Swiss train crash gives us the heeby-jeebies

Two trains sideswipe each other between Olten and Basel.

Nothing invigorates plans for a weekend jaunt much better than the headline Basel Commuter Train Operating Again After Crash.   This is especially true because our plan is to go to Basel, and to get there by train.

It’s as though Swiss Rail is sending us a message. We are, however, too dense to discern exactly what that message is and so we’re still planning to go to Basel tomorrow, along with an addendum trip to Mulhouse, France, which suspiciously holds a huge race car museum, although Dave has said nothing about that yet. He may be planning to surprise me.

The trains in this most recent wreck reportedly side-swiped each other, which should surprise no one. Swiss planning engineers have laid track with precision and economy of space so that trains flash past each other in such close proximity and eye-jarring speed that unseasoned passengers (me) gasp in fear at the sight.

Swiss news sources point out in their headline that the trains are running again. This is of paramount importance to the Swiss who prize punctuality, derailment or not. Other news sources headline the fact that three were injured in the crash, and thus we are introduced to a little piece of cultural sway in news-writing. It’s not that the Swiss do not care about the injured – they are the ones who brought the world the Red Cross, after all. It is just that somehow to Swiss editors the trains running is more important than the injured, but at least the injured were probably swept away to hospital in a timely fashion.

So we head out tomorrow to one of Switzerland’s oldest cities, which happens to hold something like 30 museums. Wouldn’t it be fun if we could see them all, but more likely we will tramp through the 13th-Century Alstadt and try to find the obelisk that marks where the Swiss, German and French borders meet.

Breaking into pieces

Don't blame Europeans for their gap-toothed ways.

I broke a tooth on my first weekend in Switzerland, way back in April. I didn’t write about it, because it would draw the question: What were you eating that would break a tooth?

The answer is gum. Mint-flavoured.

The molar is not that interesting, except that it crumbled in Switzerland, not at home in Canada where I would have booked in for a dental appointment post-haste, while in Switzerland, I spent five months with a molar in some state of disrepair, chewing only on the left side of my mouth, and turning away all foods that might cause further erosion. It added some excitement to our stay here, knowing that at any moment a nerve could be exposed, sending me lurching into the streets in search of dental care.

I’m not alone in avoiding Swiss dental care, although my reasons differ from most who take a pass because Swiss dentistry is pricey.  I dodged Swiss dentistry solely because its tricky business to engage a syringe-armed non-English-speaking-dentist, as illustrated in Madrid where I sent my son in to the orthodontist to get his braces fitted, only to have him return to the waiting room with rolls of cotton batting stuffed in his mouth and minus four teeth. This was followed by a heated discussion with the orthodontist in Spanish and French about how our communication could have slid so far sideways as for me to not notice the word “extraccion.”

No way was I going to give another European dentist such an opportunity.  I suspect a lot of gap-toothed people in Europe are like myself, foreigners who did not see the dentist’s evil designs in time to escape. I offer this photo of Amy Winehouse as evidence in favor of my argument.

Which brings us to a Swiss phenomenon: Dental spa vacations. The high cost of Swiss dentistry has created a thriving business in out-of-country dental tourism. One acquaintance holidayed in Croatia where she spent mornings on the beach and afternoons in the dental chair. A similar phenomenon exists in Canada where some book into Mexican dental clinics, which is cheaper, but only until the patient returns to their Canadian dentist with a complaint that turns to be expensive to fix. It seems the adage that a deal that is too good to be true probably is too good to be true.

At least that’s what the staff at my Canadian dental office told me as they patched up my tooth when I was back in Canada this summer. The molar turned out to not be a very big deal after all, but I’d rather hear that from my own dentist, than from a German-speaking Swiss dentist who reminds me of Sir Laurence Olivier’s performance in  Marathon Man.