Many Happy Returns On Your 725th Anniversary, Switzerland!
In 1291 three communities (Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden) in the mountainous region banded together to ward off outside interference, mainly against the powerful Habsburgs, and founded Switzerland.
We learnt in school all about the founding of Switzerland, how canton after canton joined the confederation, the many bloody wars they fought against intruders, how they sold off their young men as mercenaries to foreign countries and how in 1848 it changed from a confederation of cantons to a federal state.
In 1874 the revised constitution came into place that allows for the exercise of direct democracy by referendum.
You can find more about Switzerland’s history here.
Switzerland is not only about cows, cheese, chocolate, watches and heaps of money, those clichés have been overused.
Some Interesting Swiss Facts
We have more than 1’500 lakes in Switzerland (I did not check).
A seven member federal council (2 women, 5 men) builds our executive, each year one of them serves as president.
Did you know that the International Red Cross was founded by a Swiss, Henry Dunant, in 1863?
Until 1971 women were not allowed to vote in federal affairs, the last canton to grant women the right to vote on cantonal issues was Appenzell Innerrhoden in 1991.
Switzerland is one of the world’s best places to be born, live and be happy. It was ranked the world’s happiest country in 2015 and placed second in 2016 (after Denmark).
In June 2016 the longest railroad tunnel – Gotthard Tunnel – was inaugurated, 57 km in length, 2.3km under the Alps. It is part of NEAT (Neue Eisenbahn-Alpentransversale), connecting northern Europe to the south and aiming to take truck traffic off the highways to the rails. We are still waiting for Germany and Italy to finish (start?) their projects.
Switzerland has a population of 8’325’000, a high percentage of 24.6 % are foreigners, one of the highest numbers in Europe. We are a multicultural country with Swiss stemming originally from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Eastern European and Asian countries.
In 2015 39’523 asylum seekers handed in their applications, a rise of 40 % to 2014.
Switzerland is not part of European Union (EU), we have our own currency (Swiss Franc), however, we are a member of the Schengen Agreement (allowing visa free traveling and no border controls) and EFTA (European Free Trading Association).
Switzerland and EU have signed bilateral contracts that framework their political, economical and cultural relationships. This also means that we pay a lot of money for the failures of EU (Greece, stabilizing our currencies through the intervention of the Swiss National Bank).
Enough of all the serious stuff!
Yesterday Basel celebrated Swiss National Day with a giant party along the river Rhine on its eve (how practical, as August 1 is a holiday you can sleep in). I went there with a friend of mine in the evening and we had the traditional grilled Klöpfer (= sausage) with a beer.
Looking around I saw families from all over the world, having a good time, eating and drinking, some went for a swim in the river. There were fun boat races and everybody cheered the contestants on.
Here is proof of how a multicultural population will not only enhance your culinary delights:
Switzerland meets India
Switzerland meets China
And all together we enjoyed the grandiose fireworks late at night (I took this picture from home in a safe distance from all the noise and light) :
Fireworks on August 1, 2016
Happy Swiss National Day!