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Episode 4 of "That's only in Switzerland"

Published: 21 February 2021

In the 4th part of the popular series "Only Switzerland has this", many ideas from your comments have once again been incorporated. Once again, there is much to marvel at and reasons to be proud of Switzerland.

Below you will also find the content of the video in text form. More entertaining and richer in images is of course the video with English subtitles.

The most photographed mountain in the world

The 4'478m high Matterhorn is one of the most beautiful and most photographed mountains in the world. With its characteristic shape, it is also one of Switzerland's best-known landmarks. The Matterhorn is located on the border between Switzerland and Italy.

Every year, about 3,000 motivated climbers try to scale the almost perfect pyramid shape. But the climb is not easy. One in three has to give up without having achieved anything. It is therefore not surprising that many unsuccessful attempts were made until the first ascent of the mountain. Finally, in 1865, the British climber Edward Whymper succeeded in conquering the mountain in his eighth attempt. The price was high. On the descent, 4 of his 7 comrades fell fatally.

If you don't want to climb the mountain and would rather see it, you can enjoy the beautiful hiking trails around car-free Zermatt. In winter, one of the most beautiful ski areas in Switzerland beckons, in my opinion. Even if it's certainly not the cheapest. The best view of the Matterhorn is from the platform of the "Klein Matterhorn" opposite, which is easily reached by cable car. At the same time, you are also at the highest mountain station in Europe.

World's largest halfpipe

Snowboarders and freestyle enthusiasts should definitely visit the Big Beast of LAAX in the canton of Graubünden. One of the most popular ski resorts in Switzerland is home to the largest halfpipe in the world. 6.90 metres high, 200 metres long and 22 metres wide. Plenty of room for spectacular tricks. Another unique feature of this superpipe is that it can be used by anyone throughout the winter, not just professionals. All you need is a regular ski pass.

The halfpipe has a long tradition. It was opened in 1985. At that time it was much smaller, 2 metres high and 50 metres long. Since then, however, the halfpipe has been steadily expanded and reached these impressive dimensions in 2014. The pipe is open throughout the season from December to April.


Also known colloquially as Rhaeto-Romanic, Rumantsch is Switzerland's fourth national language. This fascinating language is spoken exclusively in the canton of Graubünden and arose from the mixing of vernacular Latin with local languages. It is the oldest national language still spoken in Switzerland. After a long struggle, however, Rhaeto-Romanic only became the fourth national language in 1938, but by a clear majority. Over 90% of the Swiss voted in favour of the constitutional article at that time.

Even though there is a lot of sympathy for the language, only a few Swiss speak and understand it. Only about half a percent of the Swiss population claim Romansh as their main language. Despite its low prevalence, 5 dialects have developed within the language because of its former remoteness. Each of these five dialect groups has its own written language, which in turn is a compromise between various local and regional dialects. To give you a feeling of what this language sounds like, I'll play you a short excerpt.

The Swiss station clock

Every Swiss knows it. The Swiss station clock of the Swiss Federal Railways SBB with its unmistakable feature, the red second hand in the shape of a signal ladle of the dispatcher and its minutely artificial pause. The clock is characterised by a very clear and reduced design. It is very easy to read, even from a distance. A special feature is that this clock is the same at all Swiss stations, as it should be in Switzerland, of course it also runs accurately and at every full minute the second hand stops for one and a half seconds.

The pause of the second hand has a technical reason. When it was developed in 1944, it was not yet possible to run a watch accurately with second impulses, and this would also have led to a significantly shorter service life. However, the SBB insisted on the second hand at that time. 

The solution: A master clock triggers the minute pulse for all station clocks in Switzerland. This pulse in turn releases the second hand. To do this, the second hand must cover the distance of one minute in 58½ seconds. The hand then waits for the next minute pulse. Thanks to this principle, it was possible to keep all the clocks at the stations running precisely. Today, that would no longer be necessary. But the short pause had already achieved cult status and thus remained with the more modern station clocks.

