SWITZERLAND. BEAR CITY BERN

Founded in the 12th century on a hill site surrounded by the Aare River, Berne developed over the centuries in line with a an exceptionally coherent planning concept. The buildings in the Old City, dating from a variety of periods, include 15th-century arcades and 16th-century fountains. Most of the medieval town was restored in the 18th century but it has retained its original character.

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The structure of Bern’s city centre is largely medieval and has been recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage Site. Perhaps its most famous sight is the Zytglogge (Bernese German for “Time Bell”), an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets. Albert Einstein lived in a flat at the Kramgasse 49, the site of the Einsteinhaus, whish is only 200 metres distance from the clok tower, from 1903 to 1905, the year in which the Annus Mirabilis Papers were published. Albert Einstein rented this small flat with his wife during his years working at the Swiss patent office. Their first child, Hans Albert, and the special and general theories of relativity were born here, where Einstein’s writing desk overlooked the busy street and its lovely clock-tower. The city also has an impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral, the Münster, and a 15th century town hall. Thanks to 6 kilometres of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe.

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Berne is inseparably linked with bears. According to legend the city’s founder, Duke Berchtold V von Zähringen, named the city after the first animal to be caught here. The saga lives on in the form of the real-live bears in the Bear Pits and the heraldic bear in the Bernese coat of arms. Since the 16th century, the city has had a bear pit, the Bärengraben, at the far end of the Nydeggbrücke to house its heraldic animals. The currently four bears are now kept in an open-air enclosure nearby, and two other young bears, a present by the Russian president, are kept in Dählhölzli zoo.

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The Museum of Fine Arts Berne is known for its collection of works of painters such as Pablo Picasso, Ferdinand Hodler, Meret Oppenheim, Paul Klee, Malevich and, if I recall correctly – Kandinsky, too. . It is the oldest art museum in Switzerland with a permanent collection and houses works covering eight centuries. I will keep the museum in my memory also because of its wonderful staff. The thing is that we had only some hours on our hands in order to cisit the city, and we reached the museum half an hour before the closing time. Notwithstanding ladies were graceful indeed and allowed us to see the exhibit, when we told that we have arrived from afar and this maybe is the only time in our life, when we are able to attend. I am still grateful for that.

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In 1983 the historic old town in the centre of Bern became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Bern is ranked among the world’s top ten cities for the best quality of life (2010).

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