I would like you to meet three of my favourite Swiss. Admittedly, they are fictional characters, so I've never met them in person, but they are no less delightful for that. They are the sexagenarian SBB leisure time testers, Sergio, Benîot and Beat, (SBB is the Swiss railway company). Their mission is to test and report on the wide and varied Freizeit (leisure time) offers of SBB through advertising and infomercials, and their slogan is "für Sie getestet von Sergio, Benîot and Beat," ("tested for you by...," but I like it better in German), you can meet them here.
The Swiss of all ages take their Freizeit very seriously, and enjoy more opportunities for an active, healthy and outdoor lifestyle than I can shake a walking pole at. It's not unusual to see a Swiss 20 years older than SBB's veteran testers setting out from the Hauptbahnhof (main station) kitted out in understatedly expensive outdoor gear with hiking boots, snow shoes or skis. SBB has a different package of leisure time offers every month, based around a theme. In January, it was 'snow festival,' February was 'indoor experiences,' (a bloody good idea given the atrocious weather), and June was watersports. The offers are usually good value and well-designed, combining railfares, entry tickets to an activity or experience, and discounts on equipment hire. For example, in the winter, we went skiing to Adelboden with a heavily discounted rail ticket, money off a day ski pass, and a discount on ski hire.
Together, the SBB testers represent the three main Swiss linguistic/cultural groups. Beat is a down-to-earth and outoorsy German-Swiss, representative of the largest group in Switzerland. Benoît is a preposterously mustachioed French-Swiss in a leather jerkin with a passion for photography. Sergio is the suavely dressed Italian-Swiss from Switzerland's (second) smallest (native) linguistic group*, who seems to get into slightly more than his fair share of mischief. S, B and B star in their own advertising photo shoots and videos, write reviews of the special offers in the SBB's monthly offer booklets, and are thoroughly charming in every medium. The quirky humour of their video reviews in particular is something to behold. You don't need to understand German to enjoy them - my favourite is June's watersport video, but they are all worth a watch and a giggle. In July's video, a love interest for Sergio is introduced, and the Italian Stallion charms his lady with mountain views and a glass of Prosecco (with a little assistance from his friends).
The SBB offers can be combined with our half-fare rail cards for an extra bargain factor, but as well as enjoying my Freizeit, I keep hoping to see the SBB boys out filming for a rail journey that starts at Zürich Hauptbahnhof. So far I've not been that lucky, but if it doesn't work out for me and Greg, I might just give Beat a call...
*with thanks to Greg for added pedantry