004 • ZURICH, SWITZERLAND

Click for Lightbox. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

A FRIDAY IN SEPTEMBER, 17:42:37

What’s better than a Friday afternoon beer when you’re in the Air Force?

Three of these four guys are carrying a big can of cold Quöllfrisch. The fourth probably has more of them in that bag from the grocery story just behind them.

Quöllfrisch is a popular Swiss lager from a fairytale brewery which sits right by a fresh Alpine mountain stream in the country’s smallest canton where a scoop of ice cream in the village square will set you back about five euro.

Not making this up, it’s all true. Sometimes Switzerland is like that.

And it has armed forces. The country, not the brewery. Plus conscription. All fit men have to undergo basic military training for 18 weeks at some point when they’re between 17 and 25 years old.

In the weekend, they’re off. I hope. Because it’s not rare to see guys in a bar, wearing a military uniform, slamming down them Qoüllis like they’re Happy Meals. Or to see them sit on the shores of lake Zurich with cans of Quöllfrisch and actual Happy Meals.

That’s the plan for these four conscripts. The two in front are clearly focused on the crowded lake shore in front of them, probably spotting a good place to sit and catch the sunset. They want to get there asap.

Their two friends seem distracted by the soap bubble artists. I guess you call them artists? Performers?

The kids punch through the bubbles like the Air Force cuts through the sky.

Downtown on a Friday afternoon in the country’s largest city: giant soap bubbles, military conscripts and cold cans of Quöllfrisch.

Sometimes Switzerland lets itself be defined quite easily.