THE 5 C'S OF SWITZERLAND
THERE ARE PLENTY OF CLICHES ABOUT SWITZERLAND- AND THEY ALL BEGIN WITH C. BUT WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE ABOUT CHOCOLATE, CHALETS, CHEESE, COWBELLS AND CUCKOO CLOCKS? ASKS FLIC EVERETT
Possibly the most delicious thing about Switzerland, Swiss chocolate comes from various factories all over the country; such as Cailler- now Nestle- the very first chocolate manufacturer to settle here in 1819.
In 1875, Daniel Peter of Vevey invented milk chocolate, and ensured that Swiss cows were in work indefinitely. Lindt, Suchard, Bloch, Tobler and more followed. It's just as well, because despite the industry now being worth well over £1 billion a year, the Swiss eat most of it themselves; gobbling up 54% of what's produced.
Visitors can enjoy seeing the production process of what remains, however, in factories such as Cailler-Nestle at Broc; arriving there in the Chocolate Train for a tour; or Alprose in Lugano. Swiss chocolate is of fabulous quality, made with milk from happy cows, whose many stomachs are filled with lush meadow grass and sparkling spring water.
Cliche Rating: 4/5 but it's so nice, nobody cares if it's a cliche.
"Swiss cheese, if you're American, just means 'cheese with holes.' The fools..."
The well-known chalet style beloved of weather-houses, novelty sheds, and actual homes if you happen to live in the Bernese Oberland, actually originated in Germany in the early 1800s, and was exported to Scandinavia and parts of America. The chalet style means wooden walls, gabled, gently sloped roofs, exposed beams, decorative shutters and carvings, balconies.
They may also have apple-cheeked, happy farmers outside doing useful, rural things involving cheese and chickens.
Originally 'chalet' meant the hut of a herder on the mountain, and some were used as summer farms, left for winter when snow fell on the mountains.
When tourists began to come to Switzerland after the railways were built, chalets became popular ski lodges- and were made famous by the Chalet School books, by Elinor Brent-Dyer, published between 1925 and 1970, all about a school in a beautiful, Swiss chalet.
Now, new hotels are often built in the chalet style, as it's become so emblematic of Switzerland.
Cliche rating: 3/5 Charming and traditional, but not a huge cliche, unless your name is Heidi. Though actually, she was Austrian.
Swiss cheese, if you're American, just means 'cheese with holes.' The fools. Because Switzerland is home to many wondrous cheeses- over 450 varieties, in fact- and whilst Emmenthal is rightly famed for its hole-ridden cheeses, others, such as Vacherin, Mont D'Or, Raclette, Appenzeller or Gruyere, are hole-free and equally Swiss.
Emmenthal's holes are called 'eyes', and if you can cope with the idea of cheese watching you eat it; its nutty taste is exquisite. (Even more creepily, eye-less cheese is known as 'blind.')
The holes are created by carbon dioxide formed by bacteria added late in the process. Remember, the bigger the eyes, the bigger the flavour. (And the guiltier you might feel.)
Cliche rating: 2/5 because our idea of Swiss cheese is usually wrong. It's not always the kind used as bait in Tom & Jerry cartoons.
"Like an idiot, he picks the cowbell, which is, apparently the correct choice..."
4. COW BELLS
Cow bells are not just there to create the romantic tinkling sound at the start of European films set in rural areas.
They are, of course, to help farmers locate their cows, should they get too bold and wander off along the mountain. Made of brass, bronze or copper, and attached with a leather strap, the Swiss bells are often decorated with raised pictures of alpine flowers.
Swiss folklore offers the story of the Simmenthal, in which a young cowherd wanders inside a mountain (we don't find out how), meets a beautiful woman and is asked to choose between her, some gold coins, and a large cowbell. Like an idiot, he picks the cowbell, which is, apparently the correct choice.
Cow bells come into their own in autumn when the cows come down from the high pastures.The “Alpabzug” procession is led by the best cows, which have garlands on their horns, and are awarded special cowbells, according to their prettiness and milk production over the summer, very much like a bovine Miss World contest. “I just want to eat grass and unite cows everywhere.”
Cliche rating: 2/5 as lots of countries use cow bells- and the cow contest is wildly eccentric enough to avoid cliche.
5. CUCKOO CLOCKS
“In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock." Harry Lime's speech from The Third Man is brilliantly put- but in truth, the clock was not a Swiss invention- it originated from the Black Forest area of Germany, depicting little wooden hunting scenes.
But by the 18th century, clocks were produced in Switzerland, with little mechanical cuckoos. The best known clock company is Lötscher- its HQ is based near Zurich, and its wood carving section in Brienz.
The company makes the traditional Linden-wood chalet- style cuckoo clocks, with meticulous care- and they're very expensive as a result. The cuckoo sound is produced by a mechanism that releases air into two tiny pipes, and produces the two-note sound.
Cliche rating: 5/5. Ironic, as Switzerland didn't even invent them.