Switzerland

Bern in Switzerland. Image by author

Post-lockdown reward trip: Explore Switzerland’s capital city

As we edge closer to lockdown Level 1, it’s time to start cultivating excitement about our ceaseless travel possibilities – including Bern in Switzerland, one of Europe’s most refined capitals.

Switzerland

Bern in Switzerland. Image by author

More Lindt chocolates than fathomable, an inundation of invitations to sample fondue and a flawless display of Swiss precision: Switzerland really does fulfil most of its alluring clichéd appeals.

But, Switzerland is more than mountains, clichés and the lush green valleys crowned by waterfalls often featured in Instagram viral travel videos.

Its cities are trendy without compromising on culture, its architecture enthralling, its citizens are thriving and its streets are just bursting with stories waiting to be told. And, arguably, the best city to unearth Swiss magic? The surreal streets of the charming Bern — the city that wins the war with Zurich for the title of capital city.

Switzerland’s refined capital

Bern was home to Einstein

Albert Einstein only lived in Bern for a short period, but truly, the city is proud of this and really won’t let you forget that their streets were walked on by a genius.

Be prepared to see tributes in the form of statues, plaques, and his well-preserved apartment-turned museum. Einstein Café, particularly, is a city gem. You can cradle a steaming cup of sensual fruit and flower tea right below the apartment that Einstein inhabited whilst he developed the Theory of Relativity, surrounded by the Swiss who engage in intense German conversation as you gaze across at a glass display of insanely oversized dessert portions.

Explore the old city

The medieval, quaint and captivating city centre marks itself as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and rightfully so: sculpted, and famously quirky, fountains line the streets and sheltered arcades create walkways for city-goers to stroll through the endless stores, cafes and bars, while musicians line the pavements flooding the streets with music; all under the watchful eye of Zytglogge, Bern’s prized antique clock-tower.

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It’s here, too, where the famed Einstein Museum may be found. Stroll contemplatively over Kornhausbrucke, a magical bridge over the Aare River — the river that circles round the city. Or cozy up in a cafe and people-watch.

Attend a festival

If quiet café moments aren’t exactly your preference, fear not. What about a surge of adrenaline as you navigate through throngs of people while the sky showers confetti, during which random strangers seize the opportunity to plonk you on the head with squeaky, squishy hammers (seriously). The occasion? A celebration of onions, of course. So many onions: big onions, small onions, decorated onions, painted onions, onion garlands; all meticulously and creatively draped along stalls that would have sprung up through the Old City.

This folk festival, the Zibelemärit, or “Onion Market”, usually celebrated in November, fills the city with young and old alike, all bursting with enthusiasm, drinking mulled wine and munching on garlic bread.

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Dizzying city views

A visit to the Münster will undoubtedly be a contender for one of your best Bernese experiences.

In a full disclaimer, to fully enjoy this experience, you will have to trek up what must be eighty-trillion stairs (it is only 344) to reach the lookout point of the highest church tower in Switzerland. Once you regain your breath, you will be hastily rewarded with the most profound view of the city (and you’ll get to royally wave from up, up, up, to the gangs of tourists below who tend to congregate in front of the church).

If you’re not an avid stair-climber, a visit to the church is still a must-do, with its gorgeously stained glass windows and soothing ambience. If climbing those stairs is not to your fancy and you can’t swallow the consolation prize of marvellous stained glass, there’s still Gurten — a cable car that gradually ebbs you up a mountain (or maybe it is just a slope?), so that ultimately, you can see all of Bern without climbing stairs.

Switzerland is not cheap, though

Switzerland isn’t for those with shallow pockets, so prepare to be bamboozled by the incredible cost of necessities and living expenses in one of the world’s most expensive countries to travel.

This glorious European charm, culture and ambience comes with a price, so head here for a lengthy vacation only if you’re in the mood for indulgence and much-deserved luxury after a lengthy lockdown.

Visiting Switzerland: Useful links

The city boasts their own website, which may be accessed here.

To help with their whopping expenses, be sure to take advantage a free walking tour around the city with a trusted tour guide. Lastly, as South Africans, a Schengen visa is a necessity to visit Switzerland, and more information on obtaining your relevant visa may be accessed here.

Also read: Ciao, Italy: It’s time to do some lockdown armchair travelling