The biggest problem with being a tourist in Switzerland is the distinct feeling that the Swiss don’t want you to visit and certainly don’t want you to learn anything about the country.
Switzerland certainly does not go out of its way to market itself aggressively in comparison with countries like the US or France.
The more local the site, the less one is encouraged to visit.
Close examination of the country reveals that almost every town with a population of over 1,000 has a local regional museum, but try visiting that museum and chances are quite strong that the museum is only open one day a month, only in the summer, only as part of a large group, only for a very short period of time or only by special permission.
Yet these small museums often give a real intimate glance into the lives of the Swiss far more than national museums do in the larger cities.
Even in the larger cities, there are tourist attractions that very few people ever visit, because they simply don’t know of their existence.
Often even tourist information centers don’t know as much about the attractions as the casual tourist who stumbled across the information.
Of course, like any animal, I will first go to the tourist information center, but I have found that more often than not the staff is comprised of young people who know very little about their region.
1.I search online through either Google or Dogpile for the place I plan to visit.
So, for example, if I search for the town of Feuerthal, the search engines direct me to Wikipedia.
Feuerthal is, at first glance, not so inspiring, but its notable residents, Ottmar Ammann (designer of 60% of New York City bridges) and Heinrich Sutermeister (Swiss opera composer who popularized the famous Swiss tale, The Black Spider), on the other hand, warrant a visit to the town after all…
2.I acquire as much literature as I can about an area for my own personal library, especially guidebooks and works by local authors.
So, for example, Schaffhausen can be found in most guidebooks and local author Markus Werner is well worth the effort to read in translation.
Through the methods listed above, I discovered that Neuhausen has two sites not normally found along the well-beaten tourist trail:
-The cotton wool company IVF Hartmann has its own museum, open during company working hours, by appointment. (Admittedly being a new museum, the guide and the exhibits are exclusively in German.)
-Villa Charlottenfels (See Wolves in sheep packaging.), Heinrich Moser’s (1805-1874) castle overlooking the Rhine River and Schaffhausen, is also open by appointment only.
The IVF Museum is, admittedly, difficult to wax poetically upon, though it must be said the guide, a departmental director with over 25 years seniority at IVF, clearly loves his company and is eager to show how IVF is responsible for supplying bandages, casts, feminine hygiene products, baby diapers and incontinence aids to hospitals throughout Switzerland.
Famous names connected with the company, like Joseph Lister (1827–1912 British surgeon and pioneer of antiseptic surgery), and Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1895 French chemist and microbiologist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination and for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of diseases, providing direct support for the germ theory of disease and its application in clinical medicine), to name just two, give IVF, founded in 1870, respect and credibility.
You might enjoy as I did seeing the masculine travel kit for men suffering from incontinence as well as the emergency first aid kit called Schaffhausen Alarm with bomber planes on the cover. (See Oops! Did we do that?.)
Villa Charlottenfels is far more fascinating a place to visit, and, happily, Mandy, the Villa guide from the former DDR, is eager to practice her English or Russian on you.
See the outer pavilion with its dioramic paintings of Swiss history:
-the Eidgenossen – the great oath that three canton leaders made to set Switzerland free from Austrian rule;
-the victorious battle of Sembach celebrated over the fallen body of heroic Arnold Winkelried;
-the siege of Wengi, where Niklaus of Wengi stands in front of the enemy cannon and says the enemy will have to go through him to attack the town;
-the compromise of Solothurn where Brother Klaus agrees to mediate between opposing Catholic and Protestant factions.
Marvel at the adventures of Heinrich’s son Henri (1844 – 1923), an avid hunter, traveler and writer.
See many animal head trophies as well as exotica collected from Henri’s travels in the bizarre and mysterious worlds of Persia and Russia’s ethnic republics like Kirghistan, Turkestan, Boukhara,Tatarstan, Kalmykia, Mari El and Udmurtia.
See the watch-making workshop of Heinrich and the designs for his dam.
Look through Heinrich’s telescope and see the action on the Rhine River.
Smile at Heinrich’s collection of World’s Fairs memorabilia.
Feel sadness at the tragic tale of Charlotte’s death by coach accident.
Experience the excitement of the tale of Heinrich’s second wife and widow, Fanny, who participated gladly in the October Revolution, happily ending her days as a devout Communist.
See the transformation of a family home into a school that taught young ladies the art of housekeeping and then later a technical and business college for both genders.
And all of these experiences remain protected and secret to outsiders as much as the secrets of a Swiss bank vaulted account.
Dig a little deeper when you travel.
Wealth awaits just under the surface.