Tag Archives: bears

Feel the Bern

I spent the entire day walking around Bern. Roughly ten miles. The sky was overcast and murpy, with occasional light rain, but nothing that someone from western Washington can’t handle. Some people were carrying umbrellas, but that’s just a sign of weakness.

Bern — at least the central area where I was — is one of the most attractive cities I’ve seen. The city dates to 1191, but most of it was rebuilt in 1405 after it…wait for it…Berned down.


I went on the walking tour described in the Rick Steves guide book, with detours for anything that looked interesting, then wandered around on my own after that.

I was going to take a tour of the parliament building, but they were all booked for the day, so I picked up a free booklet about the Swiss government. They had it in all four official Swiss languages, plus a few others for visitors, so I got one in English and one in Romansch.


I visited the Bern Cathedral and paid five francs to go up the 210-foot-high tower.






Then I walked down Gerechtigkeitgasse to the river and across to the bear pit, where the bears don’t live anymore. Several years ago, it occurred to someone that it was really sort of cruel to keep bears in a pit, so they moved them to a larger park setting next to the river. You can ride a funicular to go down to them.



In fact, these are not the same bears, since the earlier pit bears died. These are newer, younger bears. They have names, but I don’t remember what they are, so let’s just call them Todd and Thelma. Here’s Todd looking appropriately ursine:


And Todd and Thelma together:


So the Bärengraben is now a Bärenpark, but the Bären should not be confused with Beeren, even though Bären have been known to eat Beeren.


Anyway, the bears were cool, but ten minutes or so is probably your maximum bear-viewing time, so I went back across the river and up to Albert Einstein’s house. It’s not his house now, of course, and it wasn’t really then, because he just rented, but he lived there from 1903-1905 while he was working in the patent office and formulating the special theory of relativity. You can walk through it. Afterwards I had lunch downstairs at the Einstein Cafe (“relatively the best”).


Just down the street from the Einstein Cafe I found this place.


You can’t not go into a place like that, so I did.


It’s the storefront for Voodoo Rhythm Records, a local independent record label for both current bands and obscure bands from the past. It kind of reminded me of Rhino Records, though somewhat weirder.

And of course there’s the famous Zytglogge-Turm, the clock tower, which was built in 1530. I walked by it numerous times over the course of the day, but never while it was doing its elaborate chime presentation at four minutes before every hour.


I need to check out and get over there so I can see it before I get on the train to Luzern.