In 1944, Hans Hilfiker, a Swiss Engineer and Designer and employee of the Federal Swiss Railways, created a clock which has become known as the “Official Swiss Railways Clock”. For design buffs and railway enthusiasts alike, this clock remains a simple and ever-present pleasure of every Swiss rail journey.

In 1986 the Montaigne Watch Company, with official license from the Federal Swiss Railways, turned it into a watch collection. It has become a true Swiss icon. The simple design, the unmistakable easy-to-read face, distinctive hands and the famous red seconds hand have made the Mondaine collection successful the world over. Ingenuity and simplicity are the elements which often distinguish an attractive piece of design from a truly iconic design classic. With strong black markings instead of numerals, each five minute increment given further emphasis and a sweeping second hand in red it is so visually simple that a train guard can read it easily from the far end of a train.

If you look closely you see that the solid red circle at the end of the second hand not only resembles a pendulum but is also a replica of the signalling paddle once used by station guards.

I knew nothing of this history until walking the streets of Zurich where, as we looked at the display in a jewellery shop window, Erika told me the story of the watch design.  It was not the time to make a purchase but it certainly gave me food for thought.

I am now enjoying wearing a Mondaine watch and am delighted with its clarity. The background story and the memories from my visit to Switzerland are renewed each day.

ALL ABOUT SWITZERLAND ……… or almost. (Part 2)

Health – You couldn’t find a better place to fall ill than in Switzerland, with 572 modern hospitals filled with state-of-the-art equipment and exceedingly well-trained doctors and nurses. Everyone residing in the country has to have health insurance. As they’re all private and not state-run providers, they need to be quite pricey. In any other country one can go to a supermarket and buy an Aspirin or any other over-the-counter medications. But not in Switzerland. Good and healthy food, lots of sport and outdoor activity (62,416 km maintained hiking trails), as well as a high quality of life, the Swiss are a pretty fit, trim and contented lot. This is reflected in the life spans: men can expect to live until 81 and women until 85.2 years of age – second only to Japan.

Defence and Safety  Air bases and arms depots inside mountains, secret tunnels everywhere – Switzerland resembles an explosive Swiss cheese. Add fortifications and hidden gun emplacements. The Swiss population can find refuge in underground shelters big and small – car parks, hospitals or private homes. In peacetime, private shelters are used to store ski equipment and wine. The Swiss Army Knife has been developed in the 1880’s and is still issued to every soldier. With annual sales of 26 million knives it’s also a global success story largely thanks to American soldiers returning home with them after World War ll. Originally they were only handed out to officers, which probably explains the thoughtful inclusion of a corkscrew. Not only Swiss men have a knife, but me too ………

Food and drink – Switzerland is anything but a culinary wasteland. The traditional cuisine may betray its rustic peasant origins – cheese, bread, potatoes – but it has been refined to a high standard. The Swiss love eating out.

Muesli, the world’s favourite breakfast dish started life as a dinner option, often in jails. In 1990, medical doctor Maximilian Oskar Bircher soaked oatmeal in water, then added lemon juice, condensed milk, grated apples and nuts. Today exists many varieties of Muesli.

Rosti, the roast potatoes are golden, warm and nourishing. Crunchy outside and soft within, the secret lies in the right potatoes..

Bread, the Swiss love their bread in any of the more than 200 traditional forms. “Zopf” is the traditional must-have for Sunday’s breakfast.

Switzerland boasts more than 20 natural springs. Not only tap water is drinkable, but so too is water from many rivers and lakes. Whey is the unpalatable part of milk, which is why the Swiss turned it into a soda called “RIVELLA”,  first concocted in 1950.

Chocolate  For a long time after its introduction in Europe chocolate was an acquired taste.The Swiss changed everything. They were the first to add sugar, milk and hazelnuts. Chocolate’s inadvertant genius was Rudolph Lindt. One Friday evening he forgot to turn off a mixer. The unexpected 78 hours of stirring created chocolate as we know it: soft, sweet and melting in the mouth.

