Everything at Disneyworld is like an exaggerated version of itself. Main Street USA is an imagined 1900’s utopian small town America that never really existed, Cinderella’s castle is more turrety than a real castle, even the wood is knottier than real wood. But if you asked the Disney Imagineers to create Switzerland, they would come up with something very like, well Switzerland. So often, you are disappointed when the stereotype of a place turns out to be very little like the place itself, but in the case of Switzerland, it is like walking into an elaborate stage set with full sized mountains.
Dark wood chalets with window boxes spilling red geraniums; cows with clanking bells eating wild flowers in the shadow of stunning mountains; neat as a pin allotments bursting with fruit, vegatables and flowers; milk churns cooling in icy mountain stream water; the iconic Swiss flag flying from shops, houses, government buildings, barns and mountain tops; spotless red trains crossing huge ravines on stone viaducts; groups of hearty, pole wielding pensioners hiking in the mountains. These all sound like Swiss cliches, but they are all things we saw on our two week holiday, often every day.
Shop signs aren’t ugly, back lit plastic, but the work of artisans, representing the goods sold within. Gardens are immaculate, with artfully arranged tableau of autumn fruit and flowers, laid out for the benefit of passers by. Buildings are covered in beautifully weathered, intrically cut shingles, made from the trees in the surrounding countryside. Nothing was shabby, or in need of a lick of paint or dirty.
Switzerland is only only saved from chocolate box tweeness by being punctuated with clean lined modernist buildings and imaginatively used concrete in large public buildings. And they are rightly as proud of their modern design as they are of their beautiful old buildings.
I’m sure there are disadvantages to living in Switzerland. The cost of living is very high, a lot of people smoke, and in public places, people didn’t seem to smile a lot. Maybe there’s a really ugly bit somewhere that we didn’t see. But really, I’m clutching at straws. It is an utterly gorgeous country, both it’s natural and urban landscapes and I’d happily live there, something I don’t say very often. The Disney Imagineers couldn’t have done better if they tried.