Switzerland From Top to Bottom: A Day Above Zermatt

Nestled at the foot of Switzerland’s tallest peaks is the small mountain village of Zermatt, famous as a starting point for the adventurers and mountain climbers on their way to the iconic Matterhorn. Its appeal to hikers and skiiers alike has granted it special notice on the blogosphere, and while most focus on the infamous alpine skiing, there are some that take a look at the village in summer. Follow their advice and catch a train in summer (cars are banned) and village opens up to beautiful scenery, excellent hiking, and the added bonus of much smaller crowds than the rest of Europe. Whichever time of year you go, though, Zermatt is the perfect place for unique and unforgettable experiences, not the least of which is a day hike through the southern Swiss Alps under the shadow of the Matterhorn.

In Zermatt, I dedicated an entire day to hiking the Gornergrat ridge. A handy cograil takes you to the top of the mountain, though if you are made of the same steely stuff as the Swiss, you’re welcome to hike (or jog) your way up instead. Either way, panoramic views and St. Bernard rescue dogs (which do not, unfortunately, fit easily into suitcases) wait for you at the top.

Even in the heart of summer, the altitude makes sure a couple of feet of snow sticks around.

Once you’ve had your fill of the view (which is, admittedly, hard to do), it’s time to begin your descent. The cograil does offer a faster way down, but for the more adventurous traveler it’s hard to imagine a trip into Switzerland’s alps without any actual hiking involved.

Of course, there are a couple of things to consider: atop the peak of Gornergrat, over ten thousand feet in the air, keep in mind that there will be plenty of snow on the ground, even in the dog days of summer (we went in June, and the first part of our hike was through a good three feet of the stuff). Even more importantly, don’t forget your sunscreen unless you want to spend the rest of your trip roughly the same color as a lobster. Snow glare is an evil thing, and as much fun as peeling the underside of your chin sounds, it’s really not.

Past the snow, it’s an easy hike through some of the best scenery Switzerland has to offer.

As you begin your descent and drop below the high altitudes, it’s also important to remember that while you are not actually in Rohan (as that is, in fact, located in New Zealand), it is still more than acceptable to pretend that you are on the pursuit of an evil party of rampaging Uruk-hai.

Rest assured: rugged as it seems, it’s actually incredibly difficult to get lost up here.

About halfway down the mountain, there’s a convenient rest stop if you need to rest your legs, check the map, or use the facilities. Don’t worry about getting lost; there are plenty of signs, marked paths, and other hikers, joggers, and tourists to help point you in the right direction. Just follow the narrow dirt road, pass under the treeline through a forest worthy of Thoreau’s Waldeinsamkeit, and Zermatt will open up before your feet before you know it.

All photos by Rachel Alvord

True/False Doc Shows Physicists Hot For Answers

Missouri Theater being used for True/False

Missouri Theater transformed for True/False

Each year, during the last week of February, Columbia, Missouri is home to its largest annual arts event, the True/False Film Festival. The festival boasts a plethora of documentary films and over 35 bands from around the world.

True/False technically starts on Thursday, but really kicks off for local students on Friday, which was marketed this year as TGI T/F (Thank Goodness it’s True/False Friday), which featured a free screening of Particle Fever, by director Mark Levinson, for students and festival volunteers. The film was a good choice for the student kickoff, particularly as it’s a film about people’s excitement and got students excited about the festival.

The film follows the excitement of the scientists involved with the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) at CERN (the name of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research based in Geneva, Switzerland) from the startup of the LHC through the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle (a.k.a. “The God Particle”). The film leaves after the discovery which yielded inconclusive results on which of two theories explain the existence of the universe.

At one point in the film, one of the theoretical physicists involved with the LHC is asked by an economist what the economic incentive for the roughly $10 billion project is. I won’t spoil the film by giving you his fantastic answer, but Pauline Gagnon, a quantum physicist, gives a greater explanation to the question than just finding the the origin of the universe, on her official blog on CERN’s site.  Gagnon explains that

the LHC could be opening the door to parallel worlds, extra dimensions or the discovery of as many new particles as the ones we already know. These are but some of the exciting questions we are trying to address.

