How Queen Victoria Turned Switzerland Into a Vacation Hotspot

A postcard of Lucerne circa 1870
A postcard of Lucerne circa 1870
Swiss National Library, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The reason that many people associate Switzerland with vacations and relaxation isn't entirely due to the European country's spectacular natural vistas, incredible skiing opportunities, and even more incredible cheese. In the English-speaking world, at least, it has a lot to do with one important figure: Queen Victoria.

In 1868, the British monarch was still struggling with the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert, seven years earlier. She was depressed and sickly, as swissinfo explains, having withdrawn from the world to mourn. She kept out of the public eye for years, remaining in extreme isolation; she wore black for the rest of her life.

To get away from it all, she decided to take a trip. She chose Switzerland, in part because Albert had had a deep fondness for the country—in 1855, he had even imported a replica Swiss chalet to Britain for their children to play in.

The trip took years to plan, and Victoria traveled with three of her children under the name the Countess of Kent. But it was difficult for monarchs to travel incognito—by the time she finally arrived at the railroad station in Lucerne, Switzerland, there were hundreds of fans there waiting for her.

During her time staying at Pension Wallis (now the site of a castle known as Chateau Gütsch), she did the typical sightseeing rounds, visiting monuments and local landmarks, buying souvenirs, and painting watercolors of the scenery. Thanks to her German skills—both her mother and Albert were German—she didn't need an interpreter, and despite her self-imposed isolation, she did interact with the locals. At one point, she visited a nearby farm, inquiring with the farmer about Swiss cattle practices, later writing in her diary that she was surprised to hear that Swiss cows were given names.

Though it might seem like a standard royal vacation today, at the time, it was groundbreaking. Victoria was a trendsetter, and being associated with the queen was great press for Switzerland. The country was largely an upper-class destination at the time, but as it became easier to travel across Europe, the queen's vacation choice proved influential, sending Brits in particular flocking to the Alps.

Suddenly, Victoria was a brand in Switzerland. The name "Victoria" was associated with luxury and quality, and plenty of businesses and towns catering toward tourists took note. There were hotels named after her, town squares named after her, buildings named after her. There was a steam boat with her name on it.

Her five-week trip affected the Swiss tourism industry so deeply that it's still memorialized today—it was recently the subject of an exhibition at the Historisches Museum Luzern, the history museum in Lucerne. And you can still find plenty of tourist destinations named after her. There are more than 20 hotels called Victoria across Switzerland today, museum director Christoph Lichtin told swissinfo.

CBS Is Live-Streaming Its 1969 Coverage of the Apollo 11 Launch Right Now on YouTube

The Saturn V rocket lifts off with the Apollo 11 mission on July 16, 1969.
The Saturn V rocket lifts off with the Apollo 11 mission on July 16, 1969.
NASA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Today is the 50th anniversary of the July 16, 1969 launch of the Apollo 11 mission, which resulted in the first Moon landing in history. CBS News is commemorating the momentous event with a YouTube live stream of its special coverage from that day, which you can watch below.

CBS anchor Walter Cronkite brought all the thrill and wonder of the takeoff into the homes of countless Americans, and he also introduced them to three soon-to-be-famous astronauts: former Navy pilot Neil Armstrong, Air Force colonel Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and former Air Force fighter pilot (and experimental test pilot) Michael Collins.

Cronkite chronicled the astronauts’ journey from their 4:15 a.m. breakfast at the command space center to Kennedy Space Center’s launch station 39A, where they boarded the Saturn V rocket. CBS sports commentator Heywood Hale Broun reported from the Florida beach itself, interviewing spectators who were hoping to witness history happen in real time. “I just hope they make it successfully and have no problem," said a visitor from California.

In the final seconds before liftoff, Cronkite counted down, not knowing what the future of the mission would hold.

Tune into the live stream below, or check out the highlights from CBS News here.

[h/t CBS News]

Alan Turing, WWII Codebreaker Who Was Persecuted for Being Gay, Is the New Face of England's £50 Note

Bank of England
Bank of England

The Bank of England has chosen a new person to grace one of its pound sterling notes, the BBC reports. Alan Turing, the computer scientist who lent his code-breaking expertise to the Allied powers in World War II, will soon be the new face of the £50 banknote.

Alan Turing's life story has been the subject of a play, an opera, and the 2014 Oscar-winning film The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Turing's biggest claim to fame was cracking the Enigma code used by the Nazis to send secret messages. By decrypting the system and interpreting Nazi plans, Turing helped cut World War II short by up to two years, according to one estimate.

Despite his enormous contributions to the war and the field of computer science, Turing received little recognition during his lifetime because his work was classified, and because he was gay: Homosexual activity was illegal in the UK and decriminalized in 1967. He was arrested in 1952 after authorities learned he was in a relationship with another man, and he opted for chemical castration over serving jail time. He died of cyanide poisoning from an apparent suicide in 1954.

Now, decades after punishing him for his sexuality, England is celebrating Turing and his accomplishments by giving him a prominent place on its currency. The £50 note is the least commonly used bill in the country, and it will be the last to transition from paper to polymer. When the new banknote enters circulation by the end of 2021, it will feature a 1951 photograph of Alan Turing along with his quote, "This is only a foretaste of what is to come and only the shadow of what is going to be."

Turing beat out a handful of other British scientists for his spot on the £50 note. Other influential figures in the running included Rosalind Franklin, Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, Stephen Hawking, and William Herschel.

[h/t BBC]

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