Swiss Build a Fortress Around Their Hearts

1 May

One of the hardest sights to schedule around is Fortress Fürigen.  I’m bound and determined that we see this place but it’s only open on weekends and then only in later spring.  The Mister is a WWII buff and I have taken a shine to the Swiss and their unique way of seeing independence.

Fortress Fürigen is one of many such spots in Switzerland.  In the early 40’s, the Swiss began building strong points within their strong mountain ranges.  If their border defenses were not able to withstand attack then their fighters would fall back to a mountain fort just like this one.  Unlike mountain forts we’re used to seeing this one isn’t easy to see at all.  It’s literally built into the side of a mountain.  The Blogosphere points out that if they hadn’t built a visitor’s entrance that tourists would still be looking and even this entrance is hard to find.

I know he's probably saying something very interesting about Fortress Furigen but I just want one of those Swiss cereal bowls.

The Swiss used their intimate knowledge of their biggest strategic asset, their giant mountains, as a way to protect their country.  Every bridge that connected to these mountains was built with an incendiary device (can I tell you that I’ve always wanted to use the term “incendiary device” and I’m thrilled that I could share this moment with you when I finally get to!)  If the bad guys started to approach the bridge then it would be destroyed in a matter of seconds.  That’s not all.  Innocent looking barns and silos housed giant tanks and missiles.  Picture something the size of a bus being aimed directly at your business.  The Swiss took their independence very seriously.

This brings us back to the theory of armed neutrality.  Remember, I read a whole book on it?  What I learned there is that it’s not enough to say “we’re neutral” and then go back to eating chocolate bunnies and watching cartoons.  Neutrality that works has to be defended.  In WWII the Swiss definitely saw the inherent evil in the Nazis.  They tried to cut ties with them as effectively as they could while they still needed to depend on the Third Reich for trade.  There’s been a bunch of criticism on the Swiss for this but look at a map of Germany’s holdings as WWII progressed.  Switzerland was surrounded by fascist possessions on all borders.  They could have met the noble expectations of those who thought that they shouldn’t mix with the bad guys but then they would have starved, leaving them vulnerable AND unable to lend so much support to POW and refugees. They couldn’t take their game and go home if they wanted to survive.

Anyway, Fortress Fürigen is somewhere I’d like to see not only because it’s a part of this history.  It’s also because it’s wicked cool.  It’s not set up like a museum.  You get to walk through a barracks that looks pretty much as it did when it was operational.  The beds, the dining room, the ammunition, the radio room… it’s all there.  AND since it’s so cold in the fortress they let you wear Swiss army jackets during your tour!  AND they let you play around with WWII guns.  AND you can pretend to aim a machine gun at a nearby mountain.  Maybe the PS3 network is down because it’s currently humiliated by how much fun real life is.

Here are my two favorite blog posts about the fortress: Anchor Chains, Plane Motors and Train Whistles &  Andria’s Travels (scroll down to mid page)

Even if you don’t speak German, this video is fun to watch.  I really want some of those Swiss cereal bowls.


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