Gotthelf’s novel «The Black Spider» explores themes of greed, conflict and the power of the plague. But the author also voices his frustration over unchecked forest clearance in his home canton of Bern.
Around 150 years ago, things were looking grim for Switzerland’s flora and fauna. Then two Basel academics seized the initiative, and set about bringing to life their vision of an unspoiled, primordial landscape in the Engadin. In 1914, the first national park in Central Europe was opened in the Val Cluozza.
Bruno Manser was one of the world’s first environmental activists, and he launched spectacular protests to fight against rainforest deforestation. This earned him admiration, but it also caused him problems with the authorities.
Birch bark pitch is the oldest all-purpose adhesive in history. Ötzi used birch pitch to affix his arrowheads to the shafts of the arrows; other prehistoric peoples glued broken pottery with birch pitch, or sealed canoes with it. Recently, science has also solved the mystery of how it was produced.
The Swiss-British artist John Webber (1751-1793) served as the draughtsman in Captain James Cook’s third expedition to Oceania, Canada, and Alaska. Webber’s artwork captures a unique moment in time – the first encounters of the British with indigenous peoples from around the Pacific Rim.
Peter Viktor von Besenval was born 300 years ago. A Swiss baron and a mercenary officer in the service of the French crown, Besenval was a passionate collector of objets d’art and plants, and a notorious ladies’ man.