Updated: Dec 16, 2021
My last trip to Switzerland was to Lucerne. It was January 2020, and I have collected beautiful memories that have stayed with me. It was also a bit before the world has changed. Therefore, I was more than happy to revisit Switzerland. End of November and I was heading to the capital-Bern.
I had a very smooth and comfortable journey with the Lyria train from Paris, one change in Basel, and after one more hour, I arrived in Bern on Friday noon.
It was slightly raining when I left the train station. A crowd of people walking fast in different directions felt like the "rush hour"
As I was entering a side street, it started to slow down. I was thrilled later to find Bern so dynamic, attracting tourists from worldwide. Over my weekend staying, I explored Bern's various possibilities and experiences (and wow, there were many)
The Old Town
I appreciate discovering a Capital city - it has a kind of obligation to manifest the prestigious and unique qualities that had made it so.
My guide Denise O'Gorman showed me, "Look at the Parliament of Bern. Do you see the letters above? They are in Latin. " Curia Confoederationis Helveticae"- The Swiss confederation. CH symbol of Switzerland. It is neutral as there are four official languages. Swiss -German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romanic . It is a diplomatic way to say: No language shadows the other.
The old center is a UNESCO world heritage. You are plunging into a city perfectly preserved from the Middle Ages.
It is built on a height, while the beautiful river Aare flows underneath. The structure of Bern creates geometrical shapes. Especially when you approach the edges, you realize that Bern is on a hill. The view is broad and scenic. It is very impressive.
When you stroll in the heart of the city, in the quaint lanes, you don't feel any effort of going up. It is pretty astonishing.
Wintertime. Bern is decorative and sparkling for the approaching Christmas. One of the things to do is walk in the arcaded streets such as Kramgasse or Marktgasse. They are long, historically beautiful roads, with shops, cozy coffees houses.
in Marktasse, there are many boutiques. You will spot there the fountains with figures from the Middle Ages. Inspired by myths and legends, they are trademarks of the city center.
Is it raining heavily, even snowing? No worries. The arcades from both sides of the street protect you, The stylish shops and the Cafés are tempting to go inside them.
I loved the chocolate showcase decoration. in the supermarket Migros, the collection of chocolate boxes is infinite.
The prestigious Swiss chocolate Toblerone remains the incontestable star on the shelf.( I have found out, it is produced in Bern)
The Clock tower is one of the main attractions. It is a part of Bern's magical world of creatures and fairy tales.
The clock tower was one of the main gates of the original town hall. From 1530 the clock performs each hour. A rooster crows three times, and the bears appear and form a dance circle , a happy clown comes to life, father time turns its hourglass. It is pure fun to watch and reminded me of the Astronomy Clock tower in Prague.
"I would like to hug a baby bear," I once said to a photographer specializing in photographing bears. "Don't even dream about it. They may look cute and harmless, but they already have nails to kill."
However, a bear is the symbol of Bern. Since 1513, it has become his home. It appears on Bern's flag, and it manifests its presence everywhere. A family of famous bears lives in a pit by the river's banks. I hoped to see them, but they didn't show up. Probably having their winter's sleep or maybe like cates, they arrive when you less expect.
The rose garden
I walked up the hill to see the rose garden. It must be so blooming in the summer, but the winter paints it with colourful autumn leaves. I spotted, near-by, on the "roses bridge",a sculpture of the glorious scientist Albert Einstein sitting, thoughtful on a bench.
The villas on the way down were elegant and lighted. The sights on the river Aare and the bridges, with changing shades of the sky, were extremely picturesque,
Einstein, the innovative physician, lived and studied in Bern and was an honorable member. The artistic, historical Museum of Bern has a fascinating exhibition that documents periods of his life. I have learned a lot of new things about Einstein. His theory is visually explained .I have also learned about his complex personal life.
The building looks unique, and there are large sections of other artworks.
I also saw the Samurai- exhibition. It was a journey into his enigmatic world. It was detailed and rich showing the traditions, and history of the Samurai in his warrior's costumes, masks and his arms of fighting from different regions of Japan.
There are top choices of Museums in Bern.
I had to choose cause time was short, but I managed to see quite a lot.
Zentrum Paul Klee . Upon the hill, the building is fascinating on its own to look at. Designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. ( center Pompidou)
The exhibition of Paul Klee changes every few months.
There was a collection of drawings of the Swiss prominent painter Paul Klee, which I haven't seen before, and I was impressed by his creation of handmade puppets for his son Felix. There was also an interesting exhibition of the sculptor and architect Max bill on the upper floor.
