September 5, 2019

Fascinated by the writer’s last years’ experience, he decided to spend a holiday once again in Switzerland, specifically to avoid listening to the annoying political grumbles and rhetoric by various politicians on television news, interviews and ‘chat’ programmes, as the  election fever began to get intensified.

The Bandaranaike International Airport had relaxed its security operations, which had been strengthened immediately after the suicide bombing saga on Easter Sunday by replacing  the antiquated vehicle detection system using extended mirrors to the under carriage of vehicles. The new innovative underground surveillance system, operated by Air Force staff, appeared to make sense as every vehicle driven over  this latest modification  managed to detect electronically, if any object was attached to the underside of a vehicle. 

In every other International Airport, passengers need to remove jackets. shoes, belts, rings, wrist watches, and particularly lap top covers, and even the wallets, handbags and passports holding pouches have to be placed on a conveyer belt until the scanning  cameras scrutinise all bags and passengers go through a body search to avoid any security risks. Though, it may somewhat inconvenience passengers, yet people quite prefer to put up with such tribulations to avoid any terrorist activity taking place, either inside the airport building or within the aeroplane they travel. However, at the Bandaranaike International Airport the authorities  and staff seemed to turn a blind eye to vital aspects of international criteria as the writer did not have to remove his shoes or take the lap top out of the case etc!  It was rather surprising not to see this international security procedure being adopted completely at the Airport, especially after the suicide bombing that took place in the country on Easter Sunday last. Is this then a common feature of the Sri Lankan beaurocrats to wait until an explosion takes place?

The airport on the night of August 8th was chock-a-block with passengers going out of the country, barring a few white faces as tourists returning home. So much so, after reaching the ‘on line check-in counter’ at the airport, the writer had a pleasant surprise of being upgraded to Business class (Colombo-Doha leg), may be due to overbooking procedure, as normally all airlines adopt this system of overbooking  & leaving room for the odd passenger not to turn up! One needs to observe the difference between the economy class, business or the first-class passenger on a plane, which is wide and varied, covering from  food, drink, the cutlery and  even  the behaviour of the aircrew.

Shower facilities

There are two airlines that serve Sri Lanka, Emirates and Ethihad, that offer shower facilities for first class suites on their  A380 planes (Ethihad)  with a luxurious spa-like experience  at 40,000 feet in the air to have a shower. A passenger on an ultra-long-haul flight can enjoy this facility, but for those passengers on a shorter flight on full first class may have to book a shower appointment in advance at the beginning of the flight with a flight attendant, and the showering passenger gets an electronic indication, five minutes before the allocated time allowed , to close the latch of the shower door to avoid water seepage.

Doha Airport

Air passengers arriving at the Doha and Zurich airports, especially from the ‘developing world’, will be amazed by the advancement one is able to fathom. In Doha, of course one has a solid walk for  a transit passenger before reaching the appropriate gate prior to entering the plane. Alternatively, one is able to seek assistance of an electric 4-5-seater vehicle to reach the correct gate up to the passport control point. In Zurich airport, the procedure is completely different for incoming passengers. As  they come out of the plane and walk along the concourse, passing a number of horizontal ‘escalators’, a monorail underground train takes passengers to the appropriate terminal building  and up to immigration control area. Once the immigration is through, clear indications direct passengers towards countless number of conveyor belts to help them collect their  baggage, out of clearly marked belt gangs. 

Inside the Country

Switzerland is one of the cleanest and law binding countries in the world with quality of life and equally the atmosphere. Officially known as the Swiss Confederation, it is one of the oldest nations in Europe that is divided into various provinces known as Cantons. The country was primarily rural and it has gone through a massive metamorphosis in the 19thcentury, focusing mainly on the textiles and silk being one of the leading industries. Unlike most other nations, Switzerland adopts and practices, true it its meaning, as a democracy up to date, where the citizens are allowed to make certain decisions directly but not a Representative Body. Switzerland uses its own currency known as ‘francs’ and 8.4 million people have decided not to join the European Union. Nestled among hills all over Switzerland, bordering the alps mountains as well, it is quite picturesque to see the gradians of mountains with nicely mowed grass by the farmers who live at various levels of such elevations. This is due to the education policy Switzerland adopts from early stages up to citizen level where everyone is inculcated with cleanliness. Even for domestic waste disposal ( apartments in Luzern area)  allocations of individual bins are distributed to residents of apartments with an electronic credit card type key to operate one’s own allocated bin so that no one else can dump rubbish into others’ bins ; each apartment is charged by the weight in kilos of the disposed rubbish.

Here of course, everything works like clockwork. No Parliamentarians, Ministers are seen  travelling in luxury vehicles at rocket speed with a bunch  of hell’s angels pushing the ordinary public to trenches, although 99.9% cars on Swiss roads are classy vehicles, some of them costing up to 300,000 franks (Porsche). Neither the car industry is loaded with an unbearable tax element like in Sri Lanka where Sri Lanka  holds the world record for taxation even on an ordinary new vehicle.

 It is customary and forms  part of the traffic law, and motorists are disciplined to stop the vehicle whenever pedestrians are seen crossing the roads. The discipline of drivers, therefore, can be said as over 1000%, and one does not find jaywalkers either, crossing roads with mobile phones stuck on to their ears. Motor offences are extremely rigid in Switzerland and goods vehicles and container movement are restricted to the nearside lane of the highways and only permitted to overtake another slow-moving vehicle or  before reaching a highway interchange junction. Also, law restricts goods vehicles or articulated  vehicle movement not enter a highway between  10 pm and 5 am. The problem with Sri Lankan Ministers and politicians who visit the west have all seen and obeyed such regulations like meekly mousses, but when they arrive back home seek VIP treatment. 

Road Signs banning container entry to other lanes

From a tourist aspect there are many things a foreigner is able to see and experience out of comfortable bus service and a fast train service in Switzerland. The transport museum  in Luzern takes once back to the 17thcentury that gives the history of all kinds of transport from the olden day horse carriages, locomotives first  constructed by the Jura Simpson Railway Company in Western Switzerland and taken out of service in  early 1920s and up to modern railway engines. 

Lake Luzern

Another tourist attraction in Luzern is the Mount Pilatus, a mountain composed of  several peaks. Tourists are able to climb  up to the steepest peak of  2128 meters, stopping halfway at 1400 on the first accent climb aided by a specialised system of  cogwheel operated railway to overcome a gradient of 480% to reach to the top. Cog wheels work  both vertically  and horizontally to grab both sides simultaneously into the laterally milled track pad to prevent derailment in extremely high transmitted areas on Herringbone Rail track invented by Edward Locher  in 1889.This cog wheel railways is the most unique railway in the whole world.

Rigi Kulm mountain rising up to 1797.5 meters above sea level is the highest in Central Switzerland, which is a popular tourist attraction and can only be reached by aerial cable cars, the first-ever mountain transport system introduced Europe and delights the startling view over 13 lakes and the magnificent alpine panorama. Boat rides on the beautiful Lake Luzern cover the charming Old Town of Luzern.

For those who believe in karma, one has to wish  to be born in Switzerland in this Century as there  is not much of a difference between Hell and Heaven here, when with some of the living conditions in certain countries in the world over, ranging from politics, cost of living, quality of food in supermarket, hassle free fast transport service and with all the luxuries one could imagine, along with  a sense of patriotism in every citizen or a foreigner settled down in Switzerland, and mainly the disciplinehere , which has been the  missing link in various parts of the world that has helped towards ruination of many countries at the present time.

Pic Credit: Google and Ceylon Today Newspaper

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