A few weeks ago, soon after our (I and She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed) Sardinian adventures, the wife and I went a-walkin’ one weekend along a trail called the Witzweg (Joke Trail), a three-hour walk from one small Swiss hamlet, Walzenhausen, to another Swiss hamlet, Heiden.
Not a bad experience, really.
You get yourself to the Lake of Constance and the harbour of Rorschach.
Ride a boat along the lakeshore and up the Rhine River to Rheineck.
Take a gauge train up the hills to Walzenhausen.
Do the walk.
Take another gauge train from Heiden down the hills to Rorschach.
On a warm summer’s day, it is an ideal excursion for one and all.
In Walzenhausen, grab a bite to eat before you tackle the trail.
In Heiden, have a dip in the thermal baths, visit the Henri Dunant (founder of the International Red Cross) Museum and perhaps another meal before heading back down to the Lake.
The Joke Trail, already 20 years young, with its panoramic views, offers, every 15 to 20 minutes’ walking distance, signposts with Appenzeller Canton jokes, written in Swiss and High German, which is great if you can read Swiss or High German, but not so hilarious if you don’t.
To be fair, not understanding the jokes is naught for you to worry about, for the jokes on offer are pretty universally standard jokes one might find in a joke book or hear from a comedian in dire need of new material.
I did the Trail with She, enjoyed the day and her company and thought little about it, until HE returned back from his Sicilian vacation back to work at Starbucks…
Bryan “Chicken Legs” Pattison, one of the many chiefs of our little SB Bahnhof tribe, a Geordie from Newcastle and our resident comedian, in his rapid-fire Rowan Atkinson delivery, made me think about comedy and the Trail, and perhaps an idea that other countries might try.
I cannot speak for countries I have little experience of, but during my working and travelling in my home and native land of Canada, in the US, in the UK and in Australia, I was deeply impressed by the vast variety of comedy and comedians these countries have produced.
As anyone with Internet access will attest, America especially holds the opinions of their comedians in the highest esteem and, in fact, trust “phony” news programmes, like “The Daily Show”, far more than they do regular news programming.
As comedy could be considered as much a national treasure and part of a country’s heritage as any national monument or museum, perhaps areas known for their comedy clubs or birthplaces of comedians could offer walking trails with both info and jokes to really help visitors connect with the national culture.
Montreal, for example, with its annual International Comedy Festival, has its Juste pour Rire / Just for Laughs Museum, but wouldn’t it be interesting for cities like New York, Chicago or Toronto, famous for their comedy clubs to have trails through their cities, showing where the great names in comedy performed with a sample of their finest repartee?
Or what about a Comedy Hall of Fame?
And as any Joker will tell you, laughter is the best medicine.
So, why (must society be) so serious?
Put on a happy face.
Make em laugh.
Take a walk on the funny side of the street.
Do we really want Chicken Legs to have the last laugh?