Swiss Parliament, Bern
Switzerland has a long tradition of democracy. The Swiss Constitution was written nearly 150 years ago, when the old confederation of independent cantons was replaced by a federal state.
The Bern. It could easily be mistaken for a U.S. state capitol with its Florentine architecture and central dome., or , is the seat of government in the Swiss capital of
The oldest part of the building, the West wing, dates back to 1856. A guidebook from the turn of the 20th Century titled Switzerland: Picturesque and Descriptive had this to say about the Bundeshaus:
If you're wondering why the Bundeshaus is described as "two great buildings," there's a simple explanation: The central connecting portion of the structure, with its massive dome, wasn't completed until 1902. This 20th Century addition contains the chambers of Switzerland's two legislative bodies: the Nationalrat and the St�nderat, which are comparable to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
The larger of the two chambers has a huge fresco by Charles Chiron titled "The Cradle of the Confederation" (see photo), which shows Lake Lucerne and its surrounding mountains with a passing cloud formation to liven up the scenery.
Baedeker's Switzerland (1911 edition) suggests that the painting is "best seen from the visitors' gallery, opposite," and that advice is worth heeding today.
Visiting the Swiss parliament:
If you visit the Bundeshaus when Parliament isn't in session, you can take a free tour that includes the legislative chambers.
When Parliament is in session, you can watch the lawmakers from the public galleries.
For more information, see the Swiss Parliament's official Visiting the Parliament Building Web pages.
Other things to see:
Photo: Aztech Corp.
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