So much to learn and discover in a new country, none more so that Switzerland with her pristine, accurate, perfectionism. Along with all of that comes an enormous burden of secrecy.
We are mostly familiar with the Swiss neutrality during the Second World War, but recently that “neutrality” has been called into question regarding the Swiss’ associated with particular war criminals and their secret dealings with looted property, conveniently stashed in the most secret country on the planet…
It is well known that Swiss banking systems and laws are scrupulous with their respect for privacy. This policy has been the topic of more than one James Bond, 007 movie, amongst numerous other mysteriously speculative tales that have graced the silver screen.
It is this sense of mystery and intrigue that fascinates me, but on perhaps a less academic level.
The folk around us, in our little rural hide-away village in the mountains, are “secretive” by nature, perhaps more shy or plain unfriendly, but they pique my curiosity since I am of the opposite disposition: curious, nosey, intrigued, enthusiastic or just plain friendly?
Between the little mountainside cluster of houses, there is one of many, sheer cliff faces surrounded by forest, and at the base of this particular cliff are a number of caves. That, in itself, is not unusual but for the fact that these caves are closed off, sealed would better describe them, by sturdy armoured steel doors, not unlike those I imagine would be found in the basements of many Swiss banks.
I asked our young neighbour about these and the reason for their need to be so heavily secured. It turns out that these caves are not owned by locals but instead by the military. According to this young man, there are many such secured caves around the countryside. He went on to explain that these beautiful Swiss mountains are literally riddled with caves, not unlike their famous Emmental cheese is riddled with holes!
Coupled with these caves in most mountainsides, there are also many mountain huts/sheds that serve as fronts for military bunkers. All of which are TOP SECRET, apparently.
Apparently the Swiss military is active, requiring each young man to commit to military training and service for a year. In the event that marching, menouvers, bearing arms and war mongering does not appeal, an additional stretch of time is added to community service, mostly dealing with the environmental issues, as the alternative service.
We’ve seen a healthy presence of military personnel in the cities, especially in the train stations that we’ve frequented.
We’ve also been in awe of the Swiss attention to environmental details in their exquisitely clean country – kudos to those who selected not to join the army but to give their service year and a half to community/environmental services.
So it explains what we hear on a regular basis: much gunfire, the odd explosion and frequent low flying military aircraft – the military are very busy indeed with maneuvers in the mountains!
This begs the question: why would a country, so proudly neutral, feel the need to be so militarily prepared?