Time for Swiss Chocolate

Ah, Switzerland, what a cool country. My Swiss friend Pablo had been urging me to visit for years (I don’t count my visits from when I was 5 and living in Dijon), and finally I was able to do so on this trip. I’m so glad I did.

A few interesting trivia nuggets about Switzerland:

– As one of the most capitalistic countries in the world and with one of the lowest tax rates, Switzerland is by far the wealthiest country in Europe (tax haven city-states like Monaco aside), 25% wealthier than neighboring economic giants France and Germany. It also has one of the lowest unemployment levels in Europe (3.4% in 2009) and highest standards of living.

– Switzerland has four official languages: Swiss German (73%), French (21%), Italian (5%) and Romansh (1%). You are legally entitled to communicate with any government entity in any of these.

– Famous for its neutrality in international conflicts (not a participant in any wars since 1815), the Swiss were famous for their skilled mercenaries, employed in many European battles. The practice was abolished after Swiss mercenary units found themselves killing each other on opposing sides of conflicts, the only remnant being the Swiss Guard, to this day tasked with protecting the Pope. Although barred from taking part in military activities in other countries, Switzerland has one of Europe’s largest militaries and with private citizens allowed to carry arms, has more guns per capita than the United States (Machiavelli called Switzerland “most armed and most free.”)

– The Red Cross charity was founded by a Swiss, its logo the inverse of the Swiss flag (a white cross on a red background). Founder Henry Dunant was the first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

– Fiercely independent, Switzerland is not part of the European Union, maintains its own currency (the Swiss Franc) as opposed to the Euro, and was one of the last countries in the world to join the United Nations in 2002.

– Switzerland is a federal republic based on the U.S. model, although much more successful than the latter in maintaining decentralized political power. Many initiatives are run through direct democracy by referendums, and if citizens don’t like a law passed, 50,000 signatures can put that law up for a simple majority up or down vote by the populace.

– Surprisingly for such a mountainous country, Switzerland has an unbelievable rail system and by far the highest rate of passenger train travel per person in the world (2,422km/year)

– the Swiss are world-renown for their quality watches and chocolates (making, among others, one of my favorite chocolates of all time, Toblerone. The triangular shape of these represent the Matterhorn peak, the most famous mountain in the Swiss Alps.) Swiss quality also extends to my Swiss Victorinox travel backpack, which has served me flawlessly on this and previous trips and still looks new!

– We can also thank the Swiss for Nescafe instant coffee.

– Oh, and have I mentioned what an extraordinarily beautiful country Switzerland is?

Comments (5)

KerryNovember 5th, 2009 at 8:15 am

Some of those spots look familiar, are they from Lucerne?

Gabriel OpenshawNovember 5th, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Yes, the city shots are either of Lucerne or Zurich.

LeilaNovember 5th, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Very inspiring!!! Feels like a charm of Swiss chocolate creative mood got you! ))) The lines, structure, light, people, all set up decorations for you… Did you bribe them (including the Sun!) ? )))

Gabriel OpenshawNovember 5th, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Oh, definitely. Pablo has the inside political connections, and I forked over a little cash (or in some cases, chocolate). But shhhh. 😉

LigiaNovember 5th, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Unbelievably gorgeous!! I love these photos. I’m missing out on so much. My daughter and I haven’t seen any of the world. But due to your amazing and insightful work, we have decided to visit a few places next year, among which should definitely be Switzerland!

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