Mount Mourex

With the weather being very pleasant we are continuing to explore the area. Recently, Sylvia took me up Mount Mourex, near Mount Mussy where Sylvia has been with the CERN women. A pleasant walk through mediterranean landscape, not unlike what we have in Edgewood park near San Carlos in California, but much greener of course. Even here, the CERN PR machinery functions: on an orientation table, what would we find but an indication of CERN (in the wrong direction) and even a lengthy write-up of what CERN is about. As it turns out, this is one of about 20 alignment monuments establishing the geodetic grid used to place the CERN accelerators. Good to know, I guess, although the features of CERN, much less the LHC, do not stand out from here.

Orienting table on Mt. Mourex. The lower middle of the table holds the CERN information (not readable at the resolution of this picture).


Conveniently, my birthday fell on the “Jeûne Genevois” holiday, so we could use the occasion for a little excursion to Martigny, Switzerland, on the other side of Lac Léman past Montreux. The entrance into the valley was beautiful with steep cliffs rising up, and the clouds added to the dramatic scenery. The main reason for going to Martigny was to visit the Sculpture Garden and the Niki de Staël exhibit, both at the Pierre Gianadda Foundation. It was really pleasant to discover 40 sculptures by famous artists like Miró, Chagall, Moore & others in a park-like setting.

Uli meeting Segal's Women with Sunglasses

The de Staël exhibit was inside a large building where the top floor housed a collection of Roman artefacts found in the area while downstairs are changing exhibits. The exhibit traced de Staël’s stylistic development from very abstract in the beginning to more defined later, until almost minimalistic and very colorful towards the end of his life (which he ended by his own hand). In the bottom of the same building was a collection of oldtimers (cars)… some relief for Uli!

The Roman artefacts bear witness to Martigny’s being a settlement already during Roman times, called Octodurum by the Romans. In fact, an amphitheatre has been uncovered and restored nearby. Uli enjoyed a great echoing effect when being inside near the centre of the oval. But we doubt that those cast to the animals by the Romans felt similar appreciation for the acoustics.

Uli checking the acoustics

We ended the day with a nice meal in Cully on the lake shore with nice evening light, where I finally had the famous perche (Perch), little fried whitefish from the lake.

In all a very uplifting birthday!

PS: Pictures of the birthday child are in Uli’s camera… on film and waiting to be developed!

September Visits

September was a time for yet more visitors-it is so great to see everyone. My sister Susanne and Andreas came again—this time passing through. They planned an adventure of driving over mountain passes for 4 wheel drive vehicles—they have a Land Rover and the tent is on top. We explored the castle Prangins in the area and were blessed with fabulous fall weather.

Prangins Castle

On Friday Rudolf, a long time friend of ours visited and we met Petra. We took them to Lausanne and heard the organ concert that Uli already mentioned. It was great to see Rudolf who faithfully comes to visit us whenever he can and wherever we are and we enjoyed getting to know Petra. We went to Geneva on Saturday—here a photo of them with the jet d’eau!

Reunion (in the Alps)

Along the trail... (Photo: Sylvia)

Late August Peter & Roswitha came to visit. As mentioned here before, Peter is a friend from high-school days and we all studied together in Mainz for a couple of years; a time I certainly remember very fondly. Since then our ways had parted somewhat since we left for Canada after university, while they first went to Hamburg and later to Wiesbaden.

We saw each other again at our common friend Michael’s birthday bash in June this year, and we were very glad when they agreed to visit us in France. We spent a great weekend together; first in Ferney—I got to show them CERN’s Microcosm exhibition, the new exhibit in the Globe (which we found quite impressive) and we even had a peek into the CERN Control Center.

Then we headed to the Alps, staying in our beloved hotel Les Rhodos in Cordon to get the views and some more hiking in. This time the weather did not cooperate so poor Peter & Roswitha got to see the scenery in a mist of fog and rain.

