Monthly Archives: January 2012
Swiss Languages, What is Romansh?
In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that Switzerland has four national languages: Swiss German, French, Italian and Romansh. Swiss German speakers make up 63.6% of the population, French speakers make up 20.4%, Italian speakers make up 6.5% and Romansh 0.5%.* In fact, Switzerland’s diversity, particularly it’s diverse languages, is one of the primary ways it differentiates itself from its more homogeneous neighbors.
What does the CH stand for? Confederatio Helvetica. Just don’t ask me how to pronounce it.
Who were the Helvetians? They were a tribe that lived in Switzerland that were beaten by Julius Cesar in 58 B.C. They lived (more or less) in the borders of modern day Switzerland. This isn’t terribly surprising as modern day Switzerland follows natural geographic boundaries (the Rhine, the Rhone, the Alps and the Jura).
Switzerland’s Film Locations
|Courtesy of United Artists|
Courtesy of MGM Studios
- The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Although it is set in Sweden, this movie visits Switzerland. Without giving the plot away, banks are involved (get ready for a theme here).
|Courtesy of Warner Brothers|
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes by having him and Moriarty go over Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. Ironically, the falls were not filmed in Switzerland, but the train scene was filmed near Triengen.
|View from Grindelwald, not to be confused with Gimmelwald|
- Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith – The backdrops of planet Alderaan are actually the mountains of Grindelwald that are digitally enhanced.
|Courtesy of Dor Film-West Produktionsgesellschaft|
- North Face – This German film is a suspenseful adventure based on the true story of the competition to climb the most dangerous rock face in the Alps, the north face of the Eiger.
- The Golden Compass – This children’s fantasy movie was also set in Gimmelwald.
|Courtesy of New Line Cinema|
- Angels and Demons – The movie starts at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, which is located on the outskirts of Geneva.
|Tom Hanks, Rachel Weisz and Ron Howard in front of CERN, Courtesy of Atlas E-News|
- Contagion – Scenes are set at the World Health Organization in Geneva.
- Syriana – Scenes from this political thriller were filmed at the iconic Geneva hotel, Hotel President Wilson.
- Band of Brothers – The Austrian scenes were shot in Switzerland. They used the Giessbach Hotel in Brienz for the hotel in Zell am See. The baseball game at the end was shot at the Swiss Air Force Base in Interlaken. The other Austrian scenes were shot in the Interlaken area by Brienzer See and Thuner See. Additionally, Grimselpass also stands in for the Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany.
- The Miracle of Bern – Set at the 1954 World Cup in Bern, this portrait of post-WWII Germany tells the story of a young boy, his ex-POW father and the unexpected victory of the West German soccer team.
|20th Century Fox|
- The Sound of Music – While the Sound of Music is rightfully associated with Salzburg, Austria the last shot of the movie is the Von Trapp’s climbing over the alps into Switzerland.
|Courtesy of American Zoetrope|
- Youth Without Youth – This Francis Ford Coppola movie is set in pre-WWII Europe and features a professor. It gets a bit crazy from there.
Several movies have characters visiting bankers here:
- The Informant – The US Government goes after agribusiness price-fixing with their informant witness. Guess who has to go visit some bankers in Zürich? He’s walking past city hall on his way.
- The Bourne Identity – Matt Damon (yep, he’s in Switzerland once again) as Jason Bourne goes to visit some Swiss Bankers in Zürich.
|Courtesy of Fox Warner|
|Courtesy of 20th Century Fox|
- X-Men First Class – A character goes to Switzerland to interrogate of the keepers of Nazi Gold. Although I’m not sure smart is the right word to describe this movie, we’ll still file it under banks.
- In Her Majesty’s Secret Service – The famous opening sequence of Bond skiing down the alps was filmed at Schilthorn, near Interlaken.
- Goldeneye -The opening sequence was filmed in the Italian part of Switzerland, near Lugano in Cugnasco and Gerdola. In the movie, James Bond jumps from Contra Dam.
|Courtesy of MGM|
- Goldfinger – Our favorite British spy chases Goldfinger’s Rolls Royce around the Swiss Alps through the Furka Pass (near Andermatt).
- A View to a Kill – Yet another chase scene through the alps. This one is at Vadretta di Scerscen Inferiore, in the Italian portion of Switzerland.
