Olten painted house - when graffiti could legitimately be called art.

OLTEN About half the hits on hobonotes.com come from our friends and the other half from random Google searches, Facebook links, and other weird Internet searches.

For the half that are personally acquainted with us, this blog is a way of saying: Look! We are still alive! For the other half, it offers a peek into the pluses and sometimes-minuses of European travel, as well as a rigorous ongoing quality check on European chocolates and cheeses.

This blog-reader split is what crossed my mind as we strolled through Olten, a little Swiss town of about 17,000 where for every 100 Swiss babies born, there are about 80 births of non-Swiss babies. I mention the birthrate only because it is such an outstanding demographic figure and because it is Olten’s most interesting fact. This is true, as far as I can tell.

When a town's public art is mostly flat concrete-cast figures, it is time to start again.Ugh.

Olten does not figure large in travel guide books and two hours there told us why. Its old-town has the requisite narrow cobblestone avenues flanked with three-to-five-story apartment buildings complete with the usual colourful shutters and attic garrets, but lacks the “punch” that other Swiss villages deliver with their castles, ramparts and medieval churches. It is not a bad place to go, but it’s questionable whether it is worth the stop.

Olten is not without its charms.

This is what made me think about how to write about it for the website. If you are a personal acquaintance asking whether to make a tourist stop in Olten, I would say do not bother.

If you are a casual Google-search-initiated reader, I might be tempted to be more diplomatic and politely steer you toward other locales, but I’ve already outed Olten as a non-destination. Poor Olten.

I could be wrong about this. If any Olten-adoring reader cares to challenge me, I am willing to go back for a second look.

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