Arlesheim, Basel-Landschaft (BL), Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera/Switzerland

[1984 Nikon FE2 SLR 35-mm roll film camera, s/n 1816483, with Nikkor AI 50-mm f/1.8 lens, s/n 2336591, and 52-mm polarizing filter;
Kodak Ektar 125 (Kodak 5101 | Ektar 125-1) 36-exposure colour negative film]

© Copyright photograph by Stephan Alexander Scharnberg, November 1991

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I lived in Paradise

I lived in Paradise, on a slope of the north shore of Lac Léman. This was not the Paradise of my childhood, but of my early adult years.

It all started with drying dishes. Early December 1981, I was still living at home. This chore was one of the family expectations, just as lolling around without a job or an immediate plan was not. Mother set me an ultimatum—find a job within a week or move out.

A childhood friend from White Rock called a little later that evening with a job offer in a door assembly plant, Surrey Door in Surrey-Newton. And I would be living with them in White Rock.

At the same time, I discussed with my parents the wish of mine to experience Camphill life, originating in 1979 when a former Newton Dee peer of father’s, Hartmut von Jeetze, came to visit, talking about and showing slides of Camphill Copake in upper New York State. I was much impressed by what I heard and saw. The seed was planted.

My parents both had experiences and still some peripheral connections with Camphill and Rudolf Steiner communities—father as a gardener in Camphill Newton Dee, Aberdeen, Scotland from February 1951 to February 1954; mother also as a gardener, in Bussigny near Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland from April 1955 to autumn 1956.

I wrote to ten different communities—names and addresses we pulled from a list we had from an Anthroposophical Initiatives directory booklet, focusing on Westdeutschland, France, and Switzerland. Two months later, only two or three had responded. St-Prex was my only hope, the others at that time not needing workers. I answered with a detailed life story, curriculum vitae, reiterating my wish to learn French and gain an initial experience working with Children in Need of Special Care. Plans were made for me to attend, summer 1982 to summer 1983, for a practicum year and a chance to learn the language, leaving the door open for a longer stay dependent on the outcome of my initial year there. I still had a current passport and saved most of my working money for a return airline ticket and some initial spending money.

I already knew from father and reading that the Camphill Movement was born in 1939–1940 out of the initiative of Dr. Karl König. In the late 1930s in Wien he had gathered a small group of students, studying the teachings and indications of Rudolf Steiner. He and the students fled in different directions with the Nazi invasion of Austria. England opened its doors to refugees and Dr. König entered by invitation. He was given a twenty-five-acre estate called Kirkton House, about seven miles from Aberdeen, Scotland. One by one the students found their way there during 1939. The war broke out, the men were classified as enemy aliens and interned on the Isle of Man. Meanwhile, the publisher W.F. Macmillan purchased a larger estate called Camphill House, hence the movement’s name, and the women moved there June 1, 1940, commencing their work with twelve children, one of the first attempts at living in residence with special needs children.

A few weeks were spent at home again; relaxing, swimming, and tubing in the Cowichan River with six-packs of beer, Labatt Blue, tied to the air valve stem; and getting some gear and possessions together. I purchased the red 1982 edition of Baedeker’s Switzerland, pouring over it in some detail, slung out in our backyard hammock between the walnut tree and a tree pole. I was to show up in Genève as a tourist and Perceval would take care of procuring me a work permit.

Like many, I believed (somewhat) in the clichés about the Swiss—brown cows, Alps, yodelling, chocolate, watches, and cuckoo clocks—but within days of my arrival I was already learning and experiencing how much more of this fascinating people and country there was.

I had always been impressed with Switzerland’s neutrality and admired her form of democracy, which only deepened during my residence there—this small, mountainous confederation on a very unique path of destiny and practicing a direct form of democracy through her constitution, structure of government, and the many cantonal, regional, and federal referendums the Swiss vote on throughout the year. To this day I see the Confoederatio Helvetica as the best and only authentic example of democracy so far in existence. Other nations laying claim to this title are little more than half- or pseudo-democracies.

Over time, Switzerland revealed more and more the multitude of riches in her history, geography, food, literature, and culture, many of her qualities distinct along linguistic lines. I experienced almost nothing of her Romansch and Italian aspects, but sampled a decent taste of her Schwyzerdütsch regions, and became immersed in many aspects of la Suisse Romande, comprised of Genève, the western half of Valais, Neuchâtel, the Jura, most of Fribourg, and above all the canton Vaud with its historical imperative of Liberté et Patrie as the centrepiece of its flag and cantonal shield of white and green. Looking back, La Romandie has become my second homeland, in fact, my spiritual home just as Canada is my physical home and Germany my ancestral home.