Gagnon, and Levinson aren’t the only people trying to explain the LHC to the public, either. In fact, CERN has made numerous websites that cater to students trying to spark young peoples’ interests in science. CERNLand, a spanish language site encourages children and their parents to get involved in science through contests. They also encourage visitors to check out this “Taking A Closer Look at LHC” blog, which gives easy to digest explanations of what CERN does.

Part of the Large Hadron Collider

Part of the Large Hadron Collider

CERN’s next step is doubling the power of the LHC to conduct experiments that will hopefully determine which theories about how the universe is held together are supported by the Higgs Boson particle. To do this, the magnets, the main pieces of the LHC, needed to be strengthened. On their official organisational update blog, CERN announced in February that 1,000 of the 1,695 magnets have been upgraded so far.

After the film, theoretical physicist David Kaplan, whom the film followed, stuck around with director Mark Levinson to answer questions from students. The Q&A is a major part of the festival and someone who starred in or made a film is required to be present for the Q&A after each film.

Check out the website for Particle Fever and find out where the film will show next.

No Place like Swiss. Make Your Move.

If you read my previous post about “The Best Country Brand” and FutureBrand’s latest Country Branded Index (CBI), why not consider a move to Switzerland? Remember, this country is geared around its people and their needs and aims to create an emotional and cohesive connection. Ultimately, my post displayed the branded identity that Switzerland brings to the table other than their authentic and resilient international Swiss exports. So, with new business opportunities and the Swiss image, how else can one market a country? In my opinion, a big part would be a game plan for what to expect with migration.

Additionally, I believe it’s inherent to recognize and understand what non-citizens have to go through. So, for the lists below, I encourage you to read through the list below so as to give a better perspective of the laundry list migrants must undergo to live in another country.

Swiss, switzerland, mountains, water, sea, blue, grassy

An aerial view from the foot of the Swiss Alps.

In order to migrate, I believe non-citizens must acknowledge how to actually transition from their rooted cultures to the land within the Swiss borders. Through articles prescribed by Expatica.com, a Swiss-driven news source, I discovered the best ways for non-natives to move to Switzerland.

The Top ‘Must Knows’ Before moving to Switzerland

1. New Licenses

If your license is foreign to Switzerland, the country still recognizes your native license and will allow most to drive for up to 12 months with their existing license. Also, the license must have been issued by a competent authority abroad. According to Expatica.com, it must be valid and have been acquired lawfully. Lastly, the owner must be old enough to hold a Swiss license in the same category (18 for cars).

