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ENJOYING FRANCIS DURBRIDGE’S “Paul Temple and the Geneva Mystery,” I got to thinking about other Swiss adventures.
Here are tidbits about a couple of my own Swiss adventures, augmented with my principal touristic authority, Baedeker’s Switzerland, 1911. As I’ve noted before, what was worthy back then and still extant is well worth exploring today.
Currency Matters. Switzerland chooses not to be part of the European Union, so the Swiss Franc, worth $1.09 U.S. today, is the country’s principal currency.
Back in 1911, it was rather more complicated. My Baedeker’s says, “The Swiss monetary system was assimilated to that of France in 1851” Then follows a long discourse on coins of gold, silver, nickel, and copper.
In addition, silver coins of Italian, French, Belgian, and Greek origin were accepted, depending…. “French pieces since 1864-66, Belgian with the portrait of Leopold II. All others should be refused.”
Motoring. “Motor Cars entering Switzerland,” Baedeker’s says, “are subject to a customs-duty of 40 fr. per 100 kg. (60 fr. if upholstered in leather), the amount being returned if the car quits the country within six months.”
Baedeker’s continues, “Cars must be furnished with two head-lights (white on the right side, green on the left) and a red taillight. The speed-limit never exceeds 30 kil. (18 1/2 M) per hr., but in towns and villages and on certain mountain-roads it sinks to 10 kil. (6 1/4 M.), and on bridges, narrow streets, and steep roads to 6 kil. (3 3/4 M.).”
“On mountain-roads a car must stop on meeting a diligence [a large four-wheeled stagecoach]. The Swiss police are strict in enforcing the regulations.”
Rusz’s Passport Confiscated. A Baedeker’s comment, “Many roads in Switzerland are entirely forbidden to motor-cars and motor-cycles,” reminded me of an R&T comparison test traveling from Stuttgart south into Switzerland. Joe Rusz happened to be driving a bright red Corvette when our six cars arrived at the German/Swiss border.
Swiss officials got all nerdy about the Vette’s authentication issued by G.M. Belgium. The border guards confiscated its paperwork—plus Joe’s passport—and disappeared into their tinted-window office.
The rest of us considered leaving Joe there, but R&T loyalty ultimately prevailed. After a nervous quarter-hour or so, Joe was found not to be a Belgian gangster and we were allowed into Switzerland.
By the way, though Swiss speed limits have improved since 1911, it’s still considered the least driver-friendly part of Europe. See speedingeurope.com.
Gstaad Concert. Another adventure took place in Gstadd, the upscale resort town in the Swiss Alps renowned for its gatherings of international heavies. I had inserted in my Baedeker’s a carefully folded one-page program labeled “Trio,” with my handwritten entry, “Kirchegemeine, Gstaad, April 11, 1985.”
The trio was Kayumi Chira, violin; Muriel Slatkine, piano; and Gérard Leclerc, violoncelle. Their performance included Debussy’s Sonate pour Violoncelle et Piano, 1915; his Sonate pour Violin et Piano, 1917; as well as other pieces by Brahms, Haydn, Ravel, and Saint-Saëns.
I recall the trio’s performance was backed up by a spectacular Swiss Alpine view. Also, in retrospect, it’s noteworthy that the two Debussy works were composed after my Baedeker was printed. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021