Ftan

Corn field in foreground, the village of Ftan in the background

The road to Ftan and a little adventure from the past

To arrive there it takes almost one hour starting from Celerina. The road is entertaining as there many turns, some of them changing their range and getting tighter as you drive through, while the best ones happen on some really old, narrow, bridges… (EvilGrin).  Of course it is a lot of fun if you are driving with someone who is enjoying the sporty ride, on the contrary, if you are travelling with the whole family the drive takes some concentration as you try to make it as comfortable as it can be by avoiding sudden accelerations and decelerations.

The first time I reached Ftan it was an evening in winter, it was snowing quite strongly and as a consequence the road was completely white. Very soft to drive on. Per se a beautiful view. The car I was driving, a Skoda Octavia, was new and being a four wheel drive I was feeling safe. Soon we started to encounter some cars which could not proceed, drivers and passengers trying to move them out of the way, while on some others cars people were installing snow chains: this was happening on the main road, imagine on the smaller ones! I remember that on one hand I was surprised, as they were local and for sure well equipped with winter tires, on the other I was happy of not having to worry as my new car had four wheel drive… right?!

It was almost at the end of the trip, when the slope of the road started to increase, that I had to recognise that something was not working as it should have: the car was struggling to keep pace, it was loosing grip. But… how come? The Skoda Octavia 4×4 is well known for its performances on snowy terrain… And my situation was not that extreme!

In the end, we almost reached our friends house, the very last piece of road was way too steep for my car to overcome. As you could imagine “the defeat of the Octavia” was the topic for the whole night (and in my mind, for many days later). Around midnight we took Arno’s Subaru Outback and challenged it with the same road… “the defeat of the Octavia” got even bigger and painful as the Subaru had not one second of hesitation, even in the worst conditions.

To make the story short, once back in Lugano, I took the car to the mechanic, which discovered the issue, and the car was repaired under warranty. Even so, it was a big disappointment for me. Really strange was also the fact that the car did not give me any kind of message or alarm about the malfunction.

After the repairs I did not have any chance test the car again: I have been in snowy situations a few more times, but not as snowy as that time. This is also why I am seriously considering a front wheel drive car for the future… but let this be a topic for a future post.

This August, instead…

…we arrived safely at Arno and Giusy’s place right in time for lunch. It was really nice to sit all together, having something simple to eat and chatting a little about everything, be it about work, fitness, future plans, kids… 🙂 Arno and Giusy are some years older than us, therefore they do have some more experience to share about kids (and of course about many other topics too).

In the afternoon we also had the chance to have a walk through the village: we would have loved to make a bigger tour, but it was starting to rain, therefore we had to keep it short.

Giusy and Tango
Giusy & Tango leaving for the short walk. Tango was waiting for that moment for a long while and was more than happy of being on the outside again!

How is Ftan different from St. Moritz?

The atmosphere that you get to breathe in Ftan is really different from the one you get in St. Moritz or in Celerina. It is much more relaxed and familiar, probably because Ftan is smaller and, geographically speaking, not as fortunate. Ftan and Scuol are in a valley which is tight, like a V, whereas St. Mortiz and Celerina are in a nice plain, the lake giving much more room and light. On the contrary once you are in Ftan, if you watch in front of you, you have a wall made by mountains. Which are beautiful, but still… On some occasions a little oppressive. Still Ftan might be preferred as St. Moritz is way too crowded for someone who is looking for some peace and nature. Furthermore the tourism has completely changed the people and the society living in St. Moritz. In Ftan this is not the case and even though the tourism is for sure important, the people are much more authentic and down to earth.

Picture of Ftan
Walking our way back I took a picture of Ftan. Incredibly green as most Swiss mountain villages. Note the school on the left (yellow building), on the back, cutting the forest, the ski lift.

During our chats with Arno and Giusy we discovered that Ftan also has a new school: “Das hochalpine Institut Ftan” where boys and girls can learn and get their high school diploma while practicing a lot of sport and enjoying the beautiful area. I do not know if I would send my son there though, I believe it is way too much cut off from the rest of the world (although very much depends on the kid, if he/she is not interested or curious of the world around him, even if you take him in a very cosmopolitan city, he might not absorb that much).

Which brings me to think about one question which I have made myself multiple times already, i.e. about living in Engadin or in a place in the mountains. I am not too sure if I could stay in such a village for a longer period of time… generally speaking, the loneliness is something that appeals me, but for how long?

