“Bear with Bern for Swiss Ski-ing” – Cosmopolitan and Charming

The Cathedral (Münster) is Bern’s most impressive example of Late Gothic architecture. The basilica with its three naves rises above Bern’s Old Town.

(Source: http://www.bern.com/en/city-of-bern/attractions )

I’ve been inspired again to write this post having read another travel article “Bear with Bern for Swiss Ski-ing” by Stephen Wood in the newspaper. This time it was The Independent Traveller section of Saturday’s ‘paper.

Now, I am not a skier and never have been but I have visited Bern very many times in winter, spring, summer and autumn. Stephen Wood, in his article, writes about his childhood love of the book Mostly Mary by Gwynedd Rae.

On the flight from London City Airport to Bern last week, I settled down to read Mostly Mary by Gwynedd Rae, a light classic of children’s literature. I have read it before, but not for half a century. On first reading, this book and the others in a series about a family of bears living in the bear-pit at Bern had considerable impact on my world view. You could keep your Paris, New York and Berlin; the place I most wanted to visit was Bern, for the bear pit.”

Apart from one very brief stopover in Bern when there was not sufficient time to visit the bears it was not until investigating for this article that he eventually makes a proper visit to Bern.

Wood applauds Bern’s small, but international, airport the use of which cuts down considerably on journey times to the Bernese Alps ski region. He, like me in 1966, ended up with a stay in Adelboden but my journey was far from quick travelling from Norwich by coach with a night in Paris and another in Neuchatel before we reached our destination.

Bern is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and I have a very good friend who lives there. We manage to get together at least once every couple of years and this year will be in Amsterdam after Easter but more of that in a future post.

My first ever visit to this gorgeous city – the capital city of Switzerland – was on the same Girl Guides trip mentioned earlier this month. On every visit since then I have been enraptured by this beautiful city. There is so much to see and do in the city itself let alone the surrounding countryside. I have shopped in the covered arcades, sipped a drink at an open air cafe watching the Bernese go by, walked by the green waters of the Aare River at the Tiergarten (zoo), and taken the funicular Gurtenbahn up the local mountain for a panoramic view over the city. But as I wrote in my ‘diary’ of the original visit “Bern is the city of bears. You see them everywhere and at Nydegg Bridge is a real bear pit.” I’ve taken my sons and my mother to visit the bear pits but today there are no longer bears there as Wood tells us :

Bears are an institution in Bern too, the city’s name being derived – at least in legend – from a bear killed by its founder, Duke Berchtold of Zähringen, while out hunting. There are bears all over the place: bear-shaped cakes, carved wooden bears, innumerable bear emblems. In fact, the only place you won’t find one is in the bear pit, despite a tradition of keeping bears there which goes back to 1513 (with an interruption in 1798 when the French army stole the animals). Quite rightly the bears – Björk, Finn, Ursina and Berna – are no longer confined to a pit; they now live in a “bear park”, below the pit on a bank of the river Aare.”


5 comments on ““Bear with Bern for Swiss Ski-ing” – Cosmopolitan and Charming

  1. sshaver says:

    Those mountains in the background look unreal.

  2. Such fond memories of Bern. We climbed one of those church towers (was it the Basilica?? I can’t remember) with children in tow and Dave got stung by a bee at the top and nearly jumped off the roof in fright. We hot-footed down and the Bee of Bern has entered family folklore ever since.

  3. Family Folklore and Happy Memories – you can’t beat them! I thought Bern might be another of your haunts, Lynne.

  4. […] written about Bern and its bears here once before, about a year ago, when an article in the Independent prompted me to wander down Memory […]

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