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Ariel Emrani

The Visual Feast of Moroccan Tile

Moroccan architecture is recognized as being among the most beautiful in the world, with intricate tile designs enhancing many buildings. Moroccan tiles are called “zellige,” (or “zellij”), an Arabic word that translates as “little polished stone.” In Spain and Portugal, these tiles are called “azulejo.” The largest mosque on the planet in Casablanca, Morocco, beautifully adorned with fabulous zellige tile designs. The former grand palace, now a museum, has stunning geometric designs on the pillars, floors, and walls. 

The Art of Moroccan Tile Making

The art of zellige tile making was born in Morocco. It is believed to have been inspired by Greek and Roman mosaics, but with a difference. The strictures of some Islamic sects forbade images of living creatures in works of art, so artists worked to create intricate geometric patterns and colors. The earthenware tiles were handmade by craftsmen, with techniques passed from generation to generation. Training involved years, and sadly, it is a dying art, as commercially produced tiles are now available. 

Traditional, Handmade Zellige Tiles

The process of creating zellige first involves selecting the ideal unrefined Moroccan clay, which is then filtered and kneaded by hand to produce the ideal texture. The clay is then dried naturally in special forms for weeks or months, depending on the weather. The chosen geometric design is drawn onto the tile, which could be curved, triangular, multi-sided, or any shape the artisan has created for the final design. Enamel glaze is applied by hand and the tiles placed in a wood-fired kiln, which circulates heat less evenly than a commercial kiln, creating subtle, natural variations in color. 

The creation of these tiles required skill and precision, achieved with years of training and practice. Three craftsmen are needed to produce the tiles, once the ideal clay has been chosen, filtered, and processed. The first step is the creation of the design and selecting the tiles. The second craftsman hand cuts and shapes the tiles. The third craftsman removes bits of excess clay and precision cuts the geometric shape. The envisioned design is then produced in a special flat form, and placed to enhance the beauty of walls, floors, or another area. 

Talented craftsmen of days created intricate tile designs long past, and were added to opulent palaces, gates, mosques, shrines, fountains, schools, and other structures. In Morocco, you can see this unique artform on many buildings with the geometric designs of zellige tiles on the exterior and the interior. 

A History of Moroccan Tiles

The tiles first appeared in the 10th century, and originally only a few colors were used. As this traditional artform flourished, other colors became available, with tiles produced in blue, green, and yellow, and finally red. The tiles were used to adorn all types of structures, including palaces, tombs, patios, baths, and to add beauty and opulence to the private homes of the wealthy. 

Zellige tiles can be seen in modern homes, but rarely the handcrafted, original versions. Floors can be enhanced with zellige tile borders or used as a backsplash in the kitchen, on shower walls, or on floors. As a design element, the tiles are stunning, but nothing is more mind-blowing than seeing the original works of art, created by the artisans of the past, ornamenting structures in Morocco, where the art was born.

Ariel Emrani

Old Plus New: Eclectic Room Design

“Eclectic,” is defined as “composed of elements drawn from various sources.” Eclectic design is exactly that. It involves creating a design with elements from a range of periods and styles, along with pieces sourced from nature, such as plants, fur, stone, wood, and natural fibers. There is no one way to create an eclectic design. The room is a canvas for your imagination.

Reclaimed wood in tables, doors, accent walls, shelving, and floors can transform a space from cold and uninviting to warm and welcoming. The natural variations in color, an uneven or pitted surface, a reclaimed wooden piece used as wall art, or an antique table, chair, or other beautifully worn piece could be the perfect way to artfully update a living room, bedroom, or other space. 

Creating Harmony with a Juxtaposition of Periods and Styles

An eclectic design involves pieces from various periods, including antiques, vintage pieces, a mix of varying patterns, colors, and designs, to create an unusual, personalized room. Contrasting styles, if used judiciously, shows the hidden depths of your personality. A mix of rustic and modern can be a fresh look when the pieces are chosen with a cohesive color and pattern. If you love an eclectic look, the search is part of the game. You can find almost unlimited online resources for sourcing new pieces, space planning, and ideas from pro interior designers. 