Thanks for reading and for following!

Best,

Andrea

Windsurf regatta in Silvaplana – Swiss Championship

Windsurfers on the Silvaplana lake

We did not know about it. I remembered from the past that Silvaplana was one hot spot for windsurfing, but we had no idea that during those days there would be the Swiss Championship.

That day we did not have anything planned, we were ready to leave for St. Moritz and have a classic tour of the lake when I suggested to drive some more and reach for Silvaplana, where often there are kites and windsurfers which are always entertaining to look at. So we went there… and… we fell right in the middle of the racing! What for an atmosphere!

First of all: there was wind! Cold and powerful wind capable of new and creative haircuts and of making you wink your eyes. Plentiful of flags, bending and slamming each one with a slightly different rhythm as if they were to keep the pace of the event.

Natascia checking on Jacopo in its stroller
Funny picture of Natascia checking on Jacopo while everything else is flying!

The voice of the reporter, which continuously kept everyone up to date with the development of the regatta, people everywhere: some preparing for the race, others, already wet and tired changing and warming up, few reading the newspaper at the bar as if nothing was going on, even a couple with a red stroller was there! 😉 And of course… the sails! With all their beautiful colours, flying from left to right and back, mixing with each other, there they are, the windsurf sails.

While they were standing and waiting for their turn to race I could easily shoot some more pictures.

For those that like videos better… Enjoy the start of the regatta!

I have also found some professional pictures taken from the official photographs during the event. If you like have a look here.

We had a very tasty hamburger at the restaurant of the windsurfing club after which we prepared ourselves to go back and finished our day on the lake of St. Moritz, which was also well beaten by the wind. Even if it is a small lake some sailing boats were definitely having fun!

Sailing boat on the lake of St. Moritz
While walking around the lake I kept looking at the boats that were tacking across the lake and could not stop myself by taking some pictures!

Definitely a great day for those loving the sailing sports… and also for us that were just walking and looking, it was entertaining and energizing!

Thanks a lot for reading!

Andrea

 

 

Jacopo conquering his first ‘peak’!

The city of St. Moritz and its lake

To say so it is just a little exaggerated, but it was indeed the first time that the three of us reached a restaurant on the mountains! Getting there was very easy, no need to climb anything… Someone else did this for us in the past and now we may use a marvellous, small, blue train.

In the picture the blue train which is connecting st. Moritz and corviglia.
This is the marvellous blu train that took us to Chantarella!

Let’s be honest though: the train is not marvellous per se, it is just the fact that it allows you to go up the mountain with the stroller without sweating a drop, that makes it interesting! Oh, and as Natascia pointed out, the station is not stroller friendly, meaning there are only stairs… Stroller needs to be lifted, daddies be prepared!

Looking out of the window of the blue train you get a beautiful view!
This was the view we were gifted a few moments after the little train left the station. I believe that one of the great advantages of this train is that it starts directly from the city.

The first stop of the train was ours, so we “jumped off”, carried the strolled until the exit and started our walk towards the restaurant, which was really near (around 10 min).

Salastrains restaurant
The restaurant ‘Salastrains’ where we had launch

The place was very nice, but probably not our genre: believing that there was no other choice we blindly reserved a table without looking further. We did not feel comfortable since the atmosphere, the service and the food offering were slightly posh: at the same time though you could understand that they were struggling with the organisation of the work, plans had to be changed, customers requests went lost or were wrong… The manager, was giving instructions to his subordinates on the fly and with loud voice while running from to the tables to the kitchen. I believe this is more adequate for a pizzeria than for a restaurant. My smile got even bitter when the manager claimed, talking with the guests sitting behind us, to have been working in the very same restaurant for the last 35 years.

Next time we should double check if there are other options available which fit better our way of living the mountain. For sure a picnic could be a great idea, more so, since there are dedicated areas which have beautiful wooden tables and sometimes even grilling facilities.

Playground and picnic area near the salastrains restaurant.
A few steps away from the restaurant we saw this play area where you could easily have your lunch. You just need to organise yourself a little earlier… and in case you should have kids they will love the possibility of playing!

In any case Jacopo behaved like a boss at the restaurant: as soon as we arrived he reclaimed his milk and after having eaten he fell into a deep sleep until the bill arrived. As soon as we started moving again he fell asleep once more: we discovered that he prefers uneven terrains to the regular, paved, ones…

While “walking down the street” to get back home I stopped a few times to take some more shots.

