The author of The Little Prince found inspiration in Fribourg and often refers in his works to the years he spent in the Swiss town.
At the age of 15, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900–1944) was sent to Fribourg by his mother, where she hoped he would be spared from having to serve in World War I – and she was right. During his time in Fribourg, Saint-Exupéry grew fond of a number of places that had made an impression on him, returning to them years later despite his usual refusal to return to any city he had once lived in.
One of the places that had inspired him was the Escaliers du Collège staircase, which he climbed on his way to Collège Saint-Michel, and Villa Saint-Jean, where he had studied between 1915 and 1917. Most likely, the staircase reminded him of the famous traboules in Lyon, his hometown. Saint-Exupéry was not a good student; he preferred to daydream, stare out the window and admire the view. On the wall of the adjoining church were visible traces of the cannon ball fire that hit it in 1798 – no doubt a shocking reminder to Saint-Exupéry of the massacres taking place at that very moment in his native France.
Fribourg is very fond of the author and has named one of the streets that passes by the college after him: rue Antoine-de-Saint-Exupéry. Saint-Exupéry was also fascinated by the funicular, which was built in 1899 using state-of-the-art technology for the time and runs on waste water. It is now a listed historical monument. At the time Saint-Exupéry was in Fribourg, buildings tended to be adorned with rounded roofs – a fashion that will have appealed to the writer, as he had a dislike of sharp angles and corners. In his works, he mentions numerous Fribourg buildings and structures, one of which, Villa Gallia, still stands today. Guided tours following in the footsteps of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry are organised by Fribourg Tourisme.