swiss, license, switzerland
2. Physically Moving: Overseas Shipping
According to Expatica’s forum, “When moving to Switzerland, there are three possibilities: leave with noting, leave with something, or leave with everything.” More guidelines to consider follows:
  • Hire a relocation company, or prepare for a full-time job.
  • Apparently, not hiring a company to take care of your paperwork, moving to another country can become a full-time job. “If you want to do this on your own, get ready to spend several weeks calling companies for quotes and filling out paperwork for customs, port documents, insurance and more,” says one Expatica editor who moved her household belongings overseas by sea container.
  • You definitely need insurance. With the rare occurrence of a storm, insurance will cover the entire loss of the container for the arrangement.
Swiss, cargo, barge, water, Atlantic, storage
3. Electricity, phone, T.V., and Internet
When renting a house, utilities are usually excluded from the monthly rent. Apartments, however, commonly include heating and hot water in the rent.
To set up Internet or telephone services, make sure you provide a copy of a residence permit (or other photo ID) and be sure you’re ready for a one-time connection payment. The service can usually be installed within a few days.
Mobile phones can be paid with a one year to two year subscription or by prepaid card. Some providers have facilities for recharging the card at train ticket dispensers, the post office or ATMs.
prongs, electricity, chord, electric, power
The Swiss pay a TV tax and radio tax. The annual cost allows an unlimited access to t.v. and radio programs. Not paying may result in fines. Swiss regions have their own respected programs. For wider ranges of programs, check out monthly cable services that allow national and international channels. Also, satellite dishes are an option if you must have a specific channel selection.
4. Living outside your comfort
  • For many, seeking a mentor to stay informed is very effective to assist in career paths, and aid visibility within the company while away and when you return.
  • Create a ‘transition fund’ that allows you to use money toward unexpected costs during a transitionary period.
  • Expect values and beliefs to change. After any new experience in other countries, it’s sometimes difficult to come back to what one always knew.
  • Consider changes in relationships. Sometimes colleagues and friends may be envious of international experience and unsure of new differences.
5. Stay positive and be happy
  • Hold on to your positive and adventurous attitude. Though you’ll face challenges, it’s part of the experience. It’s important to remember the reasons one moved abroad in the first place.
  • According to the 2011 documentary “Happy” 50% of happiness stems from genetics, 10% from extrinsic value (income, socioeconomic status, class rank), and 40% from intentions to be happy. So, do something you haven’t done before. Skydive, ski, go canyoning. Or, do something you’ve never even heard of and play the sport that’s famous in Bern. It’s called Hornussen.
So you think you’ve got what it takes to live abroad? If you need a new environment, remember that this country aims for connectedness and strong bonds with its citizens. It’s not just the exports and Swiss Alps that make a name for Switzerland. At it’s core, it’s the interpersonal relationships that give this country a brand of its own.
What about you? Is there anything stopping you from dropping everything in the states and moving to an unknown territory to start over?
As said before, this list may not meet your current needs and desires. But, I believe it is important to spend 10 (or 10,000) miles in someone else’s shoes. Read thought the lists again. While doing this, think about others that you know that have studied abroad. Then, I encourage you to come up with ways that you can facilitate a transitionary period for a non-citizen.
So let’s be honest: The time to take advantage of these extraordinary opportunities –whether studying abroad or not — is now.





‘got Switzerland?’ Globally, It’s the Best Branded Country.

The Swiss Alps

Overlook view of the Alps.

There’s little doubt in my mind that you’d fall short of recognizing Toblerone chocolate packaged goods, a Swiss watch company, Wegner Swiss Army Knives, or Volvo automobiles. I bet you’ve even heard of the country Switzerland being a top brand in itself. Or have you? Yeah– neither had I.

Recent polls from Forbes Magazine have landed Switzerland “the best country brand globally.” Right off the bat, Forbes Staff writer Jacquelyn Smith stated Switzerland as “The Apple of the world.” For what it’s worth, a separate article by Forbes announced Steve Jobs’ most important products. Seems ironic to me!

Screenshot from Twitter handle @Forbes

Switzerland beat out two-time leader Canada by scoring high marks in CBI’s Value System dimension, including impressive scores in the political freedom, environmental friendliness and stable legal environment attributes.
What do you think? Should any nation truly be eligible to obtain a legitimate award for being “The Best”? I don’t think so.
Some Tweets from @Forbes Twitter handle revealed positive feedback from followers about the latest Swiss development. Following, yours truly had some beans to spill as well:

But according to the Country Brand Index, Switzerland made its way past Canada within the past 24 hours! It seems like country ‘brandedness’ might actually be a legitimate system.

Tweets from the @FutureBrand Twitter homepage.

Tweets from the @FutureBrand Twitter homepage.

I’m still not fully convinced.

After scrolling through folds of pages, I was able to find qualifications every country must meet for first place status. According to FutureBrand.com, “the CBI ranks nations based on today’s global perception” across public policy, globalization, and media-related disciplines for the final ranking of 118 nations.

