A city built in the 12th century! How awesome is that! “Come what may, we have to make it to Bern”, I told my husband while planning our honeymoon in Switzerland. Though not very keen, but he agreed. Our travel agent for this trip suggested us to buy the Eurail Passes for our 7 day long trip to Switzerland. And believe me that paid off. On our way from Interlaken to Genève we dropped by this quaint city of Bern for few hours.
We kept our luggage in the baggage lockers available in the Bern Railway Station and explored this amazing medieval city built around river Aare in 1191. The River binds the city of Bern. The main part of the city lies within the meander loop of the river.
Bern is famous for its rich history, culture, museums and collections. Bern Museum of Fine Arts house a collection of art and architecture of a millennium. This city is one of the finest examples of the medieval architecture in Europe. In 1848 Bern became the capital of Switzerland.
Over the centuries most parts of the medieval city is being renovated and restored keeping the townscape almost intact. The best part for us was that we could just walk around the city and visited most of the attractions in less than five hours. Yes, we were in a hurry. We had to catch the connecting train for Genève in the late afternoon. In that limited time period the places which appealed me the most in Bern are here for you.
Old Town of Bern – The Old Town is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. It is the home old bridges, structures and cathedrals. The buildings in the old city were constructed in various periods of time. After a massive fire in the 14th century most buildings were damaged and reconstructed with sandstone found locally. The buildings are made in Gothic style with the typical bay window. What I loved the most is that the restoration work has been done by retaining original medieval character of the city. The Lower Gate Bridge is the oldest in Bern connecting the old city to its neighborhood.
The name is Zytglogge. But it is popularly known as the Clock Tower in Bern. You cannot miss this mammoth structure when you are in the city. One of the most prominent symbols of Bern. History says that in the great fire in 1405 this tower was completely burned out and was reconstructed only in 1983. The old buildings in this lane are merged together. They form a series of adjoining arches and are unique. People enjoy the leisurely stroll through the long arcade.
Towering over the old town, the Munster Cathedral is Switzerland’s highest Gothic cathedral built in 1421. The exceptional illustration of the Last Judgement over the main entrance is truly incredible. The arch above the giant gate contains stone and wood carved figures which are a rare collection.
The impeccable details of each figure mesmerized me. It depicts good and evil, saints and devils in the same frame. The huge interior, massive square pillars, large stained glass windows are remarkable. The glass windows date from mid 14th century and are priceless. It is beautiful old cathedral where you can sit and have a quiet little prayer. It requires at least half an hour to take a tour of the cathedral. And definitely worth a visit.
The Federal Palace (Parliament Building of Switzerland) – Definitely one of the most amazing experiences in Bern was to enter the Parliament Building of Switzerland. It is also a part of the Old City of Bern but claims a special mention. It looked like museum to me at the first glance.
A stunning construction which is the face of the political scene in Switzerland. The building hosts both the Federal Council and Federal Assembly of Switzerland. It has a central Parliament building with two wings.
When the parliament is not in session free guided tours are open for the public. We were lucky to have this one I guess. We had to keep all our belongings including bags, wallets, and watches and off course camera at the main entrance where lockers were provided to us. Thus there are no photographs of the interior with me. The interior is believed to be decorated by 38 artists from all over the world. The tour guide explained us the brief history of this Federal Palace and also gave us an insight of how things work during the sessions of the Parliament. We were taken to the main hall (below the huge central dome) where the two debating chambers exist.
Einsteinhaus (Einstein House) – ‘Welcome to my apartment where I worked on the Theory of Relativity’ – this is how Albert Einstein welcomes his guests to his house at Bern. The idea took few seconds to sink in. Had goose bumps to even think that he actually stayed in this house from 1903-1905.
A flat in the second floor of a building was the home of Albert Einstein! The furniture, books, artifacts and other personal belongings used by him and his family are carefully kept in this small museum. A larger and permanent exhibition is at the Historical Museum of Bern. Unfortunately we could not visit this place because of time constraint.