Beside the view I also found something that caught my curiosity. I still do not know what they are, so please do not ask, and the picture I took, I took only because I liked the geometrical shapes. Are you curious too? Let’s have a look!

Leaving the wooden sculptures behind and keeping the questions regarding their use or destination, we continued our walk without further breaks until the city where we had left our car.

Once home we chilled down a little, while some, slept some more. It was then time for a quick drink in Celerina, followed by dinner… and suddenly it was time to put Jacopo to sleep again!

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Holidays begin… Finally!

Monday was the time to leave for the summer holidays! The atmosphere was strange though, by looking out of the window you would see a grey sky, while if you were to go out you would notice that the temperature was much cooler than few days before. Summer already finished?! Brr…

We started the holidays by working on our luggage and Jacopo’s as well! 😊 I could not believe my eyes when I realised that all the things we had accumulated could fit in our car without even sacrificing the passengers seats. I am really satisfied with the capacity of the trunk of our Octavia (although the water pump recently abandoned me, leaving me on the motorway with a overheated engine)!

Filled trunk of our car, before leaving the holidays.
The trunk is almost completely full! I managed to fit even two chairs that I have had fixed in the past months. In any case back visibility was seriously compromised, better use the side mirrors!

One last thing before leaving…

In our plan we had one more appointment to attend to: we agreed to meet Marco, Maite and Peio for the first time since one year! We did not meet them since the last holiday in Schinoussa which happened exactly one year ago. Since then three major event changed our lives: the birth of Peio followed by Jacopo’s and last but not least my hair cut (which now is really short!). When we arrived in Dino we were overwhelmed by the amount of kids that were there, as almost the whole family of Marco was there.

Could you imagine?! The living room where I and Marco have been learning for hours during high school first and university later was now filled with kids and babys… Out of which, two were our children!

A group picture of the two new families after one year.
The two new families together… What a big change, after only one year!

Trip to Celerina

After some chatting with Marco and Maite, we left Dino and began our trip to Celerina: Jacopo started complaining after one hour since we left, therefore Natascia decided to seat next to him in order to play together and to keep his pacifier in place: we were told that this would help him contrasting the difference in pressure due to the change of altitude. All in all I believe it took us around 2 hours and 45 minutes to arrive, which is 15 minutes more than usual, the trip went very well!

Driving with a baby on board changes your style of driving, at least a little, as you are aware that in the back there is someone who is not capable of anticipating what is going to happen next, either because he does not see it, either because he does not have the strength. Therefore, driving on a mountain road, I had to refrain a little from giving full gas at the end of each turn… Which otherwise is great fun (more so with a diesel engine, having a lot of newtons to discharge on the road)! Diabolic grin!

Arrival

Slightly before arriving it was clear to everyone that Jacopo patience was at its limit, he needed to get out of the car, have a walk and a smoke… Err… As soon as we arrived he had his milk! But we were not organised for all of his needs, a lot was still in the luggage, meticulously packed in the trunk of the car! With some effort, tired from the driving and hungry (we did not eat much during lunch as we were packing), not only we unloaded the whole car, but I even managed to inflate the exercise ball. The exercise ball: what a failure. It needs a dedicated paragraph, if not a dedicated post.

The exercise ball

Since Jacopo was born we started to use the exercise ball as it was very effective to calm Jacopo’s colics attacks. We used to bounce on the ball while holding Jacopo in our arms: the rhythmic movement would help Jacopo to tranquilize and fall asleep. A very important tool for us… I would suggest it to every new parent.

It has a big disadvantage though: once inflated it is not easy to fit in a car which is already quite full! Luckily enough I found a second ball, which was already deflated, thus much easier to transport… Yeah, wait, but why is the ball deflated? Maybe it is perforated? And how should I inflate it?

I was so lucky that in the past I had already bought adapters for my bike pump, so I decided to test the pump and its adapters by inflating the ball! And it worked! The pump was a bit small therefore I had to keep a good rhythm in order to have some progress in a reasonable amount of time… But you know, being such an important tool for us, better to be sure that everything works! Since inflating the whole ball took me a lot of energy and sweat, while packing the car I tried not to deflate it totally as I did not want to reinflate it starting from the beginning: as long as I tried I could not manage to make it fit without deflating it almost totally.

I packed also my old bike pump (a great gift that I received from my father when I was a boy) with all the adapters and… Hopp we go.

