The Picturesque Capital of Switzerland
SEAT OF THE SWISS NATIONAL EXHIBITION
May 15th to October 15th, 1914
By Marie Widmer
THE CITY OF BERNE.
MUCH has been written about the Capitals of Europe, their situation, attractions and individual charms and those who journey abroad make it their religious duty to at least pay homage to London, Paris, Berlin and Rome.
They visit Switzerland, of course, but the majority of them are tot ally ignorant of the fact that the little Alpine republic possesses a capital which is unique in its captivating beauty, its historic associations and quaint and picturesque corners. On his approach to the capital of the Swiss confederation - Berne - the traveler is immediately struck by the imposing position which the city occupies high up on a rocky peninsula formed by the river Aar, winding its way 100 feet below. Bridges of ancient and modern construction are cleverly thrown across the deep furrow formed by the river bed, which in the early feudal times proved a natural fortification of great value. The old part of the city, occupying this striking promontory, has carefully preserved its attractive mediaeval (3) features; modern Berne, however, forms an assembly of smart dwelling houses and elegant villas, charmingly framed in a mass of verdant foliage and artistically laid out gardens.
A delicious old-world atmosphere greets the newcomer as soon as he emerges from the railroad station and when he happens to have the good luck of arriving on one of those most important market days, he forgets that his first object was to visit a diplomatic city and rejoices in the fact that he is given a chance to come into close contact with the congenial peasant folk.
Not far away from the railroad station the Spitalgasse beckons to us - a typical street of old Berne with the picturesque Lauben (arcades), which form the most distinctive feature of Bernese architecture. Chronicles of the middle ages refer to them in a special paragraph, stating that what is especially charming, all the houses are adorned with arcades towards the street, so that one may in rain or storm walk through all the streets of the town 'dry shod' and as of old, so are these cozy arcades today the chief means of circulation for pedestrians.
All tile houses in this part of the city are built alike; they are simple, but solid structures of sandstone blocks, mostly three stories high and sheltered by projecting high-gabled roofs which lend an inviting, homelike aspect to the whole. Bright geraniums and other flowers bloom in profusion before the windows and the dainty curtains behind each and every one of them suggest the presence of a proud and energetic Hausfrau. The floral decoration of the windows has of late been strongly advocated and encouraged by the municipal authorities who have moreover undertaken to beautify the already handsome fountains in a similar manner.
Bernes fountains are the pride of her citizens and an object of admiration on tile part of her visitors. The constant merry babbling of a spring brings life into the greatest solitude and the sweet monotony of the flowing water seams to soften (4) any harsh and irritating noises caused by the everyday traffic. In biblical times already we find the fountains mentioned as a meeting place and while they are not used to the same extent in these modern days, yet we perceive that they are frequently patronized. Horses and cattle are watered here and the children take a particular delight in making a fountain the centre of their playground. Yea, some old-fashioned women could not imagine the possibility of a successful washday, if they were not able to avail themselves of the abundant water supply of some fountain, and so it often happens that one can enjoy the most (5) picturesque and animated scenes at the foot of one of those fascinating silent fountain statues.
The fountain figures which are mainly emblems of the various trade corporations, or guilds, are the most precious remainders of the Renaissance art in Berne, and as they have in recent years been restored in their original gay colors, their unique beauty can again be seen to full advantage.
The venerable clock tower in the Kramgasse where we find the historic Zähringer fountain, is perhaps one of the best known landmarks in Switzerlands capital. It is the oldest of Bernies ancient gateways, dating from the fifteenth Century, but what has rendered it particularly famous is a curious astronomical clock with a most complicated mechanism about which the chronicles state that:
As often as the hour strikes a troop of little bears go round in a circle, a cock crows three times before and once after the clock strikes. A sitting man holding a staff in one hand and an hour-glass in the other counts the strokes by opening his mouth amid smitting with his stick at every stroke of the clock. Another wooden manniken rings two little bells when the hour is about to strike, in the belfry at the top of the tower are the hells and beside them stands a figure of the Duke of Zähringen in armour, who strikes the hours on the bells with his sceptre (as this was too feeble, it was replaced by a hammer).
