This time we are on a journey through a junction where time and place and eternity somehow meet; a small, fierce, rugged place at the meridian of Europe. The Swiss regions of Basel and Lucerne link to one another, and to the world, like hubs to wheels of commerce, enterprise, democracy and freedom.
Here is a landscape that could have been created only by earth forces at their most energetic, and we know that the entire welt of mountains that defines the Alps are byproducts of colliding tectonic plates.
But what tectonic shift crunched the landscape of history to create freedom, democracy and wealth at a time when other nations were soaked in bloody conflict? What set the landlocked nation of Switzerland soaring? What made this improbably severe land the Crossroads of Europe? Richardís quest to understand begins on a modest bridge from the 1200ís across the Schollenen Gorge near the Gotthard Pass. Building the Devilís Bridge was so difficult the Devil had to help. In return he demanded to own the first soul to cross it. The workers tricked the Devil and drove a goat over bridge first.
That goat marked the beginning of a new era. According to Richard, ďRomans had long trudged across this cardinal pass, but the sonic architecture of the Devilís Bridge truly opened the way for travelers, smugglers and traders from the Mediterranean to the North Sea. And trade meant taxes. Suddenly this highland matrix of autonomous sleepy villages saw the flowers of wealth spring in its stony places.Ē
History shows that what followed was the building of a bridge of faith, spanning to a place they could not see: democracy and nationhood. So this is the story of people both profiting from and defending their strategic location; a story of war and peace, and freedom cropping from the collision of the two. Itís the narrative of Switzerland in general, and Central Switzerland in particular. And our Quest for the Crossroads takes us to the Lucerne and Basel regions of Switzerland.
Switzerland is the most mountainous country in Europe, an icy ring of teeth that bites off Italy from the rest of the continent. So, how did this daunting and deadly barrier become the handshake to the opposite seas of Europe, the great link for goods, ideas, medicines and people? Our quest is to find out by following the ancient trade routes from the Gotthard pass, down into Central Switzerland, along Lake Lucerne and to the port city of Basel.