Arrived in Celerina it was time to re – inflate the ball (second time during the same day) and… As soon as the ball regained its spherical shape, my precious pump broke. Ouch. This was not foreseen during my tests at home! Still, thankfully I managed to slowly inflate the ball until it reached a decent strength and size. Quite happy for my performance I decided to test the ball with Jacopo… And there you go… It is not enough bouncy. Jacopo does not even feel the movement! Snap!

dsc_1660.jpg
The exercise ball which is not bouncing enough to tranquilize Jacopo when he suffers from colics. Probably it was not what it was designed for!

We were lucky that night Jacopo was quite tired and fell asleep almost immediately. We followed as quickly as possible!

Good night everyone!

Andrea

Shenzhen – Second day

Winnington Metal & Plastic Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

The second day was dedicated to visiting Winnington Metal & Plastic Manufacturing: an important manufacturer of cookware and kitchen tools.

Winnington Metal & Plastic Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
This is how the company presents itself upon arrival. Almost an hour drive from Shenzhen.

Integrating the supply chain

It surprised me to discover that this company, although its manufacturing site calls for new machinery, has implemented a mechanism in the supply chain allowing them to organise the work much better, reducing transportation lead times, and in general the time required to have the finished product available on the market. With selected costumers and suppliers they have implemented a system of what I would describe as active feedback, which informs continuously about the sales to the customer. In this manner they can activate their warehouse to prepare the load and the ship and eventually ship the goods to Europe.

Winnington Inventory Turns Program
Winnington Inventory Turns Program

Advantages of an integrated supply chain

The advantages are that the customer is better served, as they don’t have too high stocks of slow moving products and no out of stocks, while the manufacturer itself is less subject to the volatility of the market. In fact working like this you avoid the subjectivity of the human judgment, which often exaggerates the meaning of increasing/decreasing sales figures, creating erratic behaviours and confusion in the company. With this system it is possible to attenuate this issues by setting limits to the inventory, which, when reached, are triggering replenishment actions by the warehouse. In case those limits are reached too fast or too often, it might be the case to reconsider them. In order to implement this the company needed to involve their suppliers and customers in order to have an integrated supply chain: in order to do that they had to convince their suppliers to work based on this scheme, and this wasn’t an easy task, as many of them preferred the idea of selling one big batch and closing the operation until the next purchase. This might be theoretically true, but on the long run, it is more efficient as it enables you to lock in the customer while adding value for him.

Theory of Constraints

I’m thankful to the general manager for the presentation as it was really well explained and you could feel that who was explaining it, had to live it through, solving many issues. For example I have asked how they managed to convince their personnel that there still was room for improvement in a manufacturing process that has been executed and has delivered good results for so many years. The company, helped by a consultant, used the Theory of Constraints to analyse their current process and, by playing a game simulating the building of trucks, they were able to show how some principles of the theory could be implemented and to motivate their personnel.

Future challenges

As the Chinese workforce is getting more and more expensive the company is facing difficulties in keeping the current customers happy: some have already moved the manufacturing back to Europe, others have moved to other countries, like Vietnam, were the workforce is cheaper.  Winnington Metal & Plastic Manufacturing  is going to make good use of the industry 4.0 in order to regain competitiveness while keeping their uniqueness of having smaller batches but diversified products.

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Before leaving…

… a picture of the whole SUPSI group!

A group picture of the whole SUPSI group at Winnington's.
A group picture of the whole SUPSI group at Winnington’s.

Shenzhen – First day

During the morning we visited an important OEM manufacturer of shoes: Huajian.

Huajian - Main building
Huajian – Main building

During our visit we were told that as the manufacturing costs are increasing in China, the company has chosen to move a big part of its production in Ethiopia, Africa, as wages are lower and there are no taxes for exporting to Europe.

Huajian is building a huge project in Ethiopia, basically a city built around the manufacturing site comprehensive of hospital as well as a symbolic Chinese wall, with the aim of covering all possible needs of their workers. Which, by the way, will be Ethiopians!

During our short visit, we also had the chance to assist to a singing performance of Ethiopians employees, who are currently learning the job in the main production site in Shenzhen: once finished the training program they will go back to Ethiopia and teach what they have learned to their colleagues.

