For a landlocked country surrounded by some of the forerunners of the European Union, Switzerland holds its own as a separate entity. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, Switzerland is home to not one, but two global economically advanced cities, Zurich & Geneva. Although the stereotypical image of Switzerland revolves around banking, there is so much more to Switzerland than just money. The country is home to the Swiss Alps, and continues to thrive as one of the most complex and visually stimulating landscapes in the world. Internationally renowned ski resorts attract over a million extreme sport enthusiasts annually. Throughout history, the Swiss people have created a culture incomparable to that of its surrounding countries. Most of the products that have so famously descended from Switzerland still exist today, such as Swiss Army knives, Swiss chocolate, Cuckoo Clocks and Swiss Watches.
A Swiss Army Knife is a type of pocket knife that has additional tools such as blades, can openers and toothpicks. These tools are concealed in the handle of the knife using a swivel mechanism. The knives were first produced in 1891 and in 1893, they were the official knives of the Swiss Armed Forces. Although they were produced in the late 19th century, the Swiss Army knife didn’t become a global phenomenon until after World War II, when American soldiers coined the term “Swiss Army Knife”. The knife has evolved over time, but still is unmistakably identifiable by the infamous “Cross” logo, which represents the coat of arms of Switzerland.
With prestigious brands such as Lindt & Toblerone, it comes as no surprise that the Swiss have mastered the art of chocolate. Considered the highest quality chocolate in the world, 53% of the chocolate produced in Switzerland is exported, and the ticket price can get quite high in countries outside the homeland. The Swiss people have snagged the top spot in the quality of life index worldwide for the past decade–the fact that most Swiss chocolate is consumed by the Swiss themselves may contribute to this ranking.
Nowadays, you may not find a traditional Cuckoo Clock in every one of your friend’s homes, but one thing is for certain: you would never forget the time, had you one in your own home. The first cuckoo clock emerged in 1629, in modern day Germany and referred to a wooden, pendulum-regulated clock which was comprised of a mechanical cuckoo bird who sang a cuckoo call at every hour. Since then, many alterations and additions have been made to this clock, but one of the most fundamental improvements was the Swiss “Chalet” variation. The Chalet variation of the cuckoo clock incorporated a Swiss music box mechanism, which played music with certain hours. Many of the Swiss Chalet Cuckoo clocks also blended additional figurines such as dancers and animals.
When we think of watches, the word “Swiss” is almost simultaneously coined. Patek Philippe, Baume & Mercier, Tag Heuer, Breitling & Rolex are some of the high end watches in the world, and what do they all have in common? They are all Swiss Made. For a watch to be considered Swiss Made, it must pass a series of government-issued manufacturing regulations. A watch is only considered “Swiss Made” under Swiss Law if its movement is Swiss, its movement is cased in Switzerland, and the last inspection is conducted in Switzerland by the manufacturer. If you are in the market for a watch, I suggest you invest on your next trip to Switzerland!
If you find yourself looking for the perfect weekend getaway, winter or summer, Switzerland can certainly deliver the ultimate combination of luxury and adventure. Take your chances skiing the Alps or swinging through a canyon, and then relax with a little shopping and chocolate. As a historical and culturally diverse epicenter, Switzerland is sure to excite and surprise any visitor. Come and enjoy all things Swiss!
Photo from http://www.victorinox.com/ch where you can see all the different styles and colors of Swiss Army Knives and Tools.
As I (sadly) finish up my final days in Florence, I’ve been reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned and the memories I’ve