'Now we have the big hole...'

More about this object

Gotthardbahn, Laghi Maggiore, Como, Lugano, 1906

If the Gotthard was celebrated as a triumph of cooperation between three young nations, not all voices surrounding the opening of the tunnel were equally joyous.

The canton of Uri, at the tunnel's North end, was less enthusiastic about the new railway, which seemed to cut them off rather than attach them to the new nation. For many years, Uri had profited from traffic over the mountain road through the Gotthard pass. Now the rail traffic would largely pass them by. A poem published when the tunnel was opened described the town of Göschenen lamenting the new tunnel: "Now we have the big hole/still missing is the age of gold."

In the years that followed, the Gotthard increasingly became a symbol of Swiss pride. However, tourist advertisements for the Gotthard railway tended to emphasize the Gotthard railway not as a way to see Switzerland, but as a passage to Europe, especially the warm regions of the south.

Images of balmy Italian climes and women carrying citrus fruits beckoned tourists to take the railway, while the attached maps did not even mark the Swiss border.

How to cite this page


Alexander Badenoch, ''Now we have the big hole...'', Inventing Europe, http://www.inventingeurope.eu/infrastructures/now-we-have-the-big-hole


  1. Schueler, Judith. Materialising Identity: The Co-Construction of the Gotthard Railway and Swiss National Identity. Amsterdam: Aksant, 2008.

About this tour


From Network to Nation? The Gotthard Tunnel

The Gotthard Tunnel, completed in 1882, was an international project and an important symbol of Swiss national pride. This first Swiss Alpine tunnel made Switzerland a north-south passageway through Europe. But what does it mean to put a nation on the map of Europe?

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What's like this?

Visiting the Italian lakes

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