Global Thoughts — 2 March 2023

Paragliding over Davos, Switzerland

During the past month or so, I have had 3 airline flights cancelled on me, two of them while on the plane. That was for 3 trips, meaning that none of my trips happened on the day they were scheduled. I just go with the punches and feel that I don’t really want to fly on a plane that doesn’t feel well. Although I am not sure if it is the unions that don’t feel well; I got the feeling yesterday when I saw the mechanics meandering to the plane that they had absolutely no interest in being there. Between airport fires, software glitches at air traffic control and weight balance issues, flight schedules today seem more aspirational than real. The USA is not the worst; a week ago, flights to Europe were messed up because the Germans went on strike at all their major airports.

I am feeling more like an air traffic controller these days with both kids constantly going somewhere as teenagers and just trying to plan around everyone’s travels. Having Friday Night Dinner at home has become something to reserve weeks in advance.

I am always very proud when I attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. The extravaganza is American capitalism at its best. We create the best show on earth because people are willing to pay for it. It is a truly remarkable venue that is also a class act in every way from the art deco chandeliers in the lobby to the uniformed personnel and the magical stage. Even if you are not Christian, you have to see this show sometime in your life. Although I have to admit, Jeremy kinda found it boring. Ticketmaster charges $30 per ticket service fee which it can do because it is a monopoly and everyone seeing the show is a tourist who has no choice but to pay the fee. I bought 4 tickets and I saved $120 in fees by going to the box office. This is classic corporate rape.

In the Department of Great Questions: Why is it, given that the planet has 8 billion people, that I am always waiting for the elevator on my side of the building that has only 29 other apartments?

In Genesis, it says that Abraham provided hospitality to his overnight guests and gave water to their camels. Today it would have written that he charged their cellphones. I thought of that when my son staying overnight somewhere had his phone die during the weekend.

I just bought him some peppermint shampoo and bodywash for the holidays. Each Friday night it is customary to bless your child and kiss him on his head. Except that every Friday night I have to breath in that pizza-smelling hair. This scene would make a great shampoo commercial for Israeli television.

Here’s a lesson: Don’t judge a teacher by Parent-Teacher night. I thought my kid’s math teacher was going to be very dry and boring; he is an older man and I thought he would be behind the times. My daughter was fearing the worst. He turned out to be one of the funniest teachers of the year and very “with it.” Not to mention an excellent teacher.

I’ve been frustrated hoping Jeremy can find some kind of passion for something other than watching sports games on TV. His dean suggested a meeting with a school social counselor. Jeremy said the counselor spent half an hour with him asking if he was depressed and if he had contemplated suicide. I asked a senior school administrator about this and he said “Well, that’s the only thing social workers know how to do is talk about depression and suicide.” Well, that was great. If a kid isn’t thinking about these things, they will be after meeting with school social counselors.

Mountain peaks of Davos

We were looking at an exhibit at the NY Public Library of some of its 56 million selected treasures. Among them was a book from the 1600’s which was one of the first printings of Shakespeare’s works. The sign said that if not for this book, his work would probably not have been saved for posterity. ALERT To School children: This guy is responsible for 400 years of school misery for kids who have had to read and for adults who have had to pretend to appreciate his work in order to be considered well educated.  Focus your anger at the NY Public Library, not on us parents and teachers!

Speaking of Brits I don’t feel for, I’ve tried to ignore all this Harry and Meghan stuff but I did watch the 60 Minutes interview with Harry in January. My question is why these royals come to breakfast in the morning with all the tabloids spread out on the breakfast table. If you wanted to be above all this crap and if it was truly bothering you, isn’t that the last thing you’d want to see with your coffee and bread when you get up in the morning?

We’re in the subway station at 10pm coming back from a NY Rangers hockey game and there is this black guy playing saxophone hoping for money with a sign that said Black Guy from the Military. He starts playing the Hatikvah (Israeli national anthem) and all these odd Shabbat tunes that you would never recognize unless you were an Orthodox Jew. I didn’t think there were lots of Jews in the station, especially Orthodox ones, but his money cup filled up real fast; over $15 in about 2-3 minutes. Jeremy remarked that this guy had to be the smartest musician in the world: He figured out a remarkable hack into the system!

Speaking of subways, I rode to Penn Station at 9am on a Friday morning and it may as well have been Sunday morning, the train was that empty.

One reason I’ve never liked this remote work thing is that it causes employers to see employees as things rather than people because they never see them in the flesh. You can see now where that leads. People are being fired by email. Easy come, easy go.

It took almost 20 years for me to finally figure out how to breeze through security at Heathrow Airport with liquids in my carry-on bag. We make sure to put those liquid items in a see-through Ziploc bag and to remove that bag from any carry-on bags so they can clearly see the items. To spite me, I just read on the BBC website that they are going to scrap this rule in 2024.

Our kids went to Washington DC for a weekend with camp friends. Now I can just send them to the train station by themselves and they can send themselves wherever they need to go. I gave them metrocards to use the DC Metro (we keep them in stock), Uber will take them from there, they have debit cards, and they are on their way. Funny but a round trip train ticket on a regular northeast regional Amtrak train cost me $230 a ticket and it is only partially refundable; Delta roundtrip fully refundable was $327 a ticket in the front of the economy-class cabin. Amtrak is just too darn expensive but we use it anyway because the taxis to and from the airport are almost as much as the ticket itself while the train stations sync better with public transport. My son was watching a basketball tournament while in DC, and he often says there is nothing worse than watching women’s basketball; imagine how he must have loved watching a women’s game that went to triple overtime.

Here is why you shouldn’t tip all these people behind the counter that keep shoving that tipping screen in your face: Employers see exactly how much extra these people are being tipped over what they used to get. At some point in the coming recession, these workers will be replaced by people who will be paid less because leverage returns to employers during a recession. So the tips will subsidize the pay decrease; employees won’t know the difference because they will wind up the same as they were before. Customers are being played for suckers in this game because in the long run they are just making it easier for employers to stiff the employees.

