January 2: Berchtoldstag

In some areas of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Berchtold Day, or locally Berchtoldstag, is celebrated on this day, January 2. The name of the Alemannic tradition does not refer to a Saint (there is no St. Berchtold) but is derived from the verb berchten, meaning “to walk around, asking for food”, which we find throughout Europe in the period from the day of the Dead to the Epiphany, even if there are various theories concerning the holiday’s name. Blessed Berchtold of Engelberg Abbey, for istance, died circa 2 November 1197, and…

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Chocolate rain falls in Switzerland

Residents of an industrial area of Olten, a town in north-western Switzerland, just few days ago, have been reporting chocolate powder raining from the sky. Well, if chocolate was ever going to fall from the sky anywhere in the world, it had to be just in Switzerland, the European country well-known for making probably the best chocolate in the world! Reports of chocolate powder falling from the sky in the town of Olten started showing up online a few days ago, accompanied by photos of cars covered in brown. People…

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Der Trauerautomat: the vending machine designed to support mourners during funerals.

The frieze inscription on the Krematorium Sihlfeld, one of the oldest crematories in Switzerland, reads: “Flamme, löse das Vergängliche auf. Befreit ist das Unsterbliche”, translated as “Flame, dissolve the ephemeral. Be the immortal released”. With its neoclassicist elements the crematory, surrounded by a scenic chestnut lined alley, monumentalizes the process of incineration, and it sculpts into stone a, if not the, transcendental resolution to terrestrial human death. As a consequence, the symbolisms and institutional practices concerning human loss, and eventually grief, tend to be equally parochial, at odds with our…

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And you have a wheel of cheese to be eaten at your funeral?

Imagine setting aside a wheel of cheese at your wedding. What would it look like if it were served at your  funeral? Probably shriveled and brown, pockmarked from decades of mite and mouse nibbles and, above all, hard as a rock! You’d need an axe to slice it open and strong booze to wash it down. Of course, this is the cheese you  don’t want to cut even though it’s aged to perfection. However, a fossilized funeral cheese means you lived a long life! Jean-Jacques Zufferey’s home in Grimentz, high…

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Konstanz: the German city that avoided WWII bombing by pretending to be Switzerland

Europe, the old continent so rich in artistic, historical and architectural treasures, suffered incurable wounds especially during the World War II, in which centuries of history were swept away by bombing. Cities and communities in England, Germany and around the world feared death from above in the shape of bombing raids. Germany in particular suffered devastating air strikes which reduced most of its wonderful cities to a pile of rubble, like Dresden, or Munich (in Image below). An incredible exception is represented by the beautiful city of Konstanz, in south…

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The “Pig” on the Lion of Lucerne: the invisible joke of an Unpaid Sculptor.

The “Lion of Lucerne” is one of the most famous tourist attractions of the Swiss city: a mortally wounded lion, carved in the rock, in a large former sandstone quarry, near the city. Carved directly into the wall, the titular lion statue sees the regal beast dying from a spear wound which is marked by a shield bearing the mark of the French monarchy. The remarkably large monument was etched from the stone in 1820 and measures a remarkable ten meters in length and six meters in height. Above the…

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Switzerland: Leuk’s secret Charnel House~

Can you imagine? For centuries no one knew there were hundreds of bones and precious artwork hidden beneath this church in Switzerland! The quiet streets of the village of Leuk reveal little of its history, but a walk inside its medieval structures is an interesting step into a mysterious past. Leuk is a small town in Switzerland’s Rhone Valley mostly known for the thermal spa to the north, but the town’s history dates back around a very, very long time ago. It seems that the first church was built around…

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Anna Göldi: the last witch killed in Europe.

Did you read our story? Do you remember? In Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1324 Petronilla de Meath is burned at the stake because was probably a “witch”. The woman can not know it, but the trail of blood that traces her innocent death will be extended for another 458 years, until 1782, when Anna Göldi dies, and was the last witch killed in Europe. Anna Göldi was born in Sennwald, Switzerland, in 1734, the fourth of eight children, in a wealthy family. His father was a nephew of a prestigious local…

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The dragon and the Saint: the story of Beatus-Höhlen, a splendid place in Switzerland.

The first mentioning of Beatenberg, in Switzerland, was in 1275. The earliest trace of a settlement in this area are dates back in the early medieval graves, just near the Beatushöhlen (Saint Beatus cave). According to legend, Saint Beatus was a Scottish (or maybe Irish) monk living around 100 AD, who was sent to evangelize the Helvetii. After finding success in the Jura Mountains, he moved into the Beatenberg area, where chose the cave in which to spend his pious hermitage. To his annoyance, however, he discovered someone was already…

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