I borrowed a half dozen books from the Cowichan branch of the Vancouver Island Public Library, where I worked the last two years of high school earning my escape money correctly reshelving returned books and magazines in the stacks, flirting each shift with my co-worker Laurie Hamilton.

I read that Switzerland’s beginnings can be traced back to the 12th millennium BC. Finds of Stone Age arrowheads have been made at the Bieler See and Lac de Neuchâtel. Near Brig, archaeological digs have uncovered elaborate burial sites indicating settlement of the western region and the Valais in the early Stone Age. From the Iron Age there is evidence of the existence of a pre-celtic culture. Later, the Celtic Helvetii resolved to unite and settle the Jura. The Romans were unable to set foot in the Valais until about 58 BC, when Caesar and Augustus were the first to conquer Helvetian lands, making them part of the Roman Empire. About the year 300, the Primicerius Maurice and his Theban Legion, recruited in Africa, were martyred at Agaunum, today St-Maurice, for refusing to worship the Roman deities and slay their fellow Christians throughout central Europe. Soon thereafter, Christianity spread throughout the southern Swiss region.

I savoured the descriptions of the various regions and drooled over the large-format colour images in the calendars my godmother, Ursula Nitschke in Winterthur, sent us at Christmas each year. In particular: the Jura, made in large part of gentle rolling hills in gradual ascent, lonesome woods and fields in between, and scattered about, attractive little towns and pretty villages; the slopes of the Jura falling to the shores of the Bieler See and the Lac de Neuchâtel, with a number of castles and burgs scattered among the vineyards; in contrast, Biel/Bienne and Neuchâtel, modern industrial towns; across the larger lake the Murtensee and Murten/Morat, and a little further along Fribourg/Freiburg, due to its mostly preserved medieval character, one of Switzerland’s most beautiful cities; down in the farthest western corner of the Confederation, at the lower end of the Lac Léman where the Rhône leaves for its long route through France, Genève, pulsating with life under a somewhat austere protestant past, business-like and of great importance in the world of international politics and science; Jura-like landscape accompanying the lake about halfway, then receding northerly behind the Vaud hinterland; and the Rhône valley predominated by the massive Alps.

I noted the humorous words of the Swiss writer and essayist Ludwig Hohl, 1904–1980, “Die Schweizer sind stolz darauf, so schöne Berge geschaffen zu haben.”

In the years since, my parents find it on occasion amusing to remind me, that span of five years (1982–1987 with a year off in-between) was my Finishing School.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Classic automobile favourites



Across the street from our house in South Vancouver, B.C., Canada in the early evening, Saturday, July 5, 2008.

© Copyright photograph by Cohen Isaac Scharnberg, July 2008



“The icing on the cake” beside our house in South Vancouver, B.C. in the mid-morning, Monday, December 22, 2008.

© Copyright photograph by Stephan Alexander Scharnberg, December 2008



Returning from a day of walking the West Vancouver Seawall, starting near Park Royal, between Ambleside Beach and Dundarave Pier. Here we are in Goldie downtown Vancouver heading east on Georgia St. shortly before 5:30 pm, Sunday, May 24, 2009.

© Copyright photograph by Stephan Alexander Scharnberg, May 2009

In the world of automobiles, I am partial to well-engineered, quality-built German cars (not all of them—I don’t like the Porsche except for the classic 356 Speedster, first cousin of the original VW Beetle; nor do I care for the BMW). I love the classic, vintage, air-cooled Volkswagen (the People’s Car) and the older Mercedes-Benz.

I grew up with Volkswagens. After I made my first appearance—the old King’s Daughter Hospital (now long gone) in Duncan, Vancouver Island, B.C.—father and mother took me home in the blue-green 1961 VW Beetle, bumping along the meandering Old Lake Cowichan Highway to Lake Cowichan, Cowichan Lake, Vancouver Island, B.C. In time I inherited the 1961 Beetle’s slightly rusty Hazet tool kit (still a complete set) that sat inside the spare under the hood.

