Sending Away for a Swiss Army Knife

 

There is no doubt; I am still a child at heart.

Shortly after moving to Switzerland, we made a trip to Gruyères to taste cheese and visit the village.  During our cheese tour I came across a promotional offer for Swiss cheeses.

“receive a free cheese knife with four swiss cheese proof of purchase and 20 francs”

It immediately caught my eye because this promotion wasn’t for just any cheese knife.  It was for the ultimate utilitarian cheese knife made by Swiss Army.  Complete with cheese blade, cerated bread blade and, of course, corkscrew bottle opener.  I knew immediately I had to have it.

Given my penchant for cheese, it took no time at all to collect enough proofs of purchase to send away for my knife.  I honestly didn’t know what to expect when dropping the envelope into the mail.  Did I translate the offer correctly? How long would it take?  Would I ever see my Swiss Army cheese knife?

But with the precision of a Swiss watch, my cheese knife arrived in the mail less than two weeks later.  With the eagerness and awe of a small boy I opened my package. I didn’t image that such a treasure could be had so easily!

The box

The anticipation builds

And….cheese knife!

Blades for cheese and bread

Corkscrew for wine

 

Since that time it has gotten lots of use during our time in Geneva…picnics at the lake, road trip snacks, train ride meals with family/friends and, most recently, ski weekend meals in the mountains.

The French Cougar using the knife on the Glacier Express

So don’t forget to ask to see the cheese knife the next time you see me.  I am always happy to show off my new toy.

A Page from the Swiss Rule Book: Duties of Swiss Citizens

Many say Switzerland is said to have the most trained army in the world.  For a neutral country, you might find it surprising.   However, with their central location and a century of world wars, they had a need to be prepared.

Even today, as a Swiss man, you must serve in the military. If you aren’t qualified to be in the military or don’t fit the requirements, you can be exempted.  However, you must pay an additional 3% income tax until the age of 30.

As a Swiss woman, you can volunteer to serve, but it isn’t required.  It also isn’t required for foreigners.

My 86-year old French teacher, E, has told us on multiple occasions about the potato patches that apartment dwellers were allowed to cultivate in city parks.   She went on to say that if you own land in Switzerland, you are still required keep a potato patch.  Thus, if the country goes to war, there is a food supply to rely on.  I haven’t been able to find much evidence of it online, but I find it interesting that it could be still residual from WW2.  Although, a simple trip to the grocery store shows that they are in full agreement of supporting their own food infrastructure as a result of the wars.

You may recall from our post on our basement, that all buildings must have bomb shelters.  In fact, Switzerland can house 114% of its citizens in these fortifications if something happens.

Today, you can tour many of the secret fortresses built in the World Wars.  Many of the links below detail more about the cool places you can visit.

Related Links:

Rick Steves – Swiss Military Secrets

Wikipedia – Gun Politics in Switzerland

The Adventures of Miss Widget and Her People – In Plain Sight: Villa Verte and Villa Rose

Schwingen in Switzerland – The Swiss Army – Ready to Blow Their Country to Smithereens

Schwingen in Switzerland – The Tobelerone Line, One Sweet Barrier

Schwingen in Switzerland – Why didn’t Hitler invade Switzerland?

Schwingen in Switzerland –   Fun in the Alpine Fortress of Furigen

The Swiss Rule Book: Drinking in Public

Drinking in public isn’t a big deal in Europe.    We are constantly reminded of this with our guests.  We bring along a bottle of wine to a picnic or on a train and they ask us, “you can’t actually drink that here, can you?”.     The answer is yes.      Europeans are far more lax about things like this.  As a result, there are actually far less drunk people because it isn’t so taboo.  In fact, the Swiss can start drinking wine and beer at 16.  It’s 18 for hard liquor.  And, we have never seen drunk teens.

Here are a few photographic reasons to further demonstrate the point:

Recently, in Italy, we had a glass of champagne at a risotto fair.   They gave us cloth glass holders to string around our neck so that we could take it “to go”.   This has become my favorite new accessory.

Me with my champagne glass necklace, walking around town

They  put reminders up about the legal drinking age:

Babies can't drink in public.

Babies can’t drink in public.

However, some don’t pay attention.

Before….

After….

Sorry little guy.  You have to wait a few years.

And, those ‘on duty’ don’t mind enjoying a cold one.

This guy might have just had his 16th birthday

People drink in random places.   It is most common on the bus to see a guy in a suit enjoying a beer on his way home from work.   I prefer this photo of a lady in her 70’s opening up her bottle she purchased grocery shopping and drinking it out of the bottle at the bus stop.  There is no time like the present.

It’s 5 o’ clock somewhere.

Here’s hoping that this New Years Day, you didn’t have too much to drink!

8 Fun Facts about Lake Geneva

I find it interesting that many of our guests have the takeaway that from first impression, Lake Geneva appears small.

Image courtesy of Lake Geneva Region Tourism.  This map makes it look small too!

The first few times someone mentioned this, it perplexed me……Lake Geneva is so big.   In fact, it takes over an hour at top speed on a freeway to drive to the end of it.   Driving around the perimeter on good roads takes about 2.5 – 3 hours.

There is not a bad view driving around the lake.

But, looking more thoroughly, I see where someone could come up with this conclusion from the vantage point of the city of Geneva.  Geneva rests at the far west end of the lake, at the very end.   Not to mention, the city lies in the skinniest alcove of the lake.   Thus, at first glance, the body of water appears that it stops soon after Geneva.

How one might think the lake ends over there on the horizon…..

