Swiss capital Bern is breathtaking

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    » Swiss capital Bern is breathtaking

    I am
    awestruck by Bern’s beauty. While walking from my hoteltowards the old city,
    I come to a bridge. About to cross it, I slow down, then stop and look below,
    at the strikingly blue and beautiful River Aare flowing
    gracefully. Paying a tribute to its splendour are lovely buildings on
    either side. If all strolls were this beautiful, one would surely walk
    more. 

    Switzerland’s Old Town is graced by medieval architecture,
    including the country’s tallest Cathedral and oldest clock tower. Pics/Vijaya
    Pratap

    I click pictures from every possible
    angle and still want to click more. How can you contain the city’s
    magnificence in a mere few frames? Situated in the heart of Switzerland, the
    nation’s capital makes an ideal hub for trips all around the country. It is a
    wise choice to take a guided tour through the Old Town to see Prison Tower,
    Parliament Building, the Cathedral, Clock Tower, Town Hall, Einstein’s House
    and the unique fountains, each with a story of its own.

    The Clock Tower, known as
    Zytglogge with its Baroque architecture, is the centre of attraction for
    tourists

    On the riverside are some of the
    most upmarket neighbourhoods and exclusive bungalows with stunning gardens.
    Bern has a special way of combining the traditional with the modern. This had
    earned for the city, the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its unique
    Old Town is graced by medieval architecture, including Switzerland’s tallest
    Cathedral and the oldest clock tower. In Old Town I have a special shopping
    and cultural experience, buying modern marvels in the midst of
    history.

    Bathing
    in the Aare River is one of the main summer attractions for locals and
    tourists alike

    Old town and
    Underground treasures
    The Kramgasse forms the centre piece of
    Bern Old Town. This alley was once Bern’s busiest trade route for marketers
    and shopkeepers who loudly advertised and sold their goods here, and swapped
    latest news. Over three miles of arcades allows visitors to stroll and shop
    in any weather.

    The Bernese love laid-back, long shopping
    trips — and will do so come snow or rain. Thanks to the longest
    weather-protected stretch of shopping promenade in Europe, this is in fact,
    quite feasible. The “Lauben”, as the Bernese call their arcades, areadmirably
    suited for a jaunty stroll among the historic city scenery.

    A guide explains the working of a
    clock from the interior of the clock tower

    The history of this passage reaches back to the earliest city development
    (1191 AD), and even then served to accommodate market stalls and businesses.
    Traders could, thus, trade and earn their living in any weather. For tourists
    too it is a pleasure, going around these arcades and peeping at the lovely
    exhibits on the windows.

    The Bernese also demonstrated
    their practical sense in putting the nether regions to good use. They built
    vaulted cellars under every house in order to be able to store their goods.
    Nowadays, entirely different treasures are hidden in these cellars. I descend
    the steep stone steps, and find myself in a different
    world.

    The underground reveals trendy and traditional
    bars, clubs, theatres, cellar cinemas and special fashion shops. Very
    interesting shops abound here, and one day, as I explore these areas with my
    friend, we find some of them a bit mysterious and retreat in haste. But
    later, as we recollect our experiences, we burst out into laughter. There’s
    no other place that offers such historic settings for a shopping
    excursion!

    An
    underground tunnel shop in Bern

    Magic everywhere I take a guided tour around the
    city, to appreciate and understand the city better. The Clock Tower,
    known as Zytglogge, with its Baroque and Gothic architecture, is the centre
    of attraction for the tourists and the citizens. Being the oldest working
    clock in the country, it is respected by all. People throng this place at
    specific hours, to hear the chimes manually struck by the figure on the top
    and the various small marvels that happen during this
    chiming.

    In the year 1405 AD, the clock tower was gutted.
    Thereafter, the fourth side, which faces the city, was rebuilt in stone. The
    tower-bell, originally had to be struck by hand to announce the hours.
    Rebuilt in 1530 AD by Kaspar Brunner, it has since been a calendar clock with
    a delightful mechanical figure-play — still a much-admired
    showpiece.