It took me a long time (several months), but I finally reached the end of The Arc of a Covenant: The US, Israel and the Fate of the Jewish People, a book by Walter Russell Mead. The NY Times said it was one of the best books about American Foreign Policy in the last 25 years. It’s a good book but it was really too long and repetitious. By the time you read another 50 pages, you forget what you read 50 pages ago. At the end of the book, there is no real conclusion. I don’t really know what his point is. Basically, he says that American foreign policy in the Middle East has been a failure in both Democratic and Republican administrations, common wisdom explanations for America’s policy as to Israel reflect biases by various factions that really do not explain the true nature of things, and the basis for American support for Israel is part of the historical ethos of the American nation that long predates the establishment of the state of Israel. It’s worth reading, not necessarily because it is a book about Israel, but because it is a bit of a treatise of American history and factions in America. Israel is a sideshow in the book. The main point is to explain America. The book also has a good introduction explaining why foreign policy is a subject worth studying. I like foreign policy issues and this book is a great justification for why you should care about foreign policy and be interested in sites such as globalthoughts.com.

Another book I finally got to the end of is Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West by Catherine Belton. By the time I got to the Epilogue, I had to reread the Prologue because I forgot what it was about. I had to keep checking the index to keep track of all these Russians in the book. It’s a good book if you want to get more information than you need to know about how Putin grew into his role as the country’s tsar and how a vast conspiracy among the remnants of the KGB waited in the shadows for years and planned for a post-Yeltsin return to power. It’s a really black tale with lots of crime and blood and wiping out everyone who stands in the way, and it gives you a good sense of how Russia has become a mafia state. In my opinion, Putin might be the richest man in the world but I wouldn’t want to be in his position. The people around him made sure he had too much blood on his hands to ever walk away from his position and they are all trapped in a game set against each other and against the rest of the world. My takeaway is that Putin was manipulated every bit as much as he is manipulating what is going on around him today; the book says that when he became president he wasn’t such a megalomaniac but the people around him flattered him and convinced him that he was God’s gift to the world and it went to his head. And these people made sure that he was “dirty” and knew that if he walked away he and his family and associates would all wind up either in prison or dead. Presumably Assad from Syria is in a similar place and I assume neither of them are particularly happy souls especially since neither are presiding over successful situations. It’s a good story but it’s long and tedious and it takes time to read each chapter since it’s complicated and frankly I can’t remember any of it the moment I’ve finished reading each chapter. But it’s a good treatise toward understanding what Russia is today, how it got there, who is this Putin guy anyway, and how he rose from total obscurity to the top of the pyramid.

Biden’s strategy of shifting primaries in 2024 to South Carolina and Nevada is a good move because it will allow moderate candidates to do better in the opening primaries instead of having caucuses in places like Iowa that produce winners that represent a small elite faction of people that care more about soybeans than issues of interest nationwide. Now that we have passed the midpoint of Biden’s presidency, I think it’s time to give the guy some credit for having outperformed what most people expected of him. Did you see his latest trip to Ukraine? A 4am flight to Poland and then a 6-hour train ride to Kyiv. Dude, I wouldn’t do that and I’m not 80 years old. Despite that, I think that in 2024 the next president will not be Trump, Biden or De Santis. I think it will be some Republican governor who is not the topic of current conversation. Washington DC is still a sleepy city from covid and if you want Government to start working again, they need a Republican president to shake things up because the Democrats are still all fuzzy over covid.

I would not want to be running China either these days, not after reading 3 articles telling me about the graying population, status of women and the direction of its economy. While the world is focused on Taiwan, the government has a real basket case of an issue, which is that the population is getting older really quickly, people are not having babies and the pension system is going to run out of money in another 10 years because there is no way for it to keep up. The government has been toying with raising the retirement age for the past 10 years and it is dickering and time is wasting. It is a very unpopular move, but that’s where Xi ought to be putting his effort if he wants to secure the country’s economic future. On top of this, he is chauvinistic and sets the tone for misogynistic policies in an already-chauvinistic society that make women not want to get married, have careers or have children – all of which is bad news for the country’s future.  Real estate has been a source of savings for people, but he just spent the past few years trashing that industry. This is a HUGE problem that defies short explanation and there are no easy solutions.  It’s a problem all of East Asia is experiencing, but China is not learning from other countries in the region and is instead trying out solutions that are proven not to work. China’s future is not bright.

In the 1980’s, America outspent the Soviet Union on things such as Star Wars and ultimately they couldn’t keep up and the Soviet Union fell on its face. The same thing is happening now in China. They can’t keep up with the increased Western spending on computer chips and the sanctions being thrown against them. So far there has been so much corruption in China that most of the spending hasn’t resulted in any decent technology anyway. So the Chinese are reigning in their programs and basically crying Uncle.

Elizabeth celebrated her 17th birthday. Things change so fast. We had burgers and onions for dinner and said to Jeremy, “We know you’ve always hated onions.” Then he said, “But I love onions.”  He even eats leaves now.

Yes, that’s me.

Woe to the terrorist who shows up to a synagogue I recently visited in South Florida. Besides the officers from the local sheriff’s office patrolling the property, I was told that about 50 members of the synagogue are walking around with guns and earphones just waiting for something to happen. Florida is just a different place than New York. We have security guards who may or may not be armed and I don’t think any of the congregants are walking around with ammo in their pants. I don’t know what would happen to an aspiring terrorist in Florida caught in the middle, but I’d bet lots of congregants would be shooting each other in the process.

Those people who think that government regulation is all bad – I wonder what they think now that nobody was really regulating all those crypto networks. I’ve long felt that these exchanges were total bullcrap and it turned out to be just that. The irony is that the industry was propelled by people who didn’t trust banks but the complex blockchain structures that were created necessitated trust. And it was broken because people cheated and billions of people’s dollars have been lost to the fraud. Maybe regulated banks are not so bad after all.

I think that Iran will eventually implode but the revolution will not be what the West hopes for; it will be like Egypt was a few years ago with Sisi. The Revolutionary Guard will throw out the clerics and just take over the country. They might continue supporting jihadists around the Middle East or perhaps they will just become practical and become less anti-Arab. They really don’t care about all the religious stuff, but they have power and financial interests that they don’t want to give up.

Let’s talk a bit about what’s going on in Israel. It’s not a pretty picture and the real question someone should be asking is Why all this is happening. It’s a complex picture; on one hand, there is less change than you think, and on the other hand there is profound change going on that explains all this. We have to examine this from several angles.

It’s a mistake to think that the recent Israeli election exhibits a shift in the country to the Right (even though there is a shift toward the Right, just not in the way you might expect). The recent Israeli election is a little misleading in that the coalition that made up the new government had 65 of 120 votes, which under normal circumstances would look like a landslide of seismic proportion. Usually the coalitions teeter around the 60 mark and that makes it very narrow because you need 61 votes out of 120 votes in the Israeli parliament to have a majority. That’s why the country had so many elections the past few years to rival Italy. In Israel, to mitigate the effects of tiny parties shifting the balance they made a rule that you have to have a certain amount of votes in order to get any seats in parliament. If a party doesn’t get the minimum required, those votes are “wasted” unless some way is found to salvage those votes. The percentages of people who voted for the Left and the Right were about the same as in the previous election (and several elections show consistent results meaning the country is split), but because the right-wing parties did a better job of merging and giving way to each other, there were many wasted votes among the Arab and liberal parties who did not each make the electoral threshold to gain entry to the parliament. We know that Arab and Labor Party leaders for instance were egotistical and wouldn’t give way to each other even though they were told that failure to unite for the common good would be counterproductive. So I don’t know if the present government will last long but in a rational election and if lessons are learned you could expect the results in the next election to be closer. But the long-term demographic trends show some disturbing things about the country and it’s not about Arabs becoming a majority; that’s not happening. The issue is what kind of Jewish Israel it is becoming.

My problem with the new Israeli government is not their positions about Palestinians. Their positions are no surprise and truth be told, the majority of Israelis like to imagine that the Palestinians don’t exist so that they don’t have to deal with them. It’s just a matter of degrees between them. The peace process is dead for almost the entire Israeli political spectrum and nobody really expected the previous broad-based government to do anything because their whole policy was to avoid controversial issues and stick to consensus items. What bothers me is the attitudes some of these extremists have toward domestic issues that they want to cram down on other Israelis such as homophobic policies with their LGTBQ community, religious-extremist policies on secular Jews who are the majority in that country, and anti-Arab policies with Israeli Arabs who are roughly 20% of the country. Israel has no constitution, and the US Constitution by comparison is based on protecting minority rights; you can’t have a small country always on edge with a small majority trying to cram down its ideology on everyone else. What happens when the Left takes power again and the tables turn? Everyone has to accept limits, and this government is trying to go beyond the red lines that previously governed the field of play in the nation’s politics. The whole thing is a recipe for a gigantic flareup, and I assume that at some point popular disgust will be so great that the government will fall. It will be somewhat like what happened in Egypt after Morsi tried things the Moslem Brotherhood way and completely failed, except that it will be a more centrist government that takes over instead of a military coup.

So the real question we must answer is what tipped the balance besides the arrogance of Leftist politicians? The majority of the population is under 30, and it is more Russian and Middle-Eastern in its orientation rather than the European mindset that used to run the country. Among the younger ultra-Orthodox which are on their way to become roughly 25% of the country’s population, they are becoming radically anti-Arab and seem to be enjoying this outlet for their frustrations (by supporting a new nationalist-religious party that is very different from what parties in that camp used to be like) as a way to have something other than 90-year-old rabbis to look up to with their old-fashioned political parties that don’t excite them. They couldn’t care less about any of this debate about the rule of law and the rights of various communities within the country.  These people are not educated in schools in secular subjects; they don’t work, go to the army or pay taxes. They live in cocoons and study in Yeshivas, meaning they are quite ignorant and perfectly happy to look up to leaders the rest of us would think are beyond the pale. They want to show the Arabs who is the landlord and who is the tenant, which is how Bennett and Lapid managed to lose the last election to Bibi, even though they were running a good show and doing the things a competent government normally does such as pass a budget for the first time in several years and appoint professionals instead of party hacks to positions of power.

The optics of all this are terrible. The new government wants to assert dominance over the judiciary. They say it is no big deal but if it is not, then why are they rushing so hard to do this? Why is the government trying to push out independent people who were running institutions such as the national library? Donors around the world are not going to contribute to public institutions run by party hacks. Capitalists know that the first thing that happens when you get rid of the rule of law is that the local currency tanks. We’ve seen that in Turkey, Iran, and Hungary. Investors are getting ready to head to the exits. Nobody in the government cares, but they are not the ones paying the bills.

I expect there to be much less emotional attachment of the great majority of US Jews toward Israel and hardly any credible Jews will defend what this government is doing (even the right-wing Orthodox Union condemned some of the recent Jewish violence against Arabs), although it will not affect the strategic relationship between the US and the Gulf and Israel just as there is no emotional bond with any of the Arab countries around it because these alliances are ultimately based on shared interests such as opposition to Iran and interest in whatever the country has to offer such as technology. If Iran gets rid of its clerics and becomes less threatening to its neighbors, you might see the Gulf less friendly toward Israel. For Jews, it is a place for religious pilgrimage among the 10% of the Jews that are Orthodox (and for them more than anything it is a food festival with lots of kosher restaurants around) and gap year youth programs. But beyond that 10% there is alienation because they can no longer have religious pilgrimages to the Holy Sites in an egalitarian setting as they were used to having all these years. The government kept making promises to fix the problem but kept welching under ultra-Orthodox pressure.  The Birthright program with its subsidized trips to Israel for teenagers was also taken over by government hacks and private funding is drying up for that as well.

Israel is not the only game in town for Jews around the world and the feeling is mutual. People can only go there so many times to see the same sites and the top hotels in Israel don’t really like having Orthodox Jews as guests; the King David Hotel (the top hotel in Jerusalem) has new management and has made it clear it doesn’t want these people anymore. But I’m not sure how many other guests they are going to have that will keep showing up. I’m being told that you can also get great kosher food all over Panama and there are Jewish conclaves there too with a “shul” (synagogue) built right “by the pool.” People are moving there due to the low cost of living and a friendly neighborhood, and Jews are showing up and punching above their weight as they have for over 50 years in that country. Flight is 1/3 the time from the USA, prices are cheap (Israel has become very expensive) and lots of your friends are likely to be there when you are. So maybe Panama will be the new Jewish playground! It certainly had people there this past January during Yeshiva Week which is when Orthodox Jewish schools have their holidays.