While talking about this company we also pointed out how strong is the sense of community in China and how families still share common room and life, while in our countries we are living more and more as singular individuals. As a joke we said that one could define the current state of “development” of a country by the number of clinics dedicated to the elderly: therefore if you look at Switzerland society, which struggles to keep elderly integrated, has a lot of rest homes, whereas China doesn’t have any. In my understanding though, also in China it is getting more difficult to be a large family, since  in order to find work long distances need to be covered and people from rural areas simply can’t commute everyday as the journey is too long. Companies like Huajian, which had almost 20’000 employees, have built dormitories directly behind the company, in order to have workers coming from rural territories which are distant and poorly connected.

Other, consequent, topic of discussion was what is being done in Ticino for its development beside the opening of new rest homes. And there was no positive feeling… and no propositive ideas either.

We had quick lunch in a noodle store. Not easy eating noodles with the sticks, but I managed!

Eating noodles
Eating noodles

In the afternoon we met Huawei, the company that we all know because of mobile phones. We learned that the company has many other branches, the base of it being hardware and software for networking. In Switzerland for example Huawei has collaborations with Swisscom and Sunrise in order to develop the internet connectivity for fixed lines in the first case and mobile for the second. I don’t know if it is true but our speaker implied that the recent overtake of Sunrise on Swisscom regarding the best mobile network in Switzerland was related to their collaboration.

The expansion of Huawei in the US is of course limited, because of US protectionism, but also because being a Chinese company a strong involvement of the government is taken into account and of course data networks, datacenters, security systems are sensitive matters that an independent state struggles to share with another one.

As we weren’t satisfied yet in the evening we went to an event organised by Swissnex China, Venture Leaders: China – Swiss innovation night, where Swiss startups looking for partners were presenting their ideas and products. There were 10 startups presenting their idea in a short presentation during 2 minutes each: here the list.

  1. Bestmile
  2. Flyability
  3. Technis
  4. Oviva
  5. Zurimed
  6. Lunaphore
  7. Climeworks
  8. Urbanfarmers
  9. VIUVentures
  10. Astrocast

While at this link you may find a .PDF file with the executive summaries of each company.

Here below few pictures I took of the incredible Intercontinental Hotel

 

A long weekend on the mountains

… although it wasn’t decided neither confirmed we managed to have a free Friday and have a long weekend in Pontresina very near to St. Moritz. We had taken into consideration going to Liguria, to the seaside, but the weather forecast was announcing rain for Saturday and Sunday, so we opted for the mountains.

The Hotel we decided to stay is called “Hotel Schloss”: it is quite nice, the SPA, the pool as well as the rooms are new and definitely welcoming. We even tried the different kinds of saunas which I usually avoid since I don’t like walking through the hotel wearing a bathrobe and meeting other guests in the lift wearing usual clothes reciprocally exchanging stupefied looks. It promptly happened. There is another ground why I often avoid the SPAs and saunas: it is the naked thing. I understand that it should be done this way, and, although I did try to have a sauna and obediently left my towel out and after a while I noticed that it wasn’t that embarrassing anymore, at the beginning I always have to make an effort to overwhelm myself. Do I really need to do that?

The funny thing is, that this time, I finished being in a warm water pool were everyone was supposed to be naked, but no one was: beside me! I had a laugh at myself and quickly left the pool…

After a quick research on trip advisor we decided to go to the Restaurant called “Sport stüvetta” were we had very good fish: we spent 150.00 CHF, with just one glass of prosecco, water, soup as a starter and a coffee. I’m not shocked , since we know that here everything is expensive, and also because the food was really good as well as the service, still… it is expensive and it is a pity because it would be great to visit that restaurant more often!

We managed to ski both Friday and Saturday: snow was hard and icy, but really fast. So it was fun both for me and my wife.

Beautiful view seen from the Chamanna Restaurant

On Sunday we decided to go for a walk through Val Rosegg.

Panoramic picture of the valley

The walk takes about two hours, it is mainly plain, so, no difficulties at all. At the end of it there is a restaurant/hotel which is quite good, with huge selection of desserts. We have seen that many preferred to use the coach with horses instead of walking…

Coach to the Rosegg Restaurant

Once we finished our lunch we just took some pictures at the first European Stupa a structure made mainly by ice and we headed back for our car since we had to slowly realize that our weekend was quickly finishing.

First European Stupa

Treviso

Arrived in Treviso! Luckily the rain already stopped therefore as soon as we left the car we went for a short walk through the old town… which is small but lovely. My wife loves the shopping here… we started looking for some ideas for Christmas! For the moment being we just have found gifts for us… a set of Alessi pots, called ‘Cintura di orione‘.