6 July, Switzerland – ‘All Over The Place – Europe’
Try as I might, when I was growing up I could never get into the ‘Lord of the Rings’ books. After 50 or so pages of elves and gnomes singing songs and smoking pipes I would get distracted by something more interesting going on, like a tap dripping, and go and have a look at that instead. But someone who most definitely doesn’t share my feelings on this is our contributor from this morning, Bernd. He was always interested in J.R. Tolkien’s connection to Switzerland (where he first had the idea for ‘The Hobbit’) and has made it his mission over the last 10 years to build one of the most impressive personal collections I’ve ever seen.
He’s got a fair bit of cash sloshing around – he described himself to me as never having had to work because he is like “Scrooge McDuck. Swimming in money.” With his inheritance he bought a lovely plot on the side of a valley looking down on the town of Chur and proceeded to build an exact replica of Bilbo Baggin’s Hobbit Hole beneath his house. Once you’ve made your way through there (bending down to prevent yourself from cracking your head on the low beams) there are several other cavernous rooms hollowed out of the hillside containing giant statues of trolls and orcs, castle battlements and an “evil room” full of villainous ‘Lord of the Rings’ memorabilia. The whole thing cost him about £2.5 million and it’s basically an Internet geek’s wildest fantasies come true. To have a look round you have to book an appointment, but I would recommend having a gander if you find yourself in that neck of the woods. Bernd will give you a personal tour in his meticulously detailed Middle Earth costume if you’re lucky.
After we said goodbye to Bernt we made our way down through the valleys to a farm by the side of the Rhine where we met our next contributor for the day, Heinz. A dairy farmer who was looking for ways to diversify, Heinz noticed that people were willing to stump up quite a bit of cash for camel trekking down the road. He decided this was stupid as Switzerland has plenty of cows, so he started his own cow trekking business. It’s quite possibly the only one in the world, as cows aren’t famed for their transportation abilities, and after a few hours spent sitting on one I could see why. They’re not exactly nippy, and whether they can respond to commands is questionable, but it certainly has novelty value. At one point we managed to completely ruin a bunch of sunbathers’ afternoon when we took our cows down the the beach running alongside the river and they proceeded to empty their bowels in spectacular fashion. By the time we got back to the farm and dismounted I was walking like John Wayne and feeling quite broken. Our delicious dinner of organic farm grown food which we ate in the yard made up for it though.