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  • Deborah Kade

Murten/Morat, Switzerland


It is a cold, damp and raw day in Unterseen. We were going to go to Luzern but decided on Murten at the last minute.

It is Murten in German and Morat in French.

"Murten's name is derived from the Celtic word moriduno, meaning "lakeside fortress". It was first mentioned in 515 as a defensive place called "Muratum". In 1013 the area was fortified by King Rudolph III of Burgundy. The fortifications were attacked and occupied by Odo II of Blois-Champagne in 1032 during the conflict after Rudolph's death. Odo only held Murten briefly before Emperor Conrad II besieged and destroyed the castle. In 1079 Emperor Henry IV granted Muratum and other properties to the Bishop of Lausanne.


Murten was founded by Duke Berchtold IV of Zähringen or Landri de Durnes, the Bishop of Lausanne in either 1159 or during the 1170s or 1180s next to the fortress. Murten was first mentioned as a city in 1238. After his death the German emperor Frederic II recognized Murten as a "Free Imperial Town". At that time the emperor himself lived in the south of Italy and a small town north of the Alps was not his concern. It did not last long. In 1255, Murten fell under the protection of Count Peter of Savoy. When Philip I of Savoy refused to give Morat to him, King Rudolph of Habsburg seized it as a royal estate. After Rudolf's death Amadeus V of Savoy, bought the city again in 1291, but lost it to King Albert I of Germany again. The House of Savoy bought the city and surrounding lands again in 1310 for 4,000 marks of silver. This time the city remained under Savoy control. During this time, Murten began to develop alliances and ties with the surrounding Swiss cities. In 1245, they created a treaty with Fribourg, followed in 1335 with Bern. A fire in 1416 led to rebuilding in stone.

On June 22, 1476, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, laid siege to the place in an action known as the Battle of Morat. The town hung on for 13 days but finally was saved by the Bernese army. The enemy's army was destroyed completely — some 10,000 Burgundians were killed. Since then, Murten celebrates the victory every year on June 22.


From 1484 on, and for 300 years, Murten was ruled by the two cantons — Bern and Fribourg. In 1530, under pressure from Bern, Murten adopted the Protestant Reformation, after the preacher Guillaume Farel began to preach the new faith. Murten's Protestant faith often brought the city into conflicts with the more conservative, Catholic Fribourg.

During the second half of the 17th century the city grew wealthy on trade over the road from Bern to Vaud and along the Broye River to Yverdon. Most of the houses in the city were rebuilt with this wealth. Although Bern and Fribourg had already granted Murten permission in 1584 to form guilds, the coopers, carpenters, locksmiths and cabinet makers first formed their guilds in 1731. In the late 17th century a brickyard and a brewery were built outside of town.





Following the 1798 French invasion, under the Helvetic Republic, Murten was part of the Canton of Sarine and Broye. When the Republic collapsed, the Act of Mediation in 1803 gave the town to the canton of Fribourg.

Industrialization began in Murten in the early 1850s when Etienne-Ovide Domon founded a watch factory, which was later moved to Montelier. The Petitpierre family operated an absinthe distillery between 1831–1901 and Oskar Roggen ran a winery from 1888-1913.

Since 1855, Murten has had its own newspaper, the "Murtenbieter". In the 20th century other industries settled in Murten; especially in the field of precision engineering, electronics and food. In 1973, the Swiss Federal Railways bought Löwenberg Castle and lands from the family de Rougemont, to establish a training center.

In 1856, a plan to run the Lausanne-Bern railway line through Morat was shelved and the line was rerouted through Fribourg. The loss of revenue from transportation affected Murten for almost twenty years. This changed in 1875-76 with the construction of the Palézieux-Murten-Lyss railway line. This first line was followed in 1898 with the Fribourg-Murten line and in 1903 with the Murten-Ins line.

Steamship service between Murten and Neuchâtel began in 1835. Boat service continues to this day.



The tourism industry, began with the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Battle of Morat in 1876.

The small medieval town lies in the Swiss "Midlands" on the edge of the Great Marsh, on a gentle hill 1,480 feet (450 meters) above sea level and on the shore of Lake Morat (or the Murtensee in German). Numerous attractions from a significant past have been well preserved here, such as the castle, the ring wall, the street scene and the arcades. Lake Morat is a smaller lake located in between Lake Biel and the Lake Neuchâtel.








Mont Vully stands on the western side of the Seeland's largest plain and resembles a pearl gently placed among the three lakes of Murten, Neuchâtel and Biel/Bienne. Already long ago, the Celtic and Helvetic tribes appreciated the region's temperate climate and the local countryside's particular charm. Today, the Vully vineyards take up a large part of the south face of Mont Vully. The over 100 hectares of vineyards are facing towards Lake Morat."


The former fortified city has kept most of its ramparts and towers.





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A visit to Murten would not be complete without visiting the Anatolia, our favorite restaurant. Eyip recognized us immediately!! He said he knew we were coming as it was September. Great memory! He was surprised Michael remembered he was married last year and they went to Thailand for their honeymoon.



This region is famous for its perch from the lake.

Michael started with a mixed salad. Around the rim of the salad plates, swirls of honey were placed so the bread could be dipped into it. I always thought it was for decoration.


He then had the perch in a butter sauce.


I had the perch with the lemon sauce.


My meal came with greens and a pomegranate dressing. The small warm bread topped with sesame seeds was so delicious we asked for a second loaf so we could mop up all the sauce. So delicious!!!!


We also had a bottle of Vully, a white wine from across the lake on Mount Vully.


Eyip sent over dessert for us. He said it was always nice to have us back even if it is only once a year.


We try to learn something new every day.

We talked about yogurt with Eyip. He told us a man from his village in Turkey started Chobani yogurt. I looked it up and this is what it said. "After moving to New York from his native Turkey, Chobani’s founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya found that in America, yogurt just wasn’t as delicious and widely available as it was back home. He believed everyone deserved better options, so he set about making delicious, nutritious, natural and accessible Greek yogurt right here in the United States." He started the business with five people. It certainly is a small world.

Eyip also told us to put pepper and a little olive oil on plain yogurt. He said it was so delicious. He also said a little honey could be added, too.

We also learned something new about the German church.


According to historical record, a chapel existed here in 1399 and was dedicated to Saint Mary. It was rebuilt in 1710 in the Baroque style. The old chapel has been preserved in the choir section.

The choir, in Gothic style, dates from 1683 and it is part of the fortification tower. The polygonal pulpit, dating from 1484, is carved from a single oak tree trunk and is decorated with eight pinnacle florets ending in a finial. The oak stall has thirty seats and was made between 1494 and 1498.





On the ceiling, there is a stucco relief in the Louis XIV style, which shows the coats of arms from Bern, Fribourg and Murten.


This church is a pilgrim stop for those walking Jakobsweg, also known as Camino de Santiago and Way of St James.



Finally, we learned that the common swift likes to nest in old buildings, towers and town walls. Murten hosts quite an impressive colony. Nest boxes in the rampart walls have been built for the swifts.


Tomorrow morning, we have to leave early for a flight from Zürich to Amsterdam. Michael has to work a Trade Show until late on Monday evening.


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