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Swiss Watching: Inside Europe's Landlocked Island [Paperback]

Diccon Bewes
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 Jun 2010
One country, four languages, 26 cantons, and 7.5 million people (but only 80 per cent of them Swiss): there's nowhere else in Europe like it. Switzerland may be almost 400 km from the nearest drop of seawater, but it is an island at the centre of Europe. Welcome to the landlocked island. Switzerland is the country that not only gave us triangular chocolate and holey cheese, but also the world's first Toilet Duck (1980) and the Swiss Army Knife (1897). The country is famous for its punctual trains and strict neutrality. This is the country that has yodelling festivals on national television. But what lies behind these stereotypes? 'Swiss Watching' is a revealing journey around Europe's most individual country. From seeking Heidi and finding the best chocolate to reliving a bloody past and exploring an uncertain future, 'Swiss Watching' proves that there's more to Switzerland than banks and skis, francs and cheese. This is a picture of the real Switzerland, a place where the breathtaking scenery shaped a nation not just a tour itinerary, and where tradition is as important as technology. It's also the story of its people, who have more power than their politicians, but can't speak to one another in the same language - and who own more guns per head than the people of Iraq. As for those national stereotypes, well, not all the cheese has holes, cuckoo clocks aren't Swiss and the trains don't always run exactly on time.


Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Nicholas Brealey Publishing (12 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857885481
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857885484
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13.7 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 312,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'A Financial Times Book of the Year 2010 - ...We all know that Switzerland gave us the world cuckoo clocks, triangular chocolate and penknives, but how about the Toilet Duck, Velcro and LSD? Europe's landlocked island is a great subject for a cultural anthropologist and Bewes, manager of an English language bookshop in Bern, is a perfect guide.'
A Financial Times Book of the Year 2010

'Engagingly light and comic... [Swiss Watching] will make you smile.'
Sunday Telegraph

'Informative and Entertaining' … 'Bewes reveals how Switzerland is riddled with contradictions.'
The Mail on Sunday

'Diccon Bewes has the Bryson touch, informing and entertaining readers with his observations, considerable knowledge and love for this little known country.'
Lovereading.com

'[Bewes has] a mix of loving irony and a well trained eye for eccentricity.'
Die Zeit ---

He is one of those Anglo-Saxon authors who describe foreign countries with a mix of loving irony and a well trained eye for eccentricity. --Die Zeit

With 'Swiss Watching' Diccon Bewes has achieved a book that holds surprising insights about the Swiss, and not just for foreigners. --Berner Zeitung

He is one of those Anglo-Saxon authors who describe foreign countries with a mix of loving irony and a well trained eye for eccentricity. --Die Zeit

With 'Swiss Watching' Diccon Bewes has achieved a book that holds surprising insights about the Swiss, and not just for foreigners. --Berner Zeitung

He is one of those Anglo-Saxon authors who describe foreign countries with a mix of loving irony and a well trained eye for eccentricity. --Die Zeit

With 'Swiss Watching' Diccon Bewes has achieved a book that holds surprising insights about the Swiss, and not just for foreigners. --Berner Zeitung

About the Author

Diccon Bewes is an experienced travel writer who has lived in Switzerland for four years. An 18-month world trip set him up for a career in travel writing, via the scenic route of bookselling. After ten years at Lonely Planet and Holiday Which? magazine, he decamped to Switzerland, where he is currently manager of the Stauffacher English Bookshop in Bern. As well as grappling with German, re-learning to cross the road properly, and overcoming his innate desire to form an orderly queue, he has spent the last four years exploring the bits of the country he'd never heard of before and eating lots of chocolate. See his website at www.dicconbewes.com

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Swiss Watching proves that there's more to Switzerland than Banks, Watches, Skis, Heidi and Holey Cheese.
This is a brilliant picture of the real Switzerland, one that most of us don't get to see or hear about. The book is full of witty and touching antidotes from all over the country. Highly recommended to those that love armchair travel, I loved it and can't wait to visit Europe's landlocked island.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it! 12 Jun 2010
By SJAB
Format:Paperback
This is such a great read, whether or not you are planning to visit Switzerland. If you are, then take this with you because, even though it's not a guide book, you'll end up wanting to visit all the places he mentions! If you're not going there, you'll soon want to once you've read it!! Swisswatching is informative, interesting, honest and funny. Diccon Bewes has researched it well and added in his excellent observations from living as an expat in Switzerland. If you like Bill Bryson you'll love this! I couldn't put it down and can't wait for his next book! The great thing is that you can also make comments and ask him questions via his blog and he actually answers!! Plus each new blog entry adds more funny observations about the country that aren't in his book. What more could you want?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Switzerland as you've never seen it before 23 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback
As someone who has lived in Switzerland quite recently I would recommend `Swisswatching' highly to anyone moving there or simply visiting the country. Bewes' book gets under the skin of the experience of being a foreigner in Switzerland and does it with a great sense of fun. It also gives an excellent and informed view of the Swiss as a nation and proves beyond doubt that, despite having four cultural and language groups within its borders, there is such a thing as Swissness. Most importantly, the book takes a superb look at the regions of Switzerland, some of which may be well known but most of which will be new to all but the most experienced traveller. It looks at the products we all recognise as Swiss and the figures we may currently be unaware of and tells the story of a country through their histories. Above all this is a thoroughly enjoyable, amusing and entertaining read for anyone with even a passing interest in travel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now I Really Know the Swiss 30 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback
Diccon Bewes' penetrating insights into the Swiss psyche makes Swiss Watching a book about Switzerland like no other.

