Bern, Switzerland


We continue to day two of my Swiss adventures! From Lucern I took the train over to Bern. Yes, this is a tiny bit out of sequence since it makes a neater loop to go  Zurich – Lucern – Alps – Bern – Zurich, but due to some logistical constraints I decided to still visit Bern first!

Hello lovely old town filled with arcades upon arcades. Below is the Zytglogge, an astronomical clock tower first built in the 1300s.

On this block is the Einsteinhaus, the apartment where Einstein once lived when he came up with his Theory of Relativity. It’s now a small museum.

Einstein lived in this apartment with Mileva, a fellow physics student. They had an illegitimate daughter in 1902, and to this day, no one knows what happened to her past 1903. Historians speculate she was either adopted or died in infancy. Mileva and Albert and later got married and had two sons, and after that, Einstein left his wife and two sons and instead married his cousin Elsa.

Afterwards, I headed towards the river.

Wanderings through arcades…

Peeking inside churches. This is the French Church.

Most people probably assume Zurich is the capital of Switzerland, but nope! In fact, Switzerland doesn’t have an official capital city. Before 1848 they used to rotate the government around to three different Cantons (like their states or provinces). But now Bern is the de facto capital and is where their parliament building is located.

Since I’ve recently started going around and visiting state capitols, of course I wanted to take a look inside the Swiss Parliament as well. However, the only way to visit is on an official tour, and the only official tour while I was there was in German. So I went with it anyway, understanding no German but gamely standing around for the hour and trying to follow along in my English pamphlet! I also didn’t realize you needed your passport for entry so very quickly ran back to my hotel to get it. I was pretty determined to see this building.

In the dome of the parliament, beautiful stained glass windows representing every one of the cantons. They most recently added their 26th Canton of Jura in 1999, so they got a little plaque on the ceiling instead of being a part of the stained glass windows. You can see it atop the previous photo.

Also, a note on languages in Switzerland. There are German, French, and Italian regions in Switzerland. All three of those languages are official languages, plus Romansh which is an official language in just one Canton. I was in the German region my whole trip, and there, they usually speak Swiss German which is a distinct variant of German but still mutually intelligible. And many people, especially in these cities and tourist areas, speak English as well.

Taking a look inside the Council of States room. The Swiss Federal Assembly is bicameral (as is the US’). This would be akin to our Senate.

And the National Council, akin to our House of Representatives.

The hallway is also quite lovely.

Fun! Totally worth running back to my hotel to get my passport and standing through a tour which I didn’t understand.

Peeking inside more churches. This one is the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul.

And finally, I decided to do the touristy thing and get fondue for dinner. But I would just skip this next time. It’s basically stale bread, potatoes, and a pot of cheese but almost $20. Get Rosti (cheese and other things over fried hash browns) or Raclette (melted cheese over other things) instead.

And that’s it! Just one day in Bern. Next, we head to the Alps!

One Day in Bern / Berne, Switzerland

  • Stay at Sorell Hotel Ador. Sorrell is a Swiss hotel chain. Simple but nice. My stay came with free local transit for the duration, but everywhere I went was within walking distance anyway.
  • Walk through the many arcades in this old town. Get free hand lotion every time you pass by the Aesop store.
  • Stop by the Zytglogge clock on the hour for a little animated clock action.
  • Also muse at the plethora of fountains in the middle of the street. One notable one is Kindlifresserbrunnen, which has a monster eating a bag of children.
  • Visit the Einsteinhaus where Einstein came up with his Theory of Relativity.
  • Take a tour of the Parliament. Tours are the only way to visit the inside. Don’t forget to bring your passport, as you need it to go in.
  • Peek inside the many churches, such as the French Church, Bern Münster, and the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul.
  • Don’t bother eating fondue. If you’re wanting something cheesy, go for the raclette or rosti options.

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