CITIES OF THE WORLD: LUCERNE

Hello!Today we’re heading for Luzern: must say that it was the first time being there for me, even if this city it’s just few hours drive from Italy. It’ s a city in Central Switzerland, in the German-speaking portion of the country. Located in the canton Lucerne, is the most populous city in this area.

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Due to its location on the shore of Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee), with sight of Mount Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps, Lucerne has long been a destination for tourists. One of the city’s famous landmarks is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a wooden bridge first erected in 1333 – the oldest covered bridge in Europe – although much of it had to be replaced after a fire on 18 August 1993, allegedly caused by a discarded cigarette. Part way across, the bridge runs by the octagonal Water Tower (Wasserturm), a fortification from the 13th century. Inside the bridge are a series of paintings from the 17th century depicting events from Lucerne’s history.

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Since the city straddles the Reuss where it drains the lake, it has a number of bridges. Old Town Lucerne is located just north of the Reuss, and still has several fine half-timber structures with painted fronts.

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Infact the real charm of this city is a well-preserved medieval Altstadt (Old Town) and a reputation for making beautiful music: try imagine its streets with covered bridges, sunny plazas, candy-coloured houses and waterfront promenades: quite attractive, isn’t it?

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Finally, your attention will be surely caught by the twin needle towers of the Church of St. Leodegar, which was named after the city’s patron saint, sit on a small hill just above the lake front. Originally built in 735, the present structure was erected in 1633 in the late Renaissance style. However, the towers are surviving remnants of an earlier structure. The interior is richly decorated. The church is popularly called the Hofkirche.

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IN THE HEART OF SWITZERLAND

Hello!Today I’ll bring you to two small town in the heart of Switzerland: two quiet and discrete big villages, where the time seems to stop. Strolling through the narrow streets of this two orderly places, you could feel the peacefulness and the accuracy that are always associated with Swiss people. (they’re not just stereotypes)

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The city of Bienne (or Biel), famous for the clockmaking, is located at the eastern far end of the namesake lake, in the beautiful Seeland (Lakes Area). The charm of bilingualism, the perfect conditions of the city center, and the strategic position between the three lakes at the feet of Giura Mountains (Bienne, Neuchâtel e Murten) make this city a quite interesting stop-over of a pleasant itinerary.

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Bienne is the biggest swiss city in which the utilisation of French and German language is totally equalized. This situation of “cultures mixing”, as you can imagine, brings to a certain open-mindedness of the inhabitants.

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Architecturally, Bienne presents several aspects. The modern city is located near the lake bank, while the city center, with its gothic church from the 15th century, grow on a small hill. At first sight, I totally felt in love with the colours of its facades, the tiny alleys, the characteristics rooftops: if I think about it now, some sights of this city reminded me to Brittany.

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Fribourg is the capital of the Swiss canton of Fribourg and the district La Sarine. It is located on both sides of the river Saane (Sarine), on the Swiss plateau, and is an important center on the cultural border between German and French Switzerland (Romandy). Its Old City, one of the best maintained in Switzerland, sits on a small rocky hill above the valley of the Sarine.

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Its most striking architectural element is with no doubt the Cathedral, dedicated to St. Nicolas, with its outstanding stained glass windows. The construction started in 1283 and developed in different phases; it boasts a tower about 74 meters high, from which you can enjoy a 360-degree views.

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A surrounding wall, about two km lenght, defended the city in ancient times; its existence is proved by ruins of walls, towers and a big bastion, still preserved nowadays. Several unique gothic facades of the XV century, give to the city center a matchless medieval charm.

to be continued ..

CITIES OF THE WORLD: BERNE

Hello!Finally a little time to begin talking about our last trip! Let’s start our Swiss tour from Berne, a city that I never visited before. You surely know that Bern is capital of Switzerland, and it gives name to the Canton in which is located. The official language of Bern is German, but the main spoken language is the Alemannic Swiss German dialect called Bernese German. (but just in case, they speak fluently English, French, and someone also Italian!I was amused by the fact that, while talking with people, I was not sure every time about what language I should have used).

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The etymology of the name Bern is uncertain. According to the local legend, the founder of the city of Bern, vowed to name the city after the first animal he met on the hunt, and this turned out to be a bear. The bear was the heraldic animal of the seal and coat of arms of Bern from at least the 1220s.

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The city was originally built on a hilly peninsula surrounded by the river Aare, but outgrew natural boundaries by the 19th century. As a conseguence, a number of bridges have been built to allow the city to expand beyond the Aare. Bern is built on very uneven ground. There is an elevation difference of several metres between the inner city districts on the Aare (Matte, Marzili) and the higher ones (Kirchenfeld, Länggasse). That’s why it has such scenic sights.

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The structure of Bern’s city centre is largely medieval and has been recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage site. Perhaps its most famous sight is the Zytglogge (Bernese German for “Time Bell”), an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets.

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It also has an impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral, the Munster, and a 15th-century town hall. Thanks to six kilometres (4 miles) of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe.

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Since the 16th century, the city has had a bear pit, the Bärengraben, at the far end of the Nydeggbrücke to house its heraldic animals. The currently three bears are now kept in an open-air enclosure nearby, and tourists can admire them, except when they’re in hibernation during winter time. The Federal Palace (Bundeshaus), built from 1857 to 1902, which houses the national parliament, government and part of the federal administration, can also be visited.

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Finally, if you’re interested in the character of Albert Einstein, he lived in a flat at the Kramgasse 49, the site of the Einsteinhaus, from 1903 to 1905; unluckily, this January the house was closed and we couldn’t visit it, but we visited an interesting exhibit about Einstein inside the “Historisches Museum”. It’s a bit expensive (18 CHF) but really complete, you’ll explore Switzerland through centuries visiting it, from Roman time to nowadays.

to be continued..

POSTCARDS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD: SWITZERLAND

Hello!Happy New Year!We’re just back from some days spent in the Bernese canton and I’m recollecting things to show you in the next posts. In the meanwhile, I made a gallery with some of my fave photos. Have you ever been in Switzerland? It would be nice to know also your first impressions about this country. Stay tuned for the update of the tale of our itinerary! Cris

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