Canton of Berne

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Map of Switzerland highlighting the Canton of Berne
Area Coordinates: 5959 km (Ranked 2nd)
Highest pointFinsteraarhorn 4274 m
Population (2003)947,100 (Ranked 2nd)
158 /km
LanguagesGerman , French
ExecutiveRegierungsrat, Conseil exécutif (7)
LegislativeGrosser Rat, Grand conseil (160)
Municipalities399 municipalities
Districts26| Amtsbezirke, Districts
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Map of the Canton of Berne
The Swiss Canton of Berne is bilingual (German: Kanton Bern ; French Canton de Berne) and has a population of about 947,000. The canton is located in west-central Switzerland and the city of Berne is its capital.


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The Simmental
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A waterfall in the Eastern Oberland
The canton of Berne is the second largest of all Swiss cantons. It borders the Canton of Jura and the Canton of Solothurn to the north. To the west lie the Canton of Neuchâtel, the Canton of Fribourg and Vaud. To the south lies the Valais. East of the canton of Berne lie the cantons of Uri, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Lucerne and Aargau.

The canton of Berne is mainly drained by the River Aar and its tributaries. The area of the canton is commonly divided into three areas. The Bernese Oberland (Berner Oberland) lies in the south of the canton and is part of the Alps. The highest mountain in the Bernese Oberland is the Finsteraarhorn (4,274 m; 14,022 ft). The famous hiking and ski resorts in the eastern Oberland around Interlaken and the Jungfrau (4,158 m) are located within this area, such as car-free Wengen and Mürren, and Gimmelwald and Grindelwald. Further east are the Aareschlucht and the town of Meiringen, famous for the fateful scene of Sherlock Holmes's 'death' at the hands of Professor Moriarty on the nearby Reichenbach Falls. In the Western Bernese Oberland there are many other resorts and small villages catering to visitors who prefer greater isolation. These are accessed from the large scenic lake town of Thun, and the most notable of them are Kandersteg and the Oeschinensee, as well as Kiental and Adelboden. Going further west up the even more secluded Simmental river valleys, one reaches Zweisimmen, Lenk, Gstaad, and Saanen.

The whole area in the south is very mountainous, with steep cliffs, many glaciers, and countless waterfalls. It is renowned for its scenic beauty and the charm of the small Swiss villages that dot the area. As a result of this, tourism is one of the main sources of income in the Bernese Oberland and even when going over a remote pass one often finds a small farmhouse on the way up or a mountain cabin willing to give accommodation and dinner to the passerby. Typically these sell the local cheeses and specialty products, with the ubiquitous spring water pouring out of the fountains and taps for the hikers to quench their thirst. The region also has an extensive train network as well as many cable cars, gondolas, lifts, and funiculars, with the highest train station in Europe, the longest funicular in Europe, and the longest gondola cableway in the world.

Mountains in Berne include:
The Bernese Midlands (Berner Mittelland) is made up of the valley of the rivers Aare, the river Emme, some of the foothills of the Bernese Alps, as well as the plain around the capital Berne, and has many small farms and hilly forested regions with mid-sized to small towns scattered throughout. It is perhaps best known by foreigners and visitors for the Emmental, and the classic mild Swiss cheese with holes Emmentaler comes from this region's forests and pastures of hilly and low mountainous countryside in the 1000 to 2000 m range.

In the north of the canton of Berne lies the third more French influenced region: the Lake Region (Seenland) concentrated around Lake Biel which rises from the plain up to the northernmost Swiss mountain chain of the Jura.

The area of the canton is 5959 km².


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Wetterhorn, 1824 painting
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Canton of Berne map in 1790.
See also: History of Berne, Heraldry of Berne, Swiss peasant war of 1653 The area of the canton of Berne consists of lands acquired by its capital, mostly between the 14th and the 16th century, both by conquest and purchase. Acquired districts include (with dates of acquisition):
  • Laupen (1324)
  • Hasli and Meiringen (1334)
  • Thun and Burgdorf (1384)
  • Unterseen and the Upper Simme valley (1386)
  • Frutigen, etc. (1400)
  • Lower Simme valley (1439 - 1449)
  • Interlaken, with Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Brienz (1528, all the suppression of the Austin Canons of Interlaken)
  • Saanen or Gessenay (1555)
  • Köniz (1729)
  • the Bernese Jura with Biel/Bienne (1815, from the bishopric of Basel).
Some regions previously left the canton: Aargau (1415), Aigle and Grandson (1475), Vaud (1536), and the Pays d'En-Haut including Château-d'Œx (1555). From 1798 to 1802 the Oberland formed a separate canton of the Helvetic Republic called canton of Thun with Thun as its capital. Certain French-speaking portions of the canton of Berne broke away from the canton only in the late 20th century and since 1979 comprise the Canton of Jura.

