Zurich: Forget Zurich, I want to Move to Bern

Posted on May 9, 2006



by julie galante 

Ah, the joys of living in Switzerland. Pretty much every other part of the country is close enough to be visited on a day trip, and the public transportation is a clean and efficient way to go.
For a little change of pace, a friend and I took off to Bern the other morning. From the moment we stepped off the train I was in love. Bern has an adorable Altstadt (old town), full of porticoed sidewalks and statue-topped fountains, and an ambiance that lured me in from the start.

After wandering past the Bundeshaus (parliament building) and the Münster (large gothic church), we crossed the Aare river to check out the thoroughly depressing Bärengraben, two large pits that serve as the home of several bears. The pits are decked out with lots of large cement slabs and a giant discarded Christmas tree. I’m pretty sure at least one of the bears was trying to figure out how to hang himself.

The bear pits put us in the mood for a drink or two. Conveniently, there was a brewery right next door. Altes Tramdepot offered great beer, decent food (with a good vegetarian selection), and a nice view of the river from its large outdoor terrace.

Next we jumped on a bus up the hill to the newly-opened Zentrum Paul Klee, a beautiful building which houses an immense collection of the Swiss artist’s work (OK, technically he wasn’t Swiss at the time of his death, but the Swiss want to make sure that you know that they were just about to restore his citizenship when he had the nerve to up and die unannounced). I have a deep-seated love/hate relationship with Klee, about whom I wrote my college thesis. While I find his writing absolutely delicious, I have a very hard time appreciating his art work as much as I should (especially given my immense respect for his intellect and visual theories). Nonetheless I really enjoyed the experience of the exhibit, as well as the chance to share my seldom-useful knowledge of the artist and his life. 

We grabbed a coffee in the museum’s café (note to self: next time save beer drinking for after art viewing) and then headed back to the Altstadt, where we meandered through a couple shops and galleries until it was time to catch the train back to Zurich. We also watched a couple kids playing in a fountain, which looked like a lot of fun on such a warm day. I think we went straight from winter to summer here, because I hardly remember spring. Maybe I slept through it?

Not that I don’t love Zurich’s cleanliness, but Bern seemed to offer some sort of personality and charm that I’ve been missing here. I left Bern enthusiastic to return again soon. Luckily it’s only an hour away by train, so that shouldn’t be too difficult.