Cheese, Chocolate and Underwear Hanging from Streetlights

In short, that offers a very accurate of summary to my short trip to Switzerland. But, of course, there’s actually a lot more to it than that. Since the return of my friends to their home countries at the end of last semester I have been making (and executing) plans to visit them. When I decided to go to Switzerland just after Easter, I got two birds with one stone. It just so happens one of them was completely unaware of it until I was standing right in front of him.

You see when I contacted my Swiss friend to talk about visiting, she came up with a brilliant idea and we put it into motion. I would arrive the day before my other friend (and her boyfriend) was due to finish his own visit and return to Finland. The winning point being that he had no idea I was even coming. Cue the look of surprise and utter disbelief on his face when he was half dragged down the stairs to see his ‘surprise’ that was waiting there. I tried not to be offended when he said ‘I was expecting a giant bag of chocolate.’ I mean it is Switzerland after all, and if there’s one thing they take seriously it’s chocolate. And cheese.

Hence my request, to visit chocolate and cheese factories while I was there. Those visits only worked to reinforce the Swiss stereotype of a cheese and chocolate loving nation. Outside the cheese factory we found not only cow statues, but large metallic wedges of cheese. The chocolate factory was slightly less grandiose, but as I soon learnt the ladybirds figures adorning the garden were, in fact, metal replicas of the chocolate ones you could find inside.

We also drove to the base of the Alps, where there was still snow, despite the fact it was already spring. Unfortunately no one has told the weather fairies this, and the weather was still foggy and altogether rather unspringlike for the duration of my trip. Hence the decision to go no further than the base of the mountains. There was a cable car we could have taken up, but the live camera showed us it was altogether pointless unless we had a strong desire to see a vast, unending expanse of cloud. Which we didn’t.

As you may have guessed my short seeing trip encompassed all things Switzerland is famous for, from food to watches and Swiss army knives. However there was one unexpected thing that caught not only my attention, but also that of the Swiss people I was with at the time. Walking through St. Gallen one night on the way to a birthday party I found myself being directed, quiet pointedly, to look at the underwear in the tree. Slightly confused I looked to the tree on my left expecting to see the inconspicuous pair of underwear. At first I saw nothing. Then I realised. It wasn’t a single pair of underwear, it was many, stark white in various style, draped over the streetlights to make them glow. While I have seen my fair share of underwear in unusual places my thoughts always go along the lines of ‘why?’ and in this case it was clear someone had made a conscious effort to place these underwear in their current locations, most likely in the name of art. I really hope it wasn’t for serious art purposes, because I couldn’t do much more than laugh and contemplate just how awkward it must have been for the poor bugger whose job it had been to hang the lingerie.


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