Magic plants – swissinfo

Mandrake isn’t an invention from the Harry Potter books. It was used for hundreds of years as a magical root. This and other interesting facts about medicinal herbs, witchcraft and poisonous plants can be gleaned from an exhibition in Schaffhausen. (Raffaella Rossello,
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The original folk music – swissinfo

For generations Swiss folk music was played by local musicians in private homes or at fairs in villages. It was mostly passed on orally. When records started being produced, traditional Swiss music was reduced to a more commercially oriented product. Thousands of old melodies would have been lost, had it not been for the efforts of Hanny Christen, who dedicated her life to original Swiss folk music. (Michele Andina,

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Generational change – swissinfo

The Rauber family live in the Onsernone valley – an isolated part of southern Switzerland. Besides a long arduous trek to get to the family farm, photographer Fabian Stamm had to win the Rauber’s trust before he could take pictures to document their mountain life. Family patriarch Filippo Rauber speaks at the beginning, setting the scene. This report was done in collaboration with the journalism school, MAZ, in Lucerne.
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Combat cows – swissinfo

Cow fighting is a typical canton Valais tradition. Cows with blunted horns engage in a struggle to establish dominance. The winner is named queen. (SF/
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A taste for Swiss wine – swissinfo

The Swiss are among the biggest wine consumers in Europe. Figures from the Federal Agriculture Office show that in 2010 they drank 280 million litres, 1.7% more than the previous year. Home produced wines are still among the favourites. (SF/
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Sausage hits a snag

snag.jpgSwiss butchers are in a lather over the fate of one of Switzerland’s favourite sausages: the cervelat. The government apparently hasn’t had the guts to take on the European Union over an import ban on one of its main ingredients – zebu intestines from Brazil. There are still enough of these natural casings to keep on making the sausage for a few more months, but after that the Swiss could be facing an untimely demise of a national institution – or at least a shortage during Euro 2008 – at the hands of the health inspectors.

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Swiss army knife overdose

knife2.jpgYou will need big pockets and big hands for this one: a Swiss Army knife that weighs nearly 1.4 kilograms has been inducted into the 2008 edition of Guinness World Records for “most functions on a penknife.” It has 87 tools and at least 115 uses. Developed by Wenger, the beast has a dozen or so blades, saws and cutters; a dozen or so screwdrivers; and the toothpicks, key rings, magnifiers, fish scalers and nail files sometimes found on combination penknives. But it also includes a laser pointer and a flashlight. And wait there’s more: it has a wrench just for the spikes on a golf shoe; a tool just for opening the case of a watch; and a screwdriver specifically for gunsights… A long way from from the original Swiss army special, it costs just $1,200, perfect for a Christmas gift! Whether it represents the best of Switzerland is open to debate. No mention either from the manufacturer on how you should get it through airport security, or whether it is really useful for opening a cold bottle of beer to quench that thirst you got from lugging it around.