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Capital celebrations Wine flows from Bern fountain once again

Water into wine: on Tuesday a 2015 Chasselas from the city of Bern's vineyards trickled from the Moses Fountain near Bern cathedral

Water into wine: on Tuesday a 2015 Chasselas from the city of Bern's vineyards trickled from the Moses Fountain near Bern cathedral

(Wikimedia commons/Andrew Bossi)

What sounds like a wine-lover’s dream became reality in Bern on Tuesday evening: wine gushing from a fountain in Bern’s Old Town for the first time since 1848, when Bern was chosen as the Swiss capital and a federal constitution was created. 

The 2015 Chasselas white wine from the city’s vineyards was pumped through the Moses Fountain, which dates from 1544, one of a dozen or so ornate fountains dotted through Bern. The Moses Fountain is in the square in front of Bern's cathedral.

The occasion, to which anyone could turn up and have a drink, commemorated a historic event. In November 1848, when Bern and Zurich were both vying to become the Swiss capital, Bern invited all the politicians from the nearby parliament to a lavish banquet at what is today the Café du Théâtre. 

They were apparently particularly impressed by an artificial water fountain spurting wine. 

Whether that swayed the parliamentarians in more ways than one is hard to say, but three weeks later, on November 28, 1848, Bern was chosen as the Swiss capital by 58 votes to 35. 

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper complained at the time that Bern had “deliberately used underhand means” to get votes from French-speaking politicians. 

Alexandre Schmidt at the Moses Fountain, before pipes were rigged up going from the wine barrels through the fountain

Alexandre Schmidt at the Moses Fountain, before pipes were rigged up going from the wine barrels through the fountain

(20 Minuten/Annina Häusli)

Bern’s origin as a capital city is now being recreated. “We hope that with this event a new tradition will be born,” said Alexander Hadorn from the Kesslergass Society, founded in 1868 to promote the interests of the district surrounding the cathedral. 

“Indirectly all Bernese people are winegrowers,” added local politician Alexandre Schmidt, who is responsible for the city’s vineyards and who hopes to repeat the event next year.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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