Tuesday, 2 August 2011

So Long And Thanks To All The Swiss

I think I judged the Swiss unfairly when I wrote that "everyone seemed to lumber around like zombies". Generalisations are always lazy. I think that may just apply to everyone in Zürich. Yes, everywhere else the people were lovely, eager to return a smile, sometimes even initiating them. It's not what you expect from an even partly Germanic people. Those five years I had in Graz were spent smiling at people only to receive endless frosty glares. Don't misunderstand me. Mine weren't leery, you-fancy-some? smirks, but casual, top-o'-the-morning-to-you beamers. Bugger 'em, I thought, I'm just going to keep on smiling. Then I asked the German wife of a friend of mine what she would think if a stranger smiled at her and she replied, "I'd just think he was mental". Fair enough. But the Swiss don't think like that and, for that, I thank 'em.

And although Zürich's prissiness didn't really do it for me, as I've already written, and Lucerne looks an identical copy except for the addition of a mountain, Switzerland grew on me the farther west I went. Although at least one of my Zürich-dwelling Facebook friends described Bern as 'a toilet', I quite liked it. But I come from Blackburn, and I know a toilet when I see it. No, Bern had a bit of atmosphere. I still couldn't afford to breathe there but you can't have it all. And then, just down the road from Bern, there was Fribourg, a stunning, little place with a magnificent bridge over its huge gorge. To the west of Switzerland the villages get a little shabbier and more, well, French, but they're better for it. At least you can imagine the people there doing human things, like having sex or going to the toilet, unlike some of the places out east that I passed through. So, thank you, west Switzerland for enabling me to really enjoy the place.

But the biggest thank you for Switzerland goes to Elli, who washed my clothes, and dried my tent, provided a bed for two nights and a day-long family of cycling partners, a safe place for my bike during the maths residential and de-stinked a fatty marmot for my dinner. And then, as a bonus, she served me donkey milk for my final breakfast. It was...interesting. Apparently it's the closest thing to breast milk you can get. Apart from breast milk, which even generous Elli was reluctant to provide. So thank you, Elli.

When it comes down to it, I'm not sure of a person's motives for visiting Switzerland. There's nothing it has that its neighbours don't have, and the prices are double, but if you want to meet nice, friendly people or stay in a country where you probably won't get stabbed in the face, or if you fancy marmot stew, I suppose it's not to be entirely discounted. (Except for the marmot stew. That's only for special visitors.) If your motive is just to tick off another country or another capital then you, and I, have to accept that we're just going to have to pay for the pleasure. But I'm really glad I did, thanks.

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