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Crowds flock to Berne to catch a glimpse of the Prince

Swiss President Adolf Ogi, left, shows Prince Charles the old part of Berne

(Keystone)

It was a right royal welcome for the British heir to the throne. Prince Charles who arrived in the Swiss capital on Thursday for a two-day official visit hosted by the president, Adolf Ogi.

Prince Charles is a regular sight on the Swiss ski slopes in the winter holiday season, his particular favourite resort being Klosters. One member of the royal party told swissinfo that the Prince was now excited at the opportunity to make an official trip to Switzerland.

A Swiss military band accompanied the customary handshakes and greetings at Berne's Belp airport. The prince appeared surprised at the speed at which he was shuffled into the waiting limousine.

As the band struck up another tune after a pause, Prince Charles said: "Oh, they've just started to play again!" Ogi showed him into the car.

Charles was whisked away for a walking tour of the old city of Berne.

Hundreds of onlookers crowded the cobbled streets of Kramgasse, Gerechtigkeitsgasse and Junkerngasse to catch a glimpse of the royal guest. "Prima! I have seen him, I have seen him!" could be heard echoed up and down the medieval city.

Many Swiss grabbed Union Jack flags and waved them in an attempt to catch his attention. The prince, delighted by the enthusiastic crowd, waved and smiled at those who hung out of windows and stood on posts to see him.

Prince Charles, who has a keen interest in architecture, took particular notice of the decorative facades of some of the buildings, with paintings which date back hundreds of years. The whole of the old city is a Unesco world heritage site.

The Swiss president, as well as Berne's mayor, Klaus Baumgartner, showed the Prince the Rathaus, or town hall, as well as the medieval clock tower, the Zytglogge.

It did not take long for the limousines to pull up once again and take Ogi and his royal guest to the next engagement, dinner at the official government guest house, Lohn.

A member of the royal party denied reports that Prince Charles had specially ordered mayonnaise to be flown out to Switzerland, after he reportedly complained about the egg sandwiches prepared while on his prior stop in the Czech Republic.

But he did confirm that the Prince travels with a stash of food supplies which are to his particular liking.

On Friday, Ogi will show Prince Charles around an organic farm in his home valley of Kandertal. An avid advocate of natural farming methods, the prince was said to be particularly interested in learning about Swiss organic farming methods.

A spokesman also told swissinfo the Prince was looking forward to his visit to the Transalpine Rail Tunnel construction site at Mitholz. The project holds particular interest for the Prince because he believes it contributes to the conservation of the Alps.

by Samantha Tonkin

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