Famous for the world economic conference and as a playground for the rich and beautiful, Switzerland’s Davos is often in the news. But how much do you really know about this Alpine resort and its country?
1) Cuckoo clocks are not Swiss
“In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
Orson Welles’ brilliant line in iconic film The Third Man may be one of the most famous movie quotes in the world, but unfortunately it is factually inaccurate. Cuckoo clocks were, in fact, first made in the Black Forest in Germany some time in the mid 18th century.
2) But James Bond is
Sean Connery as James Bond in Switzerland on the set of Goldfinger, source: Flickr/Raoul Luoar
James Bond’s Scottish family background is fairly well known having been explored in the recent blockbuster Skyfall (2012). A lesser known fact is that Agent 007 is actually half Swiss, his mother being from Canton Vaud in the Western part of the country. This may explain why he speaks fluent French and why so many of his adventures take place in the snow-capped country.
3) In the nineties Swiss cheese went blind
©handmadepictures, source: 123RF
In the mid 1990’s disaster struck in Switzerland’s fromageries. Swiss cheese’s most famous and loved asset, its holes, began to disappear.
According to Mike Tunick, a research chemist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in an interview with the New Yorker, the holes in Swiss cheese are scientifically known as ‘eyes’ and when they don’t appear the cheese is defined as ‘blind’.
The experts theorise that this cheese-blindness epidemic was caused by a move to excessively clean milk (due to modernised production techniques) with fewer miniscule hay and dust particles. These particles, a result of traditional milking methods, were necessary to allow the bacteria to settle and grow producing carbon dioxide (i.e. the hole) as well as the cheese’s characteristic nutty flavour.
4) Switzerland is a nation of animal lovers
Guinea pigs, source: 123RF
In 2010 the country debated and voted in a referendum to decide whether animals should be appointed lawyers in court. The referendum was unsuccessful but animals in Switzerland still have many rights compared to other countries.
For example pets that are deemed ‘social species’ such as goldfish, parrots and guinea pigs, must be kept in pairs or regularly have contact with others of their own kind.
5) Davos is a writer’s paradise
Hotel Schatzalp, mentioned in The Magic Mountain, source: Swissimages
The Alpine resort’s famously clean and fresh air has relaxed and inspired many creative visitors over the years. The illustrious list includes the celebrated German novelist Thomas Mann, whose influential novel, The Magic Mountain was set in Davos. A spell in a Davos sanitorium also reportedly cured Robert Louis Stevenson of his writer’s block. He went on to complete the last seven chapters of Treasure Island during his stay.
6) The last beerstop before heaven
Biervision Monstein, source: www.facebook.com/BierVision-Monstein
Davos is also home to the highest brewery in Europe. Based in the premises of a former dairy at 1625 metres above sea level BierVision Monstein calls itself “the last beerstop before heaven”. Local organic malt, Swiss hops and pure mountain spring water are used to produce their Monsteiner Huusbier (house beer), Monsteiner Wätterguoge Bier ('Alpine salamander beer') and organic Monsteiner Bio SteinBock-Bier. Tours and tastings are available.