David's Diary: Wednesday, October 3, 2001
After ten days in Strasbourg, France, we made our way south to Switzerland. We entered Switzerland at Basel, the city that sits at the junction of France, Germany, and Switzerland. We were through the border with no more formality than having to purchase an autoroute pass.
Our goal was Bern, capital of Switzerland. It will be our base for the next four days. As we approached Bern we could see the mountains that Switzerland is famous for. We miss the mountains of Vancouver and felt at home as we saw the mountain peaks off in the distance.
Switzerland, much like Canada, has survived by people compromising and willing to settle their differences. Much of the administration of Switzerland is left to the twenty-six cantons. Each canton represents a region and has most of the government powers with only certain powers being given to the national government (headquartered in Bern). After checking in to our hotel, we left Bern to drive southwest to the town of Fribourg.
Switzerland has four major language groups (French, German, Italian, and Romansh). Fribourg is the canton between the French and German speaking parts of Switzerland with 70% of the canton population speaking French and 30% German. We always enjoy our visits to Fribourg's steep, cobbled streets, with the view over the River Sarine.
Fribourg is both a canton and a city. The city is the headquarters of the canton government and the location of a major university. We were meeting Kurt Sager, our long-time friend and business associate, who lives near Fribourg.
Fribourg's constitution has been amended for the last 150 years. People think that it is governments, laws, and their implementation that sets the rules for society in Switzerland. But these must be done within the framework of the constitution, so the real power of the people lies with the constitution. After 150 years of amendments the current Fribourg constituion is difficult to comprehend for experts, let alone ordinary people. During our visit with Kurt he explained how he is one of a hundred citizens rewriting the constitution from scratch. This is done by volunteer effort by people from the community to help insure that the constitution really does represent the wishes of the people. Kurt hopes that the new constitution will be accepted and last for another hundred years providing a lasting legacy to his children and grand children.