Great things about Switzerland – Part 1

Okay, it may be a touch early to start eulogising about all things Swiss – but there is more to Swizzerland than neutrality and moustaches.

Life here is basically easy because the Swiss are as efficient as Terminators. There is a good reason why they haven’t gone to war: they’d be too good at it. They would eradicate entire armies with teutonic precision and turn airbases and barracks into laser level carparks so that they could park their Audi tanks in perfect formations and then have a fondue. Although this portrays the Swiss as a league of potential serial killers, I rather admire their aspiration to perfection; not accepting anything unless it is just so. Because of this I reckon there must be – at best – 10 Swiss people in the UK. 

Without further ado, here is the usual bullet pointed, digestible tract:

  1. Cheese The UK has cheddar and the Swiss have Gruyere. Game over. You can go into a shop and ask for a piece of Gruyere the size of your head and they’ll just nod and hand over a huge slab in exchange for coins. You can also buy Vacherins for fun. This is a good thing.
  2. Snow Management This Swiss would only get worried if there was another ice age – like the one in The Day After Tomorrow – and even then they’d get annoyed if the trains didn’t run on time. There was a shot in the film that showed the artic tundra stretching as far down as northern Africa. What it didn’t show were the roads in Swizzerland that were ploughed and gritted as the big freeze took place. I think that the Swiss snowplough all year round; with sad, imported labour lashed to the steering wheels like lost sailors. 
  3. Chocolate The UK has Cadburys the Swiss have Lindt. Game over. I really like chocolate – but I am a bit of a chocolate snob and only like stuff that has cocoa in it. You know, the most important ingredient. Cadburys tastes like shit and swiss chocolate tastes lovely. All of it. Even the budget brands. Even stuff they feed the ducks (they do this so that they can emotionlessly watch ducks on a sugar rush land on frozen ponds). Okay, they don’t feed ducks chocolate, but they could, it’s that cheap. 
  4. Litter There is no litter in Swizzerland. It is just not there. I’ve looked for it, I even had a sneaky peak inside a litter bin and there was nothing in it. I went to the déchet (Swiss recycling centre) and it was immaculate, like it was about to have a visit from Sting or something. The streets and shops are spotless and when we popped across the border to France (and the food mecca that is Carrefour), the filth was noticeable – it was like stepping out from an Apple Store into a medieval moshpit. I openly admit to being a neat freak but the Swiss make me feel like a bum.
  5. Public Transport I got the train (again, pristine) the other day from Rolle to Lausanne and it was due at 15.37 and the Swizzers on the platform were tapping their feet and tutting at 15.36. You could see the train pulling in, but apparently it was late. The driver was humanely destroyed. It’s kind of otherworldly experience when you arrive from a place where a train timetable is a work of fiction; sprayed with arbitary times that merely give you something to look at as you toe a half eaten Burger King on a urine smelling platform waiting for a train with a multitude of issues and seemingly endless obstacles to overcome. You then feel half grateful that it’s actually arrived at all so you don’t mind standing for five hours next to the toilets…that don’t flush and probably never have. In the UK the train companies are all about brand and experience and all the train companies have swooshy logos and strident livery on aging rolling stock and every station has about 6 different food franchises so you have choice. It’s very important to feel as if you are having a great train experience rather than actually having a great train experience. In Swizzerland the train company is called SBB and, in contrast, is pretty no-nonsense: the logo is dull, the trains are boring and there isn’t a huge choice of snack bars; but that’s because SBB worry more about the trains getting to where they need to get to on time.
  6. Bread I always thought the French made bread better than anyone. UK bread is full of raising agents, stabilisers and preservatives so tastes kind of rubbery. There are artisan bakeries popping up everywhere (they used to be known as just bakeries, back in the day) baking loaves of bread on the premises…but each loaf costs as much as a 1/2 a litre of Scotch, so they should taste blooming good. The Swiss, it transpires, are belting bread bakers and their bread is simply exquisite. You can – at a push – buy bog-standard sliced bread (a la Sunblest) and it’s made in Germany and is called Inglander Shiester Borden…or something; it has a picture of a Royal Life Guard, for some inexplicable reason.

That’s all folks. I should be posting with more regularity – but I am reet busy with work and I have moved to a new country, Though I did impress myself today by asking for an Allan Key drill bit for an electric screwdriver and actually found it…as opposed to arriving in the lubricant aisle or biscuits for cheese aisle. So…progress.


24 thoughts on “Great things about Switzerland – Part 1

  1. Loved every line of it – as usual – but the BREAD THING?!? Hmmmm…
    I’m going to have to come and try this out but I guess it is arguable. Even though we – the french – are the Worldwide Masters of La Baguette I wouldn’t bet on us having the best breads all round. But my boulanger makes a mean ciabatta. lol

    That said, we do have the best cheeses though. And I know you know I know you know what I’m talkinbout.

    1. The french make the best cheeses? I think the italians would give you a run for your money. Besides, the French only make three cheeses: Boursin, Laughing Cow and MiniBabyBel and I think the last is Swiss anyway…

      [runs for cover]

      1. If only you were rooting for you local cheddar…….but italians?!!!! You’ve lost me dude. (I like saying dude)

        Granted, the 3 cheeses italians can manage to make when they’re not busy buying sunglasse taste really nice. But hold on, why is it that it always has to be mixed with something?!!