I'm married to a Swiss and have visited Switzerland -from Australia- more than twenty times.

In my quest to acquaint myself better with this fascinating country I've read many books and guides, including a couple of very good ones.

But here we have something very, very special.

Swiss Watching is utterly absorbing and brilliantly written.
In his unique and engaging style Diccon Bewes zeroes in on the Switzerland we don't really know, the one that's hidden behind all those majestic peaks, quaint chalets, well-fed cows and the chocolate, cheese and precision watches.

The book is a comprehensive and very fair account of all things Swiss -especially the people- and the author's sharp and perceptive observations cut through to the very core of the national mentality.

Want a book about Switzerland full of gushy prose extolling the country's numerous virtues?...dozens of such books exist, have been around for a hundred years and may be found in the travel section of bookshops the world over.
Prefer a no-holds-barred, balanced treatise that will accurately reveal the Swiss to you in a way you never thought possible?...this is THE book.

For author Diccon Bewes, researching and then writing Swiss Watching has clearly been a labour of love; he is to be heartily congratulated for producing such an outstanding and seminal work in which he truly has nailed the Swiss like no-one has before.

As it's right up there with the most enjoyable and informative books I've ever read I simply can't recommend this wonderful book highly enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Idiosyncratic Swiss 14 Sep 2010
Format:Paperback
Diccon Bewes's book on 'The Landlocked Island' is certainly one of the best such books of the many I have read on the subject of Switzerland and its strange and surprising differences to the rest of Europe. I was a resident there until recently in the canton of Zurich and remember the curious culture of souless efficiency, monetary comfort, beautiful landscapes and frustration with the rules and regulations entailed in living there.

The first few chapters of this book are full of shrewd insights and observations and there is a particularly good account of the complex political arena there. However, the narrative loses a bit of drive towards the end of this book and finishes with a rather pointless section on the story of Heidi. I also think that Bewes could have explained more about the unique language situation and the curious dialects you encounter in different parts of this tiny country and the increasing dominance of English as a non-official second tongue for most young people there.

Nonetheless this book is a worthy effort and probably the best reference text if and when you visit or move to this fascinating and very different country.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most scenic view of Switzerland 10 Sep 2010
Format:Paperback
Swiss Watching is the most entertaining, insightful and informative book I remember reading about Switzerland! As a Swiss established in the UK, I am used to poorly informed views of a country that is not only complex, but also hard to discover. Swiss Watching stands out in the accuracy, insight, fairness and humour with which the author observes its subject... not a small feat with a country that takes delight in every thing small, local and individual. I could not put the book down, and felt life breathing through its pages. Swiss Watching book should be compulsory reading for any person claiming to be interested in Switzerland.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book
I have now bought several of these books as presents. I recommend it totally for anyone who has a reason to get to know the Swiss better. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Christina
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
This was quickly received in good condition an d great fun to read being factual but expressed in such an interesting proise style. Well done.
Published 10 months ago by K L Owen
2.0 out of 5 stars Insightful although limited review about current Switzerland
Diccon Bewes has attempted what is indeed a very difficult task: trying to find out how Swiss people really tick and that as somebody who has not grown up in Switzerland and does... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Phippu
4.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fascinating
I've visited Switzerland regularly over forty years but I learnt so much from this book! My only niggles are the awful maps (drawn by the author) and the occasional facile quips... Read more
Published on 1 Mar 2012 by A. C. Bedford
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent book
I enjoyed reading every sentence of this book. It is well written - informative, entertaining, and amusing. Read more
Published on 15 Feb 2012 by samson
4.0 out of 5 stars An informative and highly readable guide to Switzerland and the Swiss
I bought this book because we visit Switzerland at least twice a year since our son moved to Bern. It is a really good read, answering lots of questions about Swiss culture,... Read more
Published on 2 Jan 2012 by weedoval
5.0 out of 5 stars learning about switzerland is just a bonus
this fantastically well-written book is a joy to read. most people reading it will have a predilection towards switzerland and will be keen to learn more about the country... Read more
Published on 29 Sep 2011 by dan
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading
I enjoyed this book, and read it in a couple of days. It's light-hearted, really funny in places and quite informative too. Read more
Published on 31 Aug 2011 by John D. Andrews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful insight into the Swiss nation
Outstanding. Not just a travel guide but an intriguing and entertaining description into what makes Swiss people tick.Now I understand.
Published on 17 Aug 2011 by chappy
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
I myself am Swiss and have lived in Switzerland for more than 50 years, but nevertheless I have learnt a lot about the history of Switzerland by reading this book. Read more
Published on 30 July 2011 by Stalder Verena
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