Archive for February, 2010
It has almost become a sort of tradition that I spend my birthday in St. Moritz, so 2010 was on again. The reputation of St. Moritz travels faster than the speed of light, and after being there a few times by now, I’d like to shed some of that light from my experience what to expect, where to go and what to do. (All the pics are here on this Flickr-set, by the way.)
First of all, the skiing slopes are the most awesome I have ever seen, it feels like driving down a 12-lane Autobahn on snow. And so is the view.
The area covered by the lift-pass is huge and there is something for every level of difficulty – I will usually stick to the “red slopes” with my average skiing abilities. In terms of what to expect for foodies up there when skiing, this is what I can share:
- El Paradiso is a platform for plain vanity, even by St. Moritz standards. The owner, his staff and the guests mutually reassure each other how great they find themselves. The waiters are cover-magazine-beauties, the food is poor, the prices astronomic and the attitude fucked up. Once you step in, it is all about that artificially inflated show if you have reserved and how long you would have the table before the next service. Once you order the bill and intend to pay by credit card, you get told that this incurs a surcharge of 3 %. This place has seen me for the last time.
- Poor on a completely different level is the otherwise lovely looking hut of Lej de la Peche. The entire service is completely disorganised, waiters don’t show up at all or if, they forget half of what you ordered. It takes finally 45 minutes to get some pasta. Just bad.
Down in the Dorf (=village) of St. Moritz there is plenty to do and see. During the last three weekends, there is a major happening taking place: The White Turf – the only horse-race in the world on snow, to be more precise, on snow which has been layered on top of the frozen lake.
Opposite above the lake stands majestically the characteristic hotel Badrutt’s Palace, one of the architectural symbols of St. Moritz.
The Bellini in the night bar costs 25 Swiss Francs, but it is a worthwhile investment for people spotting. Unlike El Paradiso, the setting is immaculate, and expect the unexpected: Women on botox, men in blue blazers with golden buttons or, as this, time a group of rich teenage kids most likely from the prestigious and adjacent boarding school of Zuoz having a night out. One couldn’t say that they were behaving badly, but at some point one could tell that they were spoilt brats who got shovelled everything up their arses by their wealthy parents. 16-year old girls in ultra-short mini-skirts and designer bags – as I learned – priced at 3,000 Euro, is devoid of any envy a bit over the top to establish a proper moral compass for life.
One of my consistent favourites for an aperitif is the cosy bar of the Kempinski hotel with a modern fireplace in the middle surrounded by glass.
The service runs like a Swiss clockwork and embodies style, too. At the rate occasion that I order a bottle of champagne, as I did for my birthday, the waiter would put on their white champagne-gloves to serve the bubbly happiness.
Other places to recommend for food:
- Chesa Veglia is a sort of classic with an exquisite restaurant as well as a pizzeria. The selection of wines is abundant. Expect to run into folks like Claudia Schiffer as I did two years ago. Prices-wise rather at the upper scale.
- The Veltinerkeller does a bit more of the rough stuff. A very recommendable highlight are the Pizzocheri (a pasta). Service is super-efficient, almost such, that one tends to tell the waiters to slow down the pace a bit.
- One of my personal highlights is the simple Swiss restaurant Engiadina right at the central square of St. Moritz village. When entering the place, the smell of melted cheese will crawl up your nose, and that’s exactly its speciality: cheese fondue. If I had a wish how to die, it would be drowning in cheese fondue.
Along with some open white wine and a good cherry schnapps for digestion afterwards, there is nothing more the culinary heart can desire.
Last but not least, the greatest discovery in St. Moritz which is still considered something as a secret tip and stands right at the parking of the Signalbahn: La Baracca. Founded some six years ago, it was targeted at ski teachers and other working staff as a place where they could have a decent meal without the high price tab of St. Moritz on it. However, by now the place has evolved into a potpourri of people from all walks of life. Dresscode is whatever, music nicely chosen, the decoration set with personal love to the smallest detail and the food exceptionally good.