Muotathaler Wetterschmöcker

The Wetterschmöcker are a group of agriculturally oriented amateur meteorologists from Innerschwyz. Twice a year they present their weather forecasts with a lot of humour at the public meetings of the Innerschwyz Meteorological Association. In their forecasts they incorporate their observations from nature, their wealth of experience and a lot of wordplay. The exact recipe, however, remains the secret of each of the prophets. The "weather forecaster" whose predictions are closest to the actual weather events of the past six months receives a challenge trophy at the next meeting.

The association was founded in 1947 in the remote Muota Valley. One of the reasons given by the association for its founding was the advent of radio and the fear that weather forecasting and careful observation of nature would be lost if everyone only followed the reports on the radio. According to the association, this fear finally came true with the invention of television at the latest.

Bratwurst without mustard

If you want to make yourself unpopular in the canton of St. Gallen, just order mustard with your Olma bratwurst. A major faux pas in eastern Switzerland, but nothing unusual in the rest of the country. The people of St. Gallen are so proud of their bratwurst that they claim this sausage is so good it doesn't need mustard. On the contrary, the mustard would only distract from the wonderful taste of their delicious veal sausage and only a bad sausage is eaten with mustard. Honestly, and I hope I'm not making myself too unpopular in Eastern Switzerland, I don't feel that way and mustard is good for the digestion. But the people of eastern Switzerland can be proud of their sausage. The term is regionally protected, slaughtering and production must take place in eastern Switzerland. The minimum proportion of veal is also strictly regulated.

The most patents per capita

No other country is as inventive as Switzerland. Per capita, Switzerland is the undisputed leader. In 2018, there were 956 inventions per million inhabitants in Switzerland. That is twice as many as the second-placed country, the Netherlands.

Unfortunately, I still have to curb the enthusiasm somewhat. Most patent applications come not from individuals but from companies. Especially Roche, Nestlé, Novartis and ABB. But the universities also make a considerable contribution, and that is something to be proud of again. In the info box and in the video description, I've included a video about world-famous Swiss inventions. Be sure to watch it too!

Foreigners' identity cards

Foreigners who live in Switzerland receive a foreigner's identity card. No joke, this is its real name and is even written on the paper version. Up to now, EU foreigners received it on paper in a very impractical and large format. Hardly anyone therefore had this identity card with them and rather at home but stowed away in some drawer. Only when one of the rare occasions occurred when one needed it, did the great search begin. But the time of the paper identity card will soon be over. Little by little, the cantons are switching to identity cards in the practical credit card format. Until now, this was reserved for foreigners from third countries.

High assets and high debts at the same time

The average per capita wealth of a Swiss adult is one of the highest in the world. According to a Credit Suisse study from October 2019, Switzerland ranks first worldwide with an average wealth per adult of 564,000 US dollars. Incidentally, this is also the case with median wealth, which is even more meaningful and is not so heavily distorted by less extremely high wealth. Which is the case with the USA, for example.

According to the CS study, over two-thirds of Swiss adults have assets of more than 100,000 US dollars and a full 12% are even dollar millionaires. Of the richest one percent of the world's wealth owners, 1.8% are Swiss. That is remarkable for a country with only 0.1% of the world's population.

Now we come to the big "but"! At the same time, Switzerland also ranks first with private household debt of 128% to gross domestic product (as of 2018), with an average per capita debt of around $100,000. Now you're wondering where that comes from. A very large part of the debt is due to mortgages. In Switzerland, it is cheaper not to pay off your house and to take out a considerable part as a mortgage. The tax savings are greater than the interest. The current low interest rates further fuel this system.

SRF not receivable abroad

Almost every Swiss has experienced this. On holiday, you want to watch Roger Federer's tennis match or the daily news live, and nothing happens. All you get is "This channel is not available in your country for legal reasons". The Swiss public television channels SRF 1 and SRF 2 are blocked abroad. Even via satellite, the channels are encrypted and only available to Swiss citizens abroad via a SAT access card. Why is this?

The production and maintenance costs for Switzerland's public broadcasters are already very high in relation to the size of the population. Switzerland has 4 national languages and only 8 million inhabitants. For cost reasons, no foreign rights are bought for foreign productions and live broadcasts. Since this applies to any number of broadcasts, the channel is blocked abroad for legal reasons.

Do you know of any other unique or unusual things in Switzerland? Tell me about them on YouTube in the comments. If you liked the video, I would be happy if you liked it and subscribed.

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