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Fountains attract a steady stream of tourists

Tinguely and de Saint Phalle are the creators of one of the most famous Swiss fountains - located in Paris (Jean Tinguely museum)

Switzerland's many fountains have become tourist attractions in their own right.

And they maintain their role at the heart of everyday city life.

The Swiss capital, Bern, has about 100 fountains mostly dating from the Middle Ages.

In the old town - a Unesco world heritage site - there are 11 richly decorated fountains, which were built as a sign of the city's wealth.

Many of them are decorated with allegorical figures to commemorate heroes and historic events.

The fountain in the Kramgasse shows bear holding a banner, which is a memorial the city's founder, Duke Berchtold V of Zäringen.

One of the most memorable fountains is the "Kindlifresser" near the Zytglogge, showing an ogre about to eat a child. According to Bern's Tourist Office, this was supposed to warn children away from the city moat, which once stood at the site.

High maintenance

The city of Bern spends some SFr280,000 ($200,000) a year on the maintenance of its fountains. The fountain's jets and basins are cleaned weekly, but external cleaning takes place five times a year at a cost of SFr60,000.

Bern's fountains are not just tourist attractions as they still retain some of their ancient functions as a source of water and refreshment.

During the hot summer months, they are often used by tourists and inhabitants to cool down.

Solothurn eleven

Another city famous for its fountains is Solothurn. Since the city became the 11th canton of Switzerland in 1481, 11 has become the city's lucky number: there are 11 fountains, 11 churches and chapels, 11 bells and 11 towers.

Switzerland has its fair share of modern fountains as well, such as the Carnival Fountain in Basel. Dating from 1977, it is the work of the Swiss sculptor, Jean Tinguely.

Tinguely and his partner, Niki de Saint-Phalle, were also responsible for one of the most famous fountains in the world - the Stravinsky fountain near the Pompidou centre in Paris.

Another example of modern engineering is the "Jet d'eau" or water jet at Geneva. This 140-metre fountain in the middle of Lake Geneva was built in the 19th century and has since become one most the city's famous landmarks.

swissinfo, Raffaella Rossello and Isobel Johnson

Key facts

Bern has about 100 fountains, with 11 richly decorated fountains in the old town.
Bern spends SFr280,000 per year on the maintenance of its fountains.
There are eleven fountains in Solothurn - the city's lucky number.
The Geneva Jet d'eau is 140 metres tall.

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