Area for the Swiss Abroad
Fast-forward to 1991, when the Swiss Confederation celebrated its 700th anniversary. To mark this event, each of the 26 cantons gifted the Confederation a section of what came to be known as the Swiss path. One of Switzerland’s most popular hiking trails, the path begins at the Rütli. It extends eastward along the wild-romantic Lake Uri down to Flüelen. On the way, the hiker is rewarded with breathtaking views and many historical landmarks that bring past events to life. The hike can be interspersed with a ride on the famous Swiss yellow postbus or a smooth glide on an authentic steamship to the peaceful end point of the Swiss path: the Area for the Swiss Abroad in Brunnen.
Each of the cantons is represented with a section of the Swiss path in the order of its entry into the Confederation. The length depends on the number of inhabitants and symbolises the unity of the Confederation. The path starts with a 182-meter stretch representing the canton of Uri. The canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden is the shortest section extending for 71 meters, while the canton of Zürich has the longest at six kilometers. Each and every Swiss citizen is symbolically represented by five millimeters on the path along the 34.85 total kilometers. The Area for the Swiss Abroad as the end point of the Swiss Path perfectly symbolises the sense of belonging that the Fifth Switzerland feels towards its homeland.
The creative impulse to include the Swiss living abroad as part of the Swiss Path can be attributed to the head of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad. With the approval of its highest organ, the Council, the directorate worked purposefully and with clear vision. In January 1989, Walther Hofer, president of the newly-formed Foundation Board, was jubilant: “By joining forces, we made it happen!” Thanks to a global fundraising campaign among the Swiss living abroad, half of the purchase price was raised. The other half was covered by the Federal Government. This allowed the purchase of the 5,400-square-metre peninsula on the western end of the Brunnen promenade. As a result, the Swiss living abroad and those at home can share this spectacular piece of home. An impressive symbol of mutual unity – for the Swiss Abroad to their homeland, and for those living at home in a connection to those abroad.
On May 4th, 1991, the Area for the Swiss Abroad was officially handed over to the public. On National Day August 1, the entire Federal Council gathered at the park before attending the celebrations on the Rütli. The square was one of the main venues during the 1991 festivities, attracting numerous visitors from home and abroad. Large presentation boards named “An Encounter with the Fifth Switzerland” inform the public about the Swiss diaspora.