As Swiss icons go, the St Bernard with a barrel of brandy under its chin is a pretty famous one. Today, I found out that it is also a big fat stinking lie. Alcohol thins the blood and would never have been used to keep people warm in mountain rescues, and they don’t even use St Bernards in Switzerland anymore as they’re too big to fit in the helicopters.
Keen to preserve the nation’s heritage the St Bernards Museum keeps a number of St Bernards in its comfortable kennels for people to come and visit and take for a walk if they wish. They’re very well trained and our guide Doris treated us to a demonstration of a St Bernard doing the housework (well, opening fridge and cupboard doors in exchange for treats). Then we got to meet a 4 month old puppy, which was already quite big. Don’t think it was very far along with its training, as it proceeded to drag Michelle across the floor by her coat while I stood off camera laughing when I should have probably been running to her aid. It’ll look good on the telly though.
Afterwards we tried walking a Barry (the slang for St Bernard here is “Barry dog”) called Barry in the woods along with a friend of his, but they’re very loyal and would only walk when their trainer was up ahead of them. Then we rattled of a quick Gameshow Man sketch in one of the enclosures, where my costume got covered in dog slobber (it collects in the jaws of their mouth and then flies around everywhere when they shake their massive heads).
With that our Switzerland filming came to an end. It’s surprised me what an interesting week I’ve had here. There are all sorts of things hidden away and it’s quite astounding how the people who live here have created such a well maintained network of roads and railways through what should be quite inhospitable terrain. It messes with your mind to see buildings dwarfed by the thick forests and rocky cloud kissed escarpments that tower above them. Switzerland I will miss you. But not your power sockets – they don’t fit normal European plug adaptors. Honestly, it’s a nightmare.