Between the rich pasturelands of the Swiss plateau and the Alpine foothills, the Sarine River (called the Saane by German speakers) twists in an S-curve, its sandstone cliffs joined by webs of arching bridges. In one of the curves of the river is the medieval city of Fribourg. The city of overlapping layers is an astonishing place of hills and cobblestones, ramparts and Gothic fountains, ancient passageways, and worn wooden stairs. Only on foot can you discover its secret charm as one of the finer ensembles of medieval architecture in Europe.
Historic Fribourg is a stronghold of Catholicism, and its citizens remained staunch believers even during the Reformation. The evidence is everywhere, from the numerous chapels and religious orders to the brown-robed novitiates walking the sidewalks. Fribourg University, founded in 1889, remains the only Catholic university in Switzerland. It is also the only bilingual institution of its kind and reflects the region's peculiar linguistic agility. Two-thirds of the people of Canton Fribourg are native French speakers, one-third are native German speakers, and many switch easily between the two. In the Basse-Ville neighborhood, old-timers still speak a unique mixture of the two languages, called Boltz. Officially, the city is bilingual, although French predominates.