Those of you who know me are surely aware of the fact that I uncritically adore
like Lindsey Davis and her historical crime novels, that are set in ancient Rome and its empire. Therefore I am really happy that besides Augusta Raurica
, which we visited last year, Switzerland has another place with reference to ancient Rome. This is the town of Avenches (Aventicum in Latin), which is located about 40 km west of Bern.
A bit of history to begin with:
Aventicum was built as the capital of the Celtic tribe of the Helvetii (Helvet) and was named after Aventia – the Celtic goddess of waters. In the first century before Christ Aventicum was attached to the Roman Empire within the province of Gallia Belgica. In 72AD, The emperor Vespasian guaranteed the status of colonia* and Aventicum became a very important center with nearly 20,000 inhabitants (which is about 5 times more than Avenches has today). In the third century, Aventicum was unable to withstand the attacks of the Aleman tribes, Rome failed to conquer their territory back and together with the demise of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, Aventicum left all its glorious moments behind. The area remained populated after the Roman era and in 1074 a new city was founded up the hill, close to the former roman town and it began to flourish again in the Middle Ages.*)
|Roman ruins are free to access
But back to our visit:
The top tourist attractions in Avenches are undoubtedly the Roman Museum and amphitheater. The amphitheater is still in frequent use for concerts and festivals. But Avenches are not only roman ruins. Another interesting sight is a medieval castle built in the 13th century. Although I’ve never been there, I suppose renaissance castles on the Loire river, that we learned in the French lessons about, look like this.
Just like Bern or Murten, Avenches has also three parallel streets that form the historic city center. It is good to go through all of them because there one can see very picturesque houses with interesting facades (colored window shutters included).
In the middle of the main street, you can find the Mary Magdalene church from the 11th century. On the adjacent square is also the town hall, information center or hotel Couronne (it is said to be very luxurious, but we did not have a chance to try). Otherwise, the main street is lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants with gardens that invite visitors to order coffee and enjoy the sunny day in this picturesque town.
We were really surprised that despite the fact that it was a day off (in addition to beautiful weather), the town and its historical monuments were not besieged by tourists. And that was another plus 🙂
Small historical detour for those of you, who would like to know what colonies originally were: in ancient Rome, a colonia was a town that was a specific residential location for legionnaires who upon retirement were granted land and became citizens. This encouraged land development and stability and not least the extension of Roman “culture”.
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Turistický průvodce Švýcarsko – JOTA, 2011 (přeloženo z Teller, M: “The Rough Guide to Switzerland”, Rough Guide 2010)