Repeating Patterns Create Harmony

The patterns on your throws, rugs, furnishings, and wall art can work together for a look that is clean rather than cluttered. Varying textures echoing a pattern in mixed materials ranging from fibers to metal can create harmony. Balance is achieved with color and form, rather than symmetry. 

Let Your Personality Shine Through

To create an eclectic space, look at the pieces you own. Have you inherited pieces from your family that you want to add to your room design? As an eclectic design involves mixing materials, time periods, and textures, you can take your design to the limits, or go minimalist. Adding plants, natural fibers, accent pillows, throws, wall art, and rugs create a cohesive look. You can choose natural fibers and neutrals for an organic look, or full-on color with a wall in a heavily saturated color, or one of the beautiful wallpaper designs now on the market. 

The Sustainability Factor

Many people are doing what they can to protect the environment. Restoring older, vintage, or antique pieces reduces manufacturing waste. Many antique dealers offer restoration services, and you should consider a professional restoration for valuable antiques, as an incorrect refinishing technique affects resale value. You also have the option to purchase eco-friendly and fair trade items, shipped with recyclable packaging, or manufactured with reclaimed materials. Reupholstering furniture with organically produced upholstery fabrics means cleaner indoor air, a safer space for children, animals, and adults. So much to consider!

Minimalist or Maximalist?

Be daring, take chances, and go with your inherent design sense. If you love brights, use them and create a space filled with color, for a theatrical, contemporary look. Go minimalist and create a Zen-like space with neutrals and pops of color from wall art, pillows, and indoor plants. Your home is yours to create, and the journey is part of the fun!

 

Ariel Emrani

A Dog State of Mind

Most dogs don’t have bad moods. If they are provided with the food they like, playtime, time to snuggle with you, and a daily walk, they are generally in an outstanding mood. However, they do notice if you are sad, upset, or depressed, and will do all they can to soothe you, cuddling, licking, with genuine concern.

Humans may feel more empathy for and with dogs than with other people! A dog doesn’t judge you, criticize you, or try to change your personality or habits – they are just there, providing companionship and support, every day. A dog in your life can even improve your health – a Swedish study of 3.4 million people found that owning a dog reduced the risk of cardiovascular death by 33 percent. Wow. 

Having a pet has been found to raise the levels of oxytocin, called a “bonding” hormone, in your body. This hormone triggers the bond between mother and baby – and human and dog. It lowers your heart rate and reduces the risk of heart disease and reduces loneliness and depression. Some business owners allow dogs to be present at work, a cheery situation for everyone. Recent research has uncovered an interesting fact – those with a strong affection for a pet also have more concern for the natural world overall. 

Dog Superpowers

Dogs have an incredible ability to enjoy the simple pleasures, and we can learn from that. A walk gives them intense pleasure. While we may not have the olfactory (sense of smell) of a dog, there is something to be said for enjoying the environment, the scent of flowers and fresh-cut lawns, and other sensations, including cold, warmth, physical activity, and conversations or sharing a “hello,” with the neighbors you meet along the way. 

Loyalty, and Unconditional Love: The Dog Way of Life

Dogs are some of the most loyal animals on earth. They love you for yourself, and do not judge, criticize, or expect you to change. As they are focused on just a few important things – eating, sleeping, and playing – they have plenty of time left to spend paying attention to you. Keeping them happy is easy, as a dog won’t make special demands on you, if you feed them, pet them, and spend some time with them. 

Companion Dogs

Companion dogs the “man’s best friend” seriously. They are happiest when they are with you and will follow you wherever you go. Some dog breeds are known as companion dogs, including French bulldogs, like my little Frankie. These dogs are known for being even tempered, calm, and relaxed. He may, from time to time, act crazy, running in mad circles with excitement, but generally he takes life as it comes. 