Cheese – There are 246 different kinds of cheese. The typical Swiss cheese comes from cow’s milk. However, there are odd cheeses like those made from Buffalo milk, sheep and goats. It takes up to 13 litres of milk to make 1 kg of cheese.

Economy  – Switzerland is bare of any natural resources. Trade was hampered domestically by mountains, internationally by the absence of coastlines and harbours.If they wanted to make money, the Swiss had to use their prime resources: their wit, their business sense, their inventiveness and their thrift.

Transport  The network of trains, cable cars, buses and boats crisscross the country with precision. A remarkable feat, considering that in transportational terms, Switzerland is a bit of a contradiction. On the one hand largely inaccessible due to its mountains topography, on the other hand a major European thoroughfare due to its geographical centrality. Some Swiss get mad when their train is just two minutes late. Swiss rail claims to be on time 97% of the time – meaning, not more than three minutes late.

 Science – Swiss scientists have changed our lives considerably. They invented Nescafé, Swiss Army Knife, electric guitar,Velcro (two-sided fastener) pre-fab concrete,LSD, cellophane, stock cube, zipper, computer mouse, micro scooter, Robidog, toilet cistern, Stewi clothes dryer, ………








Shirley asked if I could write something for her blog. Since I’m Swiss I like to give you some information about that beautiful country and their inhabitants you might not have heard of:

History  One man representing each of the cantons, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, meet on a summer’s day in 1291 in a clearing over Lake Lucerne called “Rutli”. They swear an oath to defend the other cantons against the Hapsburg oppressors. Since then, the Swiss have had neither lord nor king nor emperor. Their peasants and burghers ruled themselves generally in a successful way. Since 1515, the Swiss have not participated in European wars. Poverty overpopulation and the promise of adventure enticed the peasant boys to take up arms for foreign rulers. They were highly sought after as Swiss fighters had a reputation for courage. More and more cantons joined. From 1815, there were 25 cantons, increasing to 26 after the secession of the canton of Jura from Bern in 1979.

Shirley and Pat this time visited the Cantons Zurich (city of Zurich, Winterthur, Seeleger Moor), Freiburg (Murten), Nidwalden (Klewenalp-Stockhutte), Appenzell  (Hoher Kasten, city of Appenzell), St. Gallen (city of St.Gallen, Rapperswil), Aargau (LAUFENBURG), Thurgau (Romanshorn), Tessin (Isle of Brissago).

Diversity   The Swiss are not a single ethnic group but made up of various nationalities, shaped by their German, French and Italian neighbours. They’re only held together by their common will to be a nation.

Geography  Switzerland is all about mountains. They shape and define its geography and its mentality. But there’s much more: glittering lakes, ancient cities, lush meadows, broad and fertile valleys traversed by mighty rivers.

Fauna and Flora About 40,000 different species of animals inhabit Switzerland, most of them insects. Despite being densely settled, still more than half of the country’s territory is woodland or pristine nature. Switzerland has 3,000 different native plants, nearly a third of which are flowers. Pretty and pleasing to the eye. The Swiss have one of the world’s strictest environmental and nature protection laws – and not just recently: in 1914 they created their first national park.

Cows No other animal is so much associated with my country. They seem to be everywhere and they  assault all your senses: you see them, hear their bells, and their cowpats carry an unmistakable smell. Every summer, cows take a holiday in the mountains. Fresh air, fresh water, grass and herbs make for happy cattle and good milk. Farmers swear that cows look forward to their vacation…..The meadows containing up to 50 different tasty species of plants per 100 m2. In autumn, decorated with flowers and weighed down by big bells which are tuned differently, cows make their way back to their stables. Switzerland’s air rescue service has to bring cattle to safety that have strayed off into inaccessible parts of the mountains. Beset by low milk prices, more and more farmers resort to rent-a-cow schemes aimed at city dwellers. You may not take your cow home, though, just visit, pat or even milk her.

Education – The Swiss are among the world’s best educated people. A specialty is that Apprentices learn at a workshop and attend classes at a vocational college at the same time.

There is much more that I can tell you about my country so Part 2 will follow soon…….




