Travel, they say, opens your mind to possibilities. This article is not meant to be an Ode to a Foreign Country. It’s a simple sharing of what I loved most about Switzerland. Let’s start with something simple, but very vital.
I know that Japan takes the cake when it comes to jaw-dropping precision and efficiency of their train system. But that technology is somewhat new and controlled mostly by computers. The public transportation in Switzerland cannot compare to the shinkansen, however, they are almost just as efficient, in a more laid-back manner. First of all, there is still variety --- trams, bus, trains, and cabs. When used all together, there is no area deemed unreachable (well, unless it’s on some minor peak of the Alps, of course).
Second, it’s really accessible for the elderly, people in wheelchairs and parents with strollers. There are no hard climbs or steep descents to dark underground trains. If there is any sort of elevation or demotion, there are access lifts to get you there. Third, they are 99.9% always on time. It would take heavy snow or hell rising over to delay their transportation. It was refreshing to know that you could rely on the exact second a train or a tram will pass by, giving you freedom to plan your day around it.
No wonder the Swiss is known for their efficiency. It makes a difference when you have more control of your travel time within a day to know exactly what you can or cannot accomplish. That’s also why it feels like a crime to be late to anything in Switzerland. You cannot blame the usual intangibles such as traffic or bad road conditions. If you’re late, it’s you, dude, not traffic.
Parks and Activity Areas
John Ruskin, an art and architecture visionary, once said, “The measure of any great civilization is its cities, and a measure of a city’s greatness is to be found in the quality of its public spaces, its parks and squares.”
This is nowhere more evident than in Switzerland, where their parks are known for being well-managed. It’s true, parks there don’t have to do much because their natural scenery alone is beautiful enough. They are also not big fans of too much edifices in their public spaces. They can take any random open space, and call it a park. And they actually go to the park and use it! Some of the most memorable memories we made were in the parks surrounding Lake Geneva. It was a nice to change to breathe some fresh air, even if you were in the middle of a metropolis.
I love cheese. In my humble opinion, there is nothing on earth that can’t be improved by putting cheese on it. Imagine how deliriously happy I was to be in the land of Gruyere and Emmentaler! The Swiss eat a lot of cheese --- in a recent study it was discovered that the Swiss eat around 22kg of cheese per annum, a figure just a bit lower than that of France.
Growing up Pinoy, my favorite cheese is Kraft Eden Cheese. I’m not knocking it, I still like processed cheese. I also later learned to like kesong puti from Laguna, on a steaming hot pan de sal. But the moment I realized that there are other types of cheeses in the world was a Eureka moment. If you ever find yourself in a shop which sells good products from the country (try Santi’s), here’s my top 3 recommendations:
Gruyere – when Gruyere meets heat, it creates magic. Trust me on this. My rookie mistake was eating it straight up with just crackers. Sure, this works, but melted Gruyere enhances the nutty, sweet flavor of the cheese making it taste 10x better. Try putting it on anything baked – eggs, shrimps, spinach, anything! This is also the usual cheese used when doing a classic fondue. I have tried it with Purefoods hotdogs and I can’t even. Try it!
Emmentaler – this is what Americans call “Swiss Cheese” and is made famous by its holes. When I was a kid, I believed the ole Tom and Jerry trope that those holes were made by mice. But these days, I have been enlightened. Apparently, those holes were created by hay fallen on the cheese while it is being processed. When Emmentaler is exported to countries like Italy, they sometimes make the holes even bigger because Italians like it that way. I usually eat this with crackers (light rye crackers available at Healthy Options)
Raclette – Raclette is a type of dish, but also the name of a type of cheese, usually used in making…. you guessed it, Raclette. This one may be an acquired taste because of its pungent taste and smell. I was told that raclette is good enough to be eaten by itself, but hey, I’m not a Swiss shepherd in the Alpine meadows. I need my bacon. Bacon and melted raclette, with a couple of onion slices and a bottle of ginger ale. That’s my last meal in prison if it ever comes to that. The Swiss are quite emphatic that you don’t eat raclette and drink water. Not if you want the cheese to congeal within you, thereby forcing you to give birth to a cheese baby on your next bathroom visit. There’s some science behind it, so who am I to argue? It’s usually paired with wine, but I don’t usually go for stuff like that, so I take ale. Ginger ale.
Laderach Chocolates, photos from their site
I’m Asian. Rice is life. But if there is one thing that could make me give up rice, it’s if I could have chocolate instead. Chocolate, to me, is its own food group. It makes me go, glow, and grow all by itself. But also, it made me diabetic, so I will be more careful if I were you. It sucked major balls that I was a diabetic in the land of Swiss chocolates. But since rice is hard to get by in Europe, I was able to justify eating bits and nibbles of different kinds of chocolates instead.
I love my Curly Tops, but Swiss chocolate is distinctively creamier and richer. That’s as far as I go in comparing because our tablea in champorado beats any chocolat au chaud anywhere else. But yeah, chocolates made from the happiest cows in the world has something in it that just makes it really, really, really good.
And lastly, we come to this.
The scenery is just so breath-taking! It has managed to be iconic the world over. And it’s not just one place --- the beauty of the Alps can be found from anywhere, in multiple angles. It makes me want to learn how to yodel. Ha!
But I think the point I am driving across here is that, the Swiss were able to live their life with nature. They were formed by these mountains, fed by these hills. They have learned to love basking in the joy of the outdoors, and understand the delicate balance that connects them to their environment. They don’t strip their forests to build housing for the elite or one too many golf courses or a mall. It is possible to live conscientiously in nature, and with nature. It just gives me hope and lots of inspiration on how to raise my son to be more in tune with nature.
With this, I leave you a travel quote from an unknown Appalachian Trail Hiker which I find apt for this occassion.
“All you need to know is that it’s possible.”
Smell ya later,