A tour of Switzerland in vintage postcards

Swiss cheese?

So what do you think of when you hear the name of the country Switzerland? Gruyère cheese and chocolate, perhaps, yodelling, cuckoo clocks, Swatches? Numbered bank accounts? Gnomes? Perhaps, if you're a bit of a history buff then the crossing of the Alps by Hannibal and his troops.

Yes, well, the country is all of those things and a whole lot more.

The country now called Switzerland has been inhabited for about 150000 years, according to the archaeological record. Farming in Switzerland has been dated back to about 5300 BCE.

Modern Switzerland really got going with the so-called Federal Charter of 1291, which brought together the three rural communes of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden which set in motion the “Old Confederacy of Switzerland", which lasted, with various ups and downs, until the adoption of the Swiss Federal Constitution in 1848 set up the country we know today with its 26 cantons.

The three original communes were soon joined by the cities of Lucerne, Zürich, and Berne. These six became the Acht Orte (Eight Places) with the defeat by the Swiss of Hapsburg armies. The Swiss at the time were part of the so-called “Holy Roman Empire”, which, of course, was not really Roman, and not very holy either. It was ruled by an Emperor and so perhaps justified being called an “empire”.

Religious differences between the cantons was spurred by the Reformation, with some cantons going Reformed and others remaining Catholic.

Today Switzerland is a very modern, high-tech country with almost 8 million inhaibtants and a per capita GDP (PPP) of around $43000 US and GDP (nominal) of around $67000 US, giving it one of the highest quality of life ratings. The country has four official languages, German, French, Italian and Romansh.

The lst of these languages is also the smallest language group in Switzerland, being spoken by only about 62000 people (about 0.9% of the population) mostly in the Grisons canton of southern Switzerland. It is believed to have come down from the vulgar Latin spoken by the Romans who occupied the region.

Switzerland has been a neutral country since the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and Article 11 of the Federal Constitution makes it illegal to send troops to serve abroad.


Click thumbnail to view full-size

Geneva

We will start our tour of this old federation in Geneva, which, while not the actual capital of the federation - that honour belongs to Berne, our next stop - is the centre of many great international organisations like the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the World Council of Churches (WCC) as well as the second-biggest United Nations office.

Geneva was first taken by the Romans in 121 BCE and subsequently became part of Burgundy. It was taken over by the German Emperor in 1033. The city finally joined the Old Confederacy in 1526.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Bern

The city of Bern, which now the capital of the Swiss Federation, was founded by Berthold V, Duke of Zahringen, and was subsequently made a free imperial city in the Holy Roman Empire in 1218.

The city joined the Old Confederacy in 1353 and when the Swiss Federation came into being in 1848 it became the capital city.

Sinced 1983 the ancient centre of the city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bern is also notable as the place where a humble clerk in the patent office worked out a theory which revolutionised physics - Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity, first proposed in his 1905 paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies."

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Meggenhorn Castle is a castle in Meggen near of the Swiss city of Lucerne. It was built in 1868/70 by Edouad Hofer-Grosjean from Mulhouse. (Wikipedia)Lake Lucerne (German: Vierwaldstttersee, lit. "Lake of the Four Forested Cantons") with Mount Bristenstock in the backgroundEngelberg village between Zurich and Lucerne
Meggenhorn Castle is a castle in Meggen near of the Swiss city of Lucerne. It was built in 1868/70 by Edouad Hofer-Grosjean from Mulhouse. (Wikipedia)
Meggenhorn Castle is a castle in Meggen near of the Swiss city of Lucerne. It was built in 1868/70 by Edouad Hofer-Grosjean from Mulhouse. (Wikipedia)
Lake Lucerne (German: Vierwaldstttersee, lit. "Lake of the Four Forested Cantons") with Mount Bristenstock in the background
Lake Lucerne (German: Vierwaldstttersee, lit. "Lake of the Four Forested Cantons") with Mount Bristenstock in the background
Engelberg village between Zurich and Lucerne
Engelberg village between Zurich and Lucerne

Lucerne

This city of more than 50000 people began after the fall of the Roman Empire in the 6th Century when a monastery was set up on the site by the Benedictines. The Monastery of St Leodegar was founded in 750 and taken over in the middle of the 9th Century by the Alsatian Murbach Abbey.

In 1178 the ties to Murbach were cut and the the city of Lucerne was born. It became an important trading centre and was able to shake off Hapsburg control and join the Old Swiss Confederacy on 7 November 1332.

The city was involved in the religious tumult of the medieval and reformation eras, but remained Catholic, unlike the cities of Basel, Bern and Zurich.

