Swiss Bliss, Part Two
Discipline and Dollars
by Paul Rubio
Switzerlandís bragging rights donít end with its sticky and sweet eye candy and stunning landscapes. The capital, Zurich, is consistently ranked as the city with the highest quality of life in the world, an honor it sometimes has to cede to the countryís second most populous city, Geneva, as the two flip between first and second place.
Itís not hard to see why both of these fairy tale hamlets dominate the world charts of fabulous local living conditions. Not only are they beautiful, they are shockingly clean, safe, and eerily efficient. For example, strict environmental codes mandate the water in Lake Zurich so clean you can dive right in, slurp, and swallow. Likewise, Geneva sits on the southern banks of Lac Leman, close to the bottling sources of Americaís favorite imported H20, Evian water. From mountain tops to city sewers, the crisp Swiss air remains nearly void of all air pollution, except the occasional whiff of summertime B.O.
Safety and personal security in Switzerland is a no brainer. Even in the countryís biggest cities, you can stroll through the wild Red Light District, Langstrasse, or tred the cobblestone streets of old town, Niederdorf, drunk at 2am with few cares. You can even enter the nighttime prostitution working zones along the woodsy river banks with one simple worry- being attacked by a stunned deer!
In terms of efficiency and discipline, the Swiss wrote the book. Itís an unusual occurrence to see a train arrive even one minute late. Tardiness beyond 30 seconds is sure to stir up complaints by Swiss elders. Perhaps itís because the country is the motherland of time, watches, and clocks; or perhaps itís just a function of a highly disciplined society.
However this cleanliness and effectiveness can come with a price. Switzerland is well known as a fairly rigid society, with little room for flexibility. There are a lot of rules, and they need to be followed. Donít even think about cheating the honors system and trying to ride the tram without a $10 self service ticket or parking illegally. Fines, like all costs in Zurich, are incredibly high. You will create a Swiss scandal simply riding a single 2-minute tram journey without a ticket (in a desperate attempt to save enough for your $11 Starbucks Venti Iced Coffee -yes, thatís how much it costs). But itís this relentless honesty that allows businesses like roadside ďflower shopsĒ to thrive, where patrons pay for their purchase in a simple unmanned money box, leaving the correct amount according to the established price list. My best friend in Europe used to complain that the Swiss even bring this rigidity to the bedroom. His extensive promiscuous rendezvous in search of Swiss Bliss led him to coin the phrase ďSwiss in bed,ď meaning mechanical, dull, boring and by the book (though note my personal experiences were totally opposite)!
Another arena where the Swiss are exceptionally unbending is human rights. But thatís a good thing. Acceptance of gays and lesbians ceased to be an issue here years ago, and there are few problems with two men or two women holding hands on the street. However, itís best not to confuse Switzerlandís open attitude toward gays and lesbians with an open attitude in general. Switzerland is by no means an Ďanything goesí society, and remains fairly conservative, regardless of sexual orientation. Itís definitely not a place to act da fool and relive your craziest Spring Break moments!
All about the Benjamins & the Francs
Swiss people at all levels of society tend to make very high salaries, which means they can afford astronomical prices. But for average tourists, Zurich can be painful on the wallet. Donít bother looking for bargains beyond discounted Freitag Bags at the original Freitag store or cheap train tickets to Milan on Trenitalia. Itís highly recommended to save a bit before heading east to enjoy Switzerland as the Swiss do!
The best place to splurge and experience Swiss sophistication is at the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne (www.brp.ch). Perched on the banks of Lake Geneva, the timeless Belle …poque tour de force is a combination of living history and modern luxury. A decade long facelift of Heidi Montag proportions has removed any and all signs of the aging process, restoring historic ballrooms to their 20th century grandeur and implanting a few extravagant additions such as a 15,000 square foot destination spa, infinity pools, and a marble-clad terrace with superlative views of the Alps. While the hotel has clearly hosted the complete roster of Whoís Who in Hollywood, fashion, and politics, itís the unlikely commingling of American tourists (minus the fanny packs), Swiss vacationers (finally losing track of time), and Coco Chanel types (with their yappy dogs) that creates an equilibrium of unpretentious personal luxury.
Nevertheless, it is still possible to sample the flavors of Beau-Rivage decadence without staying there. Showcasing nothing less than the perfection of taste, freshness and presentation in each bite, the creations of world-renowned chef Anne-Sophie Pic are available to the public at the hotelís signature restaurant. Picís hard earned 3 Michelin Stars are evident in each of the handcrafted plates inspired by her French heritage and her family legacy of award winning cuisine.