Sunday, July 12, 2015

All Things Swiss, Nice & Nasty...

A quaint village that borders on being a town, Grindelwald has achieved international fame for its scenic beauty and its proximity to hiking trails. The best feature of of Grindelwald is the view you get of the Eiger mountain face from almost everywhere in town.

As our Berner Oberland Bahn train rolled into Grindelwald we could feel the crisp, fresh and nippy mountain air, which was quite invigorating.

The main road of the town, Dorfstrasse bisects the city like the spine of a fish bone with other minor roads radiating out. As we walked along the Dorfstrasse, enjoying the views of the mountain face, headed to our hotel, nearly 700 metres away, we passed by shops selling mountaineering gear, hiking gear, chocolates, Swiss watches and Victorinox knives.

And that's when it struck me that German is the dominant language here, in Grindelwald. Switzerland is unique in a linguistic sense. There are three dominant languages - French, German and Italian, while a fourth language, Romansh, exists as a minority language. Linguistic diversity hasn't prevented the various Swiss cantons (states) from getting together and forming a confederation, way back in 1291.

Another thing that binds the Swiss together is money - they stayed out of the League of Nations after the First World War, but then sheltered Nazi money and Allied resources in the name of neutrality during the Second World War. It was a repeat action after the United Nations was formed - they sheltered slush funds not only from the Soviet bloc and the NATO, they also became a safe haven for the ill-gotten wealth of dictators around the world - the likes of Mobutu Seseseko of Zaire (now Congo) and the Kim's of North Korea.
So it's a bit strange when I see the wealthy Swiss around here, I know for sure that their government subsidises their life style with the slush money stashed away in the vaults of some numbered bank account in Zurich for which some guys in some remote corner of the world gave their sweat, tears and blood for....
Those are the ways of the world!

But if you thought the story of Swiss duplicity ended there, probably not. They joined the United Nations only in 2002 after years declining the membership. The Swiss stayed out of a political union and a monetary union in Europe but had no qualms accepting in a common, Schengen, visa system! That's what gets them the money! In a sense, the Swiss aren't neutral, they're aligned to money! And it's served them well.

My mind was racing with all these thoughts as our dinner came - an anchovy pizza and a mushroom risotto with loads of saffron, just as a barbecue behind us was letting out some amazing aromas. I avoided the temptation of having a barbecued calve's head!

We followed up our main course with an exciting dessert - a lemon gelato which in many ways was quite exquisite...

And as dusk set in over Grindelwald at around 2200 hours, we headed back to our hotel for a much needed rest!

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