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Beauties and Attractions of Bern, Switzerland
By:Michael Smallet

Bern is truly the heart of Switzerland. Not only because it is a political and diplomatic center, but also a highlight of the country. According to the UNESCO Catalogue, Bern is one of the world's major cultural assets. Its romantic medieval streets with covered arcades, some six kilometers in length, are the longest covered shopping areas in the world. Cultures and arts have always played an important role in the life of Bern. They brought to existence the old university, famous museums, theaters, and art galleries. Numerous cafes in the streets and in cellars add to the lively and creative atmosphere of Bern.

The city was founded in 1191 by order of Berthold V Zaring. Originally the city buildings were made of oak wood, but in 405AC a fire destroyed all the wooden structures. Then Bern was reborn in stone. Now the Old Town is listed as the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Most historic buildings built of local stone in the 16th and 17th centuries have survived to this day. The center of the city has remained almost unchanged since the 18th and 19th century: green-gray houses with arcades, towers with the ruins of the ramparts, and narrow city streets. The old town also features so many beautiful fountains.

Wide Kramgasse is one of the most beautiful streets of Bern, where facades in the Baroque style make a perfect combination with fountains decorated with colorful flags.

The old city center is called Barrenplatz and has terraces awakening with the first rays of the sun. The highlight of the street is the Prison Tower, the western gate of the ancient Bern. Visitors to Bern are usually surprised to see how wide streets of the old city are. They look like modern, spacious boulevards of the present day, rather than the narrow cobbled streets of the Middle Ages.

At Kramgasse, you will find souvenirs, antiques and various knick-knacks. Also, there are many restaurants for young people to unwind. But the main attraction of Bern is, of course, the Zytgloggeturm Tower, built in the 12th century. Its eastern part is decorated with the famous clock of Karl Brunner. And, of course, the symbol of Bern are the famous bears, the "Mutzen". They are as typical in Bern as gondola in Venice.

Citizens of Bern are very sensitive to the symbols of the city. The very name of the town came from the word "bear", which is the symbol of Bern. They say that Duke Zaring once hunted in the local forests and killed a bear (bar). This hunting trophy gave the city its name. Nowhere in the world would you find so many bears as in Bern. The city emblem, flags, badges, cards, shop windows, the Clock Tower chimes, fountains, all are decorated with images of this animal.

Until 1763 bears were kept on a special ground, and later they were transferred to special open-air cages always crowded with adults and enthusiastic kids.

Another favorite highlight of the townspeople are geraniums which you would find virtually on every windowsill. Bern is at times called the City of Flowers. Many houses are twined with flowers literally from bottom to top. To honor this symbol of the city each spring (in mid May) citizens of Bern celebrate the Festival of Geraniums.

Bern offers its guests a great number of theaters, museums, cafes, restaurants and parks, for example, the Kleine Schanze Park, a great place for outdoor activities with two lakes. Bern hosts the HQ of the Universal Postal Union, the Art Museum and the only Alps museum in Europe.

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