canvas that Staechelin now had to convert into cash. ‘Of great ...

  • How smelly can a cow be?

    Fri, 6 Oct 2017 06:25:00 GMT

    How much smell should people living next to farms be expected to endure? In Switzerland, this often contentious point is subject to a raft of guidelines – which are now under review. (SRF, Officials have stuck their nose into the ongoing conflict between farmers and their residential neighbours, following new research from the Agroscope Institute for Food Sciences. The Federal Office for Agriculture must once again decide on the reasonable amount of animal odour that someone working at a stable should tolerate. Or how far a chicken coop should be built from a residential area. The revision of the 22-year-old rule book has been sparked by changing farming methods and the continued encroachment of residential areas on traditional farm land. Research has revealed an increased tendency to build larger and more open stables and agricultural biogas facilities on farms. This leads to a growing potential for conflict with people living nearby. It is hoped that the ...

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