According to Forbes:

“This year’s CBI surveyed 3,600 international business and leisure travelers from 18 countries around the world, including the U.S., Canada, UK, Germany, Italy, France, Turkey, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico the UAE, India, South Africa, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Australia to find the best country brands.

The overall index score was determined by performance in 26 image attributes across five key association dimensions: Value System, Quality of Life, Good for Business, Heritage and Culture, and Tourism. This score is then combined with the performance in six other areas of brand strength (Awareness, Familiarity, Preference, Consideration, Decision/Visitation and Advocacy) to find the top 25 country brands.”

If you wonder how the ranking is obtained, FutureBrand.com says that this is based on the government’s ability to effectively implement policies that protect its people and goals, on the country’s financial commitment to its future vision based on investment in infrastructure, education, healthcare, communications technology and international partnerships, on human capital, growth, sustainability and influence.

So, once more information about FutureBrand.com’s award for Switzerland was milked dry, I felt it necessary to take a gander at Google Trends to find out more reaction from the latest Swiss news….

Google Trends

A screenshot of Google Trends revealing the Top-10 Swiss Trends being searched just hours after the CBI revealed statistics.

…and the Top-10 Trends didn’t seem to reveal much about Switzerland’s latest accomplishment. As I searched through each term or phrase, I landed on sites about Geneva, Zurich, Switzerland weather, and maps, all the way to the end for Swiss job searches.

After that, I utilized the ‘Rising’ trends and I still found nothing about the recent news of the “best brand globally.” I’ve had to keep in mind, though, that these trends can, and will change during any given time period. News always has potential to spread like wild fire, especially when more readers discover the Forbes.com article recently mentioned.

So, does one have the right to say that the Country Branded Indices are just a joke? Not so fast, my friend. Here’s why FutureBrand.com will presumably always swear by it:

“In today’s world, brands are a collection of perceptions around products, services, places and experiences, and how they’re marketed to audience groups to drive preference, purchase and ultimately advocacy,” says Daniel Rosentreter, Future Brand’s North American chief strategy officer.

What about America, you ask? What’s our ranking? FutureBrand.com ranked the U.S. No. 8 spot.

As many would probably agree, I believe America’s truths lie within our freedom, democracy, ambition, and individualism. That said, I also feel it’s apparent that our scores decreased due to the ‘Obama Effect’ and successive fiscal issues in both the United States and Europe. That said, our social and economic capital are beginning to lose its global audience.

And other countries suffered as well. According to New York Times Stewart Elliot, Italy and Spain descended a considerable amount due to the scrutiny of the euro zone crisis.

So how does one go ‘all-in’ and boost their national brand?

FutureBrand.com’s analysts reveal that brands are more than just the sum of its parts:

“From progressive politics to a sense of openness and freedom of speech, a country that is geared around its people and their needs will inevitably boost their brand image. This creates an emotional connection and ripple effect whereby others around the world will want to visit the country, do business with it and build their lives in a particular place.”

As a student seeking to grow within the creative industry, I also hold similar truths to general ideas for any brand. I believe that a brand is ultimately an identity. I believe all brands reflect a relationship, and either appreciate or negate more users. That said, after the 2012-2013 CBI, I think it’s safe to say that Switzerland has earned its fair share to be first place on FutureBrand.com’s analysis of this country’s awareness, familiarity, preference, consideration  advocacy, and active decisions to interact with this place.






Switzerland goes crazy about Absinthe

Belgian artist Henri Privat-Livemont’s 1896 “art nouveau” poster advertising Absinthe from the 1890s, the height of Absinthe’s popularity before the drink was banned in the US and much of Europe in 1915. This is one of the most common pop culture images associated with Absinthe in America.

How far would you go to protect your intellectual property? What about your great ancestors property or even if you share hometowns with a mouthwatering icon like the “Philly” cheese steak? We Americans love our regional genres of food. Especially in the culinary arenas of major cities like New York City, St. Louis, and Chicago the chefs and residents help cultivate a long history of unique expressions of their love of food, pizza in this example.

