So, I spent a day in Basel, then came to Lucerne. Basel was OK, with lots of classy museums, and I like Lucerne a lot. Here is the view from my hotel room window:
Later, there was a rainbow!
Anyway, Basel. The most impressive thing in Basel I didn't take any pictures of (I was a little burnt out on picture-taking after Lauterbrunnen); it's the Barfüsserkirche, the church where they have their city history museum. The impressive thing about it is that during the Reformation, the church was completely gutted, and all of the decorations and things were destroyed. I guess when you are radically changing your religion you can't just have a sale and hand off all your old saints' statues to someone else who isn't so into Reforming. It wasn't even used as a church for most of the last 400 years (they used it for storage and things, and as recently as 50 or 60 years ago they were going to tear it down to build a school). Anyway, the nave of the church (and it's quite a large church) is now filled with religious art that was mostly rescued from other Swiss churches; there may have been a few pieces that were original to that particular church, but I think basically everything from that church was destroyed.
I mean, obviously I learned about the Reformation in school, but imagining that big huge church being used as a grain store, and seeing examples of the kinds of treasures that were destroyed and can never be recovered was illuminating. And because it's All About Me, I also couldn't help but think about how less than a hundred years after that church was... well, let's say "renovated", people were getting on boats to America bringing practically nothing with them so that they could build a properly austere and God-fearing society in the place where I live now.
There are a lot of museums in Basel. I think I only visited three. I meant to visit a couple more, but then I couldn't find one of them, and I just got museumed-out after a while. The Natural History museum was pretty good, with a dodo and a quagga and a nice little mammoth exhibit with lots of skulls. Also they had a model of the Hobbit skull, Homo floresiensis, in their human evolution exhibit.
I also really like what they did with the little pictures of what the different hominids ate and what kinds of tools and things they had. Also there was a very cool exhibit with a colony of leaf-cutter ants! I think we should get one of those at the Museum of Science.
They had almost no English or French label copy, though, so I didn't really get to learn much that I didn't know already. This is one of the reasons I liked the little pictures of what the hominids ate.
Then I came to Lucerne by way of the Fortress Fürigen military museum. This is one of several fortresses that the Swiss constructed during WWII when Switzerland was surrounded by Nazi-occupied territory. The idea was to be able to defend the North-South route that runs near Lucerne and to be able to cut off the country (or at least the middle of the country) entirely if necessary. It was a dramatic illustration of the concept of "armed neutrality". The fortress is dug right into this cliff (the very unobtrusive entrance is not in this photo, but I don't know that it would show -- I nearly walked right by it):
There are all sorts of machine-gun and other bigger kinds of guns, and ammunition for them. In the 60s they also installed anti-radiation air filters and things. The fortress was only decommissioned in the 80s, I think.
I'm no military buff and I didn't properly appreciate most of the stuff in there (and I didn't really stay all that long, either), but just its existence was eye-opening. Something like 150 soldiers plus officers and things would stay in the fortress. It's very compact and space-efficient, almost like a submarine. It's also cold and wet and filled with dehumidifiers.
I'll do another entry on Lucerne and the exciting place where I am going today tonight.