City of B's

Bern Travel Blog

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Bern's Big Dig
After four full days in Zurich, I headed off to Bern, the Swiss capital for what I wasn't sure was going to be a productive research trip.  I ended up being able to not only see documents, but two whole boxes on exactly what I wanted at the Swiss Soccer Federation (SFV).  However, the SFV has nothing on the German Soccer Federation (or FIFA) for that matter, so why hang out there longer than necessary?  I walked all through the city, which is wide but not tall since it basically is in the middle of a hairpin curve of the Aare river.  Bern is like a combination of Brussels, Boston, and the Boardwalk.
One of the fountain statues
  Brussels, because practically everything you want to see that is old and cool is under renovations.  Seriously, what's up with capital cities doing that when I visit?  Boston, because Bern is doing its own version of the Big Dig.  Actually, I have no clue what they are attempting to do.  All I know is none of the trams run in the middle of the city (you know, where all the cool stuff is) and there's some enormous below ground hole right in the middle of the city.  But as a result of no one being able to walk in the streets, everyone is left to crowd on the sidewalks -- like going on the boards over labor day weekend. 

What's there to do in Bern?  There are quite a few museums.  I went to the Swiss Alpine Museum which is, for the most part, a cartographer's dream.
Bear Pits (with two bears!)
  The last part of the special exhibit at the moment is a whole bunch of stations to learn how to make the topographical maps.  I probably spent 5 minutes putting the 9 all white squares together so that they fit properly and formed whatever mountains they were representing.  It was tough, but I figured all those years of gifted classes could finally be put to use!  The museum in general definitely had a environmental slant to it, that mankind is not being kind to the earth -- and especially the alps.  But it was a nice little museum to see before heading over to the Historical Museum of Bern.  This was supposed to be built as the Swiss National Museum, but as we can see, that is in Zurich.  Funny, though, that they never said why Bern lost out to Zurich for the national museum.
Zytglogge (clock tower)
  I went to both temporary exhibits -- the one on Einstein, and then one on Bern through the modern age.  In the first I learned that Einstein was quite the ladies man -- before he married his first wife, they had a kid together.  But he wasn't faithful to her, and nor was he faithful to his second wife -- who was also his second cousin.  oh, those great minds!  As for the Bern through the modern, it was mostly about one person/event each year in the 20th. c. from Bern that was important.  Did you know that the first Bond Girl -- the one in the white bikini coming out of the water -- is from Bern?  yup, she is.  now, don't you feel enlightened?  I saw some of the permanent exhibit, too, but nothing terribly exciting there except the throne that the Bern mayor used to sit in before the French Revolution moved over to Switzerland.  It's one of the few thrones that survived the Revolution.  American mayors sit on crap compared to this.

After the Bern museum I headed over to the Museum for Communication.  If there ever was a perfect place to take my parents (other than the golf course), this is it.  The two special exhibits -- one was on the computer, the other on stamps.  They were pretty neat -- and man, were there some old computers salvaged for this exhibit.  commodore 64, apples from before the IIGS that we all used in elementary school.....  no atari, though.  They had a bunch of old different joysticks, but none from the atari -- and definitely no paddlewheels for that.  If they would have had one, I would have had to ask if they had an extra set that works for my atari.  I mean, whose atari paddlewheel didn't stop working or break after some point?  The permanent exhibit is really interactive, especially for kids, with information generally on communicating, the history of the postal services, radio, television, the internet, and other sorts of communication.

Before I left Bern for Lausanne I went over to the Bear Pits.  Basically, the legend of Bern's founding goes something like this -- some king of sorts in the late 1100s said he would build a town wherever the hunters killed the first animal, and the town would be named after that animal.  One hunter killed a bear at the bend in the Aare river, and thus, Bern was born.  The point is, they have some live bears living in the middle of the city in a pit -- not caged in.  They also have 11 fountains in the city that perhaps tell a story, I just don't know what it is.  I tried to find them all, but I think I only got 10 of them.  I do know that one of them is an ogre eating kids.  Really, where do the Swiss come up with this stuff?  I was a bit picture happy with all the fountains and other cool stuff on buildings.  That's the nice thing about Switzerland, though -- they stopped fighting wars before the really destructive stuff was invented, so they never had to worry about losing anything old and cool.  well, there was a fire that pretty much destroyed the city, but that was back in the 1400s when everything was made of wood.  They got smart after that and rebuilt it with more permanent materials after that, and they've done a good job of holding up.
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Berns Big Dig
Bern's Big Dig
One of the fountain statues
One of the fountain statues
Bear Pits (with two bears!)
Bear Pits (with two bears!)
Zytglogge (clock tower)
Zytglogge (clock tower)
Bern
photo by: Vikram