Mountains, cows, cheese, chocolate. These are all things that I readily associate with Switzerland. That and one more thing, the Swiss Army Knife. And that is the reason Jim and I booked another weekend in Brunnen, Switzerland, to make our own pocket knives. Even though we drove down there in the dead of winter, we found lots of fun things to keep us busy in this small town not too far from Zurich and bordering the gorgeous Lake Urner.
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Brunnen, Switzerland – Home of the Victorinox Vistor’s Center
Sometimes in winter we look out at our gray German skies and wonder where we can go to cheer us up. Winter is the perfect time to find things to do inside, so since my dream of making my own Swiss Army Knife hadn’t yet materialized, we decided it was the perfect time for the trip. Brunnen is only about an hour and a half from Zurich or two hours from Basel, so it’s easy to add to your Swiss itinerary. For us, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump over the German border so easily done in a couple of days. Even though our main purpose was set, we discovered a few other fantastic things to do, and it turned into quite the romantic weekend.
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Visiting Victorinox and the Swiss Knife Valley Visitor Center
As soon as we checked into our fantastic hotel, located right across from the Victorinox Museum and Store, we headed straight over to check out the visitor center. We’d made an appointment to assemble our knives at 4:30 in the afternoon and we had time to wander around the small museum, read the history of Swiss army knives, and do a little shopping. Even though the company was founded in cutlery, it has branched out into some interesting areas, like travel gear and fragrances, so it was very interesting. And even me, the non-shopper, found a couple of things to purchase.
The time was drawing near, and my excitement was mounting. You might think that Jim would have been the one to come up with this excursion, but it was all me. You see growing up, I was always a Girl Scout, and I can remember learning how to use a pocket knife at about age ten. In fact, my Mom and Dad were on vacation in Switzerland one year, and what did they bring me back, my very own Swiss Army Knife. I think I was about 12 years old. I treasured that knife. I whittled my own spoon with that knife. I couldn’t wait to make one!
Our instructor was Phillip, who spoke fantastic English. Turns out he was a Canadian…well, no wonder. Each person who books the knife assembly only has 15 minutes, so we set straight to work. It was fantastic that both Jim and I had signed up, because some people only have one person in the party make a knife, and Phillip said he had to speak fast and keep repeating himself. But with two people, he was able to interweave some fantastic facts, some history, and of course lots of instructions into his spiel. We were spellbound.
I can’t remember everything, but here are a few facts about Victorinox and the production of Swiss Army Knives that we learned:
- Victorinox was founded by Karl Elsener in 1884 and he patented his first Swiss Army Knife (the Swiss Officer’s) in 1897.
- The brand name is a combination of Karl’s mother’s name – Victoria – and the word for stainless steel – “Inox”.
- There are 60,000 Swiss army knives made every day in Switzerland, and double that in the world.
- One of my favorite facts were that the tables we used to assemble our knives were 2 of 60. The other 58 are sprinkled throughout the country where people boost their income by hand assembling knives in their homes.
The knife that you assemble is the Spartan, basically the same as the original Officer’s Knife and of course still very popular. It was a Spartan that my parents bought for me all those years ago. This model has 27 parts that we have to put together in layers and in the correct order. There are 12 functions that are included: two blades, a can opener, two screwdrivers, a bottle opener, a wire stripper, an awl, tweezers, a key ring, a toothpick, and then there is a choice between a Phillip’s head screwdriver or a corkscrew. I, of course, picked the corkscrew. I remember as a kid that my favorite too, by far, was the toothpick. I loved that thing!
We had an absolute blast assembling our own knives. You can watch us do it right here:
How Do You Make Your Own Swiss Army Knife?
You will want to make reservations as soon as you can. Phillip told us summers and weekends are crowded, but if you plan an off-season trip you’ll have more times to choose from. If you do have to go in the middle of summer, book now through the Swiss Knife Valley Visitor Center.
Opening Times: The Victorinox Store and Museum are open all year, and even seven days a week in summer from 10:00 – 17:00.
Cost: To assemble and take home your very own Spartan model pocket knife, you only pay 35 Swiss Francs.
Address: Bahnhofstr. 3, 6440 Brunnen
Plenty of Other Things To Do in Brunnen, Switzerland
During the month of January, Brunnen is celebrating fasching. Fasching is the “5th season” and its pre-Lent carnival partying. While we were there we kept seeing and hearing fasching bands, locals dressed up in costumes, parading through the streets, playing instruments, and just having a great time.
In one of the town squares there was a fasching market with plenty of booths selling costumes, and warm alcoholic drinks. A beer tent was always full of the bands playing music and the locals living it up.
But even if you don’t go during fasching, the town is situated on the Urnersee (Lake Urner). There are Urnersee boat cruises that run all year long. What a romantic way to watch the sunset!
Brunnen Hotels and Restaurants
Brunnen has its share of fantastic restaurants and cozy hotels. We recommend the Hotel Weisses Rössli, which hosts the best restaurant in town as well as stylish, comfortable rooms and a great breakfast.
What do you like to do when you go to Switzerland?