Happy Swiss Day to everyone!
1 August in Switzerland is like 4 July in the USA. This is not an independence day it is a confederation day. Not being Swiss, the strange thing to me, is that it isn’t even a celebration of the country forming. Instead 1 August, 1291 is the day the three original signers to the confederation signed a paper pledging to protect each other if one of them was ever attacked. About 60 years later the confederation had increased to eight cantons. The “country” remained that size for approximately 90 years when Zurich was kicked out of the confederation over a territory dispute. Zurich was out for only about 10 years and then it rejoined. This was the start of a very successful time in Swiss history. The confederated states gained a lot of respect in Europe by providing mercenaries on the continent, and it was in 1506 that the Pope hired mercenaries that have continuously served as the Pope’s security force commonly called the “Swiss Guard.”
For about the next 200 years there was a lot of stability in Switzerland. There was also more peace than war because the rest of Europe relied on swiss mercenaries. In the late 1700 to early 1800’s the country was ruled by the French. Napoleon restored much of the self rule and the final three cantons joined the confederation in 1814. By the end of 1815 Switzerland’s borders were set, and the rest of the world recognized Switzerland as a neutral country. Switzerland adopted it’s first Federal Constitution in 1848.
So happy Confederation Day! I now have the pleasure of not getting any sleep because the fireworks in our neighborhood started at 7:15 this morning, and will probably go all night long. Thank goodness it is raining all day, that will keep some of the noise down,
There is a short history lesson of Switzerland, now I will go back to talking about the last part of our holiday!
Julie and I have been to Munich before, but we really like the town. So when our friends were looking for someplace in Germany to visit it was at the top of our list. It also didn’t hurt that Munich is very close to Salzburg. We lost most of a day taking the train from the Alps to Salzburg, so we didn’t want to lose another by traveling to Northern Germany.
Our first morning in Munich we signed up for a walking tour of the old town. I don’t often do recommendations, BUT if you are ever in Munich you need to look into Dark History Tours. We signed up for a 3.5 hour tour, but I think everyone in our group agreed we wish we had more time. Our tour guide was fabulous. He took us through the history of Munich, but his specialty is the rise of the Third Reich. Munich was the home of the Nazi party and Taff gave us a history lesson that we will all remember.
After the tour we got on a train and rode to Dachau. So we learned about the rise of the Nazi party in the morning, and then the afternoon we got a lesson in how awful the Nazi Party was.
Dachau was the first concentration camp. It was opened in 1933, and was the blueprint for all of the other camps. There were even about 100 satellite camps in the surrounding area. The prison camp itself was only about 5 acres, but the entire facility was over 20. The other land was used for training of prison guards and other SS soldiers. For the first five years, the camp was used for german citizens. If someone spoke out against the party or programs they were sent there. In 1938 over 10,000 Jewish men were sent to Dachau. All told over 200,000 prisoners were held at Dachau. I remember reading one of the signs that at the peak of the imprisonments there over 67,000 people being held in the camp. The following is a quote from one of the speeches the day the camp was opened;
“Comrades of the SS!
You all know what the Fuehrer has called us to do. We have not come here for human encounters with those pigs in there. We do not consider them human beings, as we are, but as second-class people. For years they have been able to continue their criminal existence. But now we are in power. If those pigs had come to power, they would have cut off all our heads. Therefore we have no room for sentimentalism. If anyone here cannot bear to see the blood of comrades, he does not belong and had better leave. The more of these pig dogs we strike down, the fewer we need to feed.”
I truly do not have the words to describe the feelings I had walking through the camp and learning about the hatred and inhuman crimes that were perpetrated on the people in those camps. I am not sure I ever will.
I think what depressed me the most is thinking back to some of the parallels I hear from US politicians and citizens when they talk about the other side being evil. That was the way it started in Germany as well. When you truly think of your political opponent as evil. It can become very easy to set up a place to “re-educate” them.
We ended our first full day in Munich on a high note. Had a great dinner. and then sat on the Marienplatz for drinks to end the day. It almost felt like we were on one of our camping holidays sitting around a campfire at the end of the night!
On Sunday, Julie and I had to head back to Zurich; so she could go to work; so in the morning we toured one of the most impressive palaces we have visited in Europe. The Residenz is one of the great palaces in Europe. It was home of the Bavarian Kings and Prince-Electors. There are over 130 rooms in the tour, and many of them are simply amazing! This was my second time touring the palace, and I enjoyed it as much the second time. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of the palace this time; so you will have to visit my last Munich post to see what the palace looked like.
The worst part was having to say goodbye to our friends. I will see two of them in November when I head back to the US for deer hunting, but we are planning on meeting in Southern Indiana next April to witness the eclipse that will be crossing North America!
Not nearly as many pictures this time, but enjoy the ones I have.