Months of research and writing, weeks of editing and designing, hours of endless fun. Swisscellany, my new book, will be published on 21 July, the anniversary of the first successful ascent of the Eiger North Face. And, at times, writing a book can feel like climbing a mountain but at last the summit is in sight: the day when it goes on sale and all the hard work seems worthwhile. But what is a Swisscellany?
Look up miscellany in a dictionary and you’ll see that it is a group, collection or mixture of different items, ingredients or things. As a noun it’s far less used than the adjective derived from it – miscellaneous – which is probably why the British and Americans can’t agree on how to pronounce it: I say mis-sel-la-nee, stressing the ‘sel’; they say mis-sa-lay-nee, stressing the lay. Collection is probably easier.
This Swiss miscellany is a collection of curious and quirky, statistical and historical, intriguing and interesting facts & figures about Switzerland. It is a subjective look at a unique country and its people, but not an utterly comprehensive one. You can discover how much yoghurt an average Swiss person eats each year but not which flavours, or who was elected president the most times but not who voted for him, and even the most successful pop songs but not why anyone bought them.
It’s not a quiz book or an encyclopedia but something to dip in and out of, and maybe discover a few things about Switzerland that you never knew. To give you a taster of what’s in store, here are ten questions you might already have asked yourself:
- Which canton has the most cows?
- How do you say Switzerland in Welsh?
- What is written on the edge of a 5-franc coin?
- Where is the middle point of Switzerland?
- How many Swiss people were on board the Titanic?
- What is the most common Swiss street name?
- Who was the only Federal Councillor to commit suicide in office?
- Where was the first Swiss bancomat (ATM) installed?
- How many Geneva Conventions are there?
- Which Olympic Games did Switzerland boycott?
All that and you can learn the rules of Hornussen, the words of the Swiss national anthem, the 13 herbs in a Ricola drop and who has played Heidi on the big screen. Not forgetting Switzerland’s largest hotel, tallest church spire, longest railway bridge, smallest community, deepest lake, oldest funicular and highest alpine hut. Plus really important facts such as how many citizens of Papua New Guinea live in Switzerland and who scored nul points for Switzerland at Eurovision.
You can pre-order the book direct with the publisher, Bergli Books in Basel, who will ship it anywhere, or from one of the English bookshops in Switzerland, such as BooksBooksBooks in Lausanne, Off the Shelf in Geneva, Orell Füssli and Pile of Books in Zürich, Stocker in Lucerne, and Stauffacher in Bern. It will also be widely available in other bookshops with English sections, such as Thalia and Payot.
In the UK you can pre-order it direct from Foyles and in your local Waterstone’s or independent bookshop. For everywhere else, the Book Depository offers free shipping worldwide. It’s also available on Amazon UK and Amazon US. And of course I will have fresh-off-the-press copies with me at the House of Switzerland in London, starting on 20 July.
I’ve really enjoyed finding the facts and creating this book; I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.