As for me, I’ve taken to just ignoring the stories coming out of Israel. It’s nauseating for me to read this stuff, and you can’t just blame the media anymore. I just see the story in print and turn the page. I’m beyond asking if the writer or editor was biased because some of this stuff is indefensible and does not reflect what many would consider to be Jewish values. Nobody in my family wants to go to the 75th birthday celebrations in that country and they keep asking me to cancel the trip. Nobody wants to take off two weeks in April and wave flags in the middle of the street unless something truly compelling is going on and I’m being told by senior level people that it will be a zoo with VIP tickets going to major donors. If they do come up with an extravaganza, it will be hijacked by nationalist ideologues with some cheesy theme and the whole thing will degenerate even worse than it always does with infighting, boycotts (ie: the religious will say that the dance costumes are too revealing) and the usual “how can we celebrate at a time like this.” And I totally expect the country to break down into chaos with another Arab uprising with terrorist acts to follow causing tourists to cancel and for cities and roads to close due to civil unrest. The CIA director recently visited the country to warn its leaders that they need to get real with the natives or risk the consequences, and so far it looks like the radicals are stirring the pot on both sides and sooner or later the lid will blow. A total shitshow is promised. So we probably won’t go even though it had been a dream of mine to be there with my family for this occasion. But only my dream; I didn’t count on everything going to pot again, but I’ve seen this show several times already over the past 35 years so I know the drill and can see it coming. My kids couldn’t care less – they would vote to go to a water park in the Bahamas in a flash.

Elizabeth

Let me pause for a moment to present a different view of all this. This month I attended a briefing by a former high level US official who is still viewed as a highly influential person in the Middle East. He recently visited Israel and met with every top official you could imagine from the Prime Minister to the cabinet to the heads of the army and intelligence. He says that the opposition and the ruling coalition are negotiating over the judicial reforms which are not out of line with the types of checks and balances that exist in the US and that there is backlash to the Israeli judiciary which, in the absence of a constitution, has taken more territory for itself than the rest of the government would like. And he feels that if Bibi wants to get strategic wins, such as relations with Saudi Arabia and opposition to Iran’s nuclear program, he will need to be on good terms with the US, which would not be possible if people like Smotrich and Ben Gvir run amok in his government. The reason the road to Saudi runs through the US is that the Saudis have said what are the preconditions to normalizing relations with Israel and none of them are asks of Israel; they are all asks from the US such as weapons systems and security guarantees. There you have it – an opposing view. But I think that it is too rosy; it assumes that the person running the country cares about the country. Right now, I don’t think that is his top priority.

Netanyahu is ruining the legacy he created over the past several decades and is squandering the nation’s good will, which is its major intangible asset. I never liked him and felt he was always corrupt, but he was good at running a country and keeping people in line, and people across the region respected him for that. The majority of Jews in America do not support this kind of Israel and would never have supported it 75 years ago if Ben Gurion wanted to do then what Netanyahu wants to do today. The founders of Israel are probably turning in their graves looking at a prime minister who is screwing up the country’s reputation as a democracy with rule of law to save his own ass from conviction bringing in the most radical people in the country with an agenda he never earlier supported who are the only ones left to support him.

Jeremy

So it stands to reason that some synagogues in the USA have stopped saying the Prayer for the State of Israel as part of their Sabbath Service because they no longer want to bless this country for what it stands for. The ones that do say the Prayer for Israel increasingly don’t say the Prayer for America because they see it as an endorsement of Biden and the Democrats, which it is not. Actually, these prayers do not bless the countries as they are. They ask God to give wisdom to the people running the country and to make good decisions for the benefit of all. To a great degree, the prayers ask for divine protection against the people who run the country. But that is a degree of sophistication higher than most of these people who probably never read the text of the prayers in English can fathom.

The lesson of the last year for Israel (and the Gulf, whether or not they want to admit it) is that pivoting toward China and Russia as a hedge against America is foolish. America is the only game in town. Russia and China have no friends, only allies of convenience — and Trump likewise certainly fit into that category. You cannot keep America for the long term by choosing sides in the American political divide; the friendship is based on shared values, and this must be on a bipartisan basis. Israel must be seen to share American values. At some point, there is significant geopolitical risk to Israel if it goes off track.

India’s leader Modi seems to be very popular in his country. There is disagreement among analysts how well India’s economy is doing and how well it will do. Some people feel that there is a zero sum game between India and China meaning that if China is not going to do as well as it should then India gains. My estimate is that this is not true even if China is expected to underperform in the coming years. India has a lot of things pushing against foreign investment in its economy, such as that it doesn’t play fair with foreign investors, that it favors certain local companies, and the rules keep changing. Just look at the recent tumult with India’s leading industrialist close to Modi who was found by a short seller in the US as running an empire that was greatly overvalued; it took just a week to bring the house down. As long as this is so, major foreign players will avoid the country and India will not get the investment it needs.

I recently read that 3,500 people died in the USA in the past year from Long Covid. Contrast that against a questionable study that estimates that about 250,000 died in emergency rooms from faulty diagnoses. Against that statistic, even if it is exaggerated, long covid is a blip on the radar. People are still going nuts over omicron covid as we enter the winter months here in New York City and it really doesn’t make sense given the actual state of risk.

Karen finishing her first 5K Run. Central Park in NYC.

A friend of mine who lives in Dubai says that all this talk about Jewish revival there is more hype than real. If you want to have a small prayer service in your house, you have to get official permission and it is not happening. Orthodox Jews pray 3x a day in groups of 10 or more and, on the sabbath, neighborhood services hosted by people in their homes are popular because people don’t want to keep walking back and forth to the synagogue; in Dubai, the authorities only want to have one synagogue and they don’t want it to be official and haven’t decided where it should be, and people don’t all live in one neighborhood that may or may not be convenient to the authorities’ chosen location. Jews in Dubai have to purchase all their Jewish things through some local designated Emirati who marks it all up, and they are feeling somewhere between soaked and milked. So it’s all still very nebulous out there in terms of what this oft-touted religious tolerance really is.

Another book I read lately is The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence by Douglas London, a spy of over 30 years in the CIA. It’s not a bad book but I wouldn’t say it had me on edge. All the places and names are censored out so you have to guess at a lot of things which sort of makes it less of a read. Also he has a lot of gripes about the agency and I’m not really interested in that internal stuff.  His main opinion is that the CIA is straying from its original mission due to its leadership’s political ambitions of playing to the president and congress and a general CYA tendency which seems to get people ahead more so than being good at spying and taking risks that don’t always pan out when you do that kind of stuff. But if you want to get a sense of what spies do with emphasis on how they recruit people abroad to report to them, you’ll find this book a decent read. I read it to the end and it was not too hard to get through it.

