The capital of Switzerland, Bern is an amazing city that was built around a crook in the Aare River. Its origins can be traced back to the 12th century. You can see impressive Medieval architecture in the Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. You can have wonderful views of the Aare River and the Alps. The city offers many sculptures and a multitude of different fountains. It is the birthplace of Einstein’s relative theory and home of Toblerone chocolate. Bern is easy to explore since it is sits on a peninsula and everything is close together.
The construction of the House of Parliament began in 1852. The West wing was added in 1884 and in 1902 the building consisted of three parts. The buildings decorations are the artistic work of 38 artists from all over Switzerland. The Parliament Building is the seat of the Swiss government – Federal Council and the parliament – National Council and Council of States. Lots of what is symbolic from Swiss history can be seen in the central domed hall and both chambers. The building was inaugurated on July 31 and on August 1, 2004, which is Swiss National Day. The square is a place to gather for residents and hosts the traditional weekly market.
The specialties of Bern are chocolate, onions, bears and beer. It is home to the popular Toblerone chocolate and Ovomaltine, a malt-based beverage. When visiting it’s time to become an onion lover as Bern is home to the celebrated “Zibelemarit” – onion market. You can see braided bunches of onions and be prepared to taste a warm slice of Zibelechueche – onion tart. A bear is shown on the city’s coat of arms and is a popular motif for all kinds of local specialties. A must is to try the delicious almond bears baked by Glatz. Try the local Gurten beer as well.
Visit the Natural History Museum to see its interesting 220 animal dioramas with mammals and birds in their natural environment. This exhibit includes “Barry” a Saint Bernard who died in 1814 and is a favorite attraction. Visitors love to admire the Giant Crystals – The Planggenstock Treasure. Altogether there are 50 clear, quartz crystals as well as many large rose fluorite specimens. Among them the most impressive is a piece of quartz crystal from Planggenstock (a mountain of the Swiss Prealps) – a smoky quartz group one meter in lengths.
The Bern Historical Museum is one of Switzerland’s most important cultural and historical museums containing a historical collection of about 500.000 objects. This museum is the second largest historical museum in Switzerland. It is also home to the Einstein Museum. It’s permanent exhibition shows displays of object from the Stone Age to the present, from cultures on all continents. It was designed by Neuchatel architect Andre Lambert and built in 1894.
You’ll find lots about Einstein’s life and work at the integrated Einstein Museum. A fascinating display of animated films and experiments showing the pioneering theories of this genius. Einstein developed the Relativity Theory while he was living in Bern. In another part of the city you can see the house where he lived at this time –Einsteinhaus.
The Paul Klee Center opened its doors in 2005. It is dedicated to the life and work of Paul Klee. The center houses the worldwide largest collection of Klee’s works. Paul Klee is looked upon as one of the 20th century’s most important artists. Here visitors can see around 4,000 of his paintings. The unusual building has a wave-like structure and is the creation of Italian architect Renzo Piano. Besides art exhibitions the center also offers a platform for theater, music, dance and literature. Klee’s artwork is displayed in a rotating selection of 120 to 150 paintings with changing themes. The Kindermuseum Creaviva offers the chance to be creative in a “learning by doing and experiencing” process.
Switzerland’s oldest art museum is the Museum of Fine Arts. It is home to artwork that spans eight centuries. There are more than 3,000 paintings and sculptures and around 48.000 drawings, prints, photos, videos and films. You’ll find the artwork of such fine artists as Picasso and Klee among others. The collections consists of art from the Italian Trecento, Swiss art from the 15th century, international painting from the 19th and early 20th century.
There are many fascinating sculptures and fountains around Bern such as:
“Kopflos” or Headless can be found at the Casino Square. It is a 400 kg sculpture the artwork of Luciano Andreani.
The Oppenheim Fountain is located on Waisenhausplatz. It was created by Meret Oppenheim. Set into operation in 1983 it symbolizes growth and life and consists of an eight meter high concrete column, down which water flows in a spiral.
