Introduction to Switzerland

Think of Switzerland and you think mountains, banking, chocolate, cheese, the Swiss Guard and The League of Nations. In fact, Switzerland is home to Europe's tallest mountain peak, the world's fourth largest stock market, the world's largest gold bullion market, hase more banks per capita than any other country in the world, is deeply rooted in Alpine dairy products and was the place where the League of Nations treaty was signed. This, however, was not always the case.


Zurich, for example, was established as a Roman custom post called Turicum back in 15 BC. (Today Zurich is a very stylish European city, as well as, the headquarters for the Swiss National Bank). In the center of Zurich is the "schipfe," or old town.  Back in the middle ages this was the transfer point for merchandise moving through Europe. Today the schipfe is a great place to walk, shop or eat.

The food in Switzerland is influenced by German, French and Italian cuisine's. When you think about the food of Switzerland you think about Cheese, chocolate, fondue and schnitzel. Fondue comes in three varieties: Swiss fondue, French fondue and Asian fondue also called a hot pot. Melting cheese in a pot and dipping crusts of bread into the melted cheese makes Swiss fondue. French fondue is exactly the same only as Swiss fondue you dip small cubes of meat into the melted cheese. A hot pot is meat cooked in a broth. Another Swiss food is the schnitzel and that starts with a good veal. When you visit Zurich and are walking through the schipfe, stop in at the Bierhalle Wolfe where they serve the best fondue, schnitzel and cold beer.


While you are traveling around Switzerland you will certainly want to visit Lucerne.  Popular for the cobble-paved streets, garden courtyards and medieval square with little houses, old churches and ancient guild halls, Lucerne is located in central Switzerland and was once a medieval fishing village. We arrived in Lucerne by the Swiss rail, which is one of the most comfortable and safest ways to travel and the rail system runs on clockwork punctuality. 

Lucerne is a bit hilly and sits on the edge of a lake. It is a city of bridges for the Reuss River splits the city in two. There are five walking bridges, which cross the Reuss, including two world-famous covered

Lucerne and bridge

bridges. The Chapel Bridge was built in 1300 and formed part of the cities original fortifications. It is famous for its paintings on the wall of the bridge telling little stories and depicting saints, legends and battles.  The Mill Bridge, built much later in 1408, got its name because chaffs of wheat were thrown into the river at this point and allowed to float to the mill below. This bridge is famous for "Dance of Death" paintings complete with grinning skeletons leading the townspeople to their doom during the time of the black plague.

The city of Lucerne also dates back to Roman times and remained a Roman Catholic city during the Protestant Revolution that swept through Europe during much of the 14th and 15th centuries. The city is called the city of lights and the names goes back to its founding. According to legend the city's first settlers were lost in the dark. An angel appeared holding a lamp. It was on that spot that the first chapel was built in honor of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of fishermen.

The Dying Lion of Luzern

As you continue walking through Lucerne you will eventually come upon its saddest and most moving monument, that of the Dying Lion. Built out of natural rock the lion commemorates the heroic death of Swiss mercenaries who died defending the crown of King Louis XVI of France in 1792. Looking at this monument you can begin to understand the ideas that led to the founding of the Swiss Red Cross a half-century later.

Red Cross Museum

The Red Cross Museum in, in fact, in Geneva.  In 1859 Napoleon waged the Battle of Solferino, a battle in which 40,000 men were killed or wounded and is still considered the most murderous battle in history. It was the day after this battle that Henri Durant began writing a deeply moving book titled " A Souvenir of Solferino" where he first floated the idea of a corps of voluntary nurses to care for the wounded in wartime. These nurses would be recognized and respected through an international agreement. On August 22, 1864, the First Convention of Geneva was accepted and signed by 16 nations. The foundation for the International Red Cross was in place. In 1901 Henri Durant was awarded a Noble Peace Prize. If you visit the city of Geneva you can visit the museum dedicated to this man and the organization.

The museum will introduce you to a universe of love and hate, of rifts and solidarity.  A slide show depicting the Battle of Solferino is both poignant and troubling. Walking through the museum your emotions will run the gamut from disgust to revolution.  There are scenes depicting killings, mass genocide's, sickness, famine and catastrophes. There is even a display teaching kids how to identify land mines. There is also on display a red cross package from World War II. This is dedicated to the men and women who gave their time and sometimes their lives to aid, comfort and care for their fellow humans - all in the hope of world peace.

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