It’s Hip To Be Square, Aka Why The Swiss Flag is Square

The Swiss adopted the design of the white cross on a red background as the national flag (the design is older and in 1863 it was used for the basis of the Red Cross’s flag) in 1889.  The current version consistently appeared over the years.

It was first used by Swiss mercenaries in the Middle Ages. Prior to 1889, each canton (the Swiss version of a state) had its own flag and national flags varied over the years.  When modern Switzerland was formed in 1848, they had to come up with a flag.  They tried a few different versions and eventually settled on the square because of its military origins.

All national flags are rectangular, with three exceptions.  There are only two countries with square flags: the Vatican and Switzerland.  Nepal’s is made from two triangles.

When neutral Switzerland joined the UN in 2002, it was a big deal for them.  It also presented a problem.  UN rules require rectangular flags.  Thankfully, a loophole was found.  New flags are permitted as long as they do not exceed the size of other flags.

 

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Swiss National Day

 

August 1st was Swiss National Day. The date refers to a historic alliance concluded in 1291 by the three cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. This alliance became the basis of the regional alliances that forms today’s Switzerland.  Yeah Switzerland!

Switzerland has been good to us so far. We have been very lucky and feel very lucky to be here.  Here are some of the ways we’ve been lucky:

  • Apartments are hard to come by in Geneva.  It is on a lake and surrounded on three sides by the mountains.  This makes land scarce. None of the buildings are taller than six or seven stories tall (preserving the mountain views).  It has made the perfect storm.  I have heard that there is .5% vancancy (it may even be less). When we only put one offer and got our dream flat we were extremely lucky.
  • We were even luckier that we could get the keys within hours of landing!
  • We were able to have a washer and dryer delivered before we had to do laundry at a laundrymat.
  • We how have wireless (Swisscom)
  • Our belongings arrived in Switzerland before we did.
  • Our dogs have good new homes
  • It is extremely beautiful here.
  • The weather has been nice. Summer in Geneva seems a bit like summer in Chicago, there is tons going on and everyone is trying to make the most of the good weather.
While it hasn’t been without headaches and it is still early, our move has been about as smooth as possible. We have been lucky to have had advice from people who have done this before.  It is really nice not to reinvent the wheel. They have helped us navigate things.  A lot of it is also due to our wonderful friends and family.*  Thank you.
*Especially thank you if you took a dog.

Monday Was Swiss National Day

Did you work Monday?  He didn’t.  We didn’t.  Monday, August 1st was Swiss National Day (more about what Swiss National Day is in tomorrow’s post). If you didn’t get it off, make sure your boss gives you next August 1st off to celebrate. Here are ways to celebrate it:

  • Fireworks (bonus points if you have them over a lake)
  • Bonfires (preferably on a hill, mountaintop or other elevated spot)*
  • Decorate busses with flags
  • Put out special trash bags
  • Bakers produce special bread rolls with a small Swiss flag on top.  What is a holiday without a special pastry?
  • Dress up in traditional Swiss costumes
* Bonfires on hills and other elevated spot, commemorate the expulsion of foreign bailiffs in the fourteenth century.  They spread their news by bonfire in those days.