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A View of Switzerland: Schools, Government and Railroads
Nicholas Johnson
May 2001

Switzerland is a center of governmental innovation, from global organizations such as the United Nations, International Telecommunications Union and Red Cross in Geneva, to the federalism of the national capital in Bern, to the system of cantons and communes that relies on extensive direct public participation.

The Parliament Building in Bern.

The United Nations' Palais de Nations in Geneva.

Nicholas Johnson's Iowa City Press-Citizen K-12 education column about the Swiss educational system is tentatively scheduled for publication on June 5, 2001.

The Swiss railroad system is a joy. With the equivalent of 10,000 miles of track in a country the size of eastern Iowa, the ride is smooth, quiet and fast, the cars clean, the availability regular, and the schedules kept with the precision of a fine Swiss watch.

Because the railroads are electric they are non-polluting.

Some rail cars even have playgrounds for children, including these two visitors from India.

We visited with former Iowa City, Iowa, classmate, Robert Rehder and his family. He is now chair of the English Department, University of Fribourg.

Professor Rehder has authored a number of poetry and other books. Take a look at his impressive Web site,

Although the family dog, Buddy, lives in the French sector of Switzerland, it is near enough to Italy that he cannot shake his passion for spaghetti.

Of course, there is also the occasional mountain.

Although Nick decided not to purchase the castle at Gruyere . . .

. . . he did agree to pose in front of the cathedral named for him, St. Nicholas Cathedral in Fribourg.

Youth hostels are available around the world. Some of the nicest are in Switzerland.

This is one of the hostels in Interlaken.

And, finally, a street scene from Bern of the Tower, and one of many 16th Century fountains still supplying water in the heart of the city.