Life, even at its toughest moments, can be made just a little more positive with some dog love. A dog state of mind is showing gratitude, enthusiasm for the simple pleasures of life, and unconditional love. Why not learn from our creatures?

The Pleasure of Food, the French Way

Diets are stressful. That one day when you “cheated” can leave you feeling guilty, or you restrict yourself from eating your favorites. When food becomes associated with guilt, regret, or disappointment, the natural enjoyment associated with a healthy meal disappears. Obviously, food is necessary, contributes to our wellbeing, and is a big focus of our daily lives. In many countries outside the USA, food is seen as a positive force, and a recent study reveals Americans are the least likely to associate food with pleasure – that is a sad situation. Look to the French way if you are stressing about food!

The French Perspective on Food

The French love food, eating, and the process of preparing and serving meals. They set aside plenty of time for each meal. Even though the French diet may have more flour, butter, and fat, the French are far less likely to gain weight – what’s the secret? 

Smaller Portions, More Meals.

Generally, the French focus on depth of flavor, and serve smaller portions. Lunch is the main meal of the day, and lunch break is one to two hours long, even for school children. The lunch menu is typically three to four courses and has an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits. Rather than searching for food that is lower in calories with a low fat content, we could do what the French do – eat delicious foods, just less of it, taking the time to savor every bite, rather than rushing through a meal. 

Work/Life Balance: France vs. USA

Americans are known for being some of the hardest working cultures. Rushing to work, eating lunch in a hurry or missing it altogether does lead to good eating habits, or improve your ability to perform. Maybe it is time to “think French.”

In France, breakfast is typically just coffee with butter and jam on a slice of bread, croissant, or baguette. They may eat a midmorning snack of an apple or other piece of fruit. Then comes “dejeuner,” or lunch – which is enjoyed slowly. Before the pandemic, it was illegal for the French to eat lunch at their desks, and employers who allowed this practice would be fined! The French believe it is healthier to leave the office, eat a leisurely lunch, move your body and refresh your mind. A lovely way to break up the day, don’t you think? 

Dinnertime

Children have a snack at about 4 pm, and then comes dinner – at about 8 pm. It starts with an appetizer, or soup, followed by a salad dressed with vinaigrette. Then comes meat, fowl, or fish, with fresh vegetables, or a hearty stew in the colder winter months. The portions are far smaller than what we eat in the USA but prepared for ultimate flavor rather than volume.

In France, a “kid’s menu” doesn’t exist. Children eat what their parents eat, and kids in general love fruit and veggies – they have been eating them since they were able to chew. As taste reigns supreme, they will choose to eat fruits and vegetables in season, when they taste the best. They don’t focus on the size and shape of the produce, as is common in the USA, but strictly on flavor. 

Restore your enjoyment of food and set aside the stress and anxiety associated with eating. We can learn to change our habits and restore the pleasures of a satisfying meal, the French way.

Ariel Emrani

Home is a Sanctuary

A sanctuary is defined as “a place of refuge or safety.” When you are in your own home, you should feel safe and protected, away from the stresses of life. Creating a peaceful home is more than designing a comfortable space. It means shutting out the noise and confusion of the outside world to rest and restore. 

Set Aside the Stresses of the Day

When you return home after a long day at work, try to set aside the stresses of the day. Clicking on the news is typically a poor way to restore your energy, and in fact, could increase anxiety, as you will hear about every alarming thing that has happened on the planet that day. It is good to be informed, of course, but consuming news can increase stress, rather than giving your mind and body the rest it needs. It is unfortunate, but news outlets rarely report good news. It may be surprising to discover how much better you feel after being screen-free for several hours! 

Turn off the Screen

Rather than turning on the news, take a walk, read a book, cook a healthy meal, or have conversations with the people you care about. Disconnect mentally from your work, put your phone down, and do something you enjoy. Everyday tasks such as gardening, cleaning, laundry, cooking, and organizing can be surprisingly therapeutic!

