Chikashi Miyamoto

philosopher by training, gentleman by accident, pervert by nature, glutton by choice

Category: Switzerland

Why Go to Basel? Fondation Beyeler

Fondation Beyeler

If you have even a passing interest in 20th century art and happen to be in or around Basel, then a little detour to the Riehen neighbourhood to visit the Fondation Beyeler is in order. Actually, you might even plan a trip to Basel specifically for it (and the Kunstmuseum Basel). The permanent collection is curated, rotated and displayed beautifully, in addition to long term collaboration with the Calder Foundation and the current feature exhibition of Ferdinand Hodler’s work.

I am not sure if one can get too excited about Hodler’s work unless one is or feels Swiss, but there is something strangely disarming about a painter who was rather fond of self portraits, showing subtle changes as his age advanced. In a sense he was way ahead of his times: today it seems quite normal to plaster dodgy pictures of oneself all over the Internet, particularly on Facebook, thanks to quick, easy and cheap digital photography. In contrast, the self portraits done in oil took time, a bit of skill and costly paint. Hodler ought to be the patron saint of the Facebook generation.

Hodler aside, Beyeler’s permanent collection, which includes some of the best pieces from Albers, Giacometti, Léger, Dubuffet, Miró, Kandinsky just to name a few, is nothing short of impressive. I would suggest planning a visit that includes lunching at their brasserie located at the opposite end of the garden. If the weather is nice, take a table outside for a lazy mittagessen. Beyeler’s space is not as expansive as, say, Fondation Maeght, so only a portion of the extraordinary collection are on view at any given time. Therefore, you will not need to allocate many hours for going through the galleries although there is a risk that you may end up staring at Monet’s Rouen Cathedral for longer than anticipated or getting lost in a Rothko piece, but be sure to include some time for a meal.

As far as getting there is concerned, if you, for example, take a taxi from Messeplatz in Basel, it will cost about CHF35, but the #6 tram, which runs every 10 minutes, will take you to the front of their gates for CHF3.40 in the same amount of time. If you plan to cycle there, then there is plenty of cycle parking space within the property. The entry fee for one adult is CHF25, but that’s Switzerland for you, and to be fair, given the quality of the content, it makes fees at many other museums seem terribly overpriced.


A Charity Fundraiser: Geneva to Monte Carlo Cycling Challenge

Transform the lives of Lesotho's orphans and vulnerable children

I am raising money for Sentebale by cycling from Geneva to Monte Carlo.  From 5th – 9th September, I will be joining a group of brave (foolish?) souls to cycle across the Alps, covering some of the (in)famous stages of the Tour de France.  My primary charitable cause is children.  As I have had ties to the fine jewellery and diamond industries for most of my adult life, I want to help children in an African diamond producing country.

Sentebale help orphans and vulnerable children in Lesotho.  Lesotho’s annual diamond output is only 2% of global production, but their diamonds are of the highest quality anywhere.  However, the tiny, landlocked kingdom that gives us the most beautiful diamonds is afflicted by the third highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the world, with nearly 1/3 of the population infected.  It is also one of the poorest countries where life expectancy has dropped to 34 years.  As you can easily imagine, the negative impact on children is enormous, and Sentebale has a lot of work cut out for them.  They need your support.

The G2MC Cycling Challenge covers a distance of more than 500 km (310 miles) over 4 ½ days, that is, an average of 110 km per day, which is not all that much purely in terms of distance.  However, the cumulative ascent will exceed 11,000 m (36,000 feet), guaranteeing a very high my-pain-for-your-sterling ratio, making it an excellent value for money, in addition to supporting a very worthy cause.

For you cycling geeks, we are covering some of the most famous climbs in the Tour de France, including Col du Télégraphe, Col du Galibier, Col d’Izoard and Col de la Bonette, encompassing 3 climbs that are ‘hors catégorie’ (beyond classification) and the highest paved pass in Europe.  Even the last half day, into Monte Carlo, has some world class climbs although I was initially led to believe that it was going to be all downhill on Day 5…  I have a suspicion that the 4 1/2 days will be filled with expletives.

