Chronicles of a writer abroad


Take a look at my fallout shelter

It’s hard to know what to blog about, sometimes. Now that I’ve mostly adjusted to life in Switzerland — in other words, I take entirely for granted the fact that everything is spotless and punctual, I run errands in German, and I not only accept but enjoy sparkling water — it’s become difficult to comment on the remarkable nature of my surroundings.

Sometimes, though, I can still glimpse Switzerland’s mystique, shimmering on the horizon of my quotidian landscape. At those moments I remember the image of the country that was in my head before I moved here and made it a home.

Such a moment took place when I realized that the basement of our new apartment building offered not only communal washing facilities and a bike rack, but also a bona fide bomb shelter.


Like all the apartment buildings Stelian and I have lived in (for the record, we’re currently on our fifth), this one offers a storage locker in the basement. But we’ve never accessed any of our previous storage lockers through a door like this.

Apparently Switzerland has the most shelters of any country, and new buildings are required to be outfitted with them. According to a sign on the door,

the space can accommodate 41 people, which should be enough to cover the 12 apartments in our building. I wonder if we’re the only people not storing rations in our locker. Also notice that this never-used door is serviced at regular intervals. The fact that fallout shelters are still embraced in Switzerland is so telling, smacking as it does of cautiousness, preparedness, and a tinge of paranoia.

Anyway, I love this foot-thick door for reminding me that I am living somewhere that is very different from where I come from. Each time that I do a laundry-schlep in my new building, I pass by it and remember that I’m not in Canada(s) anymore.

The shelter’s disappointingly normal interior