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The traveler: An expected journey This time it's the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden & Norway before England again for several weeks and on to Croatia.

Stunning Switzerland

SWITZERLAND | Monday, 5 October 2015 | Views [309] | Comments [1]

Switzerland is renowned for its natural beauty and I was fortunate to stay with a family in a particularly gorgeous place. I arrived in the evening just in time for dinner on the deck. We ate with a 180 degree view over the still waters of Lake Thunasse and the mountains on the other side standing against the horizon. We had an assortment of local cheeses with small potatoes, and a tomato salad. The father told me traditionally most Swiss were farmers. They would have cheese from their cows, and cooked enough potatoes for dinner that there would be leftovers for breakfast which they would fry, what we'd call home fries. After the main meal the children made a desert with a soft noodle made entirely from a chestnut past, and whipped cream.
That evening we talked about the standing Swiss army. All young men (20 if I remember correctly) are required to complete a several month training course in defense. If they choose not too they can instead serve in the civil service sector, but for twice the amount of time. Women are allowed to do the same thing, but it's not required. After the initial training they are required to pass a practical shooting test every year until they turn 40. My host said he'd always aim to score just high enough to pass and leave as quickly as he could. His father didn't understand why he didn't want to shoot more. While men are in "active" service they're required to keep all of their equipment at home meaning that not only are all men trained to shoot well, but that a great many have guns in their homes. My host said it is really surprising that Switzerland doesn't have more incidents like the US. When my host family extended their home they were also required to buy 4 spaces for a total of 10,000 Swiss-Francs (about the same in dollars) in the bunker in town as they did not want to put one in their house. My host said the whole defense scheme really isn't necessary anymore, and in his opinion is just a waste of a lot of money.
The following morning I went with the mother up into the mountains where they share a winter cabin with several other families. The cabin was just like a typical climbing hut; the bedrooms filled with mattresses lined up next to each other ready for sleeping bags during the ski season. While she tended to a few things inside I was free to walk around the green valley beneath the towering mountains, the mist drifting through. It was picture perfect Switzerland! I'd been wanting to find a place in the mountains near this very spot, but no one on my lists lived there, so I choose the family by the lake. How incredible that they gave me the opportunity to visit this place!
In the afternoon I strolled around Thun, the largest town, with it's beautiful covered bridges and bright blue water. Later I came to the castle and spent the rest of the afternoon making my way up the floors with different exhibits. Most of the information was in English as well as German. Still I think I prefer the historically decorated buildings because they're so memorable, and yet without so many descriptions and dates.
For dinner back at the house over the lake the father fixed fondue, which to my surprise I learned is Swiss, not French. Perhaps everyone else knows that? He said it is a winter dish, eaten when the weather gets colder. Our meal was the first fondue of the season.
At some point when I asked what is important about Switzerland that most people don't know my hosts said Switzerland used to be a very poor country. In the rocky soil it was hard to grow crops, so the people mostly relied on livestock, hence the prevalence of cheese. Only when the Western Europeans began coming to Switzerland to climb the mountains in the 19th and 20th centuries did the country begin it's transition to the wealthy one that it is today.
The last morning I accompanied the mother to the high school where she teaches part time. For a great majority of my visit the of us had been discussing the education systems in Switzerland and America. They are so different! The school day itself is extremely different to start with. Children almost always come home from school for 2 hours at lunch time. This is obviously a challenge for some parents nowadays if they're both working. The school day also starts and ends at different times on different days. Throw in another schedule if you have 2 children, like my host family, and you certainly need a spread sheet like they had. Something that I found extremely impressive was the amount of time devoted to each child to help them decide what they want to do for a career. They start thinking about it when they're 14 and by the time they finish school at 18 they've done several research projects, and internships. Even children, who in our country would be assumed to be incapable of holding long term jobs, are helped in finding positions that would suite them. The employer may pay them less due to whatever their disability is, but the government makes up the difference in their salary. They figure this is more worthwhile than having people unemployed. High school children with learning difficulties, who are unmotivated receive a personal coach, who will even come to their house in the morning, wake them up and ask why they're not in classes. Some motivation eh!

My hostess teaches 3 classes with the same 10 high school students at one of the several small high schools in Thun. Usually classes are about 20 kids, but she teaches students with some learning disabilities so the class is smaller. Though they didn't speak much English the students were interested in me, and asked my hostess a bit in German. At the end of art class they spoke a few words of English to invite me to join the picture matching game. Being at a Swiss school was certainly an experience that the average visitor would never have had.

 

Comments

1

I always read your posting first but this time I must confess your jaw-dropping picture made me exclaim at the unbelievable beauty of where you got to stay! I immediately looked at the following pictures, sighing.
So happy you got to absorb it in though I know you would have liked to stay longer.

  Yvonne Oct 6, 2015 8:23 AM

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