Their currency is riding high, their trains run on time and their mountain scenery is the envy of the world. But life in Switzerland is not all cuckoo clocks and chocolate bars. Hard on the heels of the disturbing news that farmers in the delightful Appenzell region make bedspreads out of cat pelts and ‘routinely’ serve roast rottweiler disguised as ‘Mostbrockli’ to friends and construction workers, comes the horror story of a gunman running amok in the quiet mountain village of Daillon, high on the wine growing slopes of the Rhone Valley. After a heavy drinking session at the Channe d’Or café, a 30 year old man grabbed his assault rifle and opened fire in the high street, killing three of his neighbours.
This will be ammunition for the gun control lobby, if any were needed. Gun ownership is widespread in country regions of this hunting nation and adult males are allowed to hang on to their weapons between spells of military service. The Ministry of Defence calculates that there are 2 million firearms in circulation in the country (population 8 million) plus another 240 000 unregistered pieces.
The motives for this crime are not clear, but this is not the first example of rural savagery in the Swiss Alps. Nearly two decades have passed since the mass murder/suicide bloodbath of the Temple du Soleil religious sect at Cheiry and Granges sur Salvan. In the same beautiful corner of the Alps, Champéry had its cable car station blown up by an eco terrorist – or a jealous neighbour. In a country where wealth is so conspicuous and localised, tension simmers in a manner worthy of treatment by David Lynch. I am grateful to @skigrimentz for this link to a gory recital of recent Swiss atrocities.
On the French side of the famously contentious ‘röstigraben‘ frontier between French and German speaking regions of Switzerland, Daillon sits at the top of steep vineyards, looking across at the Matterhorn and the ski slopes of Verbier and Nendaz. Easy pickings over there.
Thanks to the vagaries of ski resort development, fortunes are made in one village, while its neighbours miss out. It does not help harmonious family relations that the lucky branch was a younger son who inherited the high and supposedly unproductive land no one else wanted. The first born who bagged the best vineyards on the sunny side of the valley, of back breaking steepness, made the wrong choice.