Years ago, I was spending the Swiss National Day in the garden of my new friends in La Tour-de-Peilz in Vaud. It was my first celebration and I was in my first trip abroad, completely on my own, as a teenager ready to discover the world. Somehow, in my creative mind, I was expecting that the national day should be celebrated with huge parties and fireworks and who knows what other glamorous activities. Instead, we were eating some finger food, talking casual whit some ambiance music in the background.
There were some fireworks, and maybe some dances somewhere, but nothing outstanding. Around 2 o’clock everyone was at home, resting for the next day. It was my first Swiss National Day celebration and was not sure what I should think about it. If at the time I would have had a blog, most probably it were the same question hunting me: what should I write about Switzerland? Everything was so ‘perfect’, from the fresh green colour of the grass, to the clean cities where it was that clean that I had my 5 hippie moments and walked barefoot in Zürich. The quiet streets and the even more quiet Sundays when I was the only person walking on the street, curious to see as much as possible, even it meant to walk on my own to the neighbouring castles and other small villages or to Montreux for the jazz festival. How was it possible that everyone is so calm and not nervous at all, especially the drivers? Was it because it is supposed that people living in Switzerland are outrageously rich? I am not sure it was the right reason, as most of the people I’ve met during my first trip and after were normal, hard-working people with a serious working philosophy and a limited budget, as everyone else. Maybe the nature is a reason for such serenity: the Alps and the lakes and parks and gardens were the deterrent of any dark thoughts and anger. Eventually, when you are unhappy with your life, you do some horseback riding – a passion I’ve discovered during that trip – or you walk your cute Saint Bernard and everything is gone.
Switzerland is beautiful in all seasons. Actually, a winter-hater as me, can love snow only in two places: here and in Norway. I don’t need to learn skiing – when this will happen, expect wonders in the world. It is enough to spend my whole day somewhere on the top of the mountains looking around at the majestic rocks.
Many European countries use their national days as an occasion to tell thousand years old stories about their histories. Switzerland is relatively young – 722 years old -, but the history of the unification of the Swiss cantons is everywhere in the souvenir shops – remember the huge pens with the symbols of the cantons. Every single battle or relevant moment is reminded accordingly: I remember that once we went somewhere in Vaud, and somewhere at the corner of the street it was a small rock in the memory of the passing of Napoleon. If you go in the French area, especially, you will hear a lost of nice historical stories about the past of the Swiss lands that you will rarely find in the history books.
I am sure that many people know that Switzerland is even more than nature: excellent exhibitions are regularly opened. One of my favourites places is in Valais, in Martigny, where I’ve seen years ago an extraordinary Degas exhibition hosted by Foundation Gianadda. This year, the invitation is for Modgliani and l’Ecole de Paris, open till November so maybe I will have time to go there.
Somehow, Switzerland is associated with top notch prices – but also with cows, and chocolate and cheese (I’ve seen all of them, of course) – and you rarely plan a holiday there unless you have a lot of money. This may be true for cities as Geneva or Zürich, but remember that Lausanne is a student city and besides the young life on the streets, one may also find affordable places for accommodation and fun. As long as you plan your trip, it’s impossible not to find some good deals.
Switzerland is for everyone: teenagers, busy businessmen and women, families with children, solo travellers – it’s one of the safest countries in Europe – multi-lingual aficionados – Romansh language continues to be a challenge for the linguists, hikers, artists, researchers and simple travellers.
Happy birthday Switzerland! See you soon!