Our home has a bomb shelter. It is downstairs in the cellar. The room is the size of a small kitchen. The door is made of thick armored steel and there is a ventilation system with an anti-gas filter. There is also a toilet in a box. I am not sure how any of this works but our landlord said the directions are on the wall.
Air filter with instructions in all of Switzerland’s official languages
We are not unique. Since the 1960’s it is a legal requirement that every person has a protected place that they can reach quickly from their place of residence. There are shelters in all apartment buildings, office buildings, shopping malls and most public buildings. As of 2006, there was enough coverage for 8.6 million inhabitants, or a coverage of 114 percent. Though Switzerland has always been neutral, the government claims that “Neutrality is no guarantee against radioactivity”. In 2005, with the Cold War over, some tried to argue the case against the shelters as they no longer seemed to be necessary and they are very expensive to build and tear down when a building is destroyed. The law still stands with the threat of terrorism and dirty bombs.
Most people use their shelters for junk but I know the Cold War is a real threat or rather the War on Cold. My shelter is going to help me survive the approaching winter and come out unscathed.
I hate the cold. I hate the rain even worse. Even though Joost insists that Basel is the Swiss Riviera, I know what is about to befall me is nothing as I imagine a Riviera. Palm trees and pool boys bearing cocktails with umbrellas, I think not. Instead, I see buckets of freezing rain and perhaps even snow. All of this is fine if one is inside which is where I intend to be as much as possible when winter bears down on us. So, in order to not have to forage for food in the cold and rain, I must stock the larder(aka bomb shelter) now, much like our forebears did many years ago as they prepared for the mean and harsh winters.
We do not have a car, which for Angelenos is like saying we no longer have legs or some other vital part of our body. Most days, we do not really need one. The tram is steps away from our front door. Joost now merrily takes off to work with a book in his hand to read on the trip to work. Instead of battling the 405, he is now engaging in reading literature. Charlie can walk to school and I either walk or take the tram to wherever I need to go. It is only an inconvenience for when one wants to buy a lot of something. Like provisions for winter.
So, my challenge is how to fill the bomb shelter with all we need for winter. The bomb shelter comes equipped with a wine rack, a freezer and shelving. A big Cotsco run is not a possibility. So I become like the squirrels who stock up their dens a little at a time. Everyday, I go to the store for what is needed that day plus a little more in the non-perishable department. Yesterday, it was laundry detergent. Today, it will be some frozen food. Tomorrow maybe canned soup and wine. Whatever I can carry in my two reusable bags. Down the stairs it goes, into the bomb shelter. We will be prepared for whatever comes our way – whether it’s Putin and his foolishness or a big freeze. These American pioneers will survive!