Grüezi mitenand (Hello in Swiss German), Ocean City! Welcome to Bern, Switzerland. Home to more than 122,000 people, Bern is the capital of the Swiss nation. The
historic center of Bern has been featured in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1983, and Bern is among the world’s top ten cities for the best quality of life. Bern translates to “Bear” in English. According to the legend, the Duke of Berchtold von Zahringen (founder of the city of Bern) wanted to name the city after the first animal he had hunted and killed on that exact spot. Apparantly it was a bear, and thus the city received its name. The first known city seal from the year 1224 had a bear as its emblem and the city’s coat of arms has a bear climbing up a golden road with a red background.
Bern had a bear pit back in 1441. The public adopted these bears and fed them sacks of acorns. There is a report that the Bernese army brought home a bear from one of their conquests in the battle of Novara. A shelter was built for the animal on the city moat, just in front of the middle city gate on the square that is still known as Barenplatz (Bear Square today). The old bear pit was moved several times until its final location next to the Nydegg Bridge was found in 1857. Here 12 or more bears receive loving care in a 12-metre wide and 3.5-metre deep fortified pit. The bears’ diet is purely vegetarian. They receive 3-5 kilos of bread and carrots daily. Occasionally they get milk and fruit. They love getting the biscuits and nuts that spectators throw down to them and show their thanks with amusing begging scenes and acrobatic acts.
The structure of Bern’s city center is largely medieval. Its most famous sight is the Zytglogge (Bernese German for “Time Bell”), an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets. It also has an impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral, the Münster, and a 15th century town hall. Thanks to 6 kilometers of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe. The food was delicious and we loved the exotic local Fondue dishes.
Our visit was in the spring and we enjoyed mild May temperatures in the upper 60’s. This was one of the cleanest and most beautiful cities we’ve visited. The bear pit was a very unique touch. Bis spöter (See you later)! – The Rox