There is a changing menu every evening with, say, ten dishes to choose from. But those are done really, really well. Somehow this place reminded me of “Soul Kitchen“, a restaurant of a similar type which is currently the name and subject of a successful German movie.
St. Moritz has lots of stuff to offer from the bottom to the heights – in every sense of the word – but keeps on calling to come back for more.
Thanks to our brave new interconnected world, but even more so thanks to your kindness, your kind birthday-wishes have been reaching me here in St. Moritz (Switzerland) during my skiing vacation. It was lovely to see the first congrats coming in even late evening yesterday my local time – which was already Feb 15th in Australia. And as the date-line was moving westwards, India came next, then Europe and now the first ones are coming in from the U.S.
It is my pleasure and privilege to express my humble thoughts that you have thought of me on my birthday, and rest assured that I will have a drink on your behalf tonight here in St. Moritz. More in detail I’ll explain in this brief video both in English and in German :-)
Hope to see you all soon again in person. Take care and warm regards,
After Shukla Bose’s inspiring talk at TED India in Novemer 2009, I finally managed today to follow her kind invitation to visit one of the four schools which she has set up in the last six years after the inception of Parikrma Foundation. Check out the website, it’s amazingly well executed, like everything else I have seen today at the tour of the “Adobe Parikrma Centre For Learning”. (Here is the entire picture set.)
Given the top-notch organizational standard, one can tell that Shukla has spent a major part of her life in corporate life before she decided to do something that makes a true difference to others. Hence, the place is an amazing mix of high-quality education and dedication of its mostly volunteers as well as salaried full-time teachers. The right attitude for all involved seems of utmost importance for the organization.
“You can’t buy passion”, explains Shukla, and leads by example how focussed and loving she treats each and every of the children, ask them questions, answers the children’s questions back, encourages critical reasoning, a healthy portion of scepticism, gives them a hug and sometimes tender kiss on the cheek.
Most importantly, the children feel welcome at this place and encouraged to blossom. As normal as it sounds, it is not. These children have all one thing in common: They hail from very poor families, with an average income of Rs. 800/- (~ EUR 13) per month, and would without Parikrma at best see a school from the outside.
I really like the approach Shukla and her team are taking to their programme: Instead of describing problems and design solutions, they start from a desirable result: Enable children from an underprivileged background to attend college and work their way backwards to overcoming the roadblocks to the objective.
Besides an amazing curriculum which for example is able to teach children from ground zero English in three months, it includes most importantly the family background of the kids as well. It means integrating the parents into the process to convince them of the long term benefit of a good education (lower drop-out rates) to sending alcoholic fathers to therapies and have them afterwards build and run kitchens which feed all the children during school-hours.
After my great experience with our charity-project “Wipro Netbooks for Vatsalya” today’s visit was an eye-opener how something based on good intentions can scale into a significant changer of society like Parikrma. Shukla has in my impression done an amazing job in building a platform where new ideas and improvements are constantly absorbed, a platform which is open to the work of volunteers, some of them – which made it really sympathetic to me – guys with long hair and girls with tattoos (rather a rarity in India). These would be assigned to work in well crafted “modules”. Those can range from providing “slower” pupils a bit of teaching-tailwind within a programme of a few months to just have one educational lesson of 90 minutes on a relevant subject.
If you are interested in Parikrma, my fullest endorsement to donate or help. Here is how it works:
- Sponsoring one child per year including all expenses like books, school-uniform, teachers’ salary to the partial rent: $500 per year
- Sponsoring a whole class where the donor will receive regular reports on the children’s progress: $15,000 per year (30 children with $500 each)
- Needless to mention, any amount of money is welcome.
- Volunteering, as described above, also with people from abroad is encouraged.
Thanks to Shukla and her team, keep up the amazing work and let’s keep in touch. I am sure there is something where we can work together in the future.