City Hopper: Berne, Switzerland
Next we go to one of the cities I lived in for years. The city of Berne is the capital of Switzerland and is the fourth most populous city in that country. The official language of Berne is German and the city is ranked among the world’s top ten cities for the best quality of life (2010). It also is one of the top ten cleanest cities in the world as well.
The symbol of Berne, that you will see everywhere, is that of a bear. Why? Well according to local legend Berchtold V, Duke of Zahringen, the founder of Berne vowed to name the city after the first animal that he met on the hunt. His first encounter was with a bear and thus the name Berne which means ‘Bear’. It has since been the seal and coat of arms of Berne. Since the 16th century the city has had a Bear Pit (Barengraben) and there have been four bears in residence. Also, in 2009 the Russian President and his wife visited Berne and gave the city a gift of two more bears that are now living in Bern’s zoo. You can see a few residents of the Bear Pit below.
After the bears the most famous site is the Zytglogge Clock Tower in the city center. It is an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets. It was built in the 13th century and over the years it has been used for a guard tower, a prison and a clock tower. It was built in 1219 as the western gate to protect the city of Berne. It is over 800 years old and is similar to a clock tower you will find in Prague called the Orloj (Click here to read about it in my Prague blog). The city of Berne also has one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe at 6 kilometers long.
Another well known site in the city is the Federal Palace (Bundeshaus) which was built from 1857 to 1902. It is a very popular place for visitors and residents to hang out not only because of the history and architecture of the building but also because in the summertime there are fountains built into the square in front of the building that adults and kids alike love to play in. The fountains dance and keep everybody guessing where the next appearance will be.
While visiting and touring the city you might find it interesting and amusing to check out all of the fountains around the city. Some have historical significance such as the one dedicated to the woman who founded the first hospital in Bern and others are downright amusing and mystifying like the child eating ogre fountain. They are all scattered around the city and were originally created to supply the city with drinking water of which you still can drink from as well.
For a nice little four minute tour of the sights and scenes of Berne I’ve found this great video that I think you all will like. Check it out and see you next time: