Davos07: When not in Rome….

A few in a series of random, personal observations about a week in Switzerland:

* Went out to dinner tonight in Zurich and ended up in a restaurant with Fondue. I feared it was a tourist cliche, but everyone in the place, tourist and native alike, was dipping into pots of cheese. So, what the hell, when not in Rome, don’t have the pizza. So I ordered it.

It’s an insane dish, when you think about it: The inside-out grilled-cheese sandwich. Swiss nachos.

I dipped and swirled my bread cubes until I was stuffed. All the while, could feel my cardiologist on my shoulder plugging me into a wall socket. My cholesterol was high a few weeks ago and I vowed to get it down on my own, since I’ve been good before. I had six weeks to get it into shape but at week 4, I ended up in the land of fondue, raclette, chocolate, butter, and strudel. Doomed, I’m doomed.

Anyway, I ended up unimpressed with fondue. I remember having it many years ago, when it was supposed to be the trend sweeping America and my parents bought a pot they used exactly once. Times have changed. So has my heart. I’m going back on my sushi diet.

* One thing I was looking forward to spending a week in Switzerland was stretching my bad German. I’ve taken some lessons lately and I wanted to try out the new moves. But at Davos, all I learned was to pronounce the town da-VOS instead of DA-vos. Everyone there speaks English, even if you try to speak German. I suppose I understand; it is the lingua franca they use with the international crowd at the World Economic Forum. But I was disappointed… until I did find some people who’d speak German, but they spoke Schweizer Deutsch, which is about as hard for me to understand as Norwegian — and doesn’t sound much different, with an entirely different rhythm and lyric and sound. I’m doomed to be a unilingual American.

And, by the way, I felt terribly inferior around the WEF staff, who speak handfuls of languages.

* The only time I was in Switzerland before, it was to get from Geneva to France. So this was a first. What struck me in a shallow week’s time is that this is a practical more than a charming country. Not saying it doesn’t have its charm (and, Lord knows, beauty); it’s not a criticism, just a contrast. Germany seems to work hard to push the charm, even though its historical ethos is obviously manufactured and one could see reason not to do so. Switzerland, on the other hand, has history that was not destroyed in war, yet I see less of it here than in Germany. The architecture, signage, and even fashion looks quieter, more efficient.