Switzerland hosts launch of European Heritage Days
For the first time, the Swiss capital, Berne, is the venue for the launch of this year's European Heritage Days. Delegations from more than 30 countries gathered on Saturday for the official opening of the two-month campaign.
The initiative aims to make citizens more aware of their cultural heritage, according to the organisers. Europe-wide, visitors are invited to take a closer look at buildings, monuments or even landscapes considered part of the heritage.
All the 47 signatory countries to the Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe are taking part, united under the banner: "Europe, a common heritage." Every country also chooses a separate theme. Switzerland is focusing on its cultural landscapes.
Due to open next weekend, Switzerland's national campaign highlights the diversity of towns and villages. "We want to provide an insight into architectural culture from the Roman age to the 20th century", said Gian-Willi Vonesch of the National Information Centre for the Preservation of Cultural Properties .
More than 200 events are being organised across the country to increase awareness of the relation between houses, streets and squares. An estimated 50,000 visitors are expected to attend the heritage days.
Among the events, people in St Gallen will have free access to church spires to get a bird's-eye view of the surroundings. Geneva is offering an insight into 20th century architecture.
Addressing journalists in Berne on Friday, the head of the Federal Cultural Office, David Streiff, said Switzerland wanted to show it is playing a role in Europe by staging the launch of European Heritage Days,
Fabrice de Kerchove, of the Brussels-based European Heritage Days Coordination Office, told swissinfo that Switzerland had a lot to offer. "It is pioneering a new concept of cultural heritage by drawing attention to the fact that buildings are an integral part of the environment."
Launched by the Council of Europe in 1991, the Heritage Days has become one of Europe's most popular cultural events. Last year, an estimated 20 million people visited sites and monuments. Switzerland is taking part in the campaign for the seventh time this year.
by Urs Geiser
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