Berne joined the Swiss Confederation in 1353 and was between 1803 and 1814 one of the six direcorial cantons of the Swiss Confederation.


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The Grand Council, the cantonal parliament.
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Rathaus (town hall), seat of the government since medieval times.

Legislative Branch

Main article: Grand Council of Bern

The Grand Council (German: Grosser Rat / French: Grand conseil) is the parliament of the canton of Berne. It consists of 160 representatives elected by proportional representation for a four-year term of office. The French-speaking part of the canton, the Bernese Jura, has 12 seats guaranteed and 3 seats are guaranteed for the French-speaking minority of the bilingual district of Biel/Bienne.

Executive Branch

The Executive Council (German: Regierungsrat / French: Conseil-éxecutif) is the government of the canton of Berne. This seven-member collegial body is elected by the people for a period of four years. The cantonal constitution reserves one seat in the Executive Council for a French-speaking citizen from the Bernese Jura.

Judicial Branch

The canton has a two-tiered court system, consisting of district courts and a cantonal Supreme Court (Obergericht/Cour suprême). There is also an administrative court (Verwaltungsgericht/Tribunal administratif) as well as other specialised courts and judicial boards. See [1] for details.


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Cheese making is an important industry in Berne.

Tourism is the main source of income in the Bernese Oberland. Other important sectors are agriculture (especially cattle breeding), cheese making, and hydroelectric power generation. The Bernese cheese Emmental cheese is known around the world.

In the Bernese Midlands the lands are more fertile. Agriculture is of great importance, but this part of the canton is also the most industrialized. Small and middle-sized businesses are important employers in this part of the canton of Berne. There is a nuclear power plant at Mühleberg.

The area around the Lake Biel is renowned for its wine production.

The 3 French-speaking districts of the Bernese Jura and the bilingual district of Biel/Bienne are renowned for their worldwide well known watch industry and its mechanical industry (high precision machine tools, automation and machining).


The canton of Berne is bilingual: Both German (22 districts, with 84% of the population) and French (three districts, 8.2%) are spoken. The German-speaking majority speaks Bernese German, a Swiss German dialect. French-speakers live in the northern part of the canton, in the Bernese Jura. Both German and French are spoken in the bilingual city of Biel/Bienne. In the government and administration, both languages are official languages of equal standing.



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Capital city of Bern, river Aare flowing thru, Protestant style church tower on left.
Most Bernese are Protestant, and most Protestants belong to the Swiss Reformed Church, which is officially recognised as a state church (Landeskirche), although it is autonomous in its governance and is organised along democratic principles.

The canton is also home to a great number of small Evangelical Christian denominations unaffiliated with the state church. Bernese evangelical groups are mostly found in the Emmental and Berner Oberland, where they have a long tradition; several contemporary American religious groups, such as the Amish and Mennonites, were founded or co-founded by Bernese emigrants to the United States. Two small Evangelical political parties are represented in the Bernese cantonal parliament.

Other faiths

Berne features substantial Roman Catholic and Christian Catholic minorities. These churches also have state church status, and the small Jewish community is similarly recognised by law.

As everywhere in Switzerland, there are also significant religious communities of immigrants, including Sikhs (who have a prominent Gurdwara, or temple, in Langenthal), Mormons (who worship at the Bern Switzerland Temple) and Muslims. As of 2006, the plans to expand a backyard mosque in Langenthal with a symbolical minaret have, as elsewhere in Switzerland, caused a public stir due to vocal opposition from local conservative and evangelical leaders.[1]

Districts and municipalities

As of April 2004, there are 398 municipalities of the canton of Berne within the following 26 administrative districts:
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Districts of Canton Berne


Statue of Sherlock Holmes in Meiringen

The Jungfrau massif

Lake Brienz in summer

Traditional Bernese house in Beatenberg

Waterfall near Lenk

The Swiss plateau near Muri (AG)

Jaunpass in Obersimmental

Bernese Region

An old (1900) photo of Spiez & Lake Thun

far southeastern canton Berne & Sustenpass


The city of Thun

Early 19th Century painting of the Eiger

The Kander river near Kandersteg

Farmhouse in Emmental region


1. ^ "Minaret row rumbles on in Switzerland", Swissinfo, September 5, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-10-02. 

