Somewhere along the three-hour train ride through the Swiss countryside you go through an invisible language transition. You leave French speaking Geneva and arrive in German speaking Bern – without crossing a border. No passport needed.
The feelings of the cities are as distinct as the languages are unique. Geneva has the French laissez-faire attitude, where Bern oozes a stoic structured feel. Where Geneva is less concerned with cleanliness, Bern is spotless. Geneva showcases all the colors of the rainbow in its architecture, where Bern’s buildings run somewhere between a soft army green and natural limestone.
But somehow I felt a warmth in Bern, that did not exist in Geneva. After only minutes of walking the streets of the Old Town in Bern, my travel companion and I were ready to call our husbands and tell them to pack our belongings (that were in a hotel in Geneva) and send them to us in Bern. We were relocating there – for good! They could visit over the holidays or work related trips to Switzerland.
So on to the question of what do a bear, Einstein and a clock all have in common? These are landmarks of Bern, Switzerland.
The Bern Bear dates back to the 13th century. According to local legend, Duke of Zahringen, the founder of the city of Bern, vowed to name the city after the first animal he saw on his first hunt in the area – that turned out to be a bear. The bear became the heraldic animal and the seal on the coat of arms of Bern. Baren is the plural word for bear in German.
Since the early 15th century Bern has kept a live bear in the city limits. A 145-year-old bear pit was recently renovated into a bear compound that sits along the Aar River, looking across at the Cathedral peeking out from Old Town.
Einstein, Bern’s most famous resident, albeit temporarily, lived in Bern from 1903-05 where he worked on the ‘theory of relativity,’ while he worked as a clerk in the local patent office.
The Zytglogge astronomical clock tower is the medieval landmark in Bern. Since it was built in the early 13th century it has served as a guard tower, prison, clock tower and now is the center of urban life in Old Town, Bern, Switzerland. Very fitting for any city in Switzerland.
What to do: Enjoy the beautifully ornate architecture of the German influenced Old Town of Bern. While we were there in November the city was preparing its streets for the upcoming holiday season. Down the Main Street of Old Town, a live Christmas tree is placed on a spike along a line between the first and second stories, about every 50 feet. My travel companion and I vow to go back and see Bern all aglow in its holiday splendor!