Violating Swiss neutrality

I was just wondering, entirely hypothetically, which would be the best route to take from Lissavruggy in County Galway to the Valvelspitze mountain in the Italian section of the Ötztal Alps.

As ever, Google Maps provided some useful advice, presenting me with two options: the first route (marked in blue) via Reims, Nancy and Zurich (1,932km); the second (marked in grey) via Brussels, Stuttgart and Ulm (2,053km).

But Google's response presented me with something of a dilemma. While the first route is 121km shorter than the second, Google predicts that, in current traffic, it is likely to be 55 minutes slower.

Such dilemmas must be rife in the armed forces. Should one take the guaranteed shorter route, or the potentially faster but longer route? When it comes to military manoeuvres, as opposed to entirely hypothetical exercises, lives might well be a stake. Does one take the more roundabout route via Belgium, Germany and Austria (as Hitler, no doubt, would have), or does one violate Swiss neutrality by taking the more direct route via France and Switzerland?

I'm glad I don't have to make such decisions.

How about you?

If you were a military leader, and lives were at stake, would you violate Swiss neutrality for the chance to save 55 minutes by taking the more direct route?

Please feel free to attempt to justify your answer in the comments.

(While you're at it, you might also wish to consider the pros and cons of taking the M6 Toll Road.)

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. The Swiss route was slower - the question should be "would you violate Swiss neutrality for the chance to lose 55 minutes.

    Justification: None.

  2. Damn, you're right! I double-bluffed myself, or something. Hitler wasn't as stupid as he looked. Even with that moustache.

    I have corrected the question.

    Frankly, I'm surprised you didn't pick me up on Ireland being neutral too.

    (I note you cleverly avoided the M6 Toll Road dilemma.)

  3. If you're intrigued by this dilemma, hunt out the German film Zugvögel - einmal nach Inari. The key plot device throughout the whole film is the business of deciding optimal routes (in this case, on railways). I suspect it would suit Gruts-readers' sensibilities. I haven't seen it for many, many years, but I remember it keenly -- perhaps not least because, on Interrail back in the day, my life revolved around the columns of tiny numbers in the Thomas Cook European Railway Timetable.

  4. When I was at school, our Geography teacher had us take part in a multi-week exercise to decide the best place to locate a new oil refinery in the South West of England. It involved measuring and adding up lots of road distances on detailed Ordnance Survey maps. The teacher offered £10 per team member to any team that got the same answer for the total mileage as the team that had done the same calculations in real life. Most of the teams were well wide of the mark, but my team (which included Irish Mick, if memory serves) was only one mile out. The teacher bought us all a Mars bar as consolation prize.

  5. Things like that are very important - I'm glad your teacher was a sport about it.

    I had a maths teacher at sixth-form; mad as a box of frogs but a complete genius who specialised in teaching relativity to 12-year-olds. Anyhow, his maths teacher had apparently been teaching them about triangles and had promised a Mars bar to anyone who could find a triangle with angles adding up to more than 180'. Jack, being a Jack, comes into school the next day with a triangle drawn on the surface of a football and the teacher refused to pay up! You could tell, years afterwards, that he was still outraged.

    I have to confess that I have used the M6 Toll and it was good. When you have inpatient children in the car (there is some other type?) the cost is easily justified.

  6. Ohoo - have I always been on pre-moderation, or did I make somebody cross?

  7. Ah - yes. Well, typing was never my strong point and for reasons too dull to expound my browser clears cookies daily at the moment.

    And although I accept that I missed the question of Irish neutrality, I think a more important issue is what the bloody hell an army is doing in Lissavruggy, neutral or not, in the first place!

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