In the US, you can get “New York” style pizza in just about every city in the nation thanks to chains that have capitalized on the brand name and association with the metropolitan destination.

But in European Union countries, there is a price to pay for enjoying the gourmet foods from other nations. Countries can own the trademark to food originating in their borders and if you want the original recipes, World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva, Switzerland has the definitive documents.

The Swiss Federal Department of Agriculture in Bern is the nationalized authority on patents, which is moving to close any loopholes in the international trademarks that protect Swiss cultural milestones from being exploited at home or abroad.

These are called Geographic Identifiers (GI) and in August of this year, Switzerland announced they were claiming the region of Val-de-Travers district had sole claim to the production of the slightly psychedelic spirit known as Absinthe because it originated there.

If the addition of the Val-de-Travers GI to all forms of Absinthe passes the EU Commission, generic Absinthes produced in any other country than Switzerland, which have flooded the market and got spirits purists in an uproar, would be illegal to produce, distribute and sell to consumers in restaurants and bars all over the EU.

Even though Absinthe was first distilled in the 18th century by a Frenchman, the famously neutral nation has planted its metaphoric red-cross martini umbrella in this battle for intoxicating beverage.

Becky Paskin, an English blogger for The Spirits Business, reported at the time of the application for Swiss ownership that the French Federation of Spirits and even the European Spirits Organization are wading into the fight to appeal the designation of Absinthe as a Swiss only export. Though ambitious, I don’t think the Swiss will succeed at denying other European nations their desire to indulge in a sweetly psychotic night cap. Too many times in history, the populace has made their right to drink whatever mood altering concoction available.

As someone who has never tried Absinthe, since it is still illegal in most parts of America and I like following the law, I can only say I don’t know what I’m missing out on. As most college students, getting through a weekend without tucking back some Memphis-style barbeque or drinking some refreshing Budweiser beer, of St. Louis origination, with friends.

So as Americans, how would we feel if Seattle blockaded knock-off Starbucks or you had to travel to or special order from Lynchburg, Tenn. a bottle of Jack  Daniels for your bachelor party? I am all for possession and protection of intellectual property, and the more popular the product gets the better for my business. But Switzerland may not want to cut off the loyal fans of Absinthe and hoard the intrigue of the Green Fairie (La fée verte), when I think people should toast with whatever they want to drink and let the good spirits flow.

“Verte” Mountains & “Limpide” Lakes

Switzerland has more to offer than the montagnes that surround the country. There’s chocolate, plenty of history and lots of lakes. The Swiss have recently taken a big effort to preserve their country by becoming more “verte” or eco-friendly.

Swiss Alps. Courtesy of Google Images.

Switzerland has passed a lot of legislation recently  to help prevent waste. One bill I found interesting charges people for trash pick up; trash can only be picked up if there is a sticker saying they have paid for pick up on the trash bin. Recycling, however, is free! This obviously encourages people to recycle and as a result, Switzerland is one of the top recyclers in the world.

Other organizations are also on board for the green movement. Some hotels such as Badrutt’s Palace offer discounts for customers driving hybrid vehicles. They also derive all of their energy from a nearby lake, reducing their carbon output by 80%. C’est chouette! Another way to travel is by train. Switzerland has an extensive rail system and busing options are also available. Both are more eco-friendly than driving cars. If you are driving a car, you’re encouraged to shut off your engine if you are waiting for a short period of time. Recent Swiss legislation proposed to abolish taxes on fuels that are produced from natural resources and lower taxes on fuels that produce fewer harmful emissions.

Several Igloo villages are making the effort to be carbon neutral, or have a zero net carbon output. The igloos are made of dome shaped pods

Some igloo pods overlooking the alps. Courtesy of Google Images.

that are designed to blend in with the environment. Some igloos, called Iglu Dorfeu, are made out of snow. How do you get to the villages? Put on your snowshoes or skis! Because they are in the alps and that’s the only way to get there! If you’re visiting Switzerland, you can stay in an igloo. At first that didn’t sound too appealing to me, but watch this video – it makes these pods seem like five star hotels!