Yair Lapid was prime minister of Israel until recently and, although dismissed by many as a lightweight (myself initially included), he wrote a very interesting piece in Foreign Affairs that I think is a seminal article about a new paradigm of foreign relations. Yes, you know all the elements, but he packages it very well. You can see the tensions in terms of the USA trying to get allies to join it against China and Russia. The Americans, since George Bush, want you to be either With Us or Against Us, but many countries don’t want to be boxed in so easily. Foreign relations are more complicated than just choosing sides, and there are many aspects to relations between countries that may align certain countries for certain matters and others for other matters. Israel is in an interesting position in the world because although it is a very important US ally, it has interests of its own that necessitate good working relationships with countries not necessarily friendly to the US. Israel is just one of many countries in this predicament. America is very intolerant of countries facing this quandary and expects them to toe its line. Lapid’s article does a great job of outlining the thicket of foreign relations and proposes a new model for how countries should navigate it, without necessarily sacrificing their values in the process. I recommend reading it, not because an Israeli wrote it, but because it is a good article. There are also some really cool vignettes that give you a sense of how he got along with other world leaders in their working and personal relationships, and clearly he did get along really well with some of them. I’ll bet quite a few of his colleagues abroad hope he returns to the job again in the future.

Yair Lapid: Statecraft in the Age of Connectivity (foreignaffairs.com) : How Countries Can Work Together Even When They Disagree

We went to Orlando for the festive week and stayed at Encore resort. The place is great with good homes but it could use a good gym and a spa. There are places in the area you can go to to remedy these faults. We ate at a restaurant called Deep Blu at the Wyndham Hotel that had better food across the board than our longtime favorite Ravellos at the Four Seasons Hotel.

At Encore, Brazil’s Bolsonaro surfaced; he had just left the office of the presidency. You’d think a president of a major country would choose a nice quiet private residence on the edge of the development but he chose a house right on the corner of the main street as you enter the property driving toward the clubhouse. Little wonder that there were crowds outside chanting his name and waving Brazilian flags (and the security guards telling people they didn’t know who was staying there). My kids took selfies with him when he came out to greet the crowds.

While there, we went one day to Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park and one day to Universal’s Volcano Bay water park. The difference between the two experiences is huge. Our whole family believes that Disney is running the biggest scam on the planet; their propaganda has convinced the world that they will have the best time of their lives in their parks. The only night kids ever want to go to bed on time is the night before their first visit to the Magic Kingdom.

Except that everything about going to a Disney park is utter torture. You have to learn how to use all their complicated apps and then watch videos online by people not from Disney explaining how to optimize their use. It’s worthwhile to do this because the customer relations folks at Disney give you crappy advice on how to use the apps while you’re there. For instance, she told me to reserve a ride at 3:30 and then not use the app again until after the ride. You do much better if you keep refreshing the Disney Genie Plus Tip Board so you can go on many more rides. You have to get up at 7am to sign up for the Disney Genie Plus service, and then it crashes or doesn’t work because you didn’t save your credit card to the app before trying to go through the process of using the app to buy tickets (instead of trying to pay with a credit card at the end of the purchase process– I was told this happens so often you’d think they would just tell you that on the app so you could fix the problem yourself), and you don’t get to use it anyway during those early hours when you would like to reserve a ride. By the time you get to the park at 9:30 and then stand in line at Customer Relations, all the good rides are sold out for the day on the Lightning Lane service which also costs extra and which is not offered by the Genie Plus service for which you also pay extra. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway; we were told that all the Lightning Lane ride passes were sold by 7am anyway and went to people staying at Disney resorts who bought them during the night.

So we paid about $650 for 3 of us to go to a Disney park and we rode only one thrill ride the whole day which lasted 1 minute and 22 seconds; it was the Aerosmith roller coaster. We didn’t get on the Star Wars ride, or the Tower of Terror or the other 2 rollercoasters. At least we weren’t stupid enough to stand in line for up to 4 hours to get on each of these rides. We took the low hanging fruit that were not particularly popular stops such as a cartoon with Mickey and Minney Mouse and a movie about Walt Disney, and left at 3:30pm.  When you talk to Disney people, they tell you that the parks are crowded due to the holidays and it’s your problem if you don’t want to stand on long lines for the rides. But they charge more money too for these peak periods. It’s just greed; they don’t care to give their guests a good experience because everyone in the park is convincing themselves how much fun they are supposed to be having based on having been told their whole life that this is the ultimate vacation experience. You get a survey afterward which takes over half an hour to fill out and it doesn’t give you a chance to tell them what you actually thought of anything. It just tries to figure out how much torture you are willing to absorb and still return to a Disney park. Considering that the average American family saves 4 years to go to a Disney park and doesn’t go many other places while they are saving all their money, there is no doubt to me that they are not getting their moneys’ worth here. We know from years of experience that Disney does not respond to feedback and just doesn’t care. For instance, we paid for Preferred Parking and they tell you to put on your hazard lights when parking so they can see that you belong in that lot. But then I forgot to turn off the lights when I parked and the battery went dead. The lot attendant told me this happens every day but they keep telling people to use their hazard lights and the people who direct you to the parking space don’t remind you to turn the lights off. That’s the kind of thing you’d expect a feedback loop to fix. I would have been so angry had I gone to Orlando to go to the Disney Park; we wanted to ride the Star Wars ride and go on the Tower of Terror.

Contrast this with Universal. Everything works great. You get in and out quickly. You never stand on a line for more than 15 minutes because you are assigned reasonable times to get to the popular rides and most rides have no significant waits. The food is excellent and healthy (Disney’s was awful both in terms of selection and quality). The people at Universal look so much more interested in their jobs than the Disney people. And at Universal you can pay for Express pass that lets you get onto every ride as soon as you want (once per ride per day). If you want to go on rides repeatedly, you can still book reservations times using their bracelet. You can blow through the whole park in about 3-4 hours plus time for lunch. We got there about 11:30 and were done by 3:30. The survey afterward asked the right questions to find out if you had fun and allowed you to write whatever you wanted them to know. We paid less money at Universal and had so much more fun. We will return to Universal parks and will probably never go back to a Disney park. The kids have had enough of Disney; 10 years ago Karen made me promise that she would never have to return to a Disney park and I just take the kids every so often by myself.

I was recently in Los Angeles for a weekend. Stayed at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. It compares well to the Beverly Hills Hotel, Montage, Mr. C and Bel-Air but it lacks a steam room, bathing suit spinner (amenities a top luxury property should have), and the faucets in the bathrooms put out spray instead of a stream of water. Food at this hotel is a strong point. I would like to try the Four Seasons Wilshire next time around. The Waldorf Astoria across the street has a comparable gym, pool and jacuzzi, it does have a steam room, and I recommend lunch at their outdoor bistro on the roof with killer views.

