I am beginning to realize that Swiss cities are a bit like princesses in a medieval fairy tale – each more beautiful than the last. I spent the day today in Bern, accompanied by my husband, who is here to visit me for about a week before heading back to the U.S. to finish his postdoc. He’ll be moving here to Switzerland permanently at the end of this summer. This happy event is clouded somewhat by our difficulties finding an apartment that is a) affordable, b) available, c) suitable, and d) not owned by a landlord who operates entirely illegally. But that is for another post!
Anyway, Bern. The capital of Switzerland! It is about an hour’s drive from Lausanne, and my first German-speaking Swiss city. Actually, although the official language in Bern (which is situated within its own canton) is German, many Bern inhabitants speak the dialect Swiss-German. I really do not know a word of either, and so was not able to communicate much during my visit. Of course, as usual, most of the people I encountered spoke perfectly fine English, but the longer I live in Switzerland, the worse I feel about resorting to it. I really do need to learn a few words of German and/or Swiss-German! I’ve been so focused on French, but in reality, less than a quarter of the population of Switzerland is French-speaking. I did learn that “Grüezi” means hello in Swiss-German, though, so at least that is some progress!
I hope you’ll enjoy this photo tour of my afternoon in Bern.
This is a photo up the main street of the old city. The archways that line the street on each side are called “arcades” and they are essentially sheltered sidewalks that contain myriad shops and restaurants. Thus, Bern is a great place for shopping on a rainy day, but as you can see, we didn’t need to worry about that on our visit.
You may have noticed that a rather ferocious bear symbol decorates the flags of Bern (left). Though the etymology of the name “Bern” is disuputed, legend has it that the founder of the city promised to name it after the first animal he killed while on a hunt. In honor of this event, the city of Bern keeps a famous “bear pit” or Bärengraben that actually houses real live bears, and is a popular tourist attraction to this day. The photo on the right is one of the rather cuddly looking inhabitants of Bern’s Bärengraben.
Hey, who’s up for a grammatically unorthodox hot-dog? Only 6 francs, and it comes in its own baguette!
One final item of interest: I got to visit Albert Einstein’s house! Many people know that Einstein – who was actually German by birth – spent his most productive scientific years as a patent clerk in Switzerland. That patent office happened to be located in Bern, and the apartment that Einstein shared with his wife and children is still intact. For just 6 francs you can visit his sitting room, complete with parquet, furniture, old photographs and clothing. So now I can say that I’ve seen the spot where, conceivably, Einstein gazed out onto the busy street below and puzzled over relativity.