Swiss history comes alive in bilingual guide

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Swiss-born monster Keystone

An illustrated guide to Switzerland written in French and English takes readers off the beaten track and away from clichés of watches and chocolate.

This content was published on August 6, 2007 minutes

"Petit guide de la Suisse insolite: Made in Switzerland" – to give Mavis Guinard's book its full title – introduces curious tourists to unusual aspects of Switzerland, explaining for example how Frankenstein's monster was "created" by Lake Geneva.

The guide charts how the English invented tourism in the Alps, which until the 19th century were unexplored.

It also looks at Swiss heroes under a new light: instead of giving a formal biography of William Tell, it explores the impact of the "medieval Swiss Superman" on theatre, cinema and other commercial tie-ins.

Tell has shot apples for example in Schiller's play, Georges Méliès's film – not to mention a Mickey Mouse cartoon.

Many others who contributed to the making of Switzerland are described through their impact on literature and arts.

Almost everyone has heard of Frankenstein's monster, but how many know he was "born" in Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva?

English author Mary Shelley, wife of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, wrote the Gothic classic aged 19 when they were travelling through Switzerland in the 19th century. During a dramatic storm, Mary had a vision between sleep and waking which would become the famous "Frankenstein".

Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of British detective Sherlock Holmes, also lived in Switzerland and has two museums devoted to him: one in Lucens, where his home is, the other in Meiringen.

Practical advice

In "Made in Switzerland" the Alps are seen through trains, luxury hotels through their creators, including César Ritz, and lakes through boats.

"Switzerland's merchant fleet ranks among the largest of nations with no sea access (...) The world laughed when (...), an obstinate Swiss crossed the Atlantic alone by rowboat. But the world really gaped when these alpine landlubbers won the most fabled sailing trophy of all, the America's Cup," Guinard writes.

The guide comprises 20 chapters, which are sometimes accompanied by practical advice.

Guinard, an American journalist who has lived in Switzerland for several years, originally wrote the book in English and then translated it into French.

Most chapters appeared in the International Herald Tribune, for which the author worked, between 1981 and 1995. The articles were updated for this guide.

swissinfo, based on a French article by Ghania Adamo

Mavis Guinard

Mavis Guinard is a multilingual American journalist and traveller who grew up in France but studied in the United States. She has lived in Switzerland since getting married.

She was a long-time correspondent for the International Herald Tribune newspaper among others.

"Made in Switzerland", an illustrated French/English guide, is published in Geneva by Métropolis editions.

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