Monday, August 1, 2011

Swiss National Day

August 1st is Swiss National Day.  This date represents the oldest charter of their confederation from 1291 - a mere 500 years before the United States.  To celebrate, they had an open house at the Bundeshaus so I got in line at 9 am sharp and was one of the first to enter.

Bundeshaus (Parliament) with celebrations in the plaza in front of it.
The Bundeshaus (Parliament and Federal Palace) was completed in 1902 in the Renaissance style - making it one of the newest buildings in Bern!  The Parliament consists of two chambers with identical powers.  You can't see their two domes (one on each side of the central dome) but they are separated by the central Hall of the Dome.  Similar to the United States, there is a National Council which is made up of 200 members allotted in proportion to the resident population of each canton (like our states).  The Council of States has 46 members, two from each of the 23 cantons.  Elections take place every four years.  Unlike the U.S.A. they have six parties represented in both councils - the Swiss People's Party, the Social Democrats, the Christian Democrats, the Green faction, and the BDP faction, whatever that is!  Not that I know what any of them actually stands for though I could make some guesses.

The next picture is a close-up of the front with some explanation of the three figures you see below the flags.

The flags represent the 26 cantons of Switzerland
The three sandstone heads over the three front entrances (which are a little hard to see in this picture) represent the three qualities you want in your government officials.  The man in the middle is for wisdom, the wolf on the left is for courage, and the bull on the right is for strength.  You want your government to be wise, brave, and strong!  There are also three heads above (which are not pictured here) which represent the three primary languages of Switzerland – German, French, and Italian.

You could guess what statue flanks the main staircase as you enter the center of the great Hall.

No surprise here!
The stained glass ceiling of the dome displays the coats of arms of the cantons.  They surround a mosaic depicting the federal coat of arms with the motto "One for all and all for one".

Central dome of the Bundeshaus
The entire parliament is, of course, exquisite.  I particularly like the ceiling in one of the floors above.  It had to be round of course because it goes around this central dome.

All of the inset paintings are gorgeous.
The chambers for the National Council were opened up from 10 am to 11 am for public questions to both the President of the National Council (proportioned like our House) and the President of the Council of States (proportioned like our Senate).  There was no fanfare when the two heads of these groups entered the room and sat down.  People just drifted in and out.  There were introductions and then the questioning was quite informal.  One of the men spoke primarily French, the other primarily German, and there was an interpreter between them.  It was really interesting.  My picture of the Presidents was out of focus, but I have a picture of the duo singing group that preceded them.

Singers known as "duo edeldichte" in the chambers
Okay - I know you want a close up with those awesome Swiss outfits.

Just picture Harry Reid and Eric Cantor in these cute dresses!
And, just for fun, here is a picture of the chairs in the chamber.  I can't get enough of the carved wood, statues, paintings, etc. all over Bern - not just in the Bundeshaus!

Chair in National Council Chamberss
After the excitement of Parliament (I'm really glad I went - plus we got free Swiss chocolate bars as a bonus!) I went to the Einsteinhaus - where Einstein lived for several years when he worked at the Patent Office and where he wrote his special theory of relativity paper (Remember E = mc squared?).  But that blog - a special for my sister Jenny - will be coming later.

Then I met Darrell for a lovely picnic lunch.  We invented a new dessert that should be all the rage.  We cut a croissant in half, sliced a banana in half and put some chocolate on top and tucked it all inside.  The curve of the banana matched the croissant, and the chocolate made it dessert!  Yum.  Oh, and I had bought a tiny bottle of prosecco to enjoy with our picnic for the holiday.

After lunch I headed down to the river.  Really, if you can't find me, and there is a river anywhere near by - that is probably where I am!  Especially after drying out for 12 years in Flagstaff...

I think most of the town was down by the river, and many of them were IN the river, despite how cold it is.  The number of people that just drift down with the current is incredible.  I will try to imbed a little movie clip - it is just 14 seconds - if I can figure out how to do that.

And now for some bridge jumpers - caught in mid-air.

Jumping off the footbridge near the local zoo
And some campers willing to camp in a very crowded place near the river.

Eichholz Campground near River Aare
And lastly, a noisy beach, where I could get in the water slowly!

Come on in!  The water's COLD!
Hope you all had a lovely August 1st.  I may add more later if I get some good fireworks pictures for a grand finale!

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