Monday, August 08, 2005

High On A Hill Lived A Lonely Goat...

“Ode-lay, ode-lay, ode-lay-ee-oo!”

Okay, the first thing you should know about Switzerland is that The Sound Of Music is from Austria. It’s Heidi that’s from Switzerland. Suggesting that the Von Trapp family is Swiss is like suggesting to a Kiwi that Bonecrusher is an Australian horse. Here’s what Switzerland is famous for: chocolate, watches, Swiss Army knives, dairy cows, St. Bernard dogs, the Alps and melted-cheese with potato. Yup, melted-cheese and potato is the Swiss national dish! More on that later but the saga continues…

Phil, Malcolm and I made the drive from Evian, across the border, through Geneva, skirting around Lausanne, by-passing Montreux, through the Rhone Valley and 1,500 metres up to Crans-Montana. Now, for anyone that’s done the drive through Hamilton, skirting around Cambridge, by-passing Tirau, through Putaruru and on to Tokoroa this drive is nothing like that… but it does take roughly the same amount of time. “Are we there yet?” is a universal road-trip cry. So to is: “Can we stop for ice-cream?” but in Switzerland it’s also a tourist attraction because in this country stopping for ice cream means stopping for Movenpick.

Our next official stop was Crans-Montana a famous ski town half way up the Swiss Alps. Roger Moore is a regular to Crans and many years ago famed New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield spent a couple of seasons in Montana where the altitude helped her tuberculosis. The Swiss even have a plaque and fountain dedicated to Mansfield, honouring the great stories she wrote during her time in Crans-Montana. Now, wouldn’t it be nice if the Aussies put a plaque on the steps of the Sydney Opera House honouring New Zealand band Crowded House and the farewell concert they preformed there?

New Zealand connections aside, we were about to be given the full-on Heidi-styled Swiss treatment. It began another thousand metres up the mountain with an alpine-horn serenade. And then we travelled to something like 2,500 metres, nearing outer-space, to get up close and personal with a herd of dairy cows. The Swiss and the Indians must be the only cultures to hold livestock in such high regard. And in Switzerland “high” is the operative word because a farmer with his herd of 70 odd cows will have one queen… and the queen is the cow that stands on the highest point of the mountain. The queen cow gets to wear the biggest bell round her neck and generally gets treated by the farmer as, well, a queen. To further illustrate this point your average cow in Switzerland is worth around 4,000 Swiss Francs; but the queen would never, ever get sold… but the calf of the queen is worth 40,000 Swiss Francs! So when tennis star Roger Federer returned to Switzerland after winning the 2003 Wimbledon title and the Swiss gave him a queen cow he actually landed the golden goose. The million dollar Wimbledon winner’s cheque is nothing to be sneezed at but neither is a dairy cow that produces you 40,000 Swiss Francs each spring.

And what of this melted cheese and potato I hear you ask? Well, the dairy cows eat the grass from the Alps, they then produce milk, which is churned into cheese, the cheese is salted each day for two months, and then it makes its way to the dinner table for the finest Swiss meal – raclette. Raclette is simply the local farmer’s cheese which is melted and then a thin slice is scraped off the block onto your plate and served with a potato. So the nation that gave the us the world's most intricate watches, the world's most delectable chocolate, and the most world's efficient banks has basic ol’ cheese and spuds for dinner.

Cows, cheese and altitude… if you wish to experience the picture-postcard Switzerland I suggest you go to Crans-Montana, point your nose in the sky, drive a little higher, take a right at the space shuttle Discovery, and keep driving towards the sound of the cowbells. Failing that you could always go to Heidiland. Yup, Switzerland has a theme park based around their most famed movie character. Just don’t go there asking for Leisl, Gretl, Briggita, Marta, and Louisa Von Trapp… it’s all about Heidi.

I should end it here as I’m struggling to resist the urge to use an “udder” pun. Our next destination is the Swiss-Italian border… it’s a long drive but thankfully we stop for gelato.


At 9:15 pm, Blogger Bee said...

Nice to see you are so familiar with the von Trapp family names. Sounds like you are having a great time sight seeing, even though hidden under the banner "work". Nice pics as well.
We are looking forward to the next installment.
Love youdel Bee

At 9:21 pm, Anonymous Anita said...

I can't believe you're familiar with the von Trapp family. Does this mean you savoured the many times we watched the video. Actually I was recently talking about that in light of an offical Govt. department spending money allocated to "leaky homes" on parties - one themed The Sound of Music. What a waste of money!
Anyway, another great read. Wonder what wizardry you'll treat us to next instalment. First the surprise of a blog, now photos. We'll be hooking up live and "chatting" next ;)
Oh, and Mark.... I can't believe he didn't mention he had sisters. He has 3!!! I'd like to think he was protecting us ;) Yeah right!

At 11:05 pm, Anonymous Phantom48 said...

You've done it again! Highly entertaining (and educational too). REally look forward to your next instalment of The Adventures of the Ginger Beard Man. Wish I was there ;) Love you - Mum

At 11:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scandy.Stop applying for TV jobs and send your blog to The Independent. You could be the new...the new.... new guy from New Zealand. keep it up!


At 1:30 am, Anonymous stoffels said...

Send us an audio & you'll be the new guy with a show on georgefm...

At 2:22 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gr8 stuf! Dfin8ly eductionl. The kids & I r learning a lot about Randall & his environ. What a laf we have 2gether. Our hilite! Don't stop! Just so othrs keep up, I'm the 1st sis of 3. Can't believe no1 has 'herd' of us! Until next time. BTW can't stop huming the theme song nw!

At 10:23 pm, Anonymous ravey_dave said...

You're a great writer Randy, well done.
Now, if someone can hook me up with a link to the proper *uncut* blog that focusses more on the Swiss strip-clubs and drug-fuelled benders in the mountains then that'd be totally ace!

... and Mark, keep working on those mum jokes bro. Awesome.

At 4:22 am, Anonymous mark said... sides are hurting.


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