Friday, February 17, 2012

The föhn, bringer of strange tidings

Have you ever heard of the föhn? Because it is here! In Vaduz, I mean.
The föhn is a type of wind that is typical for the Alps. It blows in other parts of the world as well, but there it has a different name, usually.
This föhn is a very peculiar phenomenon. I had been warned about it by my colleagues in my first week at the office, but I had never given it any real thought. Until last Tuesday, when everything felt different.

To give a bit of an explanation about this wind: through a whole lot of meteorological movements - which I am not going to explain here - a compressed and hence warm wind is formed. This wind can elevate the temperature in no time with 10-25 degrees. The air humidity is strongly reduced, and because of sometimes very hard wind blows, the sky usually opens up and you get superb clear views over the Alps.
I think my explanation might be lacking a bit of detail - or let's say, a lot of detail - so if you want to get more (and more accurate) information, Wikipedia is the place to be I think!

When they say that the föhn brings strange tidings, I actually believe it. The day started different already with heaps of snow in Chur, very unexpectedly. When driving towards the highway, the light that has always been green so far, was now red. The highway hadn't been cleared at all, and there was even a traffic jam. A traffic jam! In Switzerland! I kid you not. Because of that, it took me one hour instead of half an hour to Vaduz.
When I arrived in Vaduz, there was already about 10 cm of snow on the ground, but the temperature seemed to be higher than normal.
In the office, I got an amazingly strong headache that seemed to come from nothing, and everybody seemed rather restless.
Then it started blowing so hard outside that even the windows started rattling. We all stopped working and stared outside, and then someone said "I think the föhn is here", and everybody went like "Aaaah." So that was my first experience with it. Yay!
When I came out of the office in the evening, literally all the snow in Vaduz had melted. All of it! In about one hour time. Now I find that strange. It was also about 5ºC as opposed to the -15 we had been having just a few days before.
To top it all off, at the end of the day while entering Chur from the highway, I was stopped by the police. It was a routine check, to see if all my papers were fine (of course they were) and because it was Valentine's Day, they gave me a pot plant. A plant! Now if that is not a strange tiding, I don't know anymore :-).

Now, at this moment, even though it has snowed in Chur again, the temperature is still above zero, and today at the office we did have very clear skies with nice views on the mountains, which brought a spring restlessness with everyone in the building . How I wanted to be out there! How everyone wanted to be out there :-).
But not to fear, dear föhn; the weekend is here, so bring it on!

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