Snow and Chocolates

Letter From Switzerland

I shall not easily forget my first visit to Switzerland. The end of the war left my battalion encamped north of Perugia. Leave was suddenly generous, and rides in military transport easy to find, at least for a young ensign in the Brigade of Guards. Hoping to flush a retired uncle in the Bernese Oberland I somehow got onto Geneva's railroad platform where I spent some time gawking at the display of chocolates.and bananas (bananas!) in the buffet, hints of a way of life unseen by us for years. For, basically, in North Africa my generation found what it had expected, namely squalor and "wogs," as we fascist beasts termed those we were defending by treaty (though you wouldn't have guessed it from the bartenders in Cairo). But Italy, after all, was part of us, our cultural heritage, and as we had fought up through its "soft underbelly of the Axis" (thanks, Churchill) many of us had done so aghast at its pathetic chaos and misery, probably forgotten today. Read John Home Burns' The Gallery and bleed at a record of it all.

So there I stood on that immaculate station platform without a plug nickel of negotiable currency since GMF (Central Mediterranean Forces) were at that time paid with AMGOT (Allied Military Government Tender). I mentioned my ticketless predicament to a Swiss standing nearby, and without question he immediately lent me the wherewithal for my trip. Subsequently I stayed in Zurich...

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