Switzerland – Cheese, Chocolate and “Services”

By October 1, 20042 Comments

What’s Switzerland famous for? Cheese, you might say. Chocolate, certainly. Milk churns, cow bells and milk maids, most certainly. But as I found out this week, one thing you’ll see more than anything else, more than all the cheese, chocolate and milk maids you can think of, is brothels.
It was with a heavy heart that I glanced over the itinerary for my latest two day trip overseas. Zurich was the destination, and I fancied a quick pootle round the area, taking in a few of the delights of the Swiss capital. But the plane flights betrayed my plans. I was to fly out at 6.30am on Tuesday, and fly back in at 10pm the following night. I was going to be knackered.
But at least I had a colleague with me to pass the time. Jonathan has been with the company two years, and was used to the constant to-ing and fro-ing. He’d even had the forethought to bring a portable DVD player, and as the time ticked away from our early arrival at the gate, we sat down to watch a few minutes of Anger Management.
I’ve flown many times in my short life, but as we were bussed to the plane a few minutes later, I was taken aback. The world’s smallest passenger plane had plainly been scheduled to take us, somehow, 300 miles across Europe. Clambering up the rickety stairs into the cabin, I struggled to see how the thing would stay airborne. Swissair did their best to keep everyone calm as the abnormal creakings from the fuselage put all of us on edge. The engines roared, the cabin shook and we pelted down the runway, cowering in the “brace” position that the crew had urgently warned us about minutes earlier.
As it turned out, the plane held together. In our shock, and due to poor language skills, we managed to order first class tickets on the train from the airport. This was an excellent move, as it turned out. We sunk pleasingly into luxury seats and waited to leave for Basel, a town about an hour away.
It’s a common theme in all the countries I’ve visited so far on business. – that without exception, public transport is many times better than our own. The Swiss train glided silently out of the platform, clad not in sticky, spilt coffee and chewing gum, but in freshly-cleaned carpet and leather-clad seats. Hills, mountains and businessmen passed the window as we slipped by, and the scenery was every bit as stunning as all those Dairylea adverts promised. Eight thirty in the morning, however, is not the time to be all romantic about trees and hills, and we slumped drearily back, catching forty five winks.
We arrived as about 11am, not very bright and definitely not bushy tailed. An account of our visit to offices would bore you senseless, and frankly the rest of the trip was a drudge of meetings, courses and frantic scooting back to the airport, just in time to catch our flight. However, before I go, I should mention, again, the brothels. On our trip to a restaurant on the first night, we discovered neon signs offering “massages” and “services”. These weren’t discreet – there were bold as brass, and the 20 mile trip uncovered at least 15 of these places. Turns out they are completely legal, and accepted as a way of life. And, for better or for worse (I’m sure the Swiss Tourist Board will be up in arms) that is what I shall remember Switzerland for.


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