National Geographic : 1986 Jan
Home is an art gallery for Oscar Ghez, a Tunisian-bornretiredrubbermagnate who bought Geneva's 123-year-oldPetit Palaisto display his private collection. Picasso's"L'Aubade" dominates the far wall of a room whose copper ceilingwas designed as an abstractwork by sculptor Alvaro Vallazza. weather is nice, they go up into the Alps. Everybody goes on the same day. The cows stay between 90 and 100 days." The milk average, he said, was very high. "But it is not possible to live by farming alone. Every winter I work as a carpenter or plasterer. "There used to be 30 farmers here, now only 18. Only one is young." He hoped his son, now studying in a nearby town, would take over the farm, but he was not sure. The departure of the farm families and others had left many of the fine old houses vacant. Some had been sold to buyers from Zurich who wanted to use them as holiday homes. Others simply decayed. The future of the village was uncertain. A lively summer tourist trade bolstered the economy, and some now wanted to build less expensive houses to meet the growing demand for holiday homes. Others felt that this would destroy the village's ambience, Switzerland: The Clockwork Country ruin the tourist trade, ruin everything. And then there was the problem at the school. I went there to talk with Clot Pult, 33, schoolmaster and mayor. The classroom was decorated with drawings of Pinocchio and the Snow King; the seven students Roland, Maia, Lucrezia, Reto, Nadia, Mar cus, Niculin-sat demurely, hiding smiles. Clot said that when he had come to the vil lage seven years before, there were 18 stu dents. Now, if the number declined by one more, the school would have to close, the children go elsewhere to study. It seemed like such a great set of problems for such a small village, but Clot wasn't about to give up. "We hope to find a family with children to come here; we will make a notice in the newspapers. We would like a baker perhaps, or a metalworker, or a weaver." He smiled: "We're only a hundred or so, a small social life, but a good life."