Friend bruin, as the heraldic animal of Berne, plays a most prominent role everywhere and live specimens have been maintained by the city in a pit for over 400 years.
Returning to the old part of the town, we pass the noble gothic structure of the Cathedral of St. Vincent, with its artistically decorated main portal and its exquisitely beautiful interior.
The spire is 328 feet high and the belfry contains nine of the most beautiful bells to be heard in the whole of Switzerland. But we must not overlook the fact that we are in the capital of Switzerland! (6)
There, glittering in the sunlight, high above the surrounding buildings, is the imposing cupola of the Federal Palace, the handsome and dignified seat of the government, it is a noble edifice in Florentine Renaissance style and consists of three adjacent buildings of which the centre one - the Parliament House - is the most important. Six allegorical figures, symbolizing Agriculture, Science, Commerce, Industry, Art and War, decorate the south front and below these on the frieze are the coat-of-arms of the twenty-two cantons, executed in mosaic. On the north front stands the statue of Helvetia, with two side figures representing legislature and executive power. The interior, with its different council and committee rooms, etc., is ornamented with handsome carvings, and decorated ceilings.
Berne is however not only Switzerlands diplomatic city; it is also a prominent centre of learning, with a University and an abundant choice of excellent schools. It is a city with a fascinating charm of its own still enhanced by a rare natural beauty, and it is therefore not to be wondered at that the Swiss people, when deciding upon the site of their third National Exhibition chose their delightful capital which is just admirably suited for such an occasion, as it is in particularly easy reach from all parts of Switzerland and Europe generally.
Switzerland has only arranged two national exhibitions so far; one at Zurich in 1883 and another at Geneva in 1896. While the progress and development achieved during the interval between those two exhibitions are pronounced as altogether wonderful for a country with limited resources, the reports about the forthcoming exhibition in-dictates that it will be a revelation even to those who know the country intimately.
The mere fact that Switzerland exports a large amount of her products, should be enough in itself to (7) render an exhibition of Swiss industries of the utmost interest to visitors from foreign countries.
In limiting the exhibition to national products only, it naturally follows, that owing to the comparatively small area of Switzerland, the hope of organizing a national
exhibition in the truest sense of the word can be fully realized. While international exhibitions or those held in larger countries are by their very size compelled to specialize in one or more kindred departments, it will be possible in Berne to give a complete and harmonious display of the entire industrial and social life of the Swiss people, such as will not soon be seen again.
The exhibition contains seven main sections:
I. Agriculture and Mining.
II. Trades, Industries and Engineering.
III. Commerce and Traffic, including Sports and Touring.
IV. Political Economy and Public Welfare.
V. National Defence.
VI. Arts and Sciences.
VII. International Bureaux.
The site of the exhibition is on an elevated plateau to the northwest of Berne, on the borders of the Bremgarten Forest. It is open to the east and south and commands from every part a wonderful view of the Bernese Oberland. The area of the exhibition grounds measures some 500,000 square metres, of which 135,000 are covered with the buildings, while the remainder of the site is laid out in such a way as to harmonize with the neighboring forest.
An electric railway circulates over the whole of the exhibition grounds, which are divided into three fields:
The Neufeld, The Mittelfeld and The Viererfeld.
The Neufeld is the largest section of the exhibition grounds and contains some of the most important and noteworthy exhibits which (8) a nation can present, for here we find:
Architecture and Decorative Art.
Watches, Precious Stones and Metals.
Paper Industry and Graphic Art.
Education, Administration, Hygienics.
Gas and Water Service, Sewerage and Town Cleaning.
Means of Transportation.
Civil Engineering and Machinery.
Architecture and Decorative Art to mention just a few of these exhibits, have always played a very prominent role in Switzerland. In fact, they have a long and glorious history of their own and all of us who are acquainted with the country will remember with delight some of the exquisite specimens of architecture which may be found in almost every city of the Alpine republic. It is also a particularly pleasing fact to note, that the artistic mediaeval style is not only to be seen in buildings dating back to these periods, but right in old Berne for instance new houses are being constructed in the ancient style and the general picturesque aspect of the city is thus preserved.
The existence of certain branches of the Textile Industry in Switzerland dates back to the 12th Century and the great exhibition covering this section will thus show the gradual development andI the wonderful improvements which have taken place in this important part of the countrys general activity.