        Mozza only comes to life when bathed in olive oil on top of ripe tomato chunks and sprinkled with fresh basil
        Gorgonzola tastes lovely in a creamy pasta sauce or quatro fromaggi pizza and
        Ricotta only tastes something when stuffed in a big fat ravioli

        I don’t even count Mascarpone as cheese, that’s just an ingredient to make tiramisu.

        But better than writing, next time you come over, I’ll make you a nice platter of italian mozzarella while Laura, Perez and I dig in the plateau de fromages français….! Hmm.
        Are you hurting now?

      2. You’re missing Pecorino cheeses, Parmesan, Dolcelate, Provolone, Romano and Tellegio to name but a few. I’d quite happily dig into a plate of that lot…though I’d wash it down with French wine and put it on French bread with President butter on it. Oh, and give me a Citroen over a Fiat any day of the week.

  2. Now when it comes to chocolate, I have to say I have a profound affection for Cadbury’s. I attended Bourneville School of Art and each morning got off the bus to a whaft of chocolate. I also met my soulmate there. So short of doing something REALLY stupid, like selling the whole damn factory to a load of dodgy yanks, I’m afraid you will struggle to persuade me that Cadbury’s isn’t a world beater.

    Everything else I agree on. I have always held a place in my heart for Gruyere, as its fragrence amongst cheeses is the one that most closely resembles my old chap. Who in their right mind would want a toasted Chedder cheese sandwich straight out the Duallit or a water biscuit with a few shavings of farmhouse mature cheddar and a dollop of Branston on top when they could have Gruyere? It’s simply inexplicable that Cheddar is singularly the worlds most popular cheese. Give us a packet of Walkers Gruyere and Onion, that’s what I say.

    Next there is Switzerland. I’ve always found it comforting to have my untaxed wedge lying in a bank next to torturers nazis and drug dealers. This is a country that sidestepped The Gay Rights Movement, Sufferagettes and the Magna Carta. So now the place is blissfully free of hairy lezzo’s, sodomites, agitators, women with an attitude problem and uppity working class oiks like that John Lennon Bloke.

    The Renaissance, Post Impressionism, Poetry, Popular music and literature have also left the country largely unscathed. There is hardly a writer, painter, playwright, actor, comedian, comedy show, film, sculptor, rap artist, dancer, wit or raconteur I can think of that is Swiss, but then it is almost midnight and I’m sure one will come to me in the morning.

    I can remember using a ski lift and a young boy telling me it was “Verbotten” to use the ski lift without pulling the perspex shield down. He became very agitated when I failed to do so. A bit like in Germany where it is “Verbotten” to wash your car in the street. Or Singapore, where it is “Verbotten” to spit your chewing gum out on the pavement. The efficiency and civic pride of these places make England seem like such a dismal, depressing little country.

    Then there are the trains. Only the other day I was sitting on a pile of discarded McDonalds boxes and free newspapers on the train home. I was immediately set upon by a gang of hoodlums, held down, buggered and had the word “Chelsea” scratched on my forehead with a bit of broken glass. The ticket cost me £87 for a three mile journey. The train was, er not late actually. Because British Trains do actually run bang on time 95 % of the time. But anyway, just a small detail.

    Contrast this with the trains of Switzerland as they weave their way gently through the snow-capped mountains. Last time I was on one a scantily-clad young woman was walking up and down handing out Toblerone. When I got home the train company had credited 20 Francs to my bank account to say thank you for using the service.

    Sadly, however, the train was late.


  3. provolone or peccorino are great cheeses but still a huuuge stretch from camembert, roquefort and comté…not even mentioning crottin de chèvre, cantal and meursault…or munster…or the other 465 sorts. it’s just the sheer variety, regional specificity and excellence of each sort that is..well, unbeatable in my opinion. a cheese to complement each meal, and a wine to complement each cheese…and low fat yogurts to help us all the morning after!!

    i do think italian food is amazing though…probably prefer it over french actually. antipasti, primi piati, secondi piati…hmmm There’s just something about olive oil…french cuisine is all about butter and cream

    ps: french purists never eat butter with cheese. it’s like spreading foie gras. big no no with the frogs. but i do it. and it has to be President. lol

  4. Seriously – people always hear about the chocolate and the cheese, but the stuff that accompanies the cheese is pretty damn awesome. An Italian in a Swiss bakery is like a kid in a candy store, or a horny man in a strip club: it’s just too good to be true. And have you had freshly baked potato-walnut bread toasted with butter? I never used the phrase “it’s like crack” before, but it seems oddly apt when I think about that kind of simple deliciousness.

  5. Great public transport? Brilliant snow clearing machinery? Amazingly swept streets? Well, they had to spend all that Nazi gold on something, right?

    Also, you’re quite wrong about cheese. The UK has an incredible range of wonderful cheeses. I could bore you with a list but let’s not. I’m just going to say Wensleydale and leave it at that. Hey, and Gruyere is fine as far as it goes, but it ain’t very versatile. Agree about bread, though it is now possible to get some pretty amazing bread in the UK if you look hard enough.

    1. Don’t forget the Vatican’s millions!

      UK cheese is awesome and I am going back soon to stock up on some decent cheddar, Wensleydale and Stilton – oh how I miss Stilton…

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