Jegenstorf, Haile Selassie and Bangerten
17 October 2023
Former Emperor Haile Selassie (1892-1975) of Ethiopia stayed at Jegenstorf Castle (canton of Bern) for four days in November 1954 because of his state visit to Switzerland. The reception was a ‘Wiedergutmachung’ from the Swiss side.
The Swiss government did not grant asylum to the emperor in 1936 after Italy’s conquest of Abyssinia (the name of the empire), nor did it support the sanctions of the League of Nations ( the forerunner of the United Nations). Even then, the (dogmatic) Swiss policy of neutrality was already outdated.
Emperor Haile Selassie in Jegenstorf Castle, 26 november 1954. photo: Björn Lindroos/zvgSalon, Exhibition in Jegenstorf Castle, 2014
The emperor received a hero’s welcome in Bern in front of 100,000 spectators along the route and at the highest political levels. It is not known whether the emperor also explored the Jegenstorf area. In any case, he would then certainly have enjoyed the beautiful rose garden and coffee at the Hotel Kreuz in Grafenried.
The Rosegarten of restaurant Kreuz in Grafenried
He may even have taken a walk to villages in the area, with views of the Jura and Hotel Weissenstein and Mount Hasenmatt to the north (Solothurn canton) and the Alpine massif to the south.
Hotel Weissenstein (canton of Solothurn)
The rolling agricultural area between these two mountain ranges, the Mittelland, is the location of several characteristic villages. Fraubrunnen and Bangerten are a few examples of monumental village centres and farms. The varied forest, meadow and agricultural areas characterise this region.
Bangerten (canton of Bern)
Not much is known about the emperor’s impressions or experiences. He ruled his empire for two more decades until he was deposed in 1975 and died under dubious circumstances.
It does not detract from the fact that Jegenstorf was a temporary residence of an emperor, thus giving an imperial touch to the area as well. Another fact is that the emperor has never been a member of the Schweizer Alpen Club.
The Swiss Alpine Club
The Swiss Alpine Club (Schweizer Alpen Club, SAC/Club Alpin Suisse, CAS) regularly organises hikes in this area (and elsewhere) in the country.
The SAC organises ski tours, mountain climbing and other sports in the high mountains and the Alps but also (hiking) activities in other regions.
(More information: www.sac-cas.ch).