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Swiss embassies celebrate National Day

Ambassador Borer and his wife enjoy the holiday at the Berlin embassy


After last year's successful premiere, the Swiss ambassador in Berlin, Thomas Borer-Fielding, is once again throwing an expensive party for Swiss National Day. Borer and his wife, Texas-born Shawne Fielding, are well known for their extravagant parties promoting Switzerland.

Swiss National Day celebrations for August 1 are not only taking place in Switzerland but all over the world. One of the biggest social occasions is being held in Berlin, where Borer is throwing a party for 1,400 guests, including celebrities and politicians.

Following last year's success, Borer decided to ignore the Swiss government's plea to keep a low profile on the holiday. He chose instead to organise a two-day-and-night event for the 710th National Day - without spending one franc of tax revenue.

The Berlin celebrations are mainly sponsored by the Swiss canton of Thurgau, which has always had strong ties with Germany. Other sponsors include Aspecta Lebensversicherung, Crossair and Swatch.

Rising balloons

On Wednesday, Borer and his wife, Shawne, a former beauty queen, are entertaining their guests with several events, including a fashion show by students of Vivienne Westwood, a comedy show and a buffet featuring Swiss specialities.

The Swiss embassy also has something in store for those unable to attend the evening celebrations. A two-week holiday in Switzerland will be up for grabs in a raffle and the canton of Thurgau will dish out Swiss specialities for free at the "Haus der Schweiz" or Swiss House.

The Berlin festivities got going on Tuesday with Swiss artist Philipp Krebs presenting his new creation "FlyingWalls Berlin." One hundred and thirty-two balloons with a diameter of three metres each have been put up between the Swiss embassy and the Reichstag to form a symbolic wall, which will remain there for ten to twelve days.

Apparently, festivities organised by other embassies around the world will not come close to matching the Berlin event. Many embassies, such as the one in Washington, have not organised anything for the big Swiss day and will rely instead on local Swiss clubs.

In London and in Rome the Swiss community held their celebrations a fortnight ago.

Celebrating in Zimbabwe

In the Zimbabwean capital Harare, the Swiss club is going ahead with a small party, despite political unrest in the country. Natalie Bush of the Swiss embassy in Harare told swissinfo that celebrations there would be nothing like the Berlin events. However, she said she liked Borer's idea of having a big party.

"I think his celebrations are a good thing for Switzerland. It is important to organise something big in Germany because Germany is one of Switzerland's neighbours", she told Swissinfo.

Bush also emphasised that because of the current, somewhat tense situation in Harare, that of the 400 Swiss living in Zimbabwe, only about 100 would join the celebrations. "We will gather but we are not really in a joyful mood. There are also petrol problems, so it is only the people in Harare and around the capital who will attend the meeting."

By contrast the embassy in neighbouring South Africa is planning a series of events, including a reception for more than 350 representatives of the South African government, and business and cultural leaders. Guests will be treated to the Swiss speciality raclette and Swiss chocolate.

The ambassador, Rudolf Schaller, told swissinfo that highlights of National Day included several concerts by a well-known group of alphorn players from St Moritz, and innovative art displays by two Swiss artists.

Schaller said he approved of the festivities in Berlin, although he would not be trying to compete in the South African celebrations.

"I think my colleague in Berlin is right in trying to use his residence as a podium for presenting Switzerland," he told swissinfo.

by Billi Bierling


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