See also

External links

Cantons of Switzerland
Aargau | Appenzell Ausserrhoden | Appenzell Innerrhoden | Basel-City | Basel-Country | Berne | Fribourg | Geneva | Glarus | Graubnden | Jura | Lucerne | Neuchtel | Nidwalden | Obwalden | Schaffhausen | Schwyz | Solothurn | St. Gallen | Thurgau | Ticino | Uri | Valais | Vaud | Zug | Zrich
capital (also called capital city or political capital — although the latter phrase has a second meaning based on an alternative sense of "capital") is the center of government.
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Berne [bɜːn](UK), [bɝːn](US) (German:
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Area is a physical quantity expressing the size of a part of a surface. The term Surface area is the summation of the areas of the exposed sides of an object.


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This is a list of Cantons of Switzerland by highest point.

m Highest point . Canton Coordinates
4634 Dufourspitze VS Valais Coordinates:
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The Finsteraarhorn is the highest mountain in the Bernese Alps range of the Swiss Alps and the highest mountain in the Bernese Oberland. It is the third most prominent peak in the Alps.
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elevation of a geographic location is its height above a fixed reference point, often the mean sea level. Elevation, or geometric height, is mainly used when referring to points on the Earth's surface, while altitude or geopotential height
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The metre or meter[1](symbol: m) is the fundamental unit of length in the International System of Units (SI).
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population is the collection of people or organisms of a particular species living in a given geographic area or mortality, and migration, though the field encompasses many dimensions of population change including the family (marriage and divorce), public health, work and the
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20th century - 21st century - 22nd century
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2000 2001 2002 - 2003 - 2004 2005 2006

2003 by topic:
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Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, humans in particular.

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Since 1848, the Swiss Confederation has been a federal state of relatively autonomous cantons, some of which have a history of confederacy that goes back more than 700 years, arguably putting them among the world's oldest surviving republics.
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1353 in other calendars
Gregorian calendar 1353
Ab urbe condita 2106
Armenian calendar 802
Bah' calendar -491 – -490
Buddhist calendar 1897
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German language (Deutsch, ] ) is a West Germanic language and one of the world's major languages.
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French (français, pronounced [fʁɑ̃ˈsɛ]) is a Romance language originally spoken in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, and today by about 300 million people around the world as either
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The Grand Council (German: Grosser Rat, French: Grand conseil) is the parliament of the Swiss canton of Bern.

It consists of 160 members (as of 2006) elected by proportional representation for a four-year term of office.
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Municipalities (sometimes called communities or communes, after the French/Italian names) are the smallest government division in Switzerland, and are called Gemeinden in German, communes in French and comuni in Italian.
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There are 396 municipalities in the canton of Berne, Switzerland (as of January 2007). Berne is the canton with the most municipalities.

A to E

  • Aarberg
  • Aarwangen
  • Adelboden
  • Aefligen
  • Aegerten
  • Aeschi bei Spiez
  • Aeschlen

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Switzerland each Canton is completely free to decide its own internal organisation. Therefore there exists a variety of structures and terminology for the subnational entities between Canton and Municipality, loosely termed districts (i.e.
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Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno (Latin) (traditional)[1]
"One for all, all for one"
"Swiss Psalm"
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cantons of Switzerland are the states of the federal state of Switzerland. Historically each canton in the historical confederation was a sovereign state, with its own borders, army and currency until the current federal structure was established in 1848.
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Berne [bɜːn](UK), [bɝːn](US) (German:
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The Republic and Canton of the Jura, also known as the Canton of Jura or Canton Jura, is one of the Cantons of Switzerland. It is the newest (created in 1979) of the 26 Swiss cantons, located in the northwestern part of Switzerland. The capital is Delémont.
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Solothurn   is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the northwest of Switzerland. The capital is Solothurn.
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Neuchâtel is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the west of Switzerland. The population is 167,990 (2005). The capital is Neuchâtel.


The canton of Neuchâtel is located in the west of Switzerland.
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The Republic and Canton of Fribourg is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the west of the country. The capital of the canton is Fribourg. The name Fribourg is French, whereas Freiburg
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The Canton of Vaud (pronounced [vo]; French: Vaud) is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland and is located in the southwestern part of the country. The capital is Lausanne.
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