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Switzerland opens heritage sites to public

This year the spotlight falls on those working to preserve Switzerland's historic buildings. NIKE

Heritage experts are hoping to boost awareness of the conservation of Switzerland's cultural treasures during the ninth European Heritage Days (EHD) programme.

This content was published on September 6, 2002 - 14:43

More than 200 historic buildings and sites will be open free to the public on September 7 and 8.

This year the Office for Monument Preservation (NIKE), which is in charge of the Swiss end of the European-wide event, wants to give visitors both the chance to visit listed buildings and to find out more about the people who preserve Switzerland's heritage.

Hannes Scheidegger, the coordinator of the European Heritage Days in Switzerland, says the idea to include skills and professions in the programme is a new one and in line with this year's theme.

"Last year's theme was 'Living in Historic Monuments', so we had mainly historic buildings on display. This year we focus more on professions, so there is a lot more possibility to show people at work," Scheidegger told swissinfo.

Historic monuments

"We want to show the public who looks after our historic monuments and cultural heritage," he added.

"There will be around 200 different places and guided visits, where you can see these people at work."

According to Scheidegger, about ten per cent of all buildings in Switzerland are protected, requiring owners to follow strict rules in maintaining their houses.

However, he maintains that owners of old houses are much better off if their buildings are listed.

"It's an advantage to have your building listed as you'll get a lot of professional help from the Monument Conservation Services to preserve it, and you also get financial help," he said.

Owners can apply for their buildings to be listed; occasionally the government will assess a building and put it under protection.

However, Scheidegger believes that the restoration work done on historic buildings sometimes falls short of the mark.

"You see many buildings that haven't been restored in a good way. I, as an expert, see a lot of buildings that could have been better taken care of," said Scheidegger.

Cultural richness

The aim of this year's EHD, which is organised by the Council of Europe, is to make Europeans aware of the cultural richness of their common heritage and use it to bring the 28 countries taking part closer together.

For Scheidegger, the event is also an opportunity to open people's eyes and make them appreciate the beauty of their own cultural heritage.

"The organisers want to make people aware of buildings they see every day but don't really notice," he said.

"The aim is to open doors to the public that are usually closed and therefore attract their interest for historic buildings and our heritage in general."

Last year more than 60,000 people visited the sites, with the main attractions being the Manoir de Ban in Corsier-sur-Vevey, where Charlie Chaplin used to live, and the Grand Châlet in Rossinières.

swissinfo, Billi Bierling

Key facts

The European Heritage Days programme runs from September 7 to 8.
About ten per cent of Switzerland's buildings are listed.
Last year more than 60,000 people visited the sites.

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