Pourquoi? Why is it so important for the Swiss to be green? Well, they are surrounded by mountains and home to many glaciers. Global warming threatens Switzerland with landslides, flooding, and damage to the economy including a loss of tourism, damage to agriculture and ruining communities. It also has an impact on health, water quality and forests.

Global warming is a problem that not only Switzerland faces. It’s something that effects the whole world. I found myself asking: why doesn’t the U.S. borrow some of these Swiss ideas and initiate them in the U.S.? But would people be happy if the government only charged for trash pick up? Probably not. Also, the U.S. doesn’t have as big of an impact with melting glaciers or landslides ruining communities. That doesn’t mean it should be ignored though, because the U.S. will see effects of global warming eventually including worldwide climate change and rising water levels. I’m not saying we should all live in igloos, but reducing taxes on fuel from natural resources doesn’t sound so bad. If action isn’t taken soon, it might be too late, and we’ll be losing more than just the Alps.


I know you all have been super anxious to take your nude hiking trips in Switzerland.  That is a trip that requires a great deal of planning and packing…oh wait.  Unfortunately, you will have to change your plans, because nude hiking is no longer legal in the Swiss canton of Appenzell.

Back in May of 2010, a 47 year old man (who has hiked nude in Switzerland for two years now), was charged with indecent behavior due to hiking nude in sight of a barbecuing area.  Other eyewitnesses say he also hiked by a Christian rehabilitation center.  For the incidents, he was fined 70 Euros (about $93).

Photo Courtesy of BBC.

Appenzell, Switzerland, where the incident took place, is well known as a popular nude hiking destination and Switzerland has no law stating that public nudity is a crime.  They do have a law against public indecency.  Because those who witnessed the nude hiker, felt uncomfortable, he was taken to court.

Now, let’s fast forward to November 17th of this year.  The Swiss court has since thrown out the appeal made by the accused nude hiker and judges determined that Appenzell can uphold a law on public decency.  The judges also stated that the ban on nude hiking “was only a marginal infringement on personal freedom.”

The ruling in Appenzell applies to the entire country.  So, the next time you plan a nude hiking trip, make sure you don’t go to Switzerland.

For more information on the subject, click here.

Image courtesy of Google.

Roger Federer’s Switzerland

With more than 9 million facebook page likes and his own profile page on IMDb, Roger Federer has become more than a tennis genius, but also a world icon. In addition to Federer’s official website, numerous fan websites of Federer have been set up by his followers. At any given moment,  over 44,000 people are talking about the Swiss tennis player on facebook.

While the world follows the star, Federer generates Swiss-red waves all over the world. Federer might have become the new symbol of Switzerland after the Swiss Army knife. If that’s the “Federer Effect” in the world, what is the “Federer Effect” back home in Switzerland?

Credit: USA Today

But their love for Federer didn’t come overnight. Roger Federer didn’t become popular until after a phenomenal  2003 season. That was the season in which he first won his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon. This was the win that propelled him from a good tennis player to tennis star. This stardom brought along the large fan base in his home country of Switzerland. The Swiss people love him so much that they let him carry the Swiss flag at the Athens Olympic’s in 2004. Federer has won 16 Grand Slam titles, Olympic gold in doubles, and he has been named season champion 5 times.

In 2007, Federer became the first living person to feature on a Swiss stamp, and his first plaque or statue was set up on the day after Federer won the 2009 French Open. It was also decided that Basel’s (Federer’s hometown) international tennis venue would be renamed the Roger Federer Arena. More and more children have started picking up tennis racket.

Fans created “Map of Roger Federer’s Switzerland” which marks the places in Switzerland that Federer is related to. For example, his birthplace in Münchenstein or even his wife Mirka’s parents’ house in Schaffhausen.

Co-writer: Devin Robinett