Bern – Capital of Switzerland

As often not known by many, Bern (and not Zurich or Geneva) is the capital of Switzerland and a must see on every Switzerland trip (which was proven by the bus loads of tourists we have seen during the day).

We took the train on a Thursday morning from Olten to Bern. A lot of Swiss would tell you that in Bern everything moves a bit slower (especially compared to hectic and very business oriented city of Zurich) including the nice Bernese accent. This and the picturesque old town gives the city a very unique vibe which we wanted to explore.

Our first stop was at the Zytglogge (Clock) Tower. This 800 year old watch and former prison tower has a astronomical clock. As it was near the full hour we and about a hundred other tourists gathered around the tower and waited for the hourly show the mechanical figures moving to the strike of the hour.

Afterwards we leisurely strolled leisurely along the main road and enjoyed the various fountains on our way to the Bear Pit. The pit which was first mentioned around 1513 has been completely renovated two years ago and is currently holding four bears. Legend has it that the Duke of Zähringen told his men in 1911 that the first animal they hunted will be the name giver and symbol of the city and guess what, it was a Bear.

Later on we continued our tour with a 40 minute walk along the Aare river to the Tierpark Dählhölzli which is a small but very nice local Zoo. There we spent a few hours watching more bears, fishes and playful seals.

A short bus ride brought us back to the city where we got a kebab for lunch (not as traditional as a Rosti, but you would be surprised how many kebab stalls you find in Switzerland). Later on we had a peek at the Bundeshaus (Parliament Building) and the Nationalbank (ironically they are just next to each other). It’s not a fairytale that underneath the square in front of the two buildings the national bank is keeping the gold reserves of Switzerland.

Next stop on our tour was the Münster Cathedral. It is the tallest Cathedral of Switzerland which we experienced first hand on the 344 steps up to the tower platform. Needless to say that the view over the city more than compensated for the climb.

After a well deserved coffee break we had a look the Chindlifresserbrunne. This rather barbaric looking fountain shows an oger who is eating kids (and that in peace-loving Switzerland…). Apparently the fountain was built to scare kids. Hope you are not too scared to read our next entry about our Swiss mountain hike…

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