Weltpostdenkmal Kleine Schanze In 1903/04 when international prizes were being awarded by the Universal Postal Union first prize was won by Rene de St. Marceaux (Paris). His design was cast in bronze in 1908 and set in the Kleine Schanze Park on October 4, 1909.
In the center of Bern you’ll discover the disturbing sculpture the Kindlifresser or Child Eater. This is a fountain sculpture with a giant ogre stuffing a baby into its mouth. There is a sack full of three upset tots slung over his shoulder. It was built in 1546 and is one of the oldest fountains in the city. No one really know why it is there. However there are three theories – one is that this sculpture was built as a kind of warning to the Jewish community of Bern. This is because the ogre is wearing a hat that resembles the kind of yellow pointed Judenhut that Jewish people were forced to wear at that time, the second theory is that the ogre is a depiction of Kronos, the Greek Titan. This is the most disturbing tale in Greek mythology where Kronos eats all his godchildren to keep them from taking over the throne and the third theory is that this ogre is supposed to be the older brother of Duke Berchtold, the founder of Bern. Supposedly he was so jealous of his younger brother that he went mad and in a rage collected and ate the town’s children. However this last theory is not recorded in any of the town’s history books. Then again it might just be that this ogre is the ever popular Boogie Man reminding children to behave.
An impressive form of architecture is the Baldachin with its 2,500 m2 and 530 glass panels with a curved canopy. It enhances the Bern station square. This is a most striking entrance to the Old Town and was completed in 2008. It is a steel-glass construction and serves well as protection from the rain on rainy days.
At one time the Prison Tower was the city’s second western gateway. It was built between 1256 and 1344 and was a prison from 1641 till 1897. The clock was installed in 1691.
Another impressive clock tower is the Clock Tower – Zytglogge. This was the first western gate of the city. Its famous astronomical clock was built in 1530. It is one of the main attractions in Bern. When the hour chimes, the two tower clocks, the mechanical figures and the astronomical clock are all driven by a common mechanism. The exterior of the clock has late-Baroque elements. The large dial is framed by a fresco created by Viktor Surbek in 1930.
The second oldest church in Bern is Nydegg Church. It was built between 1341 and 1346 and replaced the Castle of Nydegg. A tower was added from 1480 to 1504. The bronze reliefs that decorate the doors were created by Marcel Perincioli in 1956.
Take a lovely walk among the roses in The Rose Garden. This is a large park that offers wonderful views of the Old Town and the River Aare Loop.There are 220 different kinds of roses, 200 kinds of irises and moor beds with 28 different kinds of rhododendrons. This park was a cemetery from 1765 to 1877 and became a public park in 1913. There is also a lovely pond and you can relax in a pavilion or in the reading garden. If you want to savor good food visit the Rosengarten restaurant which offers views of the rows of house in the Old Town.
The Cathedral of Bern was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1983. It is Switzerland’s largest ecclesiastical building. Construction on the cathedral started in 1421 and its spire was completed in 1893. The portal has an amazing depiction of the Last Judgement. A great vantage point is up the 344 steps located above the entrance to the 100m-high cathedral spire offering bird’s eye views.
Take the time to visit the wonderful Bear Park. The bear is Bern’s heraldic animal and the bears have found a home on the lovely slope of the Aare River. The landscape has been created so that the bears can climb, fish and play. Paths run through the park down to the Aare riverside path.
The Alpinum in the Botanic garden offers a large selection of alpine plants as well as plants from Asia and North America. You can learn about the Swiss flora, about endangered species and fell like you’re in the Swiss mountains. The Palm House is home to plants cultivated in humid tropical areas. The Fern House has plants from tropical mountain forests. The third show house has vegetation found in warm and dry climates of semi-deserts. The plants are grouped by geographic region.
So come and experience all that Bern has to offer.
Wiki and Google images