The various available methods to sponsor me are listed below.  Donations will be quickly processed and passed to Sentebale. I really appreciate all your support and thank you for any donations.

This fundraising ride is being made possible in substantial part through the kind generosity of Gem Diamonds and Letseng Diamonds.  The remainder of the cost is being borne by me.

Preferred ways to donate:

Alternative ways to donate:

  • Through Paypal, by clicking here.  Please enter ‘Chikashi’ in the notes / remark field so that Sentebale can track it as being part of this fundraising campaign.
  • Bank transfer to Sentebale’s account.

Bank:  HSBC

Account No:  51417398

Sort Code:  40-05-50

IBAN:  GB60 SMCO 4005 5051 4173 98

BIC/Swift Code:  SMCOGB2P

Remark:  Chikashi

  • Cheque by post, payable to Sentebale.  Please also write ‘Chikashi’ in the available space on the face of the cheque so that Sentebale can track it as being part of this fundraising campaign, and post it to:


Grande House

Park Place

London SW1A 1LP

  • Cash.  If you prefer to give cash, then I am happy to accept it by hand delivery.  I will in turn give the money to Sentebale at one go after I return from the ride.  Please do NOT post cash in the mail.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!Sponsor me on Virgin Money Giving

Sentebale is a UK registered charity no. 1113544.  I am fundraising in aid of Sentebale, but I do not represent Sentebale.

Big Flavour

Oh-aji is a Japanese expression that translates directly to ‘big flavour’.  It means that the food being served has quite a bit of flavour.  Often, it implies that there is too much flavour and therefore lacks subtlety and grace, a bit blunt.  Given that much of traditional Japanese food has subtle flavours, the Japanese tend to be less accustomed to the way food is prepared in other countries.  Therefore, many foreign dishes are described as oh-aji. At Mathis, Reto’s lobster club sandwich is a fine example of oh-aji, with flawlessly steamed lobster doused in sauce Hollandaise, black truffles, jus of some sort and a piece of streaky bacon sitting atop.  It sounds and looks over the top.  No doubt, it is a culinary hyperbole.  It is not for the faint of heart or stomach.  Curiously, it all comes together rather well in one’s mouth.  Oh-aji?  Yes, but in a good way.

There’s a lobster in there somewhere…

In contrast, the Alsatian Flammkuchen (tarte flambée Alsacienne) with black truffles and Vacherin cheese is quite a bit simpler if not exactly restrained with two key ingredients having very strong characteristics.  Possibly the best thing on the menu…

Today You, Tomorrow Me

I noticed earlier this week that I had tucked away a newspaper clipping in my copy of Don Quixote.  I was reminded of two separate incidents, within a period of one week at the end of last year, in which strangers, Germans in both instances, helped us out of slippery and sticky motoring situations in Switzerland.  The experience was reassuring in the most primal sense.

The clipping is a commentary written by Justin Horner, a graphic designer in Oregon.  It is titled ‘The Tire Iron and the Tamale’ and was published in the 9 March 2011 edition of the International Herald Tribune, following the publication in The New York Times Sunday Magazine on 6 March 2011.  It must have made a few rounds on the Internet already, but it is worth repeating.

During this past year I’ve had three instances of car trouble: a blowout on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out-of-gas situation. They all happened while I was driving other people’s cars, which for some reason makes it worse on an emotional level. And on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my own car, and know enough not to park on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.

Each time, when these things happened, I was disgusted with the way people didn’t bother to help. I was stuck on the side of the freeway hoping my friend’s roadside service would show, just watching tow trucks cruise past me. The people at the gas stations where I asked for a gas can told me that they couldn’t lend them out ‘for safety reasons’, but that I could buy a really crappy one-gallon can, with no cap, for $15. It was enough to make me say stuff like ‘this country is going to hell in a handbasket,’ which I actually said. But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke any English.

