History and geography have fascinated me my whole life. Since I was a young student studying in the American commonwealths of Virginia and Pennsylvania, one topic that was required for American students to learn was about Europe’s rich history and culture, and one country always stood out on the maps we had to memorize and color in our elementary school workbooks. Switzerland, otherwise known as the Swiss Confederation, Die Schweiz, La Svizra, La Suisse, La Svizzera, Confoederatio Helvetica, or just .ch online, is one the most famous countries in the world because of its historical neutral status during global conflicts, such as World War II, holding the world’s riches within mega-banking institutions, movie features, winter sports in the Alps, the Red Cross, housing part of the United Nations @unitednations, the cities of Zürich and Geneva, speaking four national languages (German, French, Italian, and Romanche), being a home to Shania Twain, Tina Turner, and Freddie Mercury of Queen @officialqueenmusic and so much more. On my 4th day visiting Switzerland, I travelled to Bern, the capital of Switzerland for 5.5-hour voyage. You can visit Bern by taking the SBB train after flying into the bigger cities of Zurich and Geneva. I rode in from the Zurich HB station for a day trip using the SBB Train (https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html), to the “Bern Hauptbahnhof” station. The ride lasts only about 1 hour and 25 minutes. 15h | 3 PM Once, I arrived in Bern, I was fortunate to be welcomed by international studies scholar and my model friend, Creole Grandjean. Like the movies, I stepped off the SBB train and found her lost and looking for me in the massive, multi-lane central train station. Once she finally found me, we ran towards each other, jumping into a bear hug in front of random people. Appropriate for the “City of Bears” right?! Then we, without researching the city, jumped on a bus heading toward, “The Bear Pit,” and found ourselves, being driven through the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Altstadt, German for the Old City of Bern towards 5.5 hours of exploration!
1. BarenPark aka Bear Pits. Here you can see Bern’s official animal, the brown bear, living.
2. The Aare River. Next to the BarenPark, you will notice a gorgeous turquoise river surrounding the medieval Alstadt Old City, called the Aare River. The summer was hot and you are allowed to take a dip and swim in this river! If you look at the bottom left of the photo you can see all the people, locals and visitors, dating, relaxing, studying, and enjoying the cool water. Creole and I loved soaking our feet in the refreshing water. The water at that time was freezing and these two people even floated down the river with the current, probably to another village town called Interlaken. Fearless! The river was moving fast and after research, learned there are areas, with riverside pools and sunbathing spots, where visitors and families can safely swim and enjoy the water. Also, swimming in the Aare River is a Swiss Tradition. Find more info here: https://www.bern.com/en/detail/the-aare-river
3. Admire the city’s architecture especially while walking across the Aare River bridges.
4. Keep walk towards the Altstadt's (Old Town) main streets. Enjoy the local life, cafes, fountains, and architecture which have existed since the 12th to 15th century.
5. Visit the historical clock tower, the Zytglogge set up in 1530, almost 500 YEARS AGO!
6. Visit Das Bundehaus aka The Parliament Building of the Swiss Parliament. Interesting fact, the Leader of Switzerland is not just one person, it’s 7 people! The Federal Council aka Budesrat leads the country with a “President” and “Vice President” rotated in and out annually. https://www.bern.com/en/detail/house-of-parliament .
7. Dinner overlooking the Altstadt and the Aare River at a local restaurant. We fortunately found the Altes Tramdepot Braureri & Restaurant (https://www.altestramdepot.ch/en/eat-drink)
8. If you have more time, you must visit the Einsteinhaus, the former home, of Albert Einstein
Thank you so much to Creole for your spectacular photos of me! Follow Creole here: https://www.instagram.com/creolgrandjean/
Also, if it weren’t for film producer, actor, and philanthropist @stanthevidal asking about sharing a fascinating trip, I wouldn’t have been able to relive the trip so soon and write about it. Salamat Kuya!
Kindly find "One Day to Bern in Switzerland Part I" Pink Alliance, Pink Paper magazine published in Hong Kong: https://issuu.com/pinkpaperhk/docs/pink_paper_september_2019r If you want more resources which dive deeper into Bern’s rich history, visit: https://www.bern.com/en/detail/house-of-parliament https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bern https://www.thecrazytourist.com/15-best-things-bern-switzerland/