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Out & About in Switzerland: The Swiss navy on parade

The Swiss navy's role is to defend the country's freshwater borders. Switzerland Tourism

Despite being landlocked, Switzerland has a navy, and to prove the point its entire fleet - consisting of 11 armed speed boats - is to take part in manoeuvres in front of the public at Vitznau on Lake Lucerne next Saturday (September 16).

This content was published on September 12, 2000 - 12:03

Thousands of curious onlookers are expected to line the shores of Lake Lucerne for the Swiss Navy Parade. Some will be wondering why Switzerland has a navy at all; others might ponder why it is based on lake Lucerne, which is as far away from the country's borders as it is possible to be.

But there is a good reason for having a navy: someone has to defend the country on the four lakes bordering Germany, France, and Italy. And there's a good reason why it's based on Lake Lucerne: sailors can take part in armed military manoeuvres, without fear of prompting Switzerland's neighbours to think she has suddenly abandoned her traditional neutrality.

Among the scenarios that will be played out is a popular uprising in a neighbouring state, which places the Swiss military on red alert.

The navy is called in to prevent organised crime from taking advantage of the chaos by using the shared waterways to smuggle drugs across the border. At the same time, the navy has to prevent boatloads of refugees from trying to enter the country.

On September 16, visitors can see the navy in action, when it will demonstrate various rescue operations and landing manoeuvres. Onlookers will be also be given the chance to board one of the craft for a short trip to the Navy base "Obere Nas".

Many critics are sceptical about the navy's usefulness, but there's been no public pressure to do away with the Swiss navy. Indeed, if the success of last year's Parade is anything to go by, the Swiss sailors and their gunboats have turned into a top tourist attraction for the locals.

swissinfo

Out & About in Switzerland is updated regularly to keep you informed of upcoming events, which may provide a different insight into the country and its people.

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