- The Spy Who Loved Me – The opening ski sequence was filmed in Switzerland (Graubauden, St. Moritz).
|Courtesy of MGM|
Some famous people have lived in or hail from Switzerland As a result, several movies about their lives and work have been filmed here. They include:
- Rowing with the Wind – Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley came to Switzerland as romantics enamored of the dramatic scenery. While living near Geneva, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. This film is based on that period.
|Courtesy of Caroicao Pictures|
|Courtesy H. R. Geiger Bar|
- H.R. Giger’s Sanctuary – H.R. Geiger, the creator the Alien movies is from Gruyeres, Switzerland. He has an amazing, visually intriguing cafe and museum in the town. The movie features them.
A few books have been turned into movies set in Swtizerland.
- Heidi – It is famous for preempting the 1968 Raiders-Jets Superbowl. Several Heidi movies have been filmed here.
- The Razor’s Edge – In this adaption of W. Sommerset Maugham‘s classic work, Bill Murray visits Switzerland on his path to enlightenment.
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being – This Milan Kundera novel was adapted for the big screen and was nominated for two Oscars. It centers around the Prague Spring stars Daniel Day Lewis and Juliette Binoche. A scene was filmed on the Mt. Blanc Bridge in Geneva. We cross that bridge regularly.
|Courtesy of MGM|
Our Trip To A Local Movie Theater
|Courtesy of Astor Film Lounge|
Czechoslovakia’s History Under Communism
Lost In Translation – Fish Pedicure Treatment?
Prague’s Jewish Quarter
- Franz Kafka’s birthplace
- High Synagogue (Vysoká synagog) – This 16th century synagogue contains an exhibition of Torah mantels, curtains and ornaments.
- Jewish Town Hall (Židovská radnice) – This 18th century rococo town hall Jewish Town Hall has a clock tower whose hands run backwards as Hebrew reads from right to left. Part of the building dates from 1586.
- Klaus Synagogue (Klausova synagoga) – It is 16th century baroque synagogue that houses Hebrew prints, manuscripts and has a good exhibition explaining Jewish traditions and customs..
- Maisel Synagogue (Maiselova synagog) – This 16th century synagogue was once destroyed by fire. Now, it houses a collection of items brought to Prague by the Nazis with the intention of establishing a museum of vanished people.
- Pinkas Synagogue (Pinkasova synagog) – This 16th century synagogue was rebuilt many times since it was founded in 1479. After WWII it became a memorial to the 77,297 Jewish Czechoslovak victims of the Nazi Holocaust. These numbers do not include Slovakian Jews, only Jews from current Czech territory. Each of the victim’s names is written in alphabetical order on the walls with their date of birth and the date they were last seen alive. The building is silent except for prayers and a reading the names of the dead, which alternate over the sound system.
- Spanish Synagogue (Španělská synagog) – This 19th century synagogue is a stunning building named after its Moorish interior. It contains an exhibition of the life of Jews in the Czech Republic. Despite it’s appearance, it was never used by Sephardic Jews, but was an early Reform temple.
- Old New Synagogue (Staronová synagog) – Dating from 1270, this Gothic synagogue is the oldest working in Prague. It is legendary and reputed to be the home of the famous Golem of Prague. It requires an additional ticket that can be purchased at the same time.
- Jewish Ceremonial Hall, Prague (Obřadní síň) – This beautiful 20th century neo-renaissance hall abuts the cemetery. It houses an exhibit on death and burial customs.
- Old Jewish Cemetery (Starý židovský hřbitov) This 15th-18th century cemetery is Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish cemetery and one of the most unusual sites. Founded in 1478, it is Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish cemetery. As Jews were not permitted to bury their dead outside the Jewish Quarter and space was tight, there was a severe lack of space. 100,000 people are thought to be buried here. To fit them all, people had to be buried on top of each other. There are about 12 layers and over 12,000 gravestones. Since Jews do not believe in moving the dead, even when permitted to bury outside the quarter, they did not move the bodies to make more space.
It is customary for Jews to put small stones on a gravesite when visiting it.
Over the years, the bodies accumulated. Now the cemetery is over a story above street level.
I found the concept of having a museum divided between several important buildings all within close walking distance to each other really interesting and easy to manage. Each one has a different focus and so they compliment each other, rather than overlap. It was an incredibly interesting and moving morning.
Praha, Prague, Whatever You Call It, You Will Love it
Last weekend, we met Mrs. DiCaprio in Prague and had a great time. There are no friends like old friends and it is a wonderful city. Aside from the great company, here are some of the things we liked about Prague: