I’ve just walked a bit of the Swiss Path and it almost killed me. Constructed jointly by the 26 cantons for the 700th birthday of Switzerland in 1991, it is a steeply glorious thing—35 kilometers of lovely Swiss tricks and treats.
First of all there is pure beauty. When the sun is shining, the backdrop is that of soaring mountains, blue skies, white summits and grey craggy drop-offs. However, the multiple pylon grids with their looping power lines probably look better in winter than in summer as snow would tend to camouflage them somewhat.
The belle-époque lake boats slide smoothly through the turquoise waters. Just the sight of their massive white magnificence coming to rest beside the Schiller stone can make tourists (well, the ones that did not grow up watching The Lone Ranger) start excitedly humming the William Tell Overture.
The flower-filled meadows tinkle merrily with cow bells. Much like electronic cars, the cows are perhaps moving forward into a silent future. Animal-rights activists have declared cow-bells disruptive to the animals’ inner peace and innate tranquility causing possible psychological damage, turned milk, and irritable cow syndrome.
The Swiss Army is subtly present. There are fewer screaming low-flying fighter jets than there used to be; however, the bunkers and mysteriously-numbered concrete constructions along the way are interestingly ominous. Swiss lore has it that whole mountains have been hollowed out and are filled with the Swiss Air Force planes (with pilots) ready to scramble straight south towards Italy or north towards Germany on the drop of a pin.
The juxtaposition of the old and the new is also breathtaking. One of the oldest wooden buildings in Europe (a farm house dated 1348) is just across the road from a carefully disguised (as another old farm building) space-age stainless steel toilet with rolls of sparkling white toilet paper. This is a god-send for anyone who has had too much pro-biotic Swiss yogurt for breakfast.
There are picnic tables, BBQ grills with already-split wood, crosses, shrines, grottos, chapels, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Ayurveda Health Centre, dangerous slippery icy spots, vitaparcours (to be strenuously avoided), red wood benches with fine views, and many many cheerful hikers all wishing you a hale and hearty “Gruezi-mitenand!”
Sitting waiting for the train to take us back to Brunnen, I was so delighted and exhausted that if someone had put an apple on my head and shot it off I don’t think I would even have noticed.