Swiss Tasmania

The raw material: a poster on Pinterest, which led to photos of a quaint village:

(#1) Mt. Ida and Lake St. Clair, in the highlands of central Tasmania

(#2) The faux-Swiss village of Grindelwald, near Launceston, TAS

The first is metaphoric Switzerland, a place in Tasmania that’s fancied to be like Switzerland (without necessarily having any actual connection to the European country) — in this case, like it in geographical features. The second is metonymic Switzerland (as well as metaphoric), a place associated with Switzerland, either in reality (as in places originally settled by the Swiss, even if they are little like the country) or in imagination (as in places supplied wth the stereotypical trappings of the country).

This time in Tasmania. Last time in America: in my 7/21/18 posting “Swiss America”, on some places fancied to be “the Switzerland of America” because of their geographical features; and on some Swiss-related places (settled by Swiss or furnished with Helvetiana).

Locator map, showing where Mt. Ida is, also including Launceston and of course the state capital, Hobart:


Mount  Ida. On #1, the National Library of Australia site tells us that it’s “Tasmania, the Switzerland of the South” by Harry Kelly (1896-1967) for the Tasmanian Government Tourist Bureau (published between 1930 and 1935), showing a scene from the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park in the central highlands of Tasmania.

In a Romantic watercolor:

(#4) “Mount Ida, Lake St Clair, Tasmania” (ca. 1881), watercolor by WC Piguenit (1836-1914)

From the Art Gallery NSW site:

William Charles Piguenit was born in Hobart, the son of a convict of French Huguenot extraction. He was employed as a mapmaker by the Tasmanian Lands and Survey Department in 1850 and learnt lithography there from the painter Frank Dunnett (1822-91) and Robin Vaughan Hood (best remembered now as a framer, 1802-88) and developed an interest in photography. Piguenit accompanied James R Scott’s expedition to Arthur Plains and Port Davey in 1871, to Lake St Clair in 1873 and exhibited photographs and paintings throughout the 1870s. He moved to Sydney in 1880, settled in Hunter’s Hill and travelled extensively in search of landscape subjects. He visited England and Wales in 1898 and 1900. He is perhaps best known for his Tasmanian landscapes and his monumental painting ‘The flood on the Darling 1890’ (1895) in the Gallery’s collection.

Grindelwald TAS. Every so often, someone thinks of opening a Swiss-themed restaurant just because that would be cute, or creating a Swiss-themed park or resort as a business venture. Actual connections to Switzerland irrelevant. So, from Wikipedia:

Grindelwald is a small town just north of Launceston, Tasmania developed in the style of a Swiss village by Roelf Vos, a Dutch immigrant to Tasmania, after he sold his “Roelf Vos” supermarket chain to Woolworths. It was built around an artificial lake, on the edge of which sits the 40 hectare Tamar Valley Resort, which shares the Swiss architectural style. The suburb was begun in 1980, and the resort opened in 1989.

… In November 2013, it was announced that the town would be the site of a 103 million dollar eco-tourism project by developer Mike Dean.

The ad copy from the resort company, from the Discover Tasmania site on Grindelwald Swiss Village:

Grindelwald is a 15-minute drive north of Launceston (15 km) in the Tamar Valley.

The Swiss-themed Tamar Valley Resort at Grindelwald includes a range of activities including, a shopping arcade, news and gift store, clothing store, hairdresser, day spa, golf pro shop, chocolate cafe, you can test your skill at the 18-hole mini-golf course, or play a round on the ten-hole public golf course, paddle boat hire and canoeing on the lake, and then have a jump on the world’s longest bouncing pillow available for children.

If you are feeling hungry you can go for a meal or snack at the lakeside Alpenrose Bistro. The Tamar Valley Resort also has many accommodation options include the Grand Chateau Hotel and self-contained family chalets.

… The village of Grindelwald was established in the 1980s as a unique residential development. All houses in Grindelwald have been built in Swiss style, with wide eaves, flowerboxes, window shutters and balconies. The settlement is fringed with glassy lakes and views of the Tamar Valley.

Connections to Switzerland are necessarily minimal, since people of Swiss ancestry are extremely thin on the ground in Tasmania. Ancestry results from the 2016 census for Tasmania: “English” 227,074, “Australian” 220,382; then “Irish” 55,702 and “Scottish” 47,546; then “German” 18,391; and then a long list of gradually smaller groups (7,140 “Chinese”, 3,009 “Welsh”, 1,315 “American”, for example) — and only 734 “Swiss”.

