What a delight to be back in Switzerland for the First of August, celebrating the signing of the Federal Charter in 1291. I have missed this special National Day in the last five years, with its bonfires and fireworks and general good humour: peaceful patriotism makes a pleasant change.
It was comforting to spend the day with my daughter and son-in-law, doing nothing much except eat, drink and laze about. We drove to a favourite restaurant located on a hill just outside town, with a beautiful pastoral view of fields, woods, rolling hills and scattered farms and hamlets, that has probably looked much the same for the last hundred years at least, maybe more.
What wouldn’t have been there is the enclosure for the resident reindeer, strange placid creatures whose flat wide hoofs click when they walk.
A doze in the sunny garden in the afternoon, and a barbecue in the evening, with appropriate decorations, accompanied by fireworks on all sides, rounded off this relaxing day.
We didn’t go to any of the “official” festivities, with solemn speeches, bonfires, music and dancing, and didn’t even sing the national anthem, but deep down we thanked those founding fathers of this unique little country that has survived in peace for more than seven hundred years amid all the chaos surrounding it.
My very first experience of the Swiss National Day was exactly sixty years ago. I was part of a group from school who had the privilege of spending a fortnight far away from home. The journey by train and Channel ferry took us the best part of two days, a great adventure, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Bernese Oberland.
Traditionally, it rains on the first of August – 2016 has been an exception! – and in 1956 it poured, but the people of Lauterbrunnen were undeterred and we enjoyed what was for us a spectacular fireworks display, followed by a dance with music played by a small local band.
It would never have occurred to me then that I would settle in this beautiful country, and live here for decades, nor that I would have Swiss children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What a lot I have to be grateful for. God bless Switzerland and keep it sane, safe and sound!