The Lake Murten region
Murten, Avenches, Seeland district
In March of every year, the two picturesque medieval towns mark the end of winter with carnival celebrations. After months of preparation, the time has finally come: carnival clubs, carnival musicians and lots of costumed carnival revellers form a procession through the avenues. The colourful goings-on last three days and nights. Each year, the procession of colourfully decorated carnival floats on Sunday afternoon marks the highlight of carnival. Anyone who enjoys loud music, colourful costumes and a cheerful, celebratory atmosphere should visit the carnival.
Adventures in the Kerzers Signal Tower
To be a railway controller – that’s the childhood dream of many people both young and old. And it’s a dream that can come true in Switzerland's oldest preserved signal tower. Here little, big and grown-up children alike become signalmen or railway controllers, and shunt trains from one track to the other using lever, light and sound signals. The signal tower, which was built in 1901, has been renovated and preserved thanks to the Kerzers Signal Tower Association and the help of many volunteers. Guided tours are offered on request.
The Roman town of Aventicum
Two millennia ago, the former capital of Roman Helvetia, Aventicum, had almost 20,000 inhabitants. Today, Avenches is one of Switzerland's most archaeologically significant cities. Numerous historic monuments stand as testimony of its erstwhile greatness.
In 15 BC, the Romans annexed all the territory of modern-day Switzerland. Aventicum became the capital city of the Helvetians. The city not only enjoyed an ideal strategic position beside the road network of that era, but was also connected to shipping lanes via a river channel which joined the suburbs with a port by Lake Murten. Under Emperor Vespasian, the city was elevated to colony status in around 71/72 AD. The majority of the historic monuments still visible today were constructed after this period. Today, the Roman site of Aventicum offers its visitors numerous important relics: the amphitheatre, which is also the setting of spectacular performances; the Roman theatre; the baths of the Forum; the Cigognier temple; the Eastern gate; and the famous Tornallaz tower, the sole survivor of the 73 erstwhile towers of the Roman city wall. The archaeological findings of Aventicum are exhibited in Avenches’ Roman Museum.
Arrival of the Trojan elephant in Murten
Since 25 June 2016, the grounds of the Historical Museum in Murten have been home to a life-sized Trojan elephant. This objet d’art, which is accessible to the public, serves as a reminder of the tragic story that unfolded in Murten 150 years ago.
In the summer of 1866, an American circus was visiting Murten. Its great attraction was its two trained elephants. On the day after the performance, one of the two elephants escaped its enclosure, killing the elephant keeper in the process. The animal, which had grown manic, then ran through the town. As no one was able to tame the elephant, there was no choice but to kill it – with a cannon ball, which had been ordered from Fribourg. Since then, the lower part of the Rathausgasse, or Town Hall Alley, where this tragedy played out has also been known as Elefantengasse, or Elephant Alley. The aforementioned cannon ball can be viewed in Murten’s Historical Museum. The elephant’s skeleton is exhibited in the Bern Natural History Museum.