I recently visited Miami and stayed for a night at the JW Marriott at Turnberry while visiting my uncle and aunt who recently moved into a gorgeous flat in Williams Island, a major private development near the Aventura area. From their balcony you see a beautiful cruise-ship balcony kind of view looking toward Sunny Isles and the ocean, and the whole area is like Fisher Island without the ferry with a grand clubhouse with every facility you could want. Apartments sell for what you pay in Manhattan for much less as in a few bathrooms and a parking space. The Marriott used to be a posh hotel with one of the best breakfasts in town; they built a cool water park but otherwise stripped every ounce of personality in the place; the breakfast looks like 100% Marriott now. Still has a good gym and spa; but the adult pool had no heat and they closed it at night which was sad because I used to enjoy going for nightly swims in it.

Cayman Islands

Going to Miami in the winter is a gamble. I had a great-uncle who used to say that if he wanted good winter weather you had to go to the Caribbean. He was right. If you want warm weather, ocean and sunshine, you have to go further south than Florida to get the whole package. Every time I go to Florida in the winter, you get a mix of sun, rain, cold and wind. The Caymans has sun virtually every day with temperatures in the 80’s and it’s just an hour flying time past Miami. I went back to my happy place there swimming to the floating rings in the Caribbean Sea at the Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman. Now when you arrive they have kiosks to expedite your entry and it took me 25 minutes to get from my plane to the front desk of the hotel. An excellent Italian restaurant to try just a few minutes walk from the hotel is Luca. I’d never ventured off property before to eat dinner but some guests told me about it and it was as good as they said and at a comparable price.

One interesting byproduct of the recent circus in the US House of Representatives as they tried to elect a speaker was that for several days all the rules in the Congress were suspended (because Congress was not technically in session with any rules) so the normally stodgy C-SPAN TV network was free to broadcast Congress as it wished, and actually showed people what goes on inside Congress. I heard that you could watch someone buying a pair of shoes online and various other things going on that you would not normally watch. The Democrats celebrated this circus by handing out popcorn.

Given that military representatives of 50 countries recently attended a conference in Germany at an American air force base concerning the Ukraine war, don’t you think this qualifies as a World War even if it is not yet being called one?

For 2023, with this Ukraine war, I see stagnation on the battlefield for both sides (although military strategists are telling me they think Ukraine will win this year), but with increasing economic pain for Russia and slowly rising resistance to Putin within Russia. Russia is preparing to again mobilize hundreds of thousands of soldiers but it’s not going to help; their problem is not a lack of soldiers but the lack of a decent military system maintaining, supervising and transporting them. Putin might keep his job even if he loses the war, but I would expect him to lose his job when and if he does lose the war. India and China don’t want this war to continue and they are not cozying up to Russia nearly as much as expected. Winter has not been as cold as expected for Europe (Dude, there isn’t even any snow in Davos in early January), and the Russians continue to suffer losses due to stupidity and elementary mistakes. Although they are learning some lessons, they got their asses creamed in a 3 week tank battle recently, which cuts back to my earlier point that simply sending grunts to the front in masses won’t win the war for them. A Russian who just returned from Moscow says that nobody is talking about this war and that people are just hoping that if they ignore it, it will stay away from them. A week after arriving for a holiday visit, the person received an order that she was not allowed to leave the country, but she snuck out through Kazakhstan and Turkey anyway. As you can see, it’s a total crapshow over there at this time.

Rooftops of Zurich

Let’s end with talk about travel. Travel is becoming ridiculously expensive especially with regard to hotels, and my travel agent says that I’m not competing against Russian billionaires but rather against fellow New Yorkers with too much money in their pockets hellbent on revenge travel. Economists are saying that people won’t run out of money for another year, although you’d think they had based on all this talk about a recession and layoffs. Airlines are flying with higher loads than expected during March to Europe so you can’t get upgrades with your points on a flight to Rome, which is when you’d hope you could use those points. Hotels in New York City were unexpectedly busy during the fall and were able to charge twice what they would normally charge. St Barths is charging twice what they would normally charge offseason and a reservationist said they are doing it because they are unexpectedly busy; a 2-bedroom cottage is selling there at a resort for $6,000 a night in late April which is nuts, and United is charging $1,500 for a coach ticket to St. Maarten at that time of year 3 months in advance.

What I’m doing, besides crossing certain destinations off my list, is looking at places during off-season such as Istanbul and Israel in February instead of during April-May. Montego Bay, Jamaica might be a place to dust off as a decent destination if the Caymans, St Barths and Puerto Rico’s Dorado have priced themselves out of the market. Their resorts are much more reasonably priced. The Hyatt Reserve at the Bahamar in Nassau will pick up where the Ocean Club left off (now charging stratospheric prices as a Four Seasons property without any real improvements) at one-third the price, and it’s much closer to the airport, better gym and a water park right on site, many more food choices, and the beach is better for swimming. London was a good deal for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas and a rental house in Orlando beat out all the other destinations for the festive season based on sky-high prices and minimum stay requirements. We’ve already booked that house for next December. Interestingly, JetBlue is charging very high prices for its Mint service but I notice that the cabins are being filled up with people buying upgrades at the gate at low prices. On recent flights to LA and London, half the cabin seats were unsold 24 hours before departure. They would be smarter to sell them in advance for more reasonable prices; you can now buy business class seats on other airlines for half the JetBlue price which makes their pricing strategy foggy in my opinion since people who know they want to pay for these seats will not want to gamble at the gate. American and Delta do that and their revenue strategy is a better one; they tend to sell more seats in advance. For a flight from San Francisco to New York on Labor Day weekend, JetBlue wants $2,200 each way in Mint; American wants $1,000. And the Mint Menus are awful; the last few flights I brought my own food because they had no hot entrees that were not either meat, shellfish or pork. And dessert is always vanilla gelato. It’s pretty crappy for an airline that wants to distinguish itself as a cut above the rest.

TRAVEL NOTES TO DAVOS AND ZURICH SWITZERLAND — WINTER SPORTS HOLIDAY

SKI TRIP TO DAVOS — If you want to feel an interesting form of inadequacy, try being a 56 year old non-skier arriving at the Davos train station and you see all these people in their 70’s walking around carrying skis. It’s a different feeling of inadequacy that you get when you are with all the 25-35 year-olds working out at an Equinox gym.

