Monday, 31 March 2008

SWITZERLAND -Bern The Beautiful

Swiss Alps and Ancient arcades
25.02.2006 - 26.02.2006 -24 °C

In February 2006 we visited our son in Basel, he suggested we go to Bern. It was a weekend and the day was sunny and warm. So early in the morning we packed a lunch box and took to the road to Bern. The distance from Basel to Bern is about 75 kms but the road going out of the city was under construction and a long tail back was already forming when we reached the outskirts of Basel.

In Switzerland the traffic laws are very strict, heavy fines are imposed if you drive over the speed limit. Once for driving four kilometers over the speed limit, we were fined CHF11.00 and again for going 13 kilometers over the limit, the fine was CHF 185. The Traffic department took us for rich Swiss living on other people's bank accounts. So please beware. In Switzerland every body has a big automobile, most of the time you have to drive under 100kms per hour so I do not understand why people drive bigger and expensive cars. It must be the other peoples' money locked behind steel bank vaults which has enriched the country folk. I must say that gasoline also was cheaper, CHF1.16 per liter.

The scenery in Switzerland is breathtaking, while you drive along, the enchanting mountains, beautiful houses sitting on mountain tops, scattered here and there with long stretches of lush green in between, awakens the longing to be away from the clutter of cities, parking problems, noise and pollution. We city folk yearn for the quiet and solitude of the country side and slopping mountains. And Switzerland is just that.

We entered Bern from the east side and after more than half an hour of trying to find parking, we came over the bridge and were lucky to find a place right there, the fast flowing river Arre under us. On the left side of the bridge we saw a crowd of people and nearing the end of the road, saw a Bear Pit (Baerengraben) a large sunken arena with four or five shaggy brown bears. Bears are the symbol of Bern but the bears there looked forlorn and weary. I have posted some photos of bears on my Photo Gallery. But behind the Baerengraben, on the left side, if you go up the steep hill, you will reach the Rosen garten (The Rose Garden) with an enchanting collection of flowers and fantastic view of the town of Bern. Also at the back of the Bear Pit is a path leading to the wooded area where a small river runs through. An ideal place for spending an hour.

Bern is the capital city of Switzerland, my first impression of the city was of an Eagle jammed in a Canary bird's cage. It lies in the bend of the river and the view of the wooded hills and majestic Alps gives it a sense of quiet and peace. Although the city center was crowded with visitors, its cobbled streets and small lanes full of charming shops and restaurants, it gave a sensation of a monastery full of silent monks going about their daily chores. As if the hustle and bustle had nothing to do with it.

The old town center is wide, full of cobbled streets which run on both sides of the Marktgasse and the day we were there, some enterprising people had set up a charcoal grill in the street, selling Bratwurst with bread bun and a bottle of soft drink or mineral water for CHF 1.00. What a welcome idea and profitable too. We just sat down on the side of the arcade and had two helpings each. The road extends into lanes, old buildings with baroque arcades and many fountains. In Kramgasse there is an statue of an armoured bear holding the Standard of the city's founder Berchtold von Zaehringen. At the end of the street is a statue of Samson, a fountain and large figures on pedestals, which portray the city's guilds of various crafts. We tried to find out from the tourist office the year in which the city was founded but were given a tourist information leaflet instead. But I from a bookseller and gathered that the year may have been some where in the 11th century.

In Kramgasse is the house where Albert Einstein lived and worked on his theory of Relativity. He had studied at the University of Z├╝rich. In one of the streets is the church of St. Peter & St. Paul, a Gothic building with a cool hermit like interior. From Postgasse (street) we went down to the old part of the city, window shopping, looking at the shops selling antique books and other crafts.

You can view the old medieval buildings clustered around the slopes of the river, all the main streets of the city meet at Nydeggbrueck where you can see Nydeggkirche (Church). Go down the steps leading to the riverside and you have a full view of the houses clustered on both sides of the river. ( I have posted some photos of the river and houses around it). The oldest part of the city is Matte, which for many centuries was the center of crafts made in the city. The streets and lanes are full of art centers. There were a few places where music is played, but they were closed. May be they opened in the evenings.

Bern is one of my favorite cities, its old cobbled streets, painters selling their paintings under the arcades, busy cafes and restaurants, shops selling arts and crafts with the exuberance of a big city, but at the same time exuding the timeless peace and quite of the Alps which have the city of Bern in a valley like atmosphere lying in the bend of fast flowing river Arre, like an impatient bride in a hurry to be with her lover.

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