Swiss Embroidery, as it exists at present, is hardly more than 50 years old. It had its origin from former textile industries which had been introduced in the canton of St. Gall as well as from the old handicraft-embroidery of Appenzell. The chief foreign markets are the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Germany, Spain and South America and the statistics for the exportation of embroideries show the following (9) figures for 1912:
In millions of Francs: Total export 219.2 of which to the United States, 70.2; to Great Britain, 48.2; to the four neighboring States, 38.8.
Silk manufacture ranking only second among all industries, cotton being ahead, contributes about 22% of the total value of Swiss exportations, viz., 279 million francs. There are two districts where this industry is concentrated silk piece goods are manufactured in Zürich and on both shores of the Lake of Zürich; silk ribbons are woven and floret silk is spun in Basle and surroundings. The origin of Swiss silk industry is said to date back to 1169 when, after the conquest of Milan, silkweavers fled to Locarno and northern portions of the country. Ribbon manufacture is also said to have been brought to BasIe by French Huguenots in the middle of the 16th Century. The largest market for Zürich-silk goods is England with 43.3 million francs in 1912, United States of America with 5 million francs in the same year. Floret silk, manufactured in Basle shows an export figure of 32 million francs for 1912.
The products of the Swiss Watch Industry enjoy universal repute for their excellency. It was in the year 1587 when watch making was introduced in Geneva by Charles Cusin of Burgundy. A hundred years after there were registered in Geneva over 100 watchmakers, who employed more than 300 workmen and manufactured nearly 5,000 watches a year. In 1760 Daniel Jean Richard, a locksmiths apprentice in Locle, constructed the first watch movement in the canton of Neuchâtel. From Le Locle watchmaking spread all over the Jura range of Neuchâtel and Berne and the adjoining districts of Soleure and Bâle (country). The invention of Richard had thus attained a great economic importance as there are at present about 180,000 people in Switzerland who are earning their living by watchmaking. The export figures
for 1912 show 12.545.029 watches for a total value of francs 173,773,093 and it is estimated that the total export figures for 1913 will probably amount to francs 180,000,000. (10)
|About 108 exhibitors will be represented in this section and the excellent results produced by the careful and systematic training of this profession in Switzerland will be in particular evidence.
Even the War Lord of the German Empire has but recently honored Switzerland with a personal visit in order to get a better insight into her splendid methods of National Defence. The exhibitors for this group will be the Federal Military Department itself and the history, development and present condition of the army, as well as the work of the Red Cross, which owes its origin to Switzerland, will be carefully demonstrated.
Education in Switzerland has attained such a remarkable degree of perfection that her schools, colleges and universities are visited by students of all nations. Teachers, parents and others interested in educational problems will therefore have an excellent opportunity for closer observation and study of this vital quest ion.
The largest and most conspicuous building on the exhibition grounds will be the Machinery Hall. It will cover more than 15,000 square metres and thus exceed by far the machinery buildings at the last German Exhibitions at Düsseldorf and Nuremberg.
Machine building is one of the younger Swiss industrial branches. In 1860 the yearly production amounted to about 15 million francs; at present the aggregate value of machines sold in Switzerland and exported amounts to more than 130 million francs and 92 millions thereof represent the export value, which facts speak for the surprisingly rapid development of this industry.
All the machinery on exhibition will be working and the necessary electric power for this purpose and for the illumination of the hall which will take place several times weekly, will be produced in the hall itself.
The Mittelfeld, as its name implies, occupies the centre of the exhibition (11) grounds and as such it was chosen as the site of the imposing Festival Hall and the model hotel and restaurants. Horticulture, Provisions and the chocolate industry are however also represented in this section.
In an exquisite setting of artistically laid out gardens, in the shadow of the proud old Bremgarten Forest and with an incomparable view of the Alps, this group of buildings forms in truth an admirable centre of the exhibition.