Davos is the home of the World Economic Forum that meets annually in mid-January. The city gets taken over by the world elite who pay more than 10x the normal rent to take over every nook and cranny in this little town. But it turns out that they are thinking of moving this ever-growing pow-wow to Zurich and now, all of a sudden, this annual manna from heaven festival has become a bit of a curse. Landlords didn’t care anymore about local shops because everyone was paid so much for one month’s rent that nobody cared anymore about the rest of the year. So many shops closed. Imagine you work in a hair salon that closes a month a year; you get paid for that month so you are somewhat happy, but because you close for a month, clients go elsewhere to a salon that doesn’t close for a month a year. Now, all these businesses that were drugged with this windfall will have to adapt to a new reality.

We are not ski snobs; we went to Davos for a week because Karen has German cousins who go there every year to ski and have been suggesting to us for years that we should join them. My kids had a ball skiing and boarding with their cousins; Karen and I enjoyed meeting up with the family. The biggest surprise was how warm it was; I spent the whole trip in Davos and then in Zurich wearing a tee shirt and a feather-light jacket that North Face produces with its “thermaball” technology which is really neat – the jacket weighs almost nothing, can be pressed into a very thin sheet and breathes very well so you can wear it in 60 or 40 degree weather. If you put one of their Ultra Heat Tech shirts on, you can wear that kind of coat down to 30 degrees with no problem and you can certainly ski in it. Normally, it is very cold in these places but for the week we were there in mid-February it was about 50 degrees during the day. Anyway, the ski conditions were still very good because they are very good at preparing the mountain overnight although if you like fresh powder you would have been disappointed. Friends who went to Zermatt complained that it was icy there and that conditions were equivalent to Vermont. Our kids thought this was way better than Vermont so we were quite happy with Davos. After spending 2 days there figuring it all out, I’d go back there sooner than try Zermatt or St. Moritz, which are the other two hot spots in that country.

The cost of a week in Switzerland is a bit higher than Austria, but a whole lot less than anywhere in the USA. The cost of ski lessons is 1/3 the price of Stowe which is a big deal when you compare $225 to $675 for a 3 hour lesson, lift tickets are 50%, and equipment rental is about the same. Hotels are less than half the price in Switzerland than at top US ski resorts and even the trains are less expensive than Amtrak (and so much better). It comes down to airfare and tickets to places like Vail or Tremblant in the wintertime are not cheap, so in my opinion Switzerland is a fair deal. Another advantage is that except if you want to go up the mountain in the morning during rush hour, you hardly wait in any lines. Once you are up the mountain, there are plenty of lifts and trails without any waits and, except for the fact that we were there during the busiest ski week of the year (the country has a national sports holiday break in February), there wouldn’t be any lines at all even at the bottom of the mountain.

One unpleasant surprise was the 30 minute wait at passport control upon arrival in Zurich with no fast pass lane for business class (there is a fast pass for first class only with its own passport control akin to a VIP arrival and departure service). The airport used to be much more efficient and if you had a US passport they didn’t even open it. Swiss airlines in-flight video is only in English which tells you something about people in that country who fly. In-flight internet is expensive; expect to pay $65 for access. They give out vouchers in first class that are good for 15 minutes and that’s useless. It is good to preorder the meal you want even if you are in business or first class because the menus can be meat-heavy. We found no seats in their airport lounges both at Newark and in Zurich Terminal A (Terminal E was better but lacked some of the amenities of Terminal A). Swiss arrivals lounge is open in the morning just after you exit customs and is a good place to eat and freshen up before walking the 3 minutes to the train station to get on your way. You can buy train tickets within Switzerland from SBB online before arrival but I don’t recommend buying supersaver tickets which restrict you to one train. But if you buy them and miss your train, you can get a refund as long as you show that you also purchased full fare point to point tickets for the same journey.

To get to Davos by train you go from the airport to Zurich and then take 2 more trains. The transfers are easy and quick. The whole trip takes about 3 hours. Once you get to Davos, the hotel will probably send you a shuttle to pick you up at the train station and then it’s about 5 minutes to anywhere in town. Buying a first class train ticket won’t guarantee you a seat in peak season but it is an advantage since fewer people buy them. If you don’t get a seat, you can get a refund of the upgrade cost. One of the trains turned out to be a panoramic one and it was really cool.

Other Adventures: Zipline in Orlando

In Davos, I recommend the Steigenberger Belvedere which is well located on the main street in town and you can walk anywhere in a few minutes. It is a 5-star hotel and although it is not nearly as luxurious as other Swiss properties I’ve seen (ie: no really nice spa), it is perfectly fine. The manager came out to greet us and to see us off and it is an old-style Swiss hotel with lots of character; even so, our kids liked it. Food was good, rooms were lovely with pretty alpine views, there is a pool, jacuzzi, saunas, small gym, and there is a massage service at the hotel. Nobody uses gyms here because they are always outdoors doing things. There is a gym in town called Davos Fitness if you want to go beyond the hotel. There is an Italian restaurant plus two continental restaurants, one with a 3 or 4 course dinner menu and the other totally a la carte. Breakfast is a buffet and everyone liked it. We asked for a few things that were not on the buffet and the hotel arranged them such as an avocado. The average person stays there at least a few nights. The other top hotel is the Intercontinental but it is outside of town and there is no shuttle offered from the hotel except to the ski area. The Seehof hotel is right by one of the ski areas but it does not have equivalent food or facilities offerings to the Steigenberger. There is no air conditioning which was a pain at night because we did not want to keep our windows open.

A few minutes walk from the hotel is Schneiders Café which offers good food and bakery if you want something a bit less formal. We ate there 3x and they have a nice terrace. A memorable lunch spot was the AlpenHof hotel with its outdoor terrace with killer views and one of the best Italian restaurants anywhere. The apple strudel came right out of the oven for a fantastic finish. It is a 20 minute hike from the Jakobshorn ski area. Remember to take sunglasses with you when walking around any of these areas. The sun is strong especially against the snow.

I wasted a lot of time trying to figure things out prior to arrival. The kids first wanted to ski in the Jakobshorn area but then realized that the Parsenn area was more to their liking. Parsenn Rentals has shops near the main train station (Jakobshorn) and the Parsenn area about a mile or two away. You can take stuff from one location and drop it off at the other and the hotel has a ski room where you leave the stuff overnight. The city has frequent bus shuttles that go up the main streets of town every 7 minutes and they are free to tourists (you get a bus pass when you check into a hotel and nobody ever looks at them). You can get between the two areas in about 15 minutes on a bus. A hotel might have a shuttle but we found them mostly useless and they also can’t go directly on the main streets.

