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Young Chemists in Eastern Switzerland: Metrohm and Mountains

The winners of the global Metrohm Young Chemist Award visited us in Herisau in the first week of December to present their award-winning research at Metrohm International Headquarters. While Antonella, Bibekananda, and Sophia were here, we showed them the best of eastern, central, and western Switzerland. Our Tour de Suisse started in the home of Metrohm, in the Alpine foothills of eastern Switzerland.

Seventy-five years ago, Metrohm was founded in the small town of Herisau in eastern Switzerland. To this day, this is where Metrohm International Headquarters is located. When the three winners of our international Metrohm Young Chemist Award arrived in Switzerland, I had just returned home from my world tour myself. But it was time to get on the road again and explore Metrohm’s home country with our guests.

Swiss-Made: Manufacture of Analysis Instruments at Metrohm in Herisau

We started with Metrohm itself, as there’s a lot to see in our headquarters. Metrohm International Headquarters is not only where new instruments and applications are developed. The production of Metrohm instruments also takes place here, and nearly all parts are made in house. Our visitors were astonished to find that even simple, seemingly insignificant constituents were manufactured in house. But our experts at Metrohm know that the devil is in the details, and they’ve learned from experience that in-house production is the only way to ensure top quality.

Showing our Young Chemist Award winners Sophia, Antonella, and Bibekananda around Metrohm’s production facilities in Herisau

Säntis: Eastern Switzerland’s Landmark Mountain

After our tour of Metrohm, we had to send Sophia off, as she had to catch a flight back to Montreal where her new job at nanotechnology startup CelluForce was waiting for her. Antonella, Bibekananda, and I kicked off our Swiss tour in the mountains of eastern Switzerland. We drove up to Schwägalp, which is the starting point of the Mt. Säntis cable car. Here, we wanted to enjoy some time in the snow, stay the night, and take the cable car to the summit in the morning to see the stunning panorama: on a clear day, you can see six countries from the summit of Mt. Säntis.

The new hotel at Schwägalp with the cable car station on the left

Unfortunately, unpredictable weather is not unusual in the mountains. So, instead of snow, we got heavy rain and wind, and even lightning and thunder. Our only option was to watch the storm from the cozy fireplace at our hotel and hope for better weather in the morning.

When we woke up, the storm had ceased and the cable car was running again. The summit of Säntis was still covered by dense clouds, but we decided to go up anyway. We didn’t get the view we had been hoping for—but we could at least enjoy the snow up here at 2502 meters above sea level.

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Historic St. Gallen

At the Abbey Library

Just 10 kilometers from Herisau lies the city of St. Gallen. The city grew around the Abbey of Saint Gall, which was dissolved in 1805, but still attracts tourists from around the globe with its famous library. Of course, we wanted Antonella and Bibekananda to see it as well, so we took them on a guided tour of St. Gallen’s most precious gem.

Before entering, we had to cover our shoes with giant felt slippers to protect the old parquet floor. The Abbey Library of Saint Gall is one of the oldest libraries in the world and the oldest in Switzerland. It is housed in a Baroque hall built in the 18th century CE but the collection dates back to the 8th century CE. In addition to almost 200’000 books, the library owns one of the most important collections of manuscripts in Europe. Many of these manuscripts were copied in tedious handwork by monks of the Abbey of Saint Gall, while others were brought by monks from all over Europe traveling to Rome, as St. Gallen was a way station for them.

Chocolate and Cheese

We concluded our visit in eastern Switzerland with some Swiss favorites: chocolate and cheese. We escaped the cold, rainy weather at a local chocolaterie to have some freshly prepared, dark hot chocolate, and later we had fondue for dinner. Fondue is essentially a pot full of melted cheese in which you dip bread cubes. It’s only eaten in winter, and Swiss people look forward to Fondue season all year long. However, we weren’t able to convince our Indian friend Bibekananda of the concept of cheese as a staple food …

Fondue: Cheese, cheese, and more cheese

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