I am now ready to face the capital: Bern and Zurich will be my finishing lines! Bern is the symbol of Swiss languages and cultures’ unification: the Swiss motto, also written on the Federal Parliament’s Dome, is exactly “One for all, all for one”, and the city itself is an harmonious mix of ancient and modern.
In the medieval historical center, UNESCO world site, you can feel the beat of the Swiss institutional and fashionable heart, between the medieval heritage.
Bern and the federal bear
Walking in the “Old Town” means walking under the Zytglogge, the astronomical clock tower, waiting for the carillon show every hour (ok, it’s a little bit disappointing if you are used to Prague’s one!). It’s looking at the shop windows in Kramgasse, among all the baroque buildings decorated with canton’s flags and the fountains, then visiting the 15th-century Bern Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece popular for its Late Judgement, finally strolling along the banks of the river Aare, where people in summer swim near the Eichholz recreation area, or catch one of the shortest funicular railways in the world, 100 metres over the hill to the Neo-Renaissance Bundeshaus.
And why not to become children again at the famous Barengraben, the bears’ den? The bear has always been Bern’s true symbol: the legend tells that its founder, Duke Berchtold V von Zahringen, gave the name to the city after capturing a bear, right where Bern stands now (from Bar). Today families with kids, lovers and tourists are moved by the funny adventures of the four bears in the park, among tree climbing and water games in the pond. My hostel – the excellent Landhaus Bern – was right behind it, very comfortable with the dormitories for six actually divided into two loggias with bunk beds.
I end the day with an interesting – and very expensive! – visit to the Qin exhibition at Kunstmuseum, where I learn the story of the emperor who unified China and admire some of the famous terracotta warriors.
How to better end my Switz Tour than relaxing on the blue Limmat, the quiet river that arises from Zurich lake and cuts through the heart of the city?
Zurich is the cosmopolitan soul of Switzerland: financial centre with a lot of banks and foreign companies attracted by low tax rates, it has a big expat community and a lively nightlife, with ethnic restaurants, pubs, clubs. In August you can see the annual trasgressive Street Parade, one of the main techno-music festivals in the world with a strong LGBT spirit.
Walking on the Limmat you can meet the main Zurich must-see: Grossmunster, the main 12th century Cathedral, is popular for its two big towers, where you can enjoy a fantastic view of the city, while just in front, on the other side of the river, you have Fraumunster, a Gothic abbey with stained-glass windows made by Chagall. Sechseläutenplatz, the main square on the lake, with its Opera and Bellevue. Bahnofstrasse, the shopping street, with lots of shops selling clothes, souvenirs, chocolate: here’s a must you cannot miss in Zurich, the city where Lindt was born, and you can also enjoy a tour in Lindt chocolate factory! Another curious place for food&drink lovers is the Hurlimann Brewery, a former brewery now renovated into a contemporary spa, where you can have your thermal bath swimming in undeground wooden vats.
In Kunsthaus Zürich, whose permanent collection has masterpieces from Munch, Giacometti, De Chirico, Picasso, I got lost in the dreamy and colorful world of Chagall exhibition, between nostalgic memories of his Eastern hometown in Belarus, and infinite colours, materialized on canvas by a restless and