What? Switzerland and dark tourism? The same Switzerland as in the little Alpine country mostly associated with neutrality, peace, prosperity and democracy?!?
Yes, but even clichéd Switzerland is not as pure as it may seem. For instance, democracy may have enjoyed a longer tradition here than in most other countries, but then again: was it really full democracy? Consider this: Switzerland only gave women the right to vote as late as 1971 – many decades after it had become perfectly normal in virtually any other developed country – and in one of its cantons (regions constituting the federation) it took until 1990 for this to be actually implemented. And the prosperity? That too has its darker sides, as we know – in the case of Switzerland the worst dark association being that with  Nazi gold in WWII.
And what about peacefulness? Yes, the country hasn't been (militarily) involved in any war in centuries. However, it is nonetheless a surprisingly military-intense country, with compulsory military service for all male citizens and the (controversial) requirement that as reservists they must keep their army-issued guns at home.
And then there's the bunkers. The Swiss are really fond of bunkers! Every house has to have one in the basement. All in all, Switzerland is unique in having more places in its collective bunkers/fallout shelters than its population needs (a 114% capacity – according to swissinfo.ch, "Bunkers for all", 7/2009). It was in fact a Cold-War era regulation from the 1960s that stipulated that there had to be a bunker space for every citizen. And while the Big Powers excelled at stocking overkill nuclear arsenals, the Swiss over-excelled at over-protection – and still do.
None of that is in any way commodified for (dark) tourism, of course. Although: there are at least a couple of former bunkers redeveloped as hotels … One of them, marketed as a "zero star" hotel, has recently had to close again, however, but is to function as a museum in the future.
Still, what earns the country its indubitably deserved entry on these pages is the museum of the Red Cross in Geneva – again, an organization rather associated with doing good, but one necessarily involving the dark, namely all those things like wars and disasters that gave rise to the founding and continued relevance of the organization.
As a travel destination in general, Switzerland is one of the best developed countries you could possibly imagine. Public transport is formidable – even up into the high Alps by means of an efficient, clean train network. It's multilingual – and even train staff do not only speak the country's four languages (German, French, Italian, Romansh), but English on top.
Being so centrally located in Europe also makes the country as such easily reachable, by all modes of transport – surprisingly, for a landlocked country, this even includes waterways with boats providing a means of transport – namely on Lake Geneva and Lake Constance.
Being an affluent country, however, price levels are predictably high, though, both for accommodation and food & drink, though with a bit of preplanning and/or looking around it needn't be crippling.
Food-wise, Switzerland is rightly famous for its cheese and chocolate, both amongst the best in the world. And both find their way into the national cuisine, with raclette and fondue being the best-known. Another famous staple, rösti, is also both well known and widely available. Thanks to these specialities, vegetarians also fair a lot better here than in neighbouring France, Germany or Austria (though it's still hardly health food). Regional specialities go beyond the expected and are well worth exploring too. And then there's the wine – not much of it sees export, so it's not that well known. But it can be superb – and since most of it is consumed within the country, enjoy it while you're there.

© dark-tourism.com, Peter Hohenhaus 2010-2019

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