But we did not let it get in the way of enjoying the hike which had a special charm in the mist.

Cows in the mist... (Photo: Sylvia)

We walked in the Cordon area high up above the village, the trail leading us to Chalets des Bénés (which is an alpine meadow and not a vacation colony).

The top end of our walk (yes, that's rain drops on the lens!). Photo: Sylvia

When we did not walk we enjoyed sitting on the patio of the hotel. Thanks to modern computer technology (as well known, I do not travel without laptop) we were able to show them pictures of our kids and our house in San Carlos. Almost made me wish to have an iPod Touch which should make a nice picture frame as well… One time we saw the most colorful rainbow we (at least Roswitha & I) have ever seen. Color as strong as painted against the stark backdrop of a sheer rocky mountain wall. Unfortunately by the time Sylvia was called and had her camera ready it was already fading. But even without rainbow the clouds made for a rather dramatic view.

View from our hotel. (Photo: Sylvia)

In the evenings we enjoyed the good food our host Pascal served for dinner, with an after-dinner wine glass to round off the evening. We caught up on each other’s lives and discussed the kids, the state of the world today, and the science we do at CERN and Christianity and how we see it. (At the latter part I think I waffled a bit (as I tend to do when such themes are coming up) but then, it is not so easy conveying ones beliefs (or doubts) without sounding in some fashion odd). At any rate, we also had good laughs.

The four of us in the driveway of our hotel (photo: Pascal)

The visit went by fast and on Sunday we had to say goodbye; hopefully not for another 20-or-so years.
This likely will have also been our last visit to Cordon before we return to San Carlos, but we do hope for a chance to get here again one day.


We have come out of a very busy week. First, Peter & Roswitha, friends from my time as student in Mainz, visited; then Susanne and Andreas, then we ran our UA9 Crystal experiment at the CERN SPS, and following that Rudolf & Petra visited, Rudolf being one of our long-time friends, originally of Sylvia.

Anyway, more about these events later. Last night we went to Lausanne for another installment of the organ concertos in the Cathedral. These we love very much. This night it was an all-French program performed by an Italian Organist. This performance however, we will surely not forget: at some point, in the middle of the 1st movement of Widor’s 5th organ symphony, something got stuck in the organ and the whole play got stuck on a single note. The bewildered organist and his page turner pushed and pulled various buttons, keys and registers, to no avail; the organ would insist on that one single note. Eventually the situation got resolved by the tried and true method of cutting the power, and after the power was restored the remainder of the performance went off without a hitch.

Rudolf & I quickly came to the conclusion that there must be a controller running Windows in the playing table!

In Germany

We have been in Germany again. For me, this combined a business trip to DESY in Hamburg with the chance to see family and friends, in Mainz, Hamburg and Cologne. Deviating from (my) habit we took the train, which really was a good thing as we put the time spent in the train to good use, first for ourselves and when I continued on, to get some work done.

So we stayed for a night with Sylvia’s family in Mainz/Nieder-Olm and had dinner  in an inn in the countryside, celebrating Sylvia’s stepmother’s birthday. This brought back good memories (I used to study in Mainz in the 70s), but I hardly remembered what little I saw of Mainz.

On to Hamburg where I stayed with Manni (by now familiar to readers of this diary) and worked with my colleague Desmond at DESY. We got four intense days in and made good progress. While Des & I communicate often via email and phone, working together really helped us to get through some technical issues and also increased our understanding in a much more focused way. With Manni I had a very enjoyable outing to the North Sea, a beach near St. Peter Ording. I haven’t been in that area for umpteen years. We walked quite a bit on the beach and over dykes and marshes and also visited the lighthouse of Westerhever (which sits in quite a peculiar arrangement flanked by two houses).