In January 2010 it was united with the neighbouring town of Littau as decided in a 2007 referendum, making it the seventh-largest city in Switzerland with a population of more than 75000.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Lugano

Founded in the early years of the Christian era, Lugano has become known as the "Monte Carlo of Switzerland" because of the number of celebrities that have settled there, attracted by the warm climate and tourist attractions.

Lugano is in the south of Switzerland and has grown to become the third-largest centre of banking and finance in the federation, after Zurich and Geneva.

Chillon

"Chillon! thy prison is a holy place,

And thy sad floor an altar ..." - from "Sonnet on Chillon" by Byron (1816).

The Château de Chillon was made famous by George Gordon, Lord Byron's famous poem "The Prisoner of Chillon."

The Château itself is indeed very old, with documents dated back to the beginning of the second millenium making mention of Chillon.

The prisoner of Byron's famous poem was Francois Bonivard, a Swiss patriot who opposed the rule of the Duke of Savoy. He was imprisoned in Chillon from 1530 to 1536.

Eisgrotte (Ice Cave)

"Early autochrome postcard marked Eisgrotte, Louis Glaser Leipzig, and Gebr Wehrli Kilchberg b/Zurich. No 3624. Postally unused. Undivided back" - from catalogue entry

I have no idea which Ice Cave this might illustrate. The most information I have been able to find is that this postcard dates from about 1900.

Great Aunt Hettie
Great Aunt Hettie

A note on the images

Except where otherwise stated, all the images in this Hub are scans of postcards in my posession.Unfortunately none of them has a postmark and so I can only guess when they were produced, which I would guess would have been the first few years of the 20th Century, certainly before the First World War of 1914 - 1918.

The postcards are part of the vast collection assembled by my Great-Aunt Hetty McGregor. She died in 1977 just before her 101st birthday, having lived in the same house in Cape Town for much of that time. She never married, having been thought "too frail" to do so in her youth!

Map of Switzerland

show route and directions
A markerGeneva -
Geneva, Switzerland
[get directions]

B markerBerne -
Berne, Switzerland
[get directions]

C markerLucerne -
Lucerne, Switzerland
[get directions]

D markerLugano -
Lugano, Switzerland
[get directions]

More by this Author


Comments 36 comments

McConnell Group profile image

McConnell Group 6 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

A very Novel Idea! Great hub, that's awesome that you have the collection still it's an antiques road show...


Petra Vlah profile image

Petra Vlah 6 years ago from Los Angeles

A terrific hub about a fabulous country that has so much to offer. The cleaness of this place and the discipline of its people alone makes it one of my favorite places to visit. Thank you Tony, just loved it


France Travel Inf profile image

France Travel Inf 6 years ago

These are great post cards! I love antique postcards and have a similar collection of Paris and various other towns in France. Postcards offer such a valuable record of history!


Sandyspider profile image

Sandyspider 6 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

I would love to go to Switzerland. Nice looking postcards and hub.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Oh Tony! Brother Tony! I think of a beautiful lady named Daniela! I loaned her my 94 Caddy to them last year as her mother (gorgeous too) came to visit. They gave me chocolate from Switzerland! Heaven? Heaven! Sorry- heaven can't be all about chocolate - but it was until the chocolate disappeared! What a wonderful country! Thank you Brother Tony!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 6 years ago from South Africa

I wonder what was the real reason why your aunt Hetty did not marry – I mean how frail could she have been to reach the blessed age of 100? Just curious. Thanks for showing us those bEaUtIfUl postcards. I’m sure she would have been so thrilled to see how many people all over the world are appreciating it now. Switserland reminds me in a way of our Lesotho. Thanks Tony – dit was nou ’n lekker blits vakansie. Take care :)


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

Fascinating! My father's ancestors came to this continent from Bern in the 1600s; they had to leave when they were made unwelcome in Europe for their religious convictions, but it was part of a vast sweep across Europe, not originating there in Switzerland.

Our family name, I'm told, means "Keeper of the Flame" - they tended the outposts in the high mountains to keep a flame burning to guide lost mountaineers. I feel a great affinity with the country and have personally known several native Swiss people "in real life" who were beacons themselves. Thank you for a lovely hub about this enchanting and enchanted land. One day I hope to visit!


vox vocis profile image

vox vocis 6 years ago

Great vintage postcards! Switzerland is a very nice country. Hope to visit some day...


Kat Selective profile image

Kat Selective 6 years ago from Kentucky

Some beautiful vintage postcards. I have a small collection of my own and I'm really enjoying this article series.