All the different receptions, as well as the performances of the official Festival Play Die Bundesburg, and a series of Symphony concerts and other musical entertainments will take place in the Festival Hall. Adjoining the same we find the luxurious cupola structure of the Studerstein, the Festival Restaurant, with seating accommodation for 2,000 persons. Three gigantic paintings, Thun by Engel, Interlaken by Widmer, and Gstaad by Lauterburg, scenes characteristic of the canton of Berne, decorate the back wall of the room. Then comes the building Hospes, the exhibition arranged by the Swiss Hotel-keepers, with terraces and a typical hotel garden.
This model hotel, as may readily be expected, is the last word in modern hotel-keeping; it is an ingenious structure in a novel style of architecture and the newest ideas in furnishing will be demonstrated in a series of bedrooms, sitting rooms, salons, etc.
A perfect restaurant will provide delicacies fit for Kings and in a quaint Weinstube adjoining one can taste the very best and oldest of Switzerlands many excellent wines. Visitors are even permitted to get a glimpse of the kitchen, storerooms and cellars which offer some exceptional object lessons in the modern and perfect art of hotel-keeping.
A model Information Bureau, established right in the centre of the building for the benefit of all visitors to the exhibition, will illustrate how Switzerland has excelled herself in the art of rendering useful service to her guests.
Past a model Moving Picture Theatre we approach the handsome Pavilion for chocolate industry, for the products of which Switzerland has acquired a world-wide reputation. It is therefore only natural that all the leading factories will be duly represented. Chocolate manufacture takes the sixth place among industries, only silk, cotton, machinery, watches and milk products (other than milk-chocolate), showing larger export figures.
Adjoining is a special small Pavilion for the renowned Maggi Products which have found their way all over the world.
Then comes the Pavilion for the exhibition of Provisions, a sumptuous structure in Renaissance style, with a wonderful array of eatables and provisions of all kinds.
Horticulture has done much for the general decoration of the exhibition grounds, and lovers of flowers will be looking forward to the wondrous display which is promised for that section.
Each month will offer its own attraction. May will specialize in delicately hued spring flowers and early spring vegetables; June in a beautiful collection of roses; July and August in Alpine flowers; September in the gardeners harvest products, and October in chrysanthemums.
Last, but not least, we pay a brief visit to the spacious beer restaurant Cerevisia with its delightfully (13) cozy interior. Pretty girls in the Bernese costume will serve the guests.
Agriculture and stock breeding, agricultural machinery, mining, aviation,
fishery, hunting and forestry, sports and touring and ecclesiastical art are all represented in the Viererfeld, where the so-called Village forms another section of its own.
The Viererfeld gives an insight into Swiss rural life; it is a glorification of Nature and her bountiful resources and we are thus not surprised to find here evidences of the heart and eye delighting art of landscape gardeners. A special Rosary where thousands of roses will be blooming will probably be a favorite haunt of weary sightseers.
Passing through the restful gardens, we reach the big Dairy Exhibition, which is divided into five sub-sections:
1. Exhibition of dairying machinery.
2. Milk museum.
3. Model dairying and distribution of milk in the cities.
4. Permanent and temporary exhibition of dairy products.
5. Dairy restaurant.
Cheese manufacture absorbs hardly 15 per cent, of the entire milk production of the country, but it takes the first place among all milk products exported and the statistical figures show a curve rising uninterruptedly year by year. The art of cheese making will be duly demonstrated and the permanent exhibition includes the well-known Gruyères and Emmental products.
Farming in Switzerland where land, in comparison with conditions prevailing in this large country, is very dear, has been reduced to a science and the exhibition covering agriculture and agricultural machinery will give a comprehensive tableau of
Swiss farming methods and agricultural college training.
Much attention is paid in Switzerland to the cultivation of bees. A honey pyramid will occupy the centre of this exhibition and an imposing work of art, executed entirely (14) in wax, will symbolize the gathering and preparation of the same. The whole life and activity of the bees will be carefully portrayed and a special sales department will enable the visitors to procure the purest of honey and honey products.
A full and most instructive survey of the culture of wines for which Switzerland is justly famous will also be given in a special section.
In the Sports Pavilion which is adjoined by a spacious sporting place, we perceive first of all a fascinating exhibit of the Swiss Alpine Club, with a handsome group Animal Life in the Alps, and a collection of rare minerals. A series of choice photographs and relief pictures illustrates the beauty of Switzerlands mountainous regions. Healthy sports of varied description, such as throwing of stones and wrestling, have been practised in Switzerland for a very long time; in latter years modern forms of gymnastic exercise, football, etc., have also been added and the Swiss wrestling matches and gymnastic festivals enjoy a world-wide reputation.
