The City of Bears, Tourists, and History by Joy Cagil
The best part of Europe where
to really experience the Alps is in the middle of Switzerland, in Bernese
Oberland region. Bernese Oberland region is where cows graze on high pastures
during the warmer seasons, the starting place for the hiking trails, excursions
into the higher Alps region, rail and cable cars lifts, plus many more
activities. Here one can savor the natural world while enjoying the most
modern creature comforts while undertaking some very daring adventures.
|In Switzerland in general
and in Bernese Oberland in particular, visiting the capital city of Bern
by the river Aare is a wise decision. Here's a tidbit for writers. Bern
is the city where first international copyright laws were passed during
the late nineteenth century.
The city of Bern, at 1800
feet altitude, snuggles into the U shaped arm of the river Aare, extending
its reach from side to side by historical bridges and railways. Surrounded
by densely wooded areas and mountains, Bern is not a crowded city, except
A walking tour in good weather--starting
along Hauptbahnhof (train station) and stretching along one street, which
doesn't even take two miles--gives the traveler the feel of this old city
with its cobblestone streets, famed clock tower (no, not as tall as Big
Ben but its clock is more visible), many flamboyant ancient fountains still
with water, monuments and a cathedral. On one of the fountains - I believe
it is called "Justice Fountain" - the figure of justice steps on the heads
Bern's train station has
three levels of shopping that introduces bear paraphernalia. The bear toys,
bear figures, and everything about bears can be witnessed all over the
city. Two real live bear pits may be visited where automatic carrot dispensers
or human carrot vendors serve to feed the bears.
On our tour, we were told
that bears have been Bern's symbol since the twelfth century. The legend
or fact is that the duke who founded the city said he would name the city
after the first animal he shot. (Nice guy!) He shot a bear and thus he
named the city Baren for bear which became Bern. For the same reason a
bear figure is on the state flag and also on the coat of arms.
Bern's astronomical clock
tower is situated at the east gate right around the marketplace where one
can buy Swiss goods at a much lower price than buying them here at home
in USA at the imported price. Every hour on the hour when the clock strikes,
there is a four minute performance by quite a few moving figures. Under
the watch of father time, a jester rings the bells to a parade of bears,
a knight in armor and a crowing rooster. This routine, we were informed,
has been going on since the sixteenth century.
In Bern, each fountain has
a story or depicts some kind of imagery. The weirdest one, I thought, was
the fountain of the child-eating ogre.
What we saw was an ogre eating
a child while holding other children to be consumed later. Maybe it was
the despotic feudalism that produced such gory ideas. Someone commented
that the ogre represented the Jews of Europe, which made my hairs stand
at end. For a continent that prides itself in being civilized and open-minded
and lords that thought over to USA and many other countries in the world,
Switzerland - actually all of Europe - sure has a nasty, shameful past.
people climb the 270 steps of the huge church tower of the famous Cathedral
of St. Vincent in Bern and they say the view of the Alps is fantastic from
the top. Well, I didn't. I had climbed the Statue of Liberty in NYC, and
even though I was 23 years old then, that was enough to teach me a lesson
on climbing tower stairs. Yet, the inside of the Cathedral is lovely with
antique stained glass panels, although the tympanum at the west front of
the Cathedral is overly decorated with nearly 250 figures portraying the
Last Judgment. Somebody must have counted, since they told us that number.
Right around the Cathedral, stands the Moses fountain and after that is
the place where Einstein lived and probably developed his theory of relativity
while he worked at the University of Bern. The Swiss take great pride in
Einstein's having lived there and also in their higher education that led
the world for a while.
The main street lined with
houses and shops built several centuries ago and in good condition is called
Marktgasse. The famous prison tower now serving as some kind of a museum
is situated on Marktgasse.
There are several museums
in Bern. We went inside the Swiss Alpine Museum that contained ancient
maps of the Alps, mountaineering equipment used through the centuries,
models of mountain huts, and anything belonging to the exploration of the
Alps. It was interesting enough but could not match the beauty of the mountains
An interesting aspect of
Bern was the many flags hanging and waving everywhere. I thought they had
a national holiday but they told me the flags stayed all the time.
Bern is a very pretty, tidy
city. Passages lined with vendors connect the streets; the streets are
filled with tiny shops and small, clean restaurants. Many varieties of
flowers can be seen everywhere. Along the windows of almost every house,
flowerboxes are filled at least with geraniums, and if a tourist can stand
the fatigue of walking, the horse and cattle market is a sight to see.
All things considered, a
walking tour in Bern is very enjoyable, because in a small café
or chocolate shop, a weary traveler can always take a delicious Swiss "coffee
and chocolate" break.
Featured Hotels, Switzerland
About the Author - Joy Cagil
is an author on a site for Creative
Writers. Her education is in foreign languages and linguistics.
She has also trained in psychology, humanities, mental health, and visual
arts. Her portfolio can be found at http://www.Writing.Com/authors/joycag