Mountain in Alps, or a lakeside of Neuchatel. Or anywhere in Switzerland. Maybe it's that my stay was too short. Or maybe it's that everything that I ate and drank took me to the flavor city. And maybe it's that every walk on any of these streets and pathways offered something breathtakingly beautiful. Maybe it's that a little bit of history I learned about this country fascinated me. Or maybe that every person that I met was courteous, sincere, smart or all of the above, and maybe there are similarities between the Swiss and my people.
Neuchâtel is somewhat of a tourist destination, a city not as modern as Zurich and probably more affordable than Montreux. You see why the minute you arrive; the city is home to hundreds of architectural treasures with magnificent Lac de Neuchâtel and the distant Alps as the background. The city hall where the current parliament holds meetings also offers an a hour-long tour educating visitors the historic significance of the building and their very direct political system. Maya used to work as a tour guide here, and hooked me up with a freebie by her old co-worker. The amount of knowledge shared by our two guides was overwhelming, but my main takeaway was that the Swiss citizens are very actively engaged in local politics. None of the members of parliament is a full time politician; they could be a baker, a school teacher, or a performing artist/theatre writer/director like Laura who has done two terms in the Parliament of Zurich. Maya is considering her future run for Neuchâtel. This does not guarantee that the system is free of corruption. Every governor gets a portrait after their term; either a photograph or a painting. One had a white dove behind him. The last governor had a black ominous cloud hanging over his head, presumably due to some controversy he was involved in. What balls on the painter, and the governor too for accepting it.
Let's talk food now; take Rivella, a national soda; it's made of dairy whey which is a byproduct of cheese-making process. Some dude in the early 50s came up with an idea to make a soda out of something that was deemed a waste and dumped into rivers in the US, now it has the second biggest share in the Swiss soft drink market after Coke, and are distributed in Netherlands, Germany, France, Austria, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. The taste of a sip while sitting at a table riverside of Limmat with the background of a local elderly country trio ripping on "Margaritaville" remains vivid in my mind. It was cemented when another elderly gentleman from the audience got up and air-guitar-battled a bald guitarist. An epic moment.
The cheesecake (sigh) I had at BACKbAR (Maya's college-era favorite), random loaves of bread we picked up at a co-op, also the ice cream from a tiny shop behind the gorgeous alley in Neuchâtel were all memorable, but 2 meals stand out; various cheeses that we acquired at a farmers' market in Neuchâtel with the guidance of Daniel, a Sicilian French hiphop producer turned a painter who now resides in Yverdon-Ies-Bains with Maya. As one would expect from a French-speaking region, they have basically everything that Paris has and when consumed on a high-quality bread, sitting on a bench looking out to Lac de Neuchâtel was nothing short of divine. Wish I remembered names.
Another momerable meal was a bit more labor-intensive; Maya had told me that I was invited to a barbecue for her best friend Pierre's birthday, expecting some grillin' in a backyard, potluck style. The first half was WAY OFF; we drove up the hill to a lookout above the town of Neuchâtel where we set up a campfire by unloading a hatchback full of logwood, then up a few dozen steps then a walk to the lookout. That wasn't enough apparently, so Pierre and Daniel went and chopped up more logs to bring up the hill. Pierre's girlfriend, an Argentinian Swiss with whom I had a conversation regarding the blurring identity of transplants (as we both have spent the same amount in our birthplaces and the current residences) chuckled and said "Welcome to Switzerland, we make you work for food." They even demanded that I play some guitar, so much so that they went back to their place to bring me one. The meal that followed, however, was worth every calorie that I had burned.
Both moms of the couple brought in their homemade dishes which you knew was gonna be good, and they always say "oh this is so easy to make" which tends not to be the case, except most of these were. Gazpacho in cups, olive-oil-soaked bell peppers, dill-marinated salmon, mushrooms with tuna, quinoa salad and on and on. I had reached my limit by the time the Argentinian steak and fish-on-a-twig went on the grill, but I obviously couldn't resist. Then it started to make sense; I mean, when you have access to such a wide range of fresh ingredients, you really don't have to do much "cooking." Easy does it. Let the good thing be what it is; good.
There might've been a jam involving me trying to figure out the changes to Hava Nagila while Maya and the ladies sang three part harmony, but at that point there had been all the food that's mentioned above, beers consumed as water, wine and then some goddamn whiskey. What do you know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ that fucking guy always shows up wherever I go. Peace.
Soundchaser/two-time Independent Music Awards finalist. New EP "Six Songs from Insomnia" is out on all major streaming platforms.