Keshav in Switzerland: Part I

The decision was made somewhat impulsively. My wife, Pavitra, had to go to Switzerland on business, and me and my son Keshav, would have a full week to explore the country. Seemed like an ideal opportunity for a great summer vacation and to do some Father-son bonding.

Not that there would not be any challenges. Keshav and I would have to spend 15-18 hours traveling each way because there were no direct flights from San Francisco to Bern Switzerland, which was to be our ‘home base’. I was anxious, not only about how Keshav would take to the journey, but how my fellow passengers would react. The last couple of times we were on long flights with Keshav, he had worn the patience of some of our fellow passengers thin. In particular, he had the nasty habit of kicking the back of the seat in front in spite of our imploring him not to do so. Of course, part of the problem was that the portable DVD player did  not hold its charge as well anymore. And there was only so much that I and Pavitra could do to keep Keshav engaged without his disturbing the passengers nearby. This time, I was better prepared. I had a PSP with an innocuous golf game that I had shown Keshav before boarding the flight. He showed moderate interest in the game, and I was going to pray that the Li-ion battery in the PSP would last long enough.

We spent the last couple of weeks prior to the trip preparing Keshav for the trip. Keshav had taken a particular liking to some key classical music composers such as Beethoven, Vivaldi, and Mozart, and we told him we would go to see Mozart’s house. We tried to use this possibility as a carrot to elicit better behavior from Keshav in the days and hours leading up to the trip with limited success. Keshav was also very fond of cars, and in particular, german cars such as BMW, VW, and Mercedes. I promised him I would take him to see cool cars in Germany as well. So, I am sure Keshav was eagerly looking forward to the trip.

One of the reasons Switzerland was interesting was that it did not need us to get a visa to travel there. As luck would have it, the ticket that I was able to get required Keshav and myself to take a ‘local’ flight from Frankfurt to Munich in Germany. This meant that I had to go get a German visa. I did not anticipate any issues since I had traveled to Germany multiple times in the past for business, but the rules had changed recently, and the consulate wanted to make sure that I had medical insurance in Germany, and my United Health Care insurance card was no consolation. I had to buy medical insurance for myself for a period of 10 days on top of my existing insurance to convince the german consulate that I had medical insurance!

Anyway, we were all set for the flight on the 21st of August. Keshav was a pleasure to travel with, and the PSP’s battery held on for its dear life and we were able to get to the airport in Belp close to Bern without any incident. We were of course, helped by the fact that Lufthansa had personal entertainment systems at each seat, and Keshav was now old enough to enjoy some of the programming available there. The only challenge I had to face was to try to change Keshav into new clothes in Frankfurt airport after a grueling flight from San Francisco, and to get him to eat something reasonable. But cheese, crackers, chocolate, ice cream, and water the main items of his diet on the flight.

The only slight inconvenience was that Keshav fell asleep on the flight from Munich to Belp after having willed himself to stay awake all the way from San Francisco to Munich. The gentle humm of the turbo-prop plane was irresistible for me as well. After landing, I woke up and realized that I had quite a situation on my hands. I had two pieces of checked baggage, two pieces of hand baggage, and a sleeping 3.5 year old who weighed 20 kg to carry. Somehow, I managed to carry him and the hand baggage pieces, get a cart, and pick up the checked-in baggage and hail a cab. The Cabbie was a Sri-Lankan who was kind enough to lend me a hand with the luggage and we were off to Allegro Kursaal Bern, the hotel casino complex where we were going to stay.

I struck up a conversation with the cabbie as we drove towards Bern from Belp. My first impressions of the country were that this place looks as prettier in reality than in picture postcards. The small airport, the lush greenery, and the cute cottages strewn along the country-side bely the incredible influence this tiny nation has on world affairs. Pretty much any place you pick has both historical and economic significance. May it be the banks in Zurich, the Chocolate Factories in Luzerne, or the Pharmaceutical companies in Basel, to name a few. I asked the cabbie whether there were many immigrants in Switzerland, and whether they were assimilating well with the rest of the society. His response was amazingly positive. It seems, at least at first glance, like Switzerland has been able to gain access to labor/talent pools from around the world, while still maintaining its centuries-old traditions as of now.

We reached the hotel without any difficulty, and Keshav got up on the way to the airport. Once there, I picked up the keys to the room, and we freshened up and settled in. My wife returned from work in the evening, and we decided to walk across the Aare river and walk around the old-city. The Hotel gave us a Map of Bern that was very useful. The hotel was on kornhausstrasse, and we had to cross the kornhausbrucke and that led to the kornhaus where there were some great places to eat and drink. I presume in ancient times, this was the route that the peasants used to bring in their grain to be stored in the granary in the center of the city. The basement of the kornhaus, kornhauskeller, was used to store wine, and is now a lovely place to experience Swiss hospitality.

Now that Keshav had arrived in Switzerland, what would he do? Would he go and visit Einstein’s house? Would he visit Mozart’s house? Would he be able to go see some cool German cars? Find out in the next installment of Keshav in Switzerland.

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One Response to “Keshav in Switzerland: Part I”

  1. Ram Says:

    So how did Keshav fare? When are you posting your part 2?

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