Tag Archives: Bern

Trying to keep dry for a week!

28 Jul

For the second week or my mum’s visit, we weren’t so lucky with the weather. It has been unsettled for the past week but that is the downside to having glorious sunshine for so long. Sooner or later it has to break.

For a few days we have done little more than relax at home and pop outside when the weather looks like it will hold for a while. But we have been able to get out and about for a few day trips to cities nearby.

On Tuesday we headed out to Bern for the day. This was one of my mum’s favourite places when she came to visit last year. It is also one of mine, mainly because I always go to see the bears. The bear is the symbol for Bern and, in fact, Bern means bear. The bears are housed along the side of the Aare River. The conditions that they live in now are much better than in the past. We have been lucky that the last two times we have been the bears have been quite active. I have also been there at times when they just sit there and do nothing which is not so interesting. But you don’t have to pay to see them so I guess you don’t end up feeling disappointed if they are not in the mood for entertaining the crowds. After a wander around the old town and a hot chocolate in a nice café, it was time to get the train home.


On Wednesday we went to Rapperswil, which is situated on the lake of Zürich but is actually in Canton St. Gallen. I used to regularly visit Rapperswil before I moved to Switzerland. This is where we used to stay if we came over for work because it was relatively cheap for the company to pay for and nearer to the office. It has been a while since I have been there though, so it was like discovering a new place. There is a small castle in Rapperswil which we walked around and on the side of the castle grounds is a small deer park. The deer are relatively tame and don’t seem interested in all of the attention that they get from locals and tourists alike.

On the negative side, a lot of the shops in Rapperswil were on summer holiday. This is a Swiss tradition that I haven’t got my head around yet. A lot of shops in tourist areas take off two or more weeks during the summer when more tourists are likely to visit. It seems a little counter-intuitive to me. As a result, it was a bit like walking round a ghost town. There is only so much that can be said for going window shopping.

Yesterday we ignored the weather forecast and headed to the Rheinfalls in Schaffhausen. I have visited once before and I had forgotten what a lovely quaint town it is. The architecture is different to other parts of Switzerland, certainly different to Zürich. After getting off the train, we walked the 3km to the falls. The Rheinfalls are the largest waterfalls in Europe and are close to the German border. Even though they are the largest in Europe, they are not even a fraction of the size of the waterfalls in Niagara. It is a relaxing walk from the station to in front of the falls and we managed it in about an hour.


After a stop for coffee and some cake, we walked the same way back to the town of Schaffhausen. I was recommend to go to Murnot, which is a circular fortification from where you have a fantastic view of the surrounding area. It was pretty hard going. The steps up are steep and feel like they will never end. Once we got to the fortification, my mum had had enough. I carried on up the struture to get a look at the view. It was hard work but worth it. My mum was impressed with the picture of the view but not so much that she regretting not continuing up the structure!

After a wander round the charming town and buying a few more things from shops, we stopped for a beer in a local restaurant before we made our way back to the station and back home.

All too soon, two weeks are over and we will be heading to the airport this afternoon. It has been an interesting two weeks. We have both seen and done things that we haven’t done before. I have also enjoyed not working full time and having time to appreicate a bit more of Switzerland which is sometimes difficult when you are focused on work the whole time.

I am also flying to the UK tonight. But I am heading to London and, not Manchester, for a long weekend to, no doubt, see and do some things that I have done before.

Bern, the Beautiful City of Bears

14 Nov

One of my favourite cities in Switzerland is Bern. Not everyone is aware that Bern is the capital of Switzerland and that might be due to the fact that the city itself is not as big as you would expect. In fact, Bern is only the fifth largest city in Switzerland.

The city name actually means “bear” and bears are all over the city. They feature in architecture and in the cantonal flag. I have no idea why the tongue on this bear is so long. It looks like a bear has mated with a komodo dragon or maybe it is just like that for artistic effect.bern

There are actually real, live brown bears in Bern. This is always a highlight for my trip to Bern. Up until a few years ago, the bears lived in a small bear pit. I guess because of the increased focus on animal rights and welfare, the bears were moved from the pit to a new Bear Garden which is along side the river Aare. The garden is 6,000 square meters and the bears are free to roam around and also play in the water. The bear pit still remains at the site and is still used when, for example, the keepers need to come into the gardens to clean up or leave food for the bears. The pit is very small, especially for the size of the bears. I am glad that they now have a larger space to live in.

When I visited with my mum in June, we saw the father and the daughter “fighting”. It looked pretty violent but I am pretty sure that they are actually just playing. The mother was not interested at all. She was off somewhere sniffing bark or something.

When I visited with my brother, the bears were not so animated. They had just been fed and were having a nap. But I did manage to get this shot of Ursula the bear before her food coma hit.



Fun Filled Weekend!

2 Sep

I had an excellent weekend, the weekend just gone.  I spent most of it out of my apartment which is always good when the weather is nice.

On Friday night I went to a Japanese restuarant in Zurich. It’s called Sala of Japan and it’s actually my favourite Japanese restaurant. I have only just started to eat Japanese food so maybe my opinion isn’t the best informed. We had the taster menu which was extremely expensive but was worth every penny. It was a nine-course meal and took about 2 hours to complete! Some of the highlights were Sea Eel, which I never, ever thought I would like, a popcorn fritter and tempura vegetables and, of course, Wagyu beef in seasame and spring onions. Here is the menu and a sample of the food on offer…. Definitely a great way to start the weekend.



On Saturday morning I went to Bern. I have been to Bern before and it is my favourite city in Switzerland. Again, like the Japanese food, I have only been to a limited number of Swiss cities so my opinion might not be the best informed. As a city it is a lot more laid back than Zurich is and is just beautiful.

The main reason for going to Bern this time was because last time I didn’t quite have enough time to go to Einstein’s house. Albert Einstein lived and worked in Switzerland (in Bern and Zurich) for a long time in his life but Bern was the place where he made significant breakthroughs and had his annus mirabilis in 1905. The house is a small, inconspicuous place on a small street called Kramstrasse 49 and provided a reall y good insight into his life and work. It only cost 6 CHF for the entrance fee. Well worth a visit. More information is available here http://www.einstein-bern.ch/index.php?lang=en

After the visit to the house, I went to the permanent exhibition housed at Bern’s National Museum. The exhibit was really well put together and had lots more information about the life of Einstein, the harsh political times that he lived in and explantions about the Theory of Relativity. I could have easily spent hours and hours there but unfortunately the museum shuts at 5pm.


View from Kramstrasse 49, Bern, where Einstein lived for 2 years.

View from Kramstrasse 49, Bern, where Einstein lived for 2 years.

I will write more about Bern in a separate post. Watch out for an update soon!

On Sunday, I travelled to Appenzell where the famous Swiss beer is brewed. It’s a lovely place situated right in the mountains and isn’t too far away from the German or Liechtenstein borders. Obviously the point of the trip was to visit the famous brewery for a tour and a beer tasting session. There were several beers that we could sample (see below) and the lady who looked after our group told us how they were made and what the different ingredients were. Despite her protestations to the contray, her English was very good, as is always the case with Swiss people.  I rounded the day off with a Corden-Bleu and french fries, which was made with Appenzell cheese which is also famous in Switzerland. Needless to say I fell asleep on the train home.




All in all, a very successful weekend. I got to see more of Switzerland and have a few beers in the process!