One of those guys stopped to help me with the blowout even though he had his whole family of four in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to three hours with my friend’s big Jeep. I put signs in the windows, big signs that said, ‘NEED A JACK’, and offered money. Nothing. Right as I was about to give up and start hitching, a van pulled over, and the guy bounded out.

He sized up the situation and called for his daughter, who spoke English. He conveyed through her that he had a jack but that it was too small for the Jeep, so we would need to brace it. Then he got a saw from the van and cut a section out of a big log on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top and we were in business.

I started taking the wheel off, and then, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones, and I wasn’t careful, and I snapped the head clean off. Damn.

No worries: he ran to the van and handed it to his wife, and she was gone in a flash down the road to buy a new tire iron. She was back in 15 minutes. We finished the job with a little sweat and cussing (the log started to give), and I was a very happy man.

The two of us were filthy and sweaty. His wife produced a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man’s hand, but he wouldn’t take it, so instead I went up to the van and gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I’d send them a gift for being so awesome. She said they lived in Mexico. They were in Oregon so Mommy and Daddy could pick cherries for the next few weeks. Then they were going to pick peaches, then go back home.

After I said my goodbyes and started walking back to the Jeep, the girl called out and asked if I’d had lunch. When I told her no, she ran up and handed me a tamale.

This family, undoubtedly poorer than just about everyone else on that stretch of highway, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took a couple of hours out of their day to help a strange guy on the side of the road while people in tow trucks were just passing him by.

But we weren’t done yet. I thanked them again and walked back to my car and opened the foil on the tamale (I was starving by this point), and what did I find inside? My $20 bill! I whirled around and ran to the van and the guy rolled down his window. He saw the $20 in my hand and just started shaking his head no. All I could think to say was, ‘Por favor, por favor, por favor,’ with my hands out. The guy just smiled and, with what looked like great concentration, said in English: ‘Today you, tomorrow me.’

Then he rolled up his window and drove away, with his daughter waving to me from the back. I sat in my car eating the best tamale I’ve ever had, and I just started to cry. It had been a rough year; nothing seemed to break my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn’t handle it.

In the several months since then I’ve changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and once drove 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. But every time I’m able to help, I feel as if I’m putting something in the bank. 

Gute Fahrt, und vielen Dank.

Late Awakening in the Snow

We have done the 6km Preda-Bergün sled route a countless times over the years.

The route is good fun on fresh snow and really rather thrilling on icy days.  Apparently, the record is just under 5 minutes, but one would want some serious protective gear if going that fast…

Upon reaching the end of the route, there is a little area for sliding down on large inner tubes.  We always thought that it looked a bit daft and boring, so we never bothered trying it.  Until this winter.

And, we found it to be addictive.  A bit slow on the uptake…

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

This year’s edition of the recently revived Coppa delle Alpi snaked through St Moritz when it was -14°C in the village and -22°C on the slopes during the day.  Driving an open top car with primitive heating equipment, if any, requires dedication, insanity or a mixture of both.  The world might be a slightly better place if we had a bit more of such insanity.

Tea at Altitude

Smiths bakelite timer  

At high altitude, such as in the Engadin, the atmospheric pressure can be somewhat lower than at close to sea level.  As such, water boils at a lower temperature which gives rise to complications when preparing a pot of tea.

Boiling an egg to one’s preference takes an additional couple of minutes, which is simple enough.  However, brewing tea is another matter.

One would want to brew black Darjeeling using water at close to 100°C.  So, in order to compensate for the lower water temperature, does one increase the steeping time, increase the amount of tea being steeped or do both?  I have not been able to figure out the right method yet…

Certain kinds of tea, such as green and white tea, the latter being tea leaves harvested as unopened buds rather than tea-with-milk, are best when brewed at a lower temperature.  Therefore, it does make me wonder whether I should opt for green or white tea up there.  That said, Darjeeling has an average elevation of 2,000m; the tea estates tend to be located between 900 and 1,800m.  They are in the Himalayas after all.  It would be reasonable to guess that they have the same water temperature issues in Darjeeling as one does in the Engadin.  So what’s their secret, I wonder. 

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