In the summer of 1965, my parents purchased new from Volkswagen Pacific in Vancouver, a 1965 VW Type 2 (T1c) Model 231 (cargo doors right, left hand drive) Kombi (first generation, split-window), VIN 235 xxx xxx, powered by a 1965 53-hp 1493-cc (1500) four-cylinder, horizontally-opposed, air-cooled engine, engine number code starting with H and followed by seven digits, with Solex 30 PICT-1 carburetorstrangely enough, with Model 221 Standard Microbus colour scheme of exterior body colours, L289 (17) blue white above waistline, L512 (38) velvet green below waistline, upholstery in mesh grey (83), sporting 14-inch wheels, front signals in amber, basic interior of just a rear bench seat, no middle bench seat, no interior headliner or side panels, no carpet, just interior hardboard panels in the front cab section, covering the doors, roof, and behind the nose. (I also inherited the license plate wrap-around labelled Volkswagen Pacific). A week later mother tipped it on its right side as a result of over-steering—a problem with the first-generation Type 2s. Two empty glass milk bottles flew off the shelf under the dash and did not break!, my baby brother flew from his wicker basket on the back bench and quickly landed back in it!, and two pulp mill chipper trucks hauling full twin trailers in convoy, quickly stopped and pulled us through the driver’s door sliding window (for some reason the door wouldn’t open). Since then, all the body work and realignment couldn’t put the slightly warped unibody straight again.

In 1973 my parents replaced the Kombi with a white 1971 VW Crew Cab from Bowmel Volkswagen (official dealer) in Duncan. Father built a red plywood canopy and took the VW with mother and four children in tow, on a memorable road trip into Northern Mexico—one week down, two weeks in the states of Sonora and Sinaloa, one week back home—December 1973 to January 1974.

Late 1977, this pickup was replaced with an almost new white and egg yolk yellow 1977 VW Bus, from the owner of Bowmel Volkswagen (since 1972; formerly Maguire Motors) in Duncan, soon discovered to be a real lemon cursed with a multitude of problems. Nonetheless, a second road trip to Mexico, December 1978 to January 1979. The mechanical and electrical gremlins accompanied us on this trip but fortunately Mexico is a country replete with creative, industrious VW mechanics. Alas, this Bus soured my parents on VWs forever. Since then, they’ve driven a panoply of Japanese and domestic vehicles.

My list of favourites:

1961 VW Beetle/1962 VW Beetle
1968 VW Beetle
1971 VW Beetle/1971 VW Super Beetle
1965 VW Microbus, Kombi, Panel, Westfalia camper, Single Cab, and Crew Cab (Type 2, split-window)
1968 VW Bus, Kombi, Panel, Westfalia camper, Single Cab, and Crew Cab (Type 2, bay window)
1971 VW Bus, Kombi, Panel, Westfalia camper, Single Cab, and Crew Cab (Type 2, bay window)
1985 Mercedes-Benz W123 model, 300D Turbo Diesel

Of all the cars I’ve owned since my very first at age 21 in March 1983 (1968 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova, powered by a 250-cu.-in. 6-cylinder engine with 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission, 4-door sedan, avocado green, Series 13, body style 69, no power brakes, no power steering, no A/C—what a great car she was!, I named her Cisca after a Dutch woman I knew), my favourites are all German.

In order of ownership, some at the same time!, they were:

1972 VW Super Beetle, forest green
1974 VW Kombi, white
1972 VW Super Beetle, white
1970 VW Kombi, white and sky blue
1973 VW Beetle, yellow, named Buttercup
1971 VW Super Beetle, baby blue, named Kathleen*
1968 VW Westfalia camper, ivory, named Sophia**

1985 Mercedes-Benz W123 model, 300D Turbo Diesel, champagne, named Goldie, current vehicle

*denotes my two favourites: The 1971 VW Super Beetle, bought her in Delta, B.C., great condition, beautiful speciman.

