A day in Bern

After the Emmental valley experience, we braved another train from Oberburg station and arrived in Bern’s bustling and noisy ‘bahnhof’ by 10am.

It was a cool morning and we headed straight to the old town to find a warming cup of coffee to meander with. The famous arcades of Marktgasse stretch for nearly 6kms and make it one of the longest shopping centres in Europe.

Marktgasse looking towards Zytgloggeturm

High street stores and luxury brands line the raised walkways above a wide street which bright red trams and buses fly along every several seconds.


Viewing the ornate and colourful fountains in the middle of the street is a precarious occupation as you have to cross tram lines and time your arrival between passing public transport and other unnerved pedestrians.

Marktgasse flows into Kramgasse which continues in a more crowded fashion the arcades and fountains.

Einstein lived at number 49 and wrote the Theory of Relativity in 1905 here.

The midday chimes

Just before noon we joined a truly international throng looking up at Bern’s famous Zytgloggeturm, the astrological clock tower. Our guide book promised an extravagance of crowing cockerels, marching bears, a knight in armour, a head-turning lion and an apron-turning god (whatever that meant).

What we heard was a rinky-tink noise and saw some small black bears wheel out and back into the tower. People chuckled in bemusement and turned their attention to having their photos taken.

Lunchtime chess outside the Federal Palace

Down on the Nydeggbrucke we had views of the blue-green waters of the Aare rushing past the old walls of the town and its historical bear pit. Today three well-fed and content bears ambled about their terraced parkland below the city’s brewery.

A contemplative Bern bear

A view from Nydeggbruck across the River Aare

We strolled back into town and up to the Federal Palace, home of the Swiss Government. Tours were closed until the end of September so instead we meandered around the steep town walls for views across the river valley.

The city’s cathedral, St Vincent’s, echoed to noisy renovation works inside so we admired the carved tympanum above the entrance way depicting a ghastly vision of the damned on Judgement Day, as envisioned in 1495.

Town wall houses with terraced gardens down to the river

The afternoon was spent in the Art Museum admiring and disliking paintings by the Swiss masters. We were getting to know the different styles and motifs of each and both enjoyed Hodler’s pure landscapes but found his giant canvases of maiden like girls irritating, and little ‘unfinished’ looking.

Vallotton’s beautiful use of dreamy colours beguiled and Anker’s brightly painted and realistic portrayals of peasant families appealed.

Anker’s sublime “Madchen Mit Brot”

We left when the ‘live art’ group began and a procession of blind-folded and head-phone wearing people were danced through the rooms and encouraged to reach out blindly to explore a ‘virtual’ world around them. It was all very strange and definitely not to our taste!

Back at the ‘bahnhof’ we expected to have to change trains but instead were whisked directly back to our village stop in time for a quick supermarket shop.

It had been a full day in a fascinating city.