SATURDAY, 17th June

Today has been a day to stop and to try to take in all that we have been so privileged to share with Erika over the past ten days – what a wonderful hostess and Tour Guide. We have caught up on washing, accompanied her to the Shopping Centre and have packed cases ready for an early start in the morning when we move by train from Switzerland to Austria. At 19:30 Pat and I walked in the local area in bright sunshine to complete our memories (and photographs) of the area in which she lives.



FRIDAY, 16th June, 2017

Today has been a “TRAVEL BY TRAIN’ day, making good use of our Eurail Pass. This enabled Erika to have a break from driving . We set out at 09:00 on a bus to the Regensdorf Train Station taking a train to Zurich Hauptbahnhof, the next train to Bern (at 10:06) and the third train to MURTEN, repeating the route to return home at 21:00.

This medieval town in the heart of Switzerland has a Mediterranean feel. Approximately 76% of the population is German speaking (hence, MURTEN) and 13% is French speaking (MORAT).  It is the Lake District’s main town in the Canton of Fribourg. The lakes are MURTENSEE/LAC DE MORAT, NEUCHATEL and BIEL. Today’s  cityscape was mostly built during the 17th and 18th centuries.

TODAY we strolled the cobbled streets of the town and walked around the rampart walls which were built in several stages, the lower 15 layers of stone dating from before the town’s construction in the 12th century.

The Main Street (Hauptgasse) and Arcades, the Baroque-styled town enhanced by various arches.  Even today business signs must be kept simple – neon lit signs have been banned helping to keep the charm of the old town.

Fountains in the Town –

An afternoon on the Lake –


THURSDAY, 15th June

Another day in Switzerland when I have had great difficulty in choosing photos to include in this Post. The scenery is truly something to behold. Erika drove to Brulisau where we boarded the Cable Car for an 8 minute ride to the top of Hoher Kasten, a vertical ride of 870 metres.  It is 5,890 ft. above Sea Level with many walking trails and an Alpine Garden. Along the Europe Loop Trail are 300 types of plants in their natural surroundings. At the top is a Revolving Restaurant but the weather was so beautiful that, when lunch time came, we decided to sit outside to enjoy the schnitzel.

There is a 360 degree panoramic view where we could see into six European countries, namely Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Principality of Liechtenstein, Italy and France. Cloud drifted across the scene from time to time but the Rhine River was always evident.

APPENZELL – The car free village of APPENZELL is situated in a beautiful landscape of rolling hills alongside the River  Glatt. It is well-known for its colourful houses with painted facades. It is known for CHEESE. The history of APPENZELLER cheese goes back 700 years. The cheese is still made in individual cheese dairies but is marketed under a joint brand name. The cheese makers never divulge the secrets of its production. If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life I am sure it would be cheese. Erika has stocked up on many Swiss cheeses for me to taste and APPENZELLER is high on the list.



WEDNESDAY, 14th June


The unique charm of this small town on upper Lake Zurich with its beautifully preserved buildings and houses dating back to the Middle Ages draws visitors from around the globe. The population is approximately 27,000.  We enjoyed strolling the alleys of the historic area which is protected as a national monument. There are twelve catholic and reformed churches in RAPPERSWIL-JONA.

ROSE GARDEN  The coat of arms of Rapperswil-Jona has always had two roses. In 1958 the Tourist Association promoted – “more roses in the City of Roses so that the City of Roses really does become a City of Roses”. Now, from May to October, more than 20,000 rose bushes of approximately 600 varieties bloom. The Rose Garden we chose to visit is next to the vineyard at the Capuchin Monastery.


The SELEGER Moor covers 12 hectares of public park and another 12 hectares of tree nurseries. The Park, established in 1953, is in Rifferswil and is the largest rhododendron and azalea park in Switzerland. It is set in the middle of open country surrounded by intense agricultural land. There are many very large old trees which give a great canopy for the growing of Tree Peonies, Hydrangeas, Ferns and Bulbs and there are wet areas with ponds displaying beautiful water lilies. The dedicated gardeners are constantly busy with maintenance, a major part of which is dead-heading the millions of flowers. We enjoyed our stroll through the area.

Another great day in Switzerland!