Old City of Berne
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Founded in the 12th century on a hill site surrounded by the Aare river, Berne developed over the centuries in line with a an exceptionally coherent planning concept. The buildings in the Old City, dating from a variety of periods, include 15th-century arcades and 16th-century fountains. Most of the medieval town was restored in the 18th century but it has retained its original character.
The City of Berne was founded in 1191 by Duke Berchtold V of Zähringen on a peninsula formed by a bend in the River Aare. It stretched from the Nydegg towards the west, where it was protected by a wall and the Clock Tower.
In 1218, Berne became self-governing and developed into the biggest city state north of the Alps. The Prison Tower was built farther west.
After a fire in 1405, the city was rebuilt in stone, and construction of Berne Cathedral began. It was during this period that Berne's characteristic arcades were built.
In the 16th century the cityscape was made more attractive by the addition of some magnificent Renaissance fountains. In 1848, Berne was chosen by the first National Parliament as Switzerland's Federal Capital. Switzerland's independence and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers, and Switzerland was not involved in either of the two World Wars.
The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations, has strengthened Switzerland's ties with its neighbors. However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations, but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.
Focus on Stamps, Swiss Post Philatelic Magazine, No. 3/2003.
Other World Heritage Sites in Switzerland (on this website). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Switzerland-section, for more information about the individual properties,
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Revised 21 jul 2006