Value art more than success

by Lorenzo Piccoli

Lucerne/Olten, June 26

This morning I hopped on a train. I had decided to spend the entire day roaming randomly from one town to the other, familiarizing to a very Swiss habit: living on a railway. I though of this as the proper opportunity to wish farewell to those things and people that have become part of my life in the last three months, since the moment I first moved here. So I am going to do it now: this is what comes to my mind when I think back of my time here.

Trains, indeed. Switzerland is a country of commuters. Trains here are a bit like the tube: people use them every day, because they are so comfortable, frequent, and fast. And, of course, Swiss cities are on average pretty small, so it’s easy to walk everywhere once you are in the train station. So trains, that’s one thing I will miss. I, myself, traveled to la-Chaux-de-Fonds, Lausanne, Zurich, Bern, Geneve, Lucerne, Interlaken, and a lot of small towns. These were silent, peaceful, and scenic rides. I hope more of them will come in the future.


I will remember the army kids in the train stations. They are so many. I guess that is because each male citizen below 35 has the duty to serve for something like three weeks each year. This must be reason why youngsters in their uniforms are a common view in this country. They keep their hands in the pockets and smoke, talk, drink. It is a funny contrast, because their youth and small rebellious acts defy the nature of the uniform they wear.

I will enormously miss the Black Office and regret I did not spend more time there. It is here that I learnt the basics of how to fix a bike and it is also here that I was able to exercise my proto-French without much fear. I have great respect for the idea of helping people to fix their bikes and the sense of community based on good-will I found there.

And then there are all the other small things that are so stereotypical and true: the cows I met during my long rides across Romandie; the watch-makers in La-Locle; the weird blend of languages, which I find somehow exciting; the general sense of hospitality; the rare days of sun on the lake; the local beers, like BFM; the green fields and the mountains, which unfortunately I have not explored; the bizarre monuments in the cities; the Portuguese immigrant community of Neuchatel, providing each morning pastel de nata and coffee; and the counter-cultures, like the anarchism of the Black Office, the bike messengers, the rural communities of Jura, and the urban movements of Zurich.

I will remember fondly the office and the environment that welcomed me there. I got a lot of work done and I like to say that it is because there is not much social distraction in Neuchatel. But this was also because the nccr has provided me with so many resources – it was a genuine pleasure to dig deep into them. Apart from work, many colleagues also proved to be kind friends. Running the risk of not making justice to all, I will remember Marco, Stefanie, Flo, Eva, Valentin, Robin, David, Rorick, and Alice. And, of course, Jean-Thomas, who has done much to integrate me, both professionally and socially. I already knew his attitude; but it is only after these three months together that I have come to know his values and personality. It has been an education.


In the end, my most vivid images are those created during my long rides in the countryside of Romandie. Neuchatel was much more alive seen through the lenses of two slim wheels. Perhaps I, myself, am a bit like a bike: balance only comes when I am in motion. So there I go again, off to new uncertain beginnings. Because without them the heights would not feel so great, would they?