Depending on how you look at it, the Gotthard links, or divides, northern and southern Switzerland and Europe.

(Keystone)

After 17 years of construction, the 57km (35.5 mile) Gotthard Base Tunnel has its official opening on Wednesday. But the world’s longest rail tunnel is much more than just a hole in a mountain. swissinfo.ch takes a multimedia look at eight aspects of this Swiss national symbol.


1. The Gotthard Pass is legendary.

The Devil's Bridge over the Schöllenen Gorge, as drawn by Kaspar Ulrich Huber around 1860

(AKG)

As the scene of a swearing of allegiance between the first cantons in 1291 and of resistance against wartime occupation, the Gotthard has a unique aura. Even the Matterhorn doesn’t have the symbolic value of this massif: the cradle of the confederation, the centre of the Alps, the source of Europe’s great rivers, the crossroads of Swiss culture and a symbol of independence, cohesion and national identity.

2. The Gotthard Pass is a military fortress.

In July 1940, while Europe was being invaded by Nazi Germany, neutral Switzerland implemented its defensive strategy based on the mountains and especially the Gotthard. Passages, tunnels, redoubts and bunkers were dug out of the mountain – many of which remain today.

Discovering Foppa Grande fort

The position of the fort, at 1,540 metres in altitude, allows for keeping watch over the Val Formazza, in Italy, in particular. The building was ...