Swiss Alpine Club cabin guardian
Photo: Caroline Bishop
The Swiss Alpine Club runs a network of mountain cabins, some of them in incredibly remote areas of the country. Open from June to September, they are usually run by a couple or single person, with extra live-in staff as and when required. Given the remoteness of the cabins, being a hut guardian requires particular skills: fitness, to cope with hiking up there in the first place; a love of solitude, to help you deal with those nights when you have no guests because there’s a raging storm; resourcefulness, to make tasty meals for your guests out of supplies that have to last until the next helicopter drop; calmness under pressure, to cope with emergencies at altitude, such as a guest falling ill. Find out more about working in a cabin here.
The velogemel factory in Grindelwald. Photo: Caroline Bishop
Particular to the Swiss town of Grindelwald, the velogemel is a wooden snowbike that has been produced in the village since 1911. It’s still made there today by expert carpenters who have preserved the original design all these years.
Mountain train driver
The Pilatusbahn. Photo: Christian Perret/Swiss Tourism
Yes, there are train drivers all over the world, but not many get to experience the kind of trains and routes that Switzerland boasts. The country has the world’s longest train tunnel (the Gotthard Base Tunnel), the world’s steepest cogwheel railway (Pilatusbahn) and Europe’s highest altitude railway, the Jungfraubahn, which travels through the foot of the Eiger to reach the highest railway station on the continent.
The Zytglogge is a symbol of Bern. Photo: Jan Geerk/Swiss Tourism
Markus Marti has one of the most Swiss jobs in the country. For the past 40 years he has been ‘timekeeper’ of the medieval mechanical clock in Bern’s city centre, the Zytglogge. The main functions of his job are to wind the clock each day and make sure its 16th century mechanical parts run smoothly.
The flower clock in Geneva. Photo: Filipe Fortes/Flickr
Ok, so there are watchmakers in other parts of the world, but it’s something special to be a watchmaker in Switzerland, since the profession has a long and illustrious history in Geneva and the Jura, where numerous well known watch companies are still based. If you fancy training to be a master watchmaker, look at courses at the Ecole d’Horlogerie de Genève, the country’s oldest watchmaking school, established in 1824.
The chapel at the Verena gorge. Photo: Martin V Morris/Flickr
One of the country’s longest standing jobs, there’s been a hermit looking after the hermitage in the Verena gorge near Solothurn since 1442. The current postholder, appointed just last year, is an ex-policeman from southern Germany. In return for looking after the hermitage and nearby St Martin's Chapel, he lives in the hermitage rent-free and collects 2,000 francs a month in salary. He may be one of Europe's last hermits, but he's not the only one. Austria appointed its latest hermit for the Saalfelden hermitage in April.
Photo: Kosala Bandara/Flickr
Traditionally used by farmers to call their cattle down from the alpine pastures, the alphorn is now used more as musical entertainment in local festivals. Creating that smooth tone requires considerable carpentry talent and a lot of patience – apparently it takes around 60 hours to create one instrument. To see an alphorn maker at work and have a go yourself visit the workshop of Heinz and Marietta Tschiemer near Interlaken.
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP
You get posted to Vatican City for this one. Swiss Guards have been protecting the Pope since 1506 when Pope Julius II decided to hire Swiss mercenaries to be his bodyguards, as they were known for their courage and loyalty. To be a Swiss Guard you must be male, under 30, of Swiss nationality, a practising Catholic and have completed Swiss military service. You must also be “of irreproachable reputation”.
On the pasture cheese is made using traditional methods. Photo: Caroline Bishop
While during winter Swiss cheese is made on the valley farms, in summer some farmers travel with their herds up to the high alpine pastures. During this period the farmers live up there with the cows and produce cheese using traditional methods. Only cheese made in this way on the pasture can be called alpkäse. It’s not an easy life, and their hard work is rewarded in the autumn in festivals celebrating the return of the farmers and their cows to the valley.