Before I left the city, the last Museum I visited was the "Kunstmuseum" It is the oldest Museum in Switzerland with permanent artworks of old Masters as Picasso, Bonnard, Manet, Klee, Matisse, and many more.
I noticed a striking drawing of Toulouse Lautrec displayed there. For any art lover, this Museum is the essence of beauty. I received a delicious chocolate praline from the reception on my way out. Chocolate and art are a good combination. After all, I am in the Swiss experience.
Feel the Bern( Bern's exciting nightlife)
Bern has extensive options for entertainment. Bern's nightlife took me with storm under its cosmic wings.
The city was filled with lights in the darkness and radiated joy, getting ready to party.
It was Black Friday, and people hurried to the shops to enjoy the great discounts.
After the shopping, it is time for a celebration. The Christmas markets were open, and it was nice to inhale the flavours of cinnamon and mulled wine again. I had to choose between Flamenco Festival that was going on and the Jazz (a few shows) it was hard to decide...As I love both very much.
I went to "Be Jazz". A Jazz club in a modern complex, including a restaurant and bar.( simple to go there with a few bus stops) It is kind of bohemian- alternative place, which has a "Berlin genre"
I saw a fantastic concert by a modern Jazz band." Ydivide.
They curried the audience with cool, creative musical compositions.
The club offers tasty wine glasses at moderate prices, a cozy, nocturnal ambiance, and the acoustic there(it is essential) great!
When arriving back to the hotel in the square right by the Parliament, many locals had a traditional dance and beer party, disguised as Santa Claus ( with some twists). Everyone was up to a party, and it was fun.
If you want to be in an outstanding restaurant for dinner or lunch, the Kornhauskeller is the place to be!
The flamboyant architecture creates a special atmosphere. It is extraordinary that all this marvelous palace is down in a cellar, The cuisine is gastronomic, refined, and no doubt, it invites the diner to the mood of the elegant, royal Bern.
Saturday evening, I was curious to discover the world of the "Winter Wonderland Gurten" I went with tram nine towards Wabern, got off at Gurtenbahn, and with the funicular, got up to Gurten.
On my way to the funicular, I saw a decorated house, that seemed more like a spaceship, a mirage in the middle of the night.
What was inside? You will know after the adventure of the winter wonderland.
Sculptures of animals and objects are lighted in various colours.
It was a beautiful sight and entertaining, not only for children but for any age; People need fantasies in their life. Being on this high hill, with a panoramic view of Bern, glistening creatures dazzling at night was a mind-blowing experience. We had the mulled wine in a tent at the end of the excursion, with many other visitors.
When I got down, remember the magic house, which looked like it fell from outer space ? I entered a secretive garden, there were even more magical objects waiting. The extravagant decoration has made me forget the frozen air.
I arrived at "Die Heitere Fahne"- It was a most pleasant surprise. Spontaneously I entered inside a culture house which has both good vegan food and various cultural events. ( they have a program that you should check out) In that evening was a concert of Swiss and Senegal musicians.
It was a hearty, moving concert that brought to my mind how Switzerland is multicultural and open to varied cultures. An hour ago, I was on a hill covered with snow, wandering near the lightened creatures of the Wonderland, and now I was traveling with the musicians to the catchy, sunny rhythms of Senegal.
It was snowing the whole Sunday, my last day, and I could hear the bells ringing and the song of Frank Sinatra in the background " let it snow, let it snow, let it snow". Bern enveloped with a chilly, white aristocratic gown, was ready to welcome happily its guests for its winter's adventure.
Text and images-Niva Josef
The hotel "The Bristol" located a few minutes' walk from the train station, was comfortable and super homey. It gives the guest the British ambiance, with the decoration's style. The breakfast buffet offered the typical English breakfast, as of course, other varieties.
Cheese is another Swiss specialty. It tasted deliciously.
Since Covid, I haven't been yet to the UK. The Bristol made me nostalgic. It has allowed me to feel the "British vibes" while staying in Bern.
A very nice Coffee House is "Einstein Café and bel etage" in Kramgasse. A reminder that a Café named on the genius Einstein can't deceive you. It is a beautiful café with high-quality coffee and cakes.
Restaurant "Lotschberg" offers the Swiss experience with a menu of Fondu. Friendly and enjoyable.
I traveled from France to Switzerland with Lyria Compagnie from Gare de Lyon to Basel, where I did the connection with another train to Bern. It was the first comfortable, quality experience, in this lovely weekend. The journey between the two countries was quick and smooth. Time floated by as I watched the landscapes changing through the window.
This fast TGV is the perfect choice for anyone who wants short or long breaks in Switzerland.