0551 Crossing into Paradise (Switzerland 001—new)

Chiasso Travel Blog

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There are two countries that I have consistently dreamed of exploring since childhood: India, for the adventure… and Switzerland, because in Switzerland everything is perfect.

 

Even over these last 2 months of exploring 16 European countries, I’ve come to feel even stronger that Switzerland is the closest thing to Paradise on Earth. 

I’ve really loved and been inspired by a lot of countries and regions.  I was inspired by the freedom and simplicity of the Dutch culture.  How people are prosperous and yet choose to ride bicycles everywhere.  But Holland feels like such a fragile, vulnerable country.  It feels that it’s at the mercy of nature, and at the mercy of whatever army might decide to sweep through it.  Same with, say a happy, self-sufficient Pacific island country… I think that in this cold and brutal universe we live in, a  “Paradise” country is a country that should be able to defend itself and preserve its culture no matter what ails the rest of the world.

 

San Marino had that impregnable feel to it--  but it’s way to small to be really self sufficient in any way.  There are “Shangri Las” high in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco where people have managed to keep their beautiful cultures intact and seem able to live off the rugged land and prosper--  but on closer look you realize that their prosperity is more due to the fact that the men run off to Europe looking for work… those who really “live off the land” are way up in the mountains are generally very, very poor and suffer a lot.

 

And then there’s Switzerland.  Now I know (as my Italian friends are quick to remind me)  that much of Switzerland’s prosperity is built on it being a haven for money laundering and tax evasion, but I’m not going to focus on that aspect right now.  After all, this is a dog eat dog world, and there’s no country without some skeleton in its closet…

 

Here’s why I think Switzerland is a candidate for “Paradisehood”:

 

1.

  It doesn’t invade anybody, never has and never has any intention of doing--  at the same time, even with war raging all around it, nobody has dared to invade Switzerland in a long, long time.

 

2.  It a country where everything is kept clean, everything works, everything is efficient--  where people work hard and the government is relatively corruption free…

 

3.  It’s a country of stunning natural beauty and where people love and respect their environment--  and go out and enjoy the beauty year round…

 

4.  It’s a country where I think, if push came to shove, they could retreat up into their mountain cabins and live off the land… Even though they embrace the modern world, they’ve still got that survivalist streak…

 

5.

  They are prosperous, and well, in many ways self sufficient…

 

I don’t have the image of “Paradise” being someplace where you lay in a hammock all day sipping coconut juice.  It’s a place where there’s hardship, and by overcoming that hardship you become stronger and more prosperous to the point where you actually revel in that hardship.

And that’s the image I have of Switzerland.

 

And now I’m going to finally see it with my own eyes to see if that’s actually true, or if it’s just some fantasy I’ve made up in my head.

 

Arrival in Switzerland

 

I’ve looked at the map and it looks like I might actually be able to hike from Como to Switzerland.

  And it looks like there are a whole string of towns right near the border that I might be able to cover on foot.  And it’s getting a bit too chilly for camping up here in the mountains, so I’ve decided that my first trip to Switzerland will be a day trip--  then I’ll come back and spend the night here at the hostel in Como, Italy again…

 

Excitement builds as I near the border… this is the climax of my trip… the culmination of an epic nearly 200 town journey--  and the fulfilment of a childhood dream…

 

I cross the border. Sure enough, the trash that I saw strewn along the road on the Italian side disappears.  I scour the ground looking for any scrap of trash… Finally I spot a cigarette butt…


Then I seen a streetsweeper heading my way—he’s not only sweeping, he’s scrubbing the tiled pavement.  People walk around the parts he’s covered--  like you’d avoid a freshly mopped floor…


Then it strikes me, being a street sweeper in Switzerland must be a really, really unsatisfying job… I mean how much fulfilment can you find in cleaning a floor that isn’t dirty?

 

There’s nothing super attractive about Chiasso--  but it definitely has a different feel to it.  I go into a shop to ask about changing money.  I start in English.  His English isn’t that good. He tries Italian. My Italian isn’t that good… “Spreiken Deuitch?” he asks. Nope. “Français?” He nods his head. 

 

So that’s what you have to do here is Switzerland--  each person runs through his list of languages until you find a match…

 

That’s one thing that really intrigues me about this country.  It’s divided into French speaking, German speaking and Italian speaking.  Three completely different languages and cultures.  And yet they’re all very proudly Swiss…

 

I play my songs on a bench in front of a fountain.  A couple of Arab and African immigrants amble about--  they look respectable and not out of place here in paradise…

 

Finally I continue on my way, across the freeway which has, instead of a “sound wall” a “sound tunnel” which practically encloses the freeway so the sound doesn’t disturb the nearby homes…

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Chiasso
photo by: nathanphil