were very important in the life of a town. With few people having
indoor plumbing, fountains provided drinking water for people and
animals, and water with which to clean oneself or one's grubby little
children. Valangin has at least four fountains of which
I am aware though there are probably more I haven't discovered.
I would guess the town had many more fountains, but they
have been done away with over the years.
Today fountains in Switzerland,
and in much of Europe, are primarily decorative though on hot days
one can sometimes see a passerby stopping to take a swig from a
fountain spigot and very occasionally one can see children cooling
off from the summer's heat. On a hot day I often stop at a fountain,
cup water in my hands and splash the water into my face, the top
of my head and the back of my neck. I've never seen a Swiss adult
do this. Perhaps, this is unseemly for an adult to do, and the Swiss
graciously forgive this foreigner's idiosyncrasies and lack of decorum.
Valangin's main fountain, dating to 1771, is just outside
the castle walls. This fountain is a splendid example of a town
fountain with two basins and a slanted washing stone. The housewife
would lean against the curved indentation at the top of the stone,
and give the clothes a scrub and a good beating. The water, fed
from a local river, is constantly running. Its water spews out of
the two bronze spigots into the first basin. A channel at the end
of that basin allows the water to flow into the second basin. A
channel in that basin allows the water to flow out and back down
into the river.
The second basin is obviously
for washing clothes because the slanted washing stone, which reminds
us of wood and metal washing boards from the old days, stands just
off to the side. I imagine the first basin was used as drinking
water for humans - a housewife would sink her bucket into the water
and pull it out. But that leaves some questions. From which basin
do animals drink? And, where do you wash the kids and the family
dog? I imagine they were all dumped in the second basin along with
the clothes. I wouldn't be surprised if the horse and ox drank from
Surprisingly, it seems most
of Switzerland's water fountains still work even though many date
back hundreds of years. In fact, a non-working fountain in Switzerland
is a thing to note.
"Hey, look over there! A dry Swiss water fountain!'
'Wow! Hard to believe.'
'Local water commissioner must have died recently.'