Beginner lessons are at the Bolgen area near Jakobshorn ski area and they last one hour at 12:15 daily. Otherwise, you have 2.5 hour lessons at 9:30 or at 1:30. Davos Ski School is the dominant school here with about 200 instructors during peak season. You can book online prior to departure and you should. They have videos online that help you figure out exactly which level you should train at.

We knew our kids would not be ready for anything at 9am the first full day of the trip so we spent the morning getting organized and sent them out in the afternoon that day.

Carousing in Zurich

Karen and I went up to a middle station to meet everyone for lunch one day at the Hochenweg restaurant. The kids love all these versions of Rosti potatoes and I liked the kaiserschmarm with the plums and cream. Nobody really wanted to eat cheese fondue; we are sort of grossed out of a meal including nothing but bread, potatoes and cheese. We also visited the Schatsalp hotel reachable by a funicular from the main street which has a lot of history to it. They have English tours of the place at 2:15 on Tuesdays and Thursdays and there are lots of hiking trails near the hotel but bring snow shoes during the winter. One trail leads to a pretty chalet restaurant and the hotel also has a terrace restaurant. There is a toboggan trail behind the hotel but it was closed for lack of snow. The dining room had a lot of character and would be a good place for a dinner. Despite the sign to the contrary in the Schatsalp funicular station, non-hotel guests can go up the funicular all day and evenings as well. We saw some Hasidic students from a local Yeshiva in Davos (yes, there is one there with 90 students all year round) who go there because they like being away from it all. There is also a kosher hotel in Davos.

The hockey stadium is a 3-minute walk; we watched the Davos Hockey Club play one night and it was great fun. We had 2nd row seats on the aisle with nothing between me and the glass partition separating us from the players and the place looked like a miniature Madison Square Garden with a big jumbotron display. You hear everything crash in front of you! Unlike the US, it had a crazy fans section with drummers and people chanting nonstop for 2 hours. Jeremy thought the game speed was a drop below the NHL but otherwise it was fine and fun to watch. You get a great seat at a tiny fraction of the cost in the USA and stadium food looked good. You can buy tickets online through Ticketmaster. After the game, you can go to the stadium store and buy souvenirs. We bought these really weird looking stuffed mascot donkeys as a joke.

Another activity was paragliding from JoyofParagliding. You go to the top of the Jakobshorn and then run off the side of the mountain for a 15 minute ride down where you fly over the ski runs and even over the city. You hold a GoPro so you get videos and photos. The instructors are very well qualified and the company organized 4 pilots on 24 hours notice. There are several companies operating; this one is the best in town and was recommended by the hotel. On their website you can see bios of the really cool dudes that are their pilots. You need to have a lift ticket one way to get up the mountain before you glide down. Remember that teenagers get discounts on the lifts.

There is not much to buy in town other than ski wear. We saw some clearance items at a steal and took them, but otherwise you can expect to see ski pants for $600 and up and jackets for much more, but people here expect those clothes to last half a lifetime.

Prior to the departure, there is a CoOp supermarket near the train station and inside there is a beautiful and complete buffet from which you can box up takeout on an a la carte basis at half the price you’d pay in NYC. Sheer Happiness to me is eating lovely treats on a train riding through Switzerland!

ZURICH —

Lindenhof Terrace, Zurich

A taxi from the railroad station to the Widder Hotel costs about $30 with the luggage fees. It’s actually not much more than it was 10 years ago and taxis here cost less than NYC. Uber is about half the taxi fare here. The hotel is located on Rennweg street and is very centrally located. The hotel is the product of ten years of redeveloping 9 townhouses that were centuries old. If you arrange to see some of the rooms, you can see some of that history come alive in the rooms. The Park Hyatt and the Bauer au Lac are beyond the Paradaplatz closer to the lake; this is closer to the department stores. Globus is the main store; Jelmoli is supposed to close in another year and Manor already closed. C&A is available next to Jelmoli. Calida sells the most comfortable pajamas and they have a store right behind the rear entrance of Globus. You can also buy their stuff inside the stores but they have the full line at their shop. Elizabeth noticed there were many shoe stores in Zurich, more so than she sees in NYC. The hotel has a beautiful gym in the cellar but not much else other than interesting rooms and a good location. The breakfast buffet is excellent and the nightly rate includes choices from an a la carte menu. The problem with food here is that between this hotel and its sister property the Hotel Storcher a few minutes away, all the menus are meat-heavy and there is no fish. We had $200 of food and beverage credit that were wasted because we couldn’t use it for anything other than drinks at the bar which we didn’t want.

Café Honold on the Rennweg is a good place to get small items such as quiche and sandwiches and treats. The kosher restaurant Florentine at the local community center is very much improved from what it used to be. It used to be known as Café Shalom. It is just a few blocks from Enge Railroad station easily reached by a tram from the Bahnhofstrasse. We had one of the all-time best city tours by Samantha, a guide with Tours By Locals, who took us for 2.5 hours to see odd things you wouldn’t ever see such as an underground bank vault inside a COS department store on the Bahnhofstrasse, a model of Zurich in miniature at a conference room in the city planning office, and an underground pathway showing the history of the city walls underneath the Lindenhof Terrace along the river. We saw a Jewish medieval mural in an apartment building. We were told to see Einstein’s locker at the University as well as the entrance hall of the police station. Lunch upstairs at Sprungli is always a treat; their chocolates are the best of any we had and their bakery and anything else that comes out of their kitchen is delicious. Fresh fruit such as mangoes and strawberries at the food hall in Globus is another treat for me. If you want to drive a Swiss cashier crazy, try taking one banana from a bunch of bananas and see what happens when you try to check out.  She was running all over the store trying to figure out what to do. The main thing between the Swiss and being #1 in the world is a lack of flexibility to new challenges. Another excellent restaurant is Bianchi, an Italian restaurant offering at least 5 kinds of fish. It’s along the riverfront across from the Lindenhof Terrace. Sibler is a good kitchenware store with a department offering interesting kinds of gadgets beyond the kitchen.

One thing I’ve noticed at both hotels – nobody wants to give you bars of soap anymore. One hotel had it on demand and the other simply didn’t have it but found me a kiddie soap bar from an old kiddie amenity kit. Must be some kind of environment thing.

We were lucky because the day after we left it snowed and got a lot colder. But at least while we were there, all those winter clothes we had packed went unused till we got home.

Anyway, that’s all for now. More trips are planned, but meanwhile there is school, at least for a few weeks.

 

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