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There's nothing quite so European as a walled town. One such is Murten, small but centrally located, site of an historic battle, and home to one of Switzerland's great country hotels.

They don't seem to be building walls around cities much these days. A few hundred years ago nearly every European town had to have one to survive, but changes in weaponry made them obsolete dynamite and machine guns beat hot olive oil and rocks every time. The fact that only a few such fortresses remain intact makes those cities all the more interesting.

A well-preserved medieval Swiss town with its wall still standing is Murten (Morat, in French), located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) due west of Bern, on the southeast shore of Lake Murten, directly along the Swiss French/German language border.

The town was built by the Zhringens, one of the great feudal ruling families that emerged when the Holy Roman Empire started to lose its grip. Before giving way themselves to the Hapsburg dynasty, the Zhringens founded several walled towns in addition to Murten, including Freibourg, Bern, and Thun.

Murten is a destination worthy of the traveler's attention not only because of its still intact wall but also for its pleasant lakeside setting and because it is the site of one of the decisive battles in the country's history.