Jean H 6 years ago from UK

What a lovely hub about a beautiful country. Based on such a fabulous collection of vintage postcards. Much of the scenery still just like that - untouched by the passage of time.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 6 years ago from Southern Illinois

Switzerland is a beautiful country. I would love to visit,but i don,t fly, so i,ll be content seeing your post cards. Your Aunt Hetty was a wise woman. lol

Love and Peace


Raymond Tremain profile image

Raymond Tremain 6 years ago from Metro Manila Philippines

Thank you Tony for showing these to us, great collection and I'd say worth a fortune if sold,

as I travel all over each yr. one day I will get there.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Shawn - thank you for your great comment!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Petra - thanks for stopping by and commenting. When I visited Switzerland some years ago now I remarked to someone that the place is so disciplined even the grass stands to attention in neat rows! It is a lovely country, no doubt.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Debbie - thanks for your great comment. I also have some French PCs which I'm busy putting together for yet another PC Hub. (I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours! LOL)

Love and peace

Tony


Garnetbird 6 years ago

LOVELY vintage postcards--where did you find them? I often find these gems in thrift stores in boxes, etc.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Sandy - it's a country worth visiting, for sure! Thanks for the comment.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Micky - heaven not about chocolate? You're kidding me! Or was it something to do with the lovely Daniela? Now that I could believe! LOL!

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Martie - dankie baie vir die besoek. Ek kan nou nie met sekerheid se nie maar die gedagte wat ek altyd oor Hettie gehad het was dat dit meer oor wat ons nou sou noem haar "seksuele orientasie" gegaan het as oor die stand van haar gesondheid. Maar wie sal nou na so veel jare met enige sekerheid kan se?

She was certainly a strong enough woman to be in the class of the first women to graduate from a university in South Africa - she got her BA from the then South African College in 1904, one of I think about six women in that very first class of women!

Thanks again for the visit.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Nellieanna - it is a lovely country indeed and I really enjoyed my two all-too-brief visits. Amazing how religious persecution, while dreadful in itself, has positive spin-offs for other countries. South Africa was much enriched by the contributions of the victims of religious persecution too. In our case the Hugenots from France brought their culture to mingle with the others in this country, so creating another layer of the fascinating cultural cake that we have today.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Vox - you would not be sorry! Thanks for the comment.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Kat - thanks for stopping by and commenting. Glad yhou're enjoying these.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Jean - thanks for the comment. I agree that much of Switzerland, in my experience at least, is still bery lovely and unspoiled.

Love and peace

Tony


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Thank you for this lovely journey and educational article. I have been to Switzerland. It is an amazing country with many lessons to offer those who can see.


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

Beautiful post cards. Thanks for the wonderful tour - it was like a mini vacations.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Ruby - I always enjoy your comments, thank you! Hettie was indeed a wise lady.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Raymond - thanks for stopping by and commenting. Don't think the cards are that valuable in money terms, they're just lovely to look at!

I hope you do get to Switzerland - it's a lovely country.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Garnetbird - these postcards come from my Great Aunt Hetty's collection. Thanks for the visit and the comment.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

James - thanks for stopping by and commenting. I also enjoyed my visits to Switzerland.

Love and peace

Tony


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

KKG - thanks for the visit and I'm glad you enjoyed the trip!

Love and peace

Tony


Peter Kirstein 6 years ago

Very interesting and informative hub. Have just returned from visiting the country where we stayed with a Swiss family in Zurich. Good reading Tony.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Thanks Pete - glad you enjoyed it.

Love and peace

Tony


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

I loved seeing the portion of Switzerland that I got to see with my friend. We rode the Glacier Express train and got to see Tasch, Zurich and the Matterhorn on a crystal clear day. Beautiful!

I have some old postcards that my husband's father picked up in France during World War 2 but they are copyrighted and I wonder if they would be safe to post on a site like this?

I have a bunch of old postcards that are really nice but so far have only posted those with no marks of copyrights. From what I have read if they are 75 years old it is OK. Do you know anything other than that?


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa Author

Peggy - I don't know about more modern postcards but certainly those over 70 years old are not likely to be copyrighted any more. Most of the companies that produced them are likely no longer in existence anyway.

I would love to see the postcards of Paris. They are likely out of copyright anyway.

Thanks for the comment and I look forward to reading about those postcards!

Love and peace

Tony


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago

Great hub, with all the information and the postcard pictures! Loved seeing Great Aunt Hettie too. I want to keep revisiting this hub. The pictures are so interesting to look at again and again. Thanks for sharing, this is so special. Rated up and beautiful.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa Author

TKI - thanks for stopping by and I'm really glad you enjoyed. Great Aunt Hettie was a great character, for sure.

Love and peace

Tony

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working