Bern, Switzerland

On Saturday we decided to visit the city of Bern. We didn’t get to see nearly as many things as we’d hoped to, but we still had fun, and will definitely go back again.

Bern is one of the oldest cities in Switzerland, first formed in 1191. Several fires in its history caused it to be rebuilt a few times. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To be completely honest, I think that there are prettier and more interesting aldstadts in Switzerland, such as Schaffhausen and Winterthur. There were lots of attractive buildings and views in the city, but since the city got rebuilt in the 1800’s, a lot of the buildings have the exact same color and facade.

We took a train from Winterthur to Bern, and it was an easy trip. We happened to snag a set of seats that are arranged in a semi-circle around a tiny table on the upper deck of the train in both directions, so we were able to spread out with the baby instead of having him bounce between our laps. I always like traveling by train, and this time we were able to view central Switzerland in the last stage of fall. Some leaves have already started falling, but there was still plenty of colorful trees to gape at. Our only disappointment was that it was a very hazy day, so we never got to see the mountains, even though we were quite close to them.

When we arrived, we snagged a map from the tourist area of the train stop (always a wise thing to do in a new city). Since Bern is the capital of Switzerland, and a big tourist destination, our map had items noted on it in several different languages, including English, so that was helpful. The map in our guidebook wasn’t entirely clear, plus it is easier to stuff a map in your pocket rather than continue to dig out a book from the bottom of an overstuffed stroller basket. The map had a suggested walking path with various sites marked on it. Since there was so much to see in Bern, we decided to opt for the walking tour.

We started walking through the aldstadt and found that unlike most other aldstadts that we’d been to, the buses and trams run right through the middle of the city, and you really have to keep your eye out or you’ll be run right over. It was frustrating, because for the most part, you are forced to walk in a covered area that prohibits you from seeing the pretty park and other views at the end of the aldstadt. It just wasn’t very pedestrian-friendly.

The first thing we stumbled upon was a huge flower market that was happening in one of the larger squares. It was a gorgeous site. All the stalls had wonderful displays of bouquets and fresh cut flowers waiting to be arranged. In one of the non-floral booths, we bought two bottles of a honey beer. It turned out to be REALLY good – the first honey beer I’ve tried that had a very strong taste of honey. I wish we’d snagged more bottles, but at 3.50 francs each, they were a little pricey.

We next stepped through the Zytglogge, which is a gorgeous clock tower. It was built about a hundred years after the formation of the city, in the 1200’s. In the past it was a women’s prison, but has been rebuilt and new things added over the course of its history. Not only does it tell time, but there is an astronomical clock on one side of it, as well as jesters.

detail of astronomical portion of clock

detail of astronomical portion of clock

We took our time strolling down the main street, picking up a few items here and there, but mostly window-shopping. We stopped at the Einsteinhaus, a museum that is in a tiny apartment wherein Einstein lived with his wife for a brief period and supposedly developed his theory of relativity. It was a really small exhibit, and definitely not stroller-friendly, but it was informative. Eddie thought otherwise and fell asleep.

The day was chillier than I thought it was going to be and while Heath and Eddie were warm enough, I had to duck into a shop to grab a warmer sweater. As we got to the bridge over the river Aare, we found a nice shade tree and ate some of our goodies, and got Eddie out of the stroller for a bit (he doesn’t like being in it for too long a period of time).

After resting, we moved on to the infamous bear pits of Bern – the Bärengraben. The Bernese have kept bears in the city since the 1400’s. There’s some controversy with animal rights groups regarding keeping the bears there, but they are maintained by the city’s zoo. We only saw one bear, and while it was rather pathetic that he kept doing the same trick over and over again (putting his hands together, prayer-like) to get tourists to through snacks down to him, he seemed in otherwise good shape.

We headed over to the Münster, which is a huge gothic cathedral, and the tallest church in Switzerland. We walked through the Münsterplattform first, which was originally a church yard, but is now a pretty park that overlooks the river. There’s a small cafe and tons of benches and shady areas. We stopped and chated with a mom and daughter from Ireland who had a dog just like our Rosie. They were really nice ladies, and we got to love on their pooch for quite a bit.

After Edward had a snack in the park (yay for breastfeeding and not having to lug formula and bottles around!), we walked to the entrance of the Münster. Unfortunately the church was closed, but we got a bunch of pictures of the exterior. These ladies were my favorite.

We walked back around to where the market was, looking for a place to get an early dinner. We ate at a restaurant whose name escapes me, but the food was really good. Heath got a traditional sausage and Rösti plate, and I got some sort of beef and bacon skewer. It was our first experience feeding Eddie solid foods out in public, and it went really well. He sat on my lap and I fed him homemade pear and apple puree that I’d brought with me. After dinner, we were worn out, and Eddie had had enough so we headed back to the train station.

Despite the little frustrations, it was a fun day out for all of us. Many more pictures of Bern can be found here.

And I realized after checking the UNESCO World Heritage website that we’ve now been to three sites in Switzerland from their list: Bern Old Town, Lavaux Vineyard Terraces (well, we saw them from the train from Lausanne to Montreux), and Jungfrau.  And writing that just made me realize that I never wrote a review of our minibreak in August.

And I don’t know why Wikipedia spells the town “Berne” when everywhere else I’ve seen it as “Bern.”

… Next post – a pumpkin farm!!!


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