DECEMBER 17, 1947
GENEVA—The Swiss tell you with pride of the years of struggle their ancestors went through to become a nation, and they consider that this was a very great achievement. As we drove by the wall in the old city of Geneva the other day, a Swiss told me that once upon a time their neighbors, who were trying to conquer the city, tried to scale the wall and almost succeeded but were driven away by women who poured hot soup from kettles down over them.
It's strange to think of the difficulties such a little country had in becoming unified. Now they are meticulous in recognizing the rights of minority racial groups. The new President elected the other day, Henrico Celio, belongs to one of the minority groups.
The papers here give very little news, but from the point of view of literature, the articles which do appear are well worth reading. Because the death of Alphonse Daudet, the French novelist, occurred somewhere near this date, one newspaper published a long article about his books, discussing his particular gift of describing people in all walks of life and of doing it with a love of human beings even when he recognized their faults. I do, however, miss the news coverage which we get at home and I feel rather cut off.
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One thing that emphasized for me the small area of the country was an explanation I got from someone as to why, when I drove through an area where there were supposed to be many cows, I never saw a single cow! The gentleman whom I asked about this said:
"Of course you never saw a cow—they are all kept indoors except for being allowed to go to a small pasture about twice a week, so they won't forget how to walk. Our fields are much too precious to be trampled by cows. You in America have plenty of land. We cut our small acreage over and over again to feed the cows and therefore save what they would otherwise have trampled." This is a kind of economy which our farmers will be interested in, but it doesn't make for having such healthy cows and I'm quite sure that disease among them must be more prevalent here than at home.
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There is one thing here which is done, I suppose, to keep out the cold winter winds. Every window in our hotel is a double window and opens like a French window. If you have it open, you get a tremendous amount of air, but when both parts are closed, practically no air—not even, I'm sure, their coldest winter wind—could get through.
I find I can buy a cuckoo clock, and as that was one of the greatest joys of my childhood, I'm certainly going to take one home with me. As you know, the watch and clock industry is one of the most important in Switzerland. They export 95 percent of all the watch movements they make. We import about one-third of their output, and when they send only the movements, these are put into American cases.