11 May 2011

Things Swiss People Like

Let's just get all the obvious things out of the way: dairy products, chocolate, yodeling, hiking.
A quick note about dairy products, though. As you can see by the photo snapped conspicuously on a grocery checkout line, cheese is definitely the favored milk product. The variety for sale, even at a gas station, was impressive. We hope the man above was having a dinner party, but with Swiss people you can't be too sure. Another favored lactose indulgence was cream dolloped onto meringues. That one sort of surprised us.
The Swiss flag. Almost every home hangs the red and white banner of patriotism in their front lawn. Cars place them in their windows. People wearing white-crossed baseball caps or shirts aren't necessarily tourists. It's the only square flag in the world, aside from Vatican City's. So, maybe the extra affection comes from its uniqueness.
Swiss people really like their national flag as well as the flags of the cantons and municipalities. Most often, all three are displayed together - along with any other one that signified the town or the family or the body of water. There were a lot of flags.
Large Chess Boards. At first we thought this was a one-off sighting in Bern. I'm used to couples dueling under the shade of park trees, but never standing up like this. It reminded me more of Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I than Washington Square Park.
But then we saw it again outside Luzern. Leave it to the Swiss to take one of the ultimate low-impact hobbies and make it a bit more physical. Now, if it were an enormous checkers board, it would have deserved its own post.
.5 Liter Bottles of Wine. It was rarer to find a full bottle of wine (750ml) than a 500ml one in Switzerland. In cafeterias, they were thrown into ice alongside beer. At highway rest stops, they were next to the Red Bulls in the fridge. It was nice to be able to buy two and try out the different types - also, one bottle is never really enough for two people (like us), but two is a little too much. So, these allowed us to strike the perfect balance. The downside: not necessarily wanting to have more than a glass at lunch and lugging the rest back down a mountain in your backpack. Waste not, want not.
Rare cars. The Swiss franc is doing very well and its pretty darn evident in a line up of parked cars. Most of the times, the rare cars we saw were classic BMWs, Bugattis and Maseratis. Sometimes, though, we saw something like the vehicle above. We had absolutely no idea what it was or where it came from, but there it was in Switzerland.
Paragliding. This is the thing that Swiss people liked which we got the most joy out of observing. On a Saturday or Sunday morning in the mountains, there were so many in the sky that I was half-expecting David Attenborough to begin a tale of great human migration.
We parked right next to a paragliding school and watched them land one after another, completely mesmerized. The landscape is just begging for the activity and Merlin coined it "a truly Swiss sport." I think he's right: it enjoys the natural splendor of things in a completely incomparable way. It's risky, but gentle. It involves gear, but not competitiveness. On Mother's Day, we saw at least one mom land with her husband and grown-up children cheering her on.

Honorable Mentions

Rösti aka fried, shredded potato aka Hash Browns. Sometimes they were served alongside a main course. Sometimes, with melted cheese or an egg on top, they were the main course. It was on every menu, ordered often and in great abundance in vacuum packs at the grocery stores.

Swiss products. Again, their economy is doing pretty well these days. Chain stores like COOP and Migros sold groceries that were almost exclusively Swiss. If it wasn't from Switzerland, it was labeled as such. Even menus would specify if meat was from any other country. For example, the horse meat in Gruyeres was from Canada - oddly enough.

Swiss Army Knives. Some of the window displays were absolutely comical. There's simply no way some of the combinations for sale could ever fit in someone's pocket. Of course, each had the much-loved Swiss flag on it.

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