Grindelwald CH. The Tasmanian development is named after the famously quaint Swiss village of Grindelwald. And there lies a rather sad story. Grindelwald CH started out as a tiny village in an isolated valley in the high alps of Canton Berne, but then it was discovered, and now it is essentially itself a tourist development.

The location, in this map:

(#5) Grindelwald in the middle. North of it, near Lucerne, is Mount Pilatus, whose railway is the subject of #1 in my 11/27 posting “On the Swiss poster patrol”. Near the upper right corner of the map is Mollis, where the Zwickys come from. Italy is at the bottom right, and a small corner of France is at the upper left.

From Wikipedia:

(#6) View to the southeast to the disappearing Lower Grindelwald Glacier with parts of the Mättenberg to the left, the Hörnli to the right, and the Fiescherhorn in the back

Grindelwald is a village and municipality in the Interlaken-Oberhasli administrative district in the canton of Berne in Switzerland.

… The tourism industry began in Grindelwald in the late 18th century as foreigners discovered the scenic town. Pictures of the vistas were widely reprinted, quickly making the village internationally famous [on Romantic vistas and mountaineering, see my notes in the Pilatus posting]. In the 19th century many Englishmen came to the village to climb the alpine peaks around the valley. The Finsteraarhorn (4,274 m [14,022 ft]), the Wetterhorn (3,692 m [12,113 ft]), the Eiger (3,967 m [13,015 ft]), the Schreckhorn (4,078 m [13,379 ft]) and the Gross Fiescherhorn (4,049 m [13,284 ft]) were all climbed during the 19th century. The Grindelwald road [replacing earlier footpaths] was built in 1860–72, and the Bernese Oberland railway reached the village in 1890, both of which transformed an arduous journey into a simple trip and allowed tourists to flood into the village. The first resort opened in 1888, there were 10 hotels in 1889, and by 1914 there were 33 in Grindelwald. A rack railway [again, see the Pilatus posting] was built to Kleine Scheidegg in 1893, and it was expanded to the Jungfraujoch in 1912. Numerous ski lifts, cable cars, hiking trails and alpine huts were built in the late 19th and 20th centuries to allow tourists to explore the mountains. Today, almost the entire economy of Grindelwald is based on tourism.

The X of Y. Yes, there’s no Tasmania of Switzerland; these things are hardly ever reversible. A Tasmania of Switzerland would be a fairly large Swiss island off its coast that’s host to a collection of unique flora and fauna. You can see the problem.

Actually occurring, and possibly meriting further postings: countries billed as the Switzerland of Africa; and places billed as the Switzerland of Canada, the Switzerland of Mexico, the Switzerland of Argentina, and the Switzerland of South Africa.


8 Responses to “Swiss Tasmania”

  1. Gary Says:

    Much nearer (geographically if not scenery-wise) are the Sächsische Schweiz

    and the Holsteinische Schweiz

  2. Chris Waigl (@chrys) Says:

    (I’m just back from the Fränkische Schweiz …)

  3. chrishansenhome Says:

    When I retired I decided to take a “Grand Tour of Australia and New Zealand”. I wasn’t originally going to go to Tasmania, but a New Yorker review of the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart impelled me to book a side one-day trip to Hobart.

    The museum is certainly worth a trip if you’re in the neighbourhood. If you live in Hobart/Tasmania it’s free. The city is ringed with mountains and forests. It could certainly be characterised as Swiss-ish by an inspired travel writer.

    After I left the hotel on my way back to the airport, I took a hop-on-hop-off tour of Hobart, and it reminded me of a slightly larger version of my home town Marblehead. Very nautical, provincial, and that overused term “quaint”. I enjoyed it tremendously, and wish I’d decided to spend a few more days in Tasmania.

    OTOH, the only place in Australia where I saw a Tasmanian Devil was in Adelaide, SA.

  4. arnold zwicky Says:

    Alas, the Devils are seriously threatened by disease.

    • Robert Coren Says:

      Although, as we learned when visiting a Tasmanian Devil sanctuary (one of whose names is “The Unzoo”) east of Hobart, there’s a project underway to immunize captive devils and release them into the wild, in the hopes of reestablishing a healthy population.

  5. [BLOG] Some Friday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky takes a look at the history of Swiss Tasmania, a region in the center of the island including the […]

  6. Robert Coren Says:

    On the irreversibility of “the X of Y”: There’s a passage in one of Len Deighton’s early novels in which the narrator, a British intelligence agent visiting what was then Leningrad, is informed by a local booster that Leningrad is known as “the Venice of the North”, to which he replies that he has never heard Venice called the Leningrad of the South.

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