The city of Bern is a huge contrast to the countryside village that is Gstaad, especially considering they’re only about an hour’s drive apart. Although Gstaad certainly has its merits, Bern is immediately charming with its cobblestone streets and old-world architecture. It’s not surprising that Switzerland’s capital was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One can easily spend days slowly wandering the streets of the Old Town (most vehicles are kept out of the area), taking in the numerous shops, restaurants and cafés. Just a few houses from where B. and I stayed, one could find the Einstein Haus – the very “apartment and workplace of the famous scientist, who developed his Theory of Relativity in 1905 while working in the Bern Patent Office…” (source) Unfortunately due to bad timing (it being Christmas week and all), the apartment wasn’t open to the public for viewing…
Bern also has a number of ornate fountains throughout the city, including this one representing Justice:
At the centre of the Old Town is the Zytglogge, or the Clock Tower, a beautiful and massive structure. Below the main face of the tower is an “intricate astronomical and astrological device, which, in one small diameter, displays a 24-hour clock, the twelve hours of daylight, the position of the sun in the zodiac, the day of the week, the date and the month, the phases of the moon and the elevation of the sun above the horizon throughout the year, everything kept accurate by linkage to the main clock mechanism.” (source)
We were lucky enough to spend New Year’s Eve in Bern – just a few minutes before midnight, we rushed over to the Münsterplattform, a terrace adjacent to the Münster (a 15th-century gothic cathedral) and overlooking the River Aare. Many people had gathered there to launch homemade fireworks (I’m all for handcrafted items, but some of these were scary!) – with only the lights of the Münster to illuminate our surroundings, it was truly magical:
Happy New Year!
I was well-behaved on New Year’s Eve, as I had to get up early to take the train to Geneva in order to catch my flight back to Canada. Twenty-four hours and a major snowstorm later, I was finally home. I can’t believe I’ve been back for nearly a week already; I’m still fighting the jet lag (I’ve been waking up at 4:30 or 5 am every day since I got back, which is torture for a non-morning person such as myself).
All in all, however, I would say it was an immensely successful trip. I was thrilled to be able to speak in French everywhere, and no one seemed to have any problems understanding my accent (I’m not convinced this would be the case in France…). I was very inspired by the numerous languages I heard all around me; it seems that everyone speaks no less than two, but usually three or more, languages. I’ve therefore decided that this year I am finally going to get my butt into gear and learn a third language. My only problem is deciding which one: Spanish, Italian or German. Decisions, decisions…