Shooting matches are also of ancient date and the infallable accuracy of the Swiss marksmen was again proved last September at the rifle shooting match at Camp Perry, Ohio, where Switzerland retained for the fourteenth time out of sixteen, the world championship. Shooting in its different phases as a sport will be illustrated in the Sports Pavilion, but shooting for National Defence will, of course, be represented in the army building on the Neufeld.
Nautical sports, cycling, aviatic and horseback riding will also figure in this section and Wintersport in all its latest developments will occupy a particularly prominent place, as Switzerland is the acknowledged ideal playground for Wintersport enthusiasts.
Further on, in close vicinity to The Village, are the exhibitions for hunting, forestry and fishery, while still another pavilion is devoted to mining.
For the average foreign visitor, one of the chief attractions of the Viererfeld (15) and the exhibition generally will undoubtedly he the Dörfli - the Swiss Village.
In a delightfully secluded corner in the northern portion of the Viererfeld, still on the exhibition grounds and yet far away from the noise and turmoil of the great traffic it is hidden away - a miniature world of its own. It includes everything that is necessary to life; a farm with comfortable dwelling house, a church, a rectory, an inn, a fountain and public square.
The model farm will hold the permanent exhibition of cattle which comprises species of all breeds. During the day these animals will graze on an extensive pasture nearby and the poetical aspect of Swiss village life will thus be enhanced by the constant merry tinkling of cow-bells.
In the midst of a typical farmers garden, resplendent with colors of many old-fashioned flowers, stands the dwelling house whose rooms will be devoted to an exhibition of the well known Nestlé products.
Home industry occupies some special arcades in the vicinity of the farm, and there, garbed in their different cantonal costumes, we will find girls and men engaged in embroidery, lace making, straw weaving, silver filigree work and wood carving. Their products can (16) be bought right on the spot and an adjoining bureau will give all necessary information covering this exhibition.
The spacious village square with its shady trees and its babbling fountain offers a very pleasing and effective picture which is completed by the peaceful village church whose steeple rises above the masses of verdure all around.
By a door of unusually beautiful design we enter this building which contains a Protestant and a Catholic section, also a special room with a collection of church treasures. The whole interior of the building is decorated with frescoes, mosaics, sculptures and wood carvings and the precious stained glass windows add a mystic charm to the whole. All the different periods in church history are represented in this simple, yet supremely beautiful house of God.
In many parts of Switzerland the people of Protestant and Catholic faith still worship in one place and it is indeed a gratifying thing to see both creeds represented here peacefully, side by side. The protestant place of worship is shown in its usual simplicity and the Catholic portion represents a village chapel with its rich and many colored decorations and its restful cloisters. A cemetery too will offer some interesting suggestions as to the way in which art and simplicity can be successfully combined. Floral decorations will be particularly advocated.
Returning again to the village square we will pay a brief visit to the rectory with its exhibition covering, the realm of ecclesiastical art.
Then there is the pretty Inn Zum Röseligarten whose very name suggests a delightful and comfortable abode, hidden by luxurious foliage and blossoms. In the basement are the kitchen and pantries and the whole ground floor with a cozy veranda besides, will be used as a restaurant. This particular building has been erected by the Heimatschutz - the league for the protection of picturesque sites and historical dwellings.
The second story of the Röseligarten will be used as a meeting, banqueting and concert hall.
Up-to-date and wholesome popular (17) entertainments, such as theatrical and musical productions, lectures, etc., will be given daily in this room.
The period of the exhibition has also been chosen by a number of congresses and conferences, both national and international, as an opportune moment for a meeting, and together with a choice variety of interesting sport events and festivities, arranged by the exhibition, or by different Swiss societies, the city of Berne between May 15th and October 15th will offer a most unique opportunity to foreign visitors to become intimately acquainted with the work and life of the Swiss people.
For any further information
about Berne and the Swiss
National Exhibition, or about
Switzerland generally, apply
Official Information Bureau
241 Fifth Avenue
New York City