Bern to Lausanne

On The Road Travel Essays

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Bern to Lausanne

Leaving Bern  (Take No. 1 out of Bern, a straight road.) Before long, we enter the canton of Fribourg, French-speaking and Catholic. Its capital, also called Fribourg, lies off to our left.

Murten  (The road takes you right through the town of Murten: do your introduction to it before you near the town.) Overlooks the shore of Lake Murten (right). It is a famous name in history, because of its defeat of the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, thanks to its thick ramparts. Some of the ramparts stand today — you'll pass through them. The account of Charles the Bold's defeat: Charles had been defeated previously by the Swiss. He was determined to have a victory. With a new army, he laid siege to Murten (1476). But a Swiss army came to relieve the siege. Charles' men, hemmed in between the town and the lake, were massacred — many drowned. (8,000 Burgundians perished.)

(Passing through Murten:) Watch for the old city gates (Berntor — Bern Gate), which marks the beginning of Hauptgasse (the old central street of the town) — arcaded houses, overhanging roofs with brown tiles, and a fountain. At the end of this street, you go past the Castle (13th century, built by Duke Peter of Savoy in a grim, massive style). Just before coming to the castle, watch (on your left) for the Rubenloch house, a fine old mansion.

Avenches to Lausanne  By this time we're in yet another canton: Vaud (French-speaking, Protestant); its capital is Lausanne. Avenches is a small town, yet it was the capital of the Roman province of Helvetia. Its Latin name was Aventicum, and it had 50,000 inhabitants (less than 2,000 today!) Today, the whole town sits on a hill which was merely the Capitol in Roman times. The town was defended by walls four miles in circumference, 20 feet high, with towers. One of the stone observation posts survives. Ruins of the amphitheater indicate it once sat 15,000 spectators. (Gladiators in the Swiss Alps?) Town of Payerne: located in the scenic Broye Valley, and the site of a famous 10th century abbey. The town of Lucens is another settlement in the Broye Valley, dominated by the medieval castle built by the Bishops of Lausanne. The town of Moudon — located in a rich agricultural area. Moudon was an important stop on the Roman road between Rome and the town of Vindonissa. Trade continued throughout the Middle Ages, bringing prosperity under the Counts of Savoy. Many old houses are still standing in the town. (After Moudon, prepare your introduction to Lausanne.)


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