I have now visited, or at least passed through, 42 foreign countries. I say passed through because in 1945 I was on a troop train that went through Liechtenstein at night. In 1946, the U.S. Army granted me a furlough, and I chose Switzerland. I have been forever grateful to have discovered that wonderful little country.
Switzerland is, I believe, the most civilized nation on Earth. Its people speak four official languages (German, French, Italian, and Romansh). Every able-bodied young male serves as a soldier, but the country has not been at war for more than 300 years.
The crime rate is so low that you rarely see a police officer. Bus and train tickets are dispensed on an honor system and are only spot-checked. Tourists are safe in Switzerland.
A very industrialized country, factories are everywhere, and new ones are constantly under construction, but they are carefully located out in the countryside so the workers need not commute.
Every square inch of unused ground is meticulously cared for. Even the dogs and cattle are gentle and well-mannered.
The scenery in this Alpine country is incomparable. Having been in the Rockies, the Sierras, and the Andes and having seen the mountains of Japan, New Zealand, and Africa, I can tell you that the most awe-inspiring and beautiful mountains in the world are the Alps. But I would love and respect Switzerland even if it were as flat as a pancake.
I have returned to this land many times since my 1946 furlough, as a participant in scientific congresses and as a skier. I have even done trail rides on mules in the Swiss Alps.
Last year, on a veterinary tour, we visited the Swiss Army Animal Training Center near Bern. The army trains its horses, mules, and military dogs at a base there.
We were privileged to enjoy a tour conducted by the officers (all veterinarians) and saw incredible dogs in action. One, on command, leaped through the window of a moving automobile and dragged out a soldier enveloped in padded clothing.
Every time I visit Switzerland, I come home saying, "This was the best visit yet."
Let me finish this column by sharing with you my wife's and my favorite place on Earth. It is a valley deep in the Bernese Oberland in the heart of the Alps. Ordinary tourist itineraries rarely include it because it is off the main travel routes, and the road into it dead-ends at a village at the base of the Jungfrau, the mountain with Europe's largest glacier.
It is the Lauterbrunnental, or the Lauterbrunnen Valley. My wife and I have been there so many times that we have a favorite room in a small hotel in the town of Lauterbrunnen—the Silberhorn Hotel. The window in the room looks out on one of the valley's 72 waterfalls.
For decades, every friend and colleague we have referred to this valley has come home and thanked us profusely.
You are welcome!
Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker, and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member from Thousand Oaks, Calif. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his website at robertmmiller.com.