Our homes should help us stay sane in a crazy world. Creating a sanctuary home is more than interior design – it is a vibe you infuse into the space. A sensation of peace and serenity is enhanced by interior design, but it all starts with you and what you decide to do with your free time.

Venture Out

It can be a good idea to take a long walk at the end of the day to breathe fresh air, exercise your muscles, and wash away the stresses of work. Rainy? Time to pull out your rain boots and grab an umbrella. Snow? Enjoy the fluff of the white stuff before it turns into muddy slush, with warm boots, a hat, and cozy mittens. A walk outdoors restores your enthusiasm for life and can remind you that the world is a beautiful place.

The Scents of Home

What is more enticing than smelling a delicious dinner cooking on the stove, or the scent of cookies, muffins, or another treat baking in the oven? Your feelings of peace and serenity come through all your senses, including the sense of smell. The scent of a bouquet of roses, or the fresh air of the garden drifting through an open window can help inspire feelings of wellbeing. 

Enjoy the Journey of Life

We could take guidance from cultures like Japan, where the seasons are celebrated, and the worship of the natural world is part of everyday life. Every meal is prepared with care and is a feast to both the eyes and the palate. Nothing is wrong about grabbing a burger and fries, but there is something truly rewarding about creating a recipe at home, sitting down with your loved ones, and enjoying the food, the give and take of conversation, and a sense of relaxation and wellbeing. We all need a sanctuary, whether we find it in our homes, our gardens, on a hike, or whatever we choose to experience a sense of peace.

Modern Can Be Cozy

Modern interior design, whether mid-century, transitional, eclectic, or contemporary, can be warmed by adding natural elements. Interior design trends are constantly changing, but one thing never changes – your home should be comfortable, a sanctuary where you can restore and rejuvenate. Sleek, minimalist décor has a sophisticated look, but may appear cold and uninviting. Bringing the warmth back to a modern room is often referred to as “organic modernism.” 

What is Organic Modernism? 

Organic modern design is a combination of the clean, architectural lines of modernism, with organic elements in fibers, colors, and materials. Rustic handmade pieces in wood, wool, silk, cotton, or linen added to a modern space can make it more inviting. A reclaimed wooden coffee table with a rough, worn texture, or handwoven throws, pillows, handcrafted pottery or lamps, jute rugs, or potted plants are an affordable way to create a warmer, cozier environment. You may want to consider combining the sophisticated lines of modernism with the warmth of natural elements. 

Cozy is a Feeling, not a Style.

A cozy room design that invites you to relax, curl up with a book, or snuggle with a loved one, child, or pet. There are no limits or rules as to how you create that feeling in your home. A soft, textured rug, soft seating options, floor to ceiling bookshelves, an antique piece, or a chair covered in fluffy sheepskin – select the pieces that appeal to your aesthetic eye. A cozy space is visually appealing and functional, created to inspire a sensation of warmth and comfort, whether you love modern farmhouse, minimalist, contemporary, traditional, mid-century modern, boho, rustic, French country, Scandinavian, beach, industrial, eclectic, Zen, or urban modern. You are the artist behind how you create a room, and your design aesthetic may not fit any category other than your own.

Master Your Room Design with Technology

Some people seem to be born with a natural eye for design, and others find it difficult. Work with a friend who has a beautifully designed home to help you create the space you love. You can find endless ideas online for inspiration, and free online room design apps that allow you to create a space. If you are considering a fresh look for your home, the resources available online make room design a fun task. Before you splurge on furniture, you view how it would look in a room, and read online reviews before you invest. As you will be living with your choices for years, it is well worth spending the time.

What the Danish Call Hygge: Coziness

The Danish people have a concept, “hygge.” The word does not translate well to English, as it refers to both coziness and togetherness, and the enjoyment of the simple pleasures of life. Nothing is cozier than spending an evening with friends, discussing subjects you care about, in a space that inspires a feeling of togetherness and warmth. However you create hygge in your home, a cozy space invites conversation – and communication with friends and family makes life sweeter all around.