In actuality, the visible part in the picture above is just this portion. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

So, on today’s blog post, just wanted to clear up this issue by providing a few fun facts on Lake Geneva:

1 – It is big!  Specifically, the lake takes up 224 square miles.

2 –Driving around it can add time to your European road trip.    The Mt Blanc tunnel costs 48 euros (around 75 USD) to travel through one-way.   The tunnel takes 20 minutes.  The other option is driving around Lake Geneva, which could add 3 hours to your trip.

Mt. Blanc dominates the lake

3 – It is deep!  Because it is an Alpine lake, it mimics the Alps, in the inverse.   The average depth of Lake Geneva is 507 feet.

4 – It has dual citizenship in two countries.   About 60% lies in Switzerland and 40% lies in France.  Multiple ferries traverse the water each day and are often used by commuters.  In fact, in the below photo taken in Montreux, we are standing in Switzerland but the Alps in the background are French.

5 – It has contributed to science.   In 1827, Lake Geneva was the first place for the speed of sound to be tested in fresh water.

6 – Expensive bottled water likes to call it home.   Evian comes from several springs near Evian-les-Bains, France, which rests on the shores of Lake Geneva.

There is an Evian museum on Lake Geneva

7 – It contributes to great French wine.   The Rhone flows into and out of Lake Geneva, joining the Aarve River, and down to the Mediterranean.  The famous French wine in the Côte du Rhône region sits on the banks of the Rhône, of which the river flow is derived directly from Lake Geneva!

La Jonction, where the Rhone & Arve rivers meet

8 –It doesn’t just go by “Lake Geneva”.   In French it can be called Lac Léman or Lac de Genève.  In German, you might hear it referred to as Genfersee.  In Italian, it can be either Lago Lemano or Lago di Ginevra.

Does anyone else know any other neat facts about the lake?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s officially Christmas season in Geneva.

My favorite addition is the large Sapine de Noël (Christmas Tree) at Place du Molard.   Each morning I walked to the gym, I noted its progress.

IMG_1266

Day 1….Tree going up

Tree being decorated

Day 2….Tree being decorated

And...magic

Day 3..magic

In our household as well, our tree has been fully decorated.   However, it pales in size compared to the one in Place du Molard.   While we bought the largest the store offered, I am still taller than it.

Most people don't have to bend over to decorate their tree

Most people don’t have to bend over to decorate their tree.  Our fern is also almost bigger than the tree. 

Tree with a snowy backyard in the background

Daytime tree with a snowy background

Because we did not bring any decorations with us in the move, we have been accumulating ornaments from some places we’ve traveled, to complement our paper ones we made last year.  These include a bike from Brugge, some tiny clogs from Amsterdam, a snowy chalet from Chamonix, a hot air balloon from Chateaux-D’Oex:

Sometimes, when we couldn’t find an ornament, we had to get creative.  Take this airplane bottle of Scotch for example.   Hey, we had to have something from Scotland!

DSC_0700

We will miss going back to the States this year for sure.  However, it does feel good to be surrounded by the signs of Christmas already in Geneva.

Swiss Baby Names

Back in the Summer, Switzerland released the 2011 Most Popular Baby Names.    It gets a little complicated because there are four different national languages, which very greatly in influence and history.

And here they are:

GERMAN SPEAKING SWITZERLAND NAMES:

BOYS:
Leon – 310 boys were named Leon
Noah
Luca
David
Leandro
Levin

GIRLS:
Mia – 341 girls were named Mia
Lena
Elena
Leoni
Julia
Alina

FRENCH SPEAKING SWITZERLAND NAMES:

BOYS:
Gabriel – 128 boys were named Gabriel in 2011
Noah
Nathan
Maxime
Louis
Nolan

GIRLS:
Emma – 131 girls were named Emma
Chloé
Lara
Zoé
Eva
Léa

ITALIAN SPEAKING SWITZERLAND NAMES:

BOYS:
Mattia – 37 boys were named Mattia
Alessandro
Leonardo
Matteo
Luca
Davide

GIRLS:
Giulia – 41 girls were named Giulia
Sofia
Emma
Alice
Sara
Anna

ROMANSCH SPEAKING SWITZERLAND NAMES:

BOYS
Flurin, Luca, Nino and Noah all tied – A whopping 3 boys were each named those names in 2011

GIRLS:
Anna – 4 girls were named Anna in 2011
Laura
Madlaina

Apparently Luca, Leonardo, Noah, Emma, and Anna transcend all languages since they appear in multiple regions with different dialects.  And Gabe fits into French speaking Geneva quite well with his name, Gabriel, being #1 in 2011.

I only wish this was the case with me.   Lauren is pronounced exactly the same as Laurent, a common French name for men.   If there is no indication to check Mr. or Mrs., I receive plenty of letters and emails addressed to Mr. Lauren.   Gabe also was instructed by his French tutor to make sure to insert some sort of reference to me being a woman when he talks about his home life or travels with Lauren.

 

Headlines from Geneva

I always glance at the headlines of  Le Matin and Tribune de Genève while walking down rue de Rhône each day to the gym.  I am used to translating the day’s feature from French to English in my head for practice.

However, today’s news caught me by surprise with a topic familiar to all of our US readers, mainly because it was a day late.  But it does make sense that as the election was confirmed in the USA, it was 5 or 6am here in Geneva, well past the print deadlines for that day.  So, today was the big day for European media to cover the US election.

Text reads: Obama re-elected. Their hopes. Their challenges. The photos.