    Three minutes before the hour strikes, the
    rooster crows and lifts its wings; then, the procession of the armed bears
    starts; at the same time, the jester sitting above rings two bells and moves
    his left leg.

    After the procession of the bears has ended,
    the rooster crows a second time, whereupon, at the very top of the tower, the
    quarter-hour bell is struck, at which time Chronos turns his sandglass. Only
    now does the larger-than-life figure of a knight in golden armour made of
    linden wood and known as Hans von Thann, strike the full hour on the large
    bell. The performance ends with a third crow of the rooster. I am totally
    awestruck by all drama and the technical brilliance behind
    this.

    Gabriella, the guide takes us around the clock tower
    and explains every aspect of its working. It is amazing to note the kind of
    inputs that have gone into its making, hundreds of years ago, when technology
    was still in its nascent stage. The view from the clock tower is equally
    fascinating.

    The old city with all its stunning structures
    looks fabulous from here. During the guided tour, Gabriella adds essence to
    the incomparably gorgeous picture presented by the medieval streets of Bern.
    After the great fire of 1405, most houses had to be rebuilt and instead of
    wood, sandstone from nearby quarries was used as building material. The
    houses were replaced in the 16th and 17th centuries by new buildings whose
    harmonious appearance and richness of detail delight visitors even
    today.

    Highly fascinating are the fountains from the
    middle Ages, whose colourful pillars and statues greatly enliven the
    surroundings. These very artistic Renaissance fountains were erected about
    1550 AD in place of earlier wooden ones, and they reflect the practical mind
    of the Bernese, combining utility with art. For the benefit of posterity they
    made these fountains into memorials to the city’s heroes and historic
    events. Out of the hundred fountains, 11 still feature the original
    statues with their symbolic figures, the fountain of the Child Eater being
    the most popular.

    Close to the clock tower The Einstein
    House, attracts anyone remotely interested in his Theory of Relativity or
    curious about the Nobel Laureate’s life. Albert Einstein lived in this rented
    flat from 1903 to 1905 with his wife Mileva and son Hans Albert. The
    second-floor residence features furnishings from that time period as well as
    photos and texts presented in a modern exhibition system.

    Bern today is a modern city but its magical past lives on in its old streets.
    The world-class examples of contemporary design and architecture — the
    Zentrum Paul Klee Museum, the Stade de Suisse Wankdorf Stadium and the new
    Westside Shopping and Leisure Centre, designed by Daniel Libeskind. The new
    Bear Park on the edge of the Old Town gives visitors a first-hand glimpse
    into the life of Bern’s symbol, the bear. A very common thing to do in Bern
    these days is Urban Swimming — bathing in the Aare river. This is one of the
    main summer attractions.

    Every single corner of the city
    invites me to look inward, to observe, and to be inspired by the treasures of
    the city’s history. The wonderfully preserved renaissance fountains, the
    historic sandstone buildings, the Gothic Cathedral, the Bear Park and the
    beautiful view from the Rose Garden, they all instigate and widen my
    horizons.

    I find a quiet beauty in the city of Bern that
    combines so wonderfully a wealth of culture, leisure, and pleasure. I am
    impressed by the unhurried pace of the Bernese. With ‘haste’ and ‘hectic
    rush’ out of their dictionaries, they find time to enjoy life, savour every
    moment, be it a brief chat under their antique arcades or to stop and smell a
    rose in their pretty rose garden!

    Getting
    there
    >> Swiss
    Air and many other international airlines operate daily flights to Zurich and
    Geneva.Bern is a short time from either.

    >> One
    can also travel to Bern via Eurorail if arriving from elsewhere in
    Europe

    >> In
    Bern, it’s best to travel on foot or get on a bus

    Best from: Geneva You need:
    3 days Type:
    Heritage 

    Via: Lifestyle

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