Dogs or Cats?

It appears the controversy regarding dogs or cats has been part of human culture since time began. Research reveals that people were either dog or cat lovers back to the stone age. 

When Dogs Became Man’s Best Friend

Some archeologists believe that the domestication of dogs began with hunters sharing their meat surplus and scraps with wolves, who eventually became friendly to humankind. Orphaned wolf pups may have been raised, later acting as hunting partners. Archeologists believe that about 40,000 years ago, dog breeds split off from original gray wolf ancestors, eventually becoming the many breeds we know today. 

Various theories exist about how dogs and humans became inseparable, and where and how it began – but the relationship is here to stay. 

Cats and Gods

The ancient Egyptians cherished cats and considered them good luck charms, a reminder of the power of the gods. Cats were not believed to be gods themselves, but vessels that the gods could inhabit. This is believed to be the reason cat mummies are found in Egyptian burial sites.

Recently, archeologists discovered an ancient grave, where a human and a cat were buried together, predating the Egyptian cat obsession by more than 4,000 years. Stone and clay figures of cats 10,000 years old have been found in Syria, Turkey, and Israel. So, cats have held meaning in human lives since ancient times. It makes sense, as cats are natural allies in the human battle to protect food stores from rodents.

Pet Personalities: The Difference Between Cats and Dogs

People who love dogs (meet my French bulldog, Frankie, sweetest guy around) appreciate the unconditional love, loyalty, and affectionate nature of dogs. Dog-lovers may find cats standoffish and see them as less loyal than the honorable dog. Cat lovers contend that the intelligence, agility, and independence of cats makes them a superior pet. 

Dogs and Cats are… Related!

Surprisingly, dogs and cats are closely related as species. Both animals are of the species order “carnivora,” which sounds like they eat meat, but refers to their teeth. The common ancestors of cats and dogs was a species called “miacids,” which were long-bodied creatures that once lived throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. These tree-living creatures are said to have appeared a few million years after the extinction of dinosaurs and are the ancestors of both cats and dogs. 

As the animals continued to change over time, they split into two distinct types of carnivora – dog-like (caniformia) and cat-like (feliformia) – which is supposed to have happened about 43 million years ago. Cats and dogs can be friends in a household, or arch enemies, or change from day to day or hour to hour. 

It’s Raining Cats and Dogs?

The phrase “raining cats and dogs” is first found in Tudor times, but the origin of the phrase is in dispute. Some claim it is related to the fact that back in the day, domestic cats and dogs lived in the upper level of a home, beneath the thatched roof. In a heavy rain, when the roof would become heavy with water, driving the pets lower in the home – or raining cats and dogs. Cats could easily perch on the rafters, but dogs? Doesn’t seem likely. Another idea is that during a big storm, stray cats and dogs would drown and be washed into the streets, making it appear that it rained cats and dogs, a more gruesome origin story. Other word-obsessed historians believe the phrase goes back to Norse mythology. The Vikings believed cats influenced the weather, and dogs gusts of wind. Those are just a few of the current theories behind the saying!

Love dogs? A cat-lover? Whatever your inclination, sharing your home and life with a pet is part of the human experience that brings joy to our lives.

Ariel Emrani

A World Tour of Coffee

We love our coffee, and we all have our favorites, whether a latte, cappuccino, espresso, or American-style sweet coffee drink. Around the world, every country has unique coffee flavors and preparations, and they are all worth a taste.

Turkish Coffee 

Turkish coffee is the most popular coffee preparation in many countries throughout the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and North Africa. The coffee may be called “Arabic,” “Persian,” “Greek,” or “Armenian,” rather than Turkish, but the preparation is essentially the same. The coffee is prepared in a special pot, where the water is heated, and finely ground coffee added and stirred until the mixture is hot and creamy on top. This thick, powerful coffee is not filtered. Some of the fine grounds sink to the bottom, with a froth developing on top. It is drunk out of small cups, with a side glass of water. A layer of mud-like grounds will remain at the bottom of your cup, and you will drink some of them – that’s normal! 

