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Switzerland 2003

Cycling Through Three Cultures in One Small Country

Part 2: Bern to Interlaken
Trip Itinerary
Tour Map
More EuroBike Travels

Bern Arcades
The Kornhaus, Bern, CH
As the capital of Switzerland, Bern remarkably retains a feeling of small town charm. We preferred its intimacy and pedestrian friendliness over the congestion of busy, urban, international Geneva. The old town has 6 km of covered arcades sheltering outdoor cafés and well-appointed shops bustling with local shoppers. It is also a well deserved UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ogre Fountain
Ogre Fountain, Bern, CH
A stroll along the old cobblestone streets reveals interesting architectural details. The old town is adorned with eleven artistic fountains from the 16th c. At the Kornhausplatz is the bizarre Kindlifresserbrunnen or Ogre Fountain that depicts a fiend devouring a child. How many generations of children have been warned by their parents that this represents the consequences of misbehavior?
Bern medieval street
Bern, CH
Bern Cathedral
Das Münster
The Gothic Cathedral (Das Münster) has the tallest spire in Switzerland at 100 meters. The tower has an excellent viewing platform for a dizzying view of the city and the turquoise swath of the Aare River as it loops around the city. In 1405 most of the city was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in stone. The great cathedral was begun in 1421 and boasts reticulated vaulting and largest cathedral bells in Switzerland. The impressive stained glass windows include the grotesque "Dance of Death" by Niklaus Manuel from the 15th c.
Bern bird's eye Cathedral vaulting Dance of Death Aare River
Tympanum, Das Münster
The colorful 15th c. tympanum is one of the most elaborate we've seen in northern Europe. There is a graphic Last Judgement scene depicting the entry of the Blessed into Paradise and the torture of the Unbelievers and their fall into the fires of Hell. The Wise and Foolish Virgins are shown waiting at the door. The cast of figures total 294 and exhibit much action and symbolism.
Bern bear pit There's much more to Bern than the cathedral. Of course there are the city mascots, the bears. Although they are confined to the bear pits these comedians seem perfectly content performing their antics for snacks from the appreciative audience. Bern also has a variety of museums such as the Fine Arts Museum, with the world's largest Klee collection, the Bern Historical Museum, the Swiss Alpine Museum, and the Einstein House.
Federal Palace, Bern, CH
The Federal Palace is home to the Swiss Parliament. The National Council and the Council of States maintain chambers here. Separating the chambers is the Hall of the Dome. The impressive glass dome displays the coats of arms of the Swiss cantons. Tours are available when the parliament is not in session. Throughout the sections open to the public visitors can peruse the artifacts, photos, and documents of Switzerland's political past. For those inclined to keep abreast of current activities there's a public viewing gallery when parliament is in session.
Federal Palace, Bern, CH
The government must be doing something right. Switzerland is stable, peaceful and cohesive despite the three major linguistic groups in addition to a Romansch minority, and a fairly even split among Catholics and Protestants in the general population.

Zeitglockenturm at night
The Zeitglockenturn
There are many informative walking tours in Bern available in English. Besides tours of the old town and Cathedral there is an interesting tour of the centuries old Zeitglockenturm. The Bern Tourist Office has information about all the tours as well as an informative multimedia presentation on the history of the old city.

Bern can be a bit pricey for lodgings. We stayed at the relatively reasonable Hotel Glocke that is part of the Swiss Backpackers hostel organization. Don't take a front-facing room over the raucous ground floor bar. Noise from merrymakers on the street at night is amplified between the buildings and right into your room.

Thun, CH
Leaving Bern we rode on Cycle Routes #8 / #9 and arrived in Thun during the town's summer "Thun Fest." The place was buzzing with activity. The usual celebration of summer with concerts, folk exhibits, and food stalls. While eating lunch along the banks of the Aare River we noticed several youths jumping from the pedestrian bridge into the swift flowing river. After all, it was 95 degrees... again.
jumping in river
Aare River, Thun, CH
We walked along the bank and traced their progress for about 150 yards, past two additional bridges until they dragged themselves out at a third bridge. Three of us decided to go for it. A word of warning; Do not attempt a river jump if you've had a couple beers at lunch. The local teenagers make this look easy. It's actually much more difficult than it appears. The powerful current propels you at an alarming clip. If you miss grabbing the last bridge they'll be calling the rescue squad to fish your body out a few miles downstream.
Spiez, CH
Spiez is located around an attractive harbor on the Thunersee. The mountains have made an imposing presence but it's easy cycling around the lake to Interlaken.
freeway bike path Between Thun and Interlaken, sections of the bike path parallel the highway in the narrow space between the mountains and the Thunersee.

Part 3: Berner Oberland

Part 4: Interlaken, St Gotthard Pass to Locarno

Part 5: Locarno, Centovalli & Rhône Valley to Montreux

Part 1: Back to Murten

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