**the early-1968 VW Type 2 (T2a, “Early Bay”) Model 238 (sliding side door right, left hand drive) Westfalia (second generation, bay window), VIN 238 xxx xxx, powered by a 1971 60-hp 1584-cc (1600) four-cylinder, horizontally-opposed, dual-port air-cooled engine, engine number code starting with AE and followed by seven digits, with Solex 34 PICT-3 carburetor, colour scheme of exterior body colour L567 (46) ivory, upholstery in 45 medium grey 68, 4-speed manual transmission, sporting 14-inch wheels, double CV-joints, low front signals just above front bumper, with original model SO-68 Westfalia interior of rear bench seat that pulls out to become a ¾-wide bed, rear deck mattress, storage locker under rear bench seat, clothes closet with vanity mirror and hanging rod and shelves aft of sliding door, adjoining linen closet, rear ceiling shelf cabinet, ceiling and walls insulated and wood-panelled in baltic birch, yellow vinyl seat coverings, vinyl-tiled floor, hinged folding dinette table, front rear-facing bench seat with storage area immediately aft of driver bucket seat and walk-through divider, 1.6-cubic foot cabinet with ice box and drain, white plastic sink with drainage and venting system and hinged lid/counter surface, 7.5-gallon water tank and manually operated faucet pump, catch-all shelf unit, front lid mosquito net pop-up roof with canvas tent, rear wall with zippered flaps and zippered screen openings, cot bed inside pop-up roof, rear luggage rack, removable childrens hammock for over front seats, two ceiling lamps (one each over sink and dinette table) of three 10-watt bulbs each, small ceiling light in centre of compartment, transistorized 12-volt 110–125 volt electrical receptacle with double outlet, 15-ampere AC cord for plugging into campsite receptacles, original bay window privacy curtain, original yellow and brown checkered curtains for all windows, and fully-functional louvered side windows with removable screens. She was purchased new from the official VW dealer somewhere in or near downtown San Diego. I still have her original sales receipt, owner’s manual, and service manual—regularly serviced and stamped. She appeared to be based in Indio, Coachella Valley, California, while in my possession still sporting an AAA (The Automobile Club of Southern California) decal in bottom right corner of the windshield. She was a member of some surf club based in San Clemente, California. Imported up to Victoria, B.C. in the early 1980s, legend has it this camper drove to the famous 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York and back to the West Coast; and that John Muir, VW mechanic extraordinaire and writer of the famous manual, How To Keep Your Volkswagen Alive: A Manual Of Step By Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot, once serviced and tuned my baby’s 1600-cc motor. I took her camping many times (southern Vancouver Island, Saltspring Island, Hornby Island, Alice Lake up past Squamish, Hicks Lake near Harrison Hot Springs), including a road trip to Grande Prairie, Alberta in August 1994, up the Coquihalla Highway and Summit from Hope, Merritt, Kamloops, Blue River, Valemount, Jasper, then Hinton through Grande Cache to Grande Prairie on Highway 40 (at the time still known as “the Highway to Hell”, the last year it was sand and gravel surface strewn with the debris of blown tires, pieces of wood, and branches, before a proper paving) to Grande Prairie, back by way of Dawson Creek, Prince George, Quesnel, Lac La Hache, 100 Mile House, Clinton, Cache Creek, Ashcroft, Spences Bridge, Lytton, down the Fraser Canyon, Hope, and back to New Westminster. Alas, after owning her from 1992 t0 2000, I gave her up to a VW enthusiast-restorer-collector in Coquitlam, B.C., wanting to give her one more good life. At the time I was broke. I couldn’t afford the $10,000.00 or $15,000.00 restoration she needed and deservedI sure miss that camper. One day I’ll search for another fine specimen of the bay windows.

I won’t bother mentioning the other half dozen or so cars I’ve owned and driven into the ground in the last twenty-six years!

My dream VW is the 1971 VW Bus (deluxe model with chrome trim and sliding sun roof). It is said this was the best year for the Type 2 model. My dream Bug is the 1971 VW Super Beetle, like the baby blue I had.

Our current vehicle, Goldie, is a 1985 Mercedes-Benz W123 model, 300D Turbo Diesel sedan (4-door), powered by a 123-hp OM617.952 five-cylinder diesel engine with 4-speed automatic transmission (standard in turbo diesel models), colour scheme of champagne exterior, MB-Tex (Mercedes-Benz Texturized Punctured Vinyl) upholstery, interior wood trim, passenger side exterior mirror (standard on T models), power windows with rear-seat switch cut-outs, vacuum powered central locking, Standheizung (pre-start timer controlled engine heating), self-locking differential, sun roof, air conditioning, climate control, “Alpine” horn (selectable quieter horn), Tempomat (cruise control), power steering (standard after August 1982), power (vacuum servo) assisted disc brakes (standard on all W123 models).

The North American W123s differ from the European W123s due to United States Department of Transportation requirements. Notable exterior differences included: Larger bumpers; round, sealed-beam headlights/fog lamps. Early cars were delivered with clear fog lamps through to model year 1979, later units with yellow (our Benz has these); location of ID-tag on A-pillar; emission control devices. Production of the W123 model was based in Sindelfingen, Baden-Württemberg, Westdeutschland.