Café de Olla – Mexican Coffee

Café de Olla is translated to “coffee from a pot.” This traditional Mexican coffee is infused with cinnamon or star anise and sweetened with unrefined dark brown sugar, called piloncillo. A sweet and spicy coffee, it is prepared by placing water, cinnamon, and sugar in a pot to simmer until the sugar dissolves. After the water boils and the sugar has dissolved, the coffee is added, the heat turned off, and the mixture is stirred and steeped for about five minutes. The coffee is then poured through a strainer before serving with heated milk or black. 

Austrian Coffee

The Austrians enjoy several coffee preparations. One could be compared to the Italian cappuccino. Espresso is topped with steamed milk and milk foam, whipped cream, and may be finished with a dusting of cocoa powder or powdered sugar. Slowly sip your coffee through the creamy top layer. Austrians are master bakers, so enjoy your Austrian coffee with some cheese strudel, or one of the traditional crescent-shaped cookies, vanillekipferl. 

French Café au Lait

A café au lait is half steamed milk and half brewed coffee. This coffee drink is like an Italian café latte, but gentler, as it is made with drip coffee rather than espresso, and frothed milk. It may be served in a large cup, perfect for dipping a freshly-baked croissant. If you find a café au lait on the menu in New Orleans, it will be made with coffee and chicory, a unique local flavor. 

Moroccan Spiced Coffee

In Morocco, spiced coffee is traditional. The coffee flavors are enhanced with cinnamon, peppercorns, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, and cloves. The coffee and spices are ground together, and the coffee then made in a French press. Milk is heated almost to the boiling point and then added to the coffee. Some people add sugar, and some don’t, as the flavors of the spices produce a sweet flavor to the brew.

Japanese Coffee

While we think of Japan as being a tea-drinking nation, coffee is popular too. Just like the care with which every dish of food is prepared, the Japanese have taken coffee brewing to the next level. A siphon coffee maker will make making coffee look like performing a science experiment. The coffee maker has an upper and lower bowl and a burner, and a filter. The filter is soaked in warm water. Boiling water is added to the bottom bowl and heated with a special burner. Once the water achieves the right temperature, a vacuum is created which moves the water upward to the top chamber, where the coffee brews. Once brewed, the heat source is turned off, and the fresh coffee flows back to the bottom chamber. While it sounds complicated, you will drink some of the purest, strongest coffee on the planet. 

 

The Mysterious Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon have intrigued historians for centuries. The gardens are said to have been the most glorious in the ancient city of Babylon, located where the present-day city of Hillah, Iraq now stands. Historians dispute that these gardens even existed, or were in Babylon, with some evidence indicating the gardens were built in Nineveh, the capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire, located where Mosul now stands in Northern Iraq. 

The King and a Homesick Wife

Babylon was settled in the 3rd millennium BC. King Nebuchadnezzar II ruled Babylon when it served as the capital of the region. The legend goes that the King wanted his capital to be the most splendid in the world, and built the Ishtar Gate, adorned with lions, dragons, and bulls, as the eighth gate surrounding the city, with remnants of the gate found in museums in Europe and the USA.

If the tales are true, the King was responsible for building the Hanging Gardens as a gift to his wife, Amytis, who was homesick for her home in Media (now the northwestern part of Iran). The King and his talented engineers are believed to have created a system of pumps, waterwheels, and cisterns to deliver water from the Euphrates to keep the gardens green and lush.

Whether the gardens were in Babylon or in Nineveh, just the name “the Hanging Gardens of Babylon” conjures pleasurable images. It is believed that these gardens, rather than being “hanging” in the English sense of the word, were raised on arched terraces to create a hill of green to mimic the lush green hills of the queen’s home. Imagine living in a flat, dry, sandy region and coming upon a green hill covered with greenery, herbs, flowers, and trees, with water flowing from above – a true feat of early engineering.

