Sunday, August 31, 2008

Reflections from the Grossmünster

The Swiss are odd, and have been so forever. The Turks stopped short, and between their famous pikers and archers (remember William Tell?) they halted and turned back various Habsburgs. Neutral (sort of) for a century or so, they turned down EU membership in favor of the less invasive "customs union" (thereby getting the best of both worlds).

They’re as genial as can be toward tourists--but can’t easily be snapped out of that relationship. It’s nearly impossible to become a Swiss citizen, or even own property here. Their unofficial motto is appropriate, but appropriately narrow: it applies only to the Swiss. After various visits over the years, I think they’re a people who believe they’re exempt from original sin, including Nazism, Communism, Vichyism. And they don’t want your sins, thank you very much.

But they're always happy to take dollars, especially for watches (a particular passion of mine). And for now, gazing at the night skyline remains free.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

My one day in Zurich (in transit) I found the Swiss to be polite but chilly. Of course, we had Romanians with us, and Western Europeans tend not to like Eastern Europeans much. Guilt, maybe.

OBloodyHell said...

> and archers (remember William Tell?)

Uh, "Crossbowmen". Tell used a crossbow, not a bow.


A minor technicality, but a significant one in history. It takes far less time to train a man to use a crossbow effectively. While the English Longbow can beat the crap out of it for firing rate, it takes years to train someone to use it well and accurately, and requires steady usage to maintain that accuracy. A crossbow was the age's Thompson Machine Gun. Speed did not matter as long as it made the other side keep their heads down, and the punch of a crossbow bolt (not arrow) is adequate to punch through armor -- which, along with the swiss pike square formation, rendered the classic "knight in armor" pretty much useless. These two things (esp. the pike square) essentially ended the era of heavy, armored cavalry. A horse is far too smart to charge at that hedgehog formation, and thus the rider attempting it, if not already potted with crossbow bolts, tended to be flung forward off the horse as it planted its forehooves and said, "No way, you idiot!"




Carl said...


I chatted with a group of Romanians and Bulgarians, who were protesting their inability to get work permits in Switzerland. The also said the Swiss didn't like them very much.

Anonymous said...

Are the Islamic freedom-haters taking over Switzerland as they are taking over France?