Peace, near Westerhever lighthouse (My friend Manni)

On the way back I had a brief stop-over in my home town and visited the cemetery where most of my family (motherly branch) lies; sadly, there are more and more names of those I used to know. I passed by Cologne and stayed a night with the other half of Sylvia’s family. My father in-law (Ulrich Schiller) actually had published recently a book, about which I will write a little in a separate post, suffice it to say here that I am very impressed. Sylvia is staying with them while her sister Ele is on vacation (in France, ironically).

Visit from friend Laura

After our trip in the mountains our neighbor and friend from San Carlos in California came for a visit. I showed her Ferney and Geneva and from Nyon we took the cogwheel train up into the Jura. In pouring rain we had lunch in a Swiss-French restaurant—the border went right through it so you can eat in one country and go to the bathroom in another.

On the weekend we were lucky to have clear weather and went up the Salève mountain where this time we walked farther than last time, to a view point and could see the Alps.

The rest of the time Laura was here we took a trip to Zürich. On Sunday (1. August) the weather was perfect and we took the Golden Pass Panoramic train to our destination. We had fantastic views on the lake leaving to go up the mountains from Montreux. The ride went through lush green meadows and passes (without the announced cows!)….the villages were picturesque and the more rugged peaks started an hour before Interlaken. There we had  a glimpse of the Jungfraujoch from afar-not as close as some advertisements of the train ride let us believe. So we went on to Bern. There we could admire the gilded portal (outside) of the cathedral and the many fountains of the city.

Cathedral in Bern (detail)

Eating Rösti and Flammekuchen was also fun. A big part part of the day was spend in the Paul Klee museum which this time had an exhibit of Klee and Picasso; it was interesting to contrast the two. We arrived in Zürich at our hotel, a Bauhaus building, at about 10 p.m. and were happy to get the corner room. Each room is dedicated to a Swiss personality or some one who is associated with it. We had  Othmar Ammann so I slept under a tunnel design and Laura under a bridge! (see photo)

On Monday we went on a short tour of the city (can be better explored by foot, which we did later) and then along the lake to Rapperswil. The guide pointed out the buildings and sites but later we were left alone in Rapperswil to take the boat back while the rest of the group took the tour to “Heidiland.”  Rapperswil was a cute town and we were happy the rain just started when we had lunch on the boat. The Alps were unfortunately hidden and we did not have the postcard view. In Zürich we went to see the Chagall windows at the Fraumünster and the Sigmund Polk windows in the Großmünster. The Chagall was impressive in its brilliant colors but the Polk ones were very unusual in its modern interpretations. A woman who worked there  gave us a private tour because we showed such interest! Then we were at Sprüngli’s for coffee time.

On Tuesday we took the train to St.Gallen since it rained and admired the famous baroque abbey and library. Both give such a harmonious feeling even though the decorations were “a bit much”! The town had some beautiful old houses and modern sculptures surprisingly popped up in various streets. The evening was spend back in Zürich at a Brauhaus with typical Swiss food.

St. Gallen Abbey

Wednesday we had the best weather and we had the five people needed for the “Into the Alps” tour. It was a 300 km tour with stunning scenery and a fantastic, knowledgeable guide. On the way he told us a lot about Swiss life and the love of tunnel building. Our first pass was the Brünig pass (1007m) with a nice view where we stopped for photos. Our first longer stop was for a self serve lunch at the Aare gorge. He gave us time to walk through it and picked us up at the other end. It is a very narrow  and impressive gorge where we walked on wooden balconies and through tunnels with the water dripping.

Then we drove on up the mountains to the Grimselpass (2165m) which looked like the top of the world . We could see a chain of mountains which often are obscured in the fog. Also it was an eery barren landscape with greenish rocks. Then we went down the valley and up again to the Rhone Glacier, another longer stop. We could walk into the glacier and admire its blue color inside. The Furkapass was another great view and coming down it was via a very narrow mountain road. This has been a great day in the Swiss Alps!

Thursday we went to the Kunsthaus in Zürich, a perfect day for it since it rained. Laura left the next day and memories about a great time together remain.