It is said that Alexander the Great saw the gardens, but like many legends, the historical record is sketchy at best. Two Greek historians, Strabo and Diodorus Siculus claimed to have seen the gardens, and described them:

“The approach to the garden sloped like a hillside and the several parts of the structure rose from one another tier on tier.” (Diodorus Siculus)

“The garden is quadrangular in shape, and each side is four plethra (30 meters) in length. It consists of arched vaults, which are situated, one after another, on checkered, cube-like foundations…” (Strabo)

Gardens Built for Beauty and Pleasure

Pleasure gardens have been built, often for royalty, since recorded history. Scores of servants and slaves maintained these royal gardens. Gardens were created for the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, and the Persian gardens in Iran are believed to have been first created as far back as 4000 BC. 

No matter the period of history, gardens are an important part of the human experience. In ancient Egypt, trees were planted to create sacred groves near royal tombs, and near urban homes to provide shade, and provide nuts, dates, and fruit to nourish the community. Some Assyrian Kings demanded fruit trees as a tax from the people in the regions they conquered, creating gardens and orchards with fruit from other lands.

Creating a garden is an ancient tradition that will never fade. Caring for trees, plants, and flowers is a soothing and rewarding activity that has restored the human soul since time began.

Magnificent Switzerland

Visiting Switzerland is an experience, with stunning Alpine peaks and gentle valleys, charming villages, and historical architecture. The country is the home of many beautiful medieval castles, which are maintained in perfect condition, spired cathedrals, and abbeys, and centuries-old houses, beautifully restored. The country is small, covering just 15,444 square miles, just a little smaller than New Jersey. 

Switzerland is a crossroads of cultures, a mix of French, German, and Italian. The Swiss are usually fluent in several languages. A diverse country, it has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Romansh is spoken in the southeastern area of the country, with only about 5% of the population speaking the language. The language is believed to be a combination of Latin and Rhaetian, the language of the original settlers. Most people speak a combination of French and German, along with fluent English – a considerable advantage for English-speaking tourists! 

Every region is different in resources, with wooden buildings in the north, stone structures to the south, and in the central region, a mix of both. Each village is distinctly different, and when traveling the country, enjoying the architecture is a never-ending adventure into the aesthetic designs from various times of history. 

The Swiss government has taken significant steps to protect its historic buildings and sites and has 270,000 historical monuments, 75,000 of which are protected by law – about one in every 30 structures. From famous natural landmarks such as the Matterhorn to sparklingly clean mountain lakes, castles, and churches, the country is known the world over as being among the most beautiful and well-tended in Europe. The Swiss value cleanliness and the country is virtually spotless, has one of the best environmental records globally, with the river water so clean that it is drinkable. Street sweepers are busy around the clock, and it is rare to encounter rubbish anywhere. 

Museums

Traveling the country is a journey through various times in history. Still, for even more, you can visit one of the many museums, such as the Landesmuseum (the Swiss National Museum), to see prehistoric artifacts, art created during the Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance periods, along with Swiss clocks, armor, weapons, and folk costumes. Platforme 10 in Lausanne’s art district is a former train station, an architectural wonder in its own right, which has been transformed into an art museum featuring 10,000 works by 19th and 20th century artists. 

The Flavors of Switzerland

Swiss food varies from the traditional in tarts, quiches, sausage dishes, potato pancakes (rosti), and fondue, a melted cheese dish eaten by dipping bread into a shared pot with a special fork, to dozens of fine-dining restaurants that have earned Michelin stars. You may want to try Alplermagronen, the Swiss version of American mac ‘n’ cheese, although richer and served with applesauce, or zopf bread, traditional meat pies, or take advantage of the combination of cultures at one of the many French, Italian, Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Indian restaurants in the cities, but whatever you do, don’t forget the chocolate! It really is that good.