Our latest holiday in Switzerland included the Easter weekend, and on Easter Sunday we embarked on a little excursion to Schwyz. This is one of the oldest parts of the country and the small town is a kind of walkabout museum of history. It boasts the oldest surviving wooden house in Europe, the delightfully named Bethlehem House, which was built in 1287. The house is now part of the Ital-Reding museum complex. Along with the wooden house, there is a magnificent manor house, dating from 1663. Below are photos of the Bethlehem House and the manor house. You can find out more here.
Schwyz of course is pretty much the heart of Switzerland as this is where the country’s origins lie. Around the same time as the Bethlehem House was being built, the leaders of the three mountainous cantons of Schwyz, Uri and Nidwalden came together to sign the famous oath that eventually led to the creation of Switzerland. This oath and other important documents are lodged in the Museum of Swiss Charters of Confederacy, (Bundesbriefmuseum) which is located in Schwyz. Swiss people are very proud of their independence and in the grounds of this museum is this fantastic giant statue.
This impressive piece of bronze by Hans Brandenberger was cast for the Swiss National Exhibition of 1939 in Zürich. This was at the height of the Spiritual Defence movement in Switzerland as the country came together to resist the threat from Nazism. The statue is titled Ready for Defence and is a powerful symbol of Switzerland’s determination to protect its prized independence. The statue was moved to Schwyz in 1941 as part of the 650th commemoration of the signing of the original oath in 1291.
Schwyz has many other outstanding buildings, and few are as eye-catching as the Town Hall. This was built in the 17th century, but the main feature is the wonderful murals, which were painted in the 19th century to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the famous oath. They do like their history in Switzerland. Here are a couple of photos of the murals.
Not everything in Schwyz is on the grand scale. There are plenty of more mundane things to see and appreciate. A selection follows, which include a fine statue by a fountain, a rather unusual tree and an easter window display.
The town is dominated by the twin peaks of the majestic Mythen mountains, which tower above the place. Unfortunately when we were there, the clouds resolutely refused to rise above the summits. However I did manage to get one reasonable snap, which gives an idea of the power and size of the mountains.
Schwyz is the name both of the town and of the Kanton. We had hoped to take a cable car up to one of the mountain villages, but the low clouds and the bitter cold weather encouraged us to change our mind. So we spent the rest of the afternoon in another delightful part of Schwyz, the lakeside town of Brunnen.
Brunen lies on one of the many branches of what the English and French speaking world know as Lake Lucerne. I much prefer the German name, the more romantic sounding Vierwaldstättersee, or Four Forested Cantons Lake. Whatever it is called it is a very impressive lake, surrounding by steep mountains. Brunnen itself is a holiday town with much to offer, including boat trips on the lake. Below is a view of Brunnen and one of the lovely traditional boats which ply their trade on the lake.
Brunnen has a lovely lakeside promenade and it was pretty lively when we were there. A couple of unusual sights follow. The promenade was covered with trees, all of which had been vigorously pruned back, to such an extent that it looked like they were all dead. However a few did show slight signs of life. Then comes a sight to gladden the heart of any Scot abroad – a Nessie playpark!
As ever on our little excursions we like to sample the local hospitality. Here we found a sunny, sheltered spot by a grand hotel on the front. The coffee and cakes were as usual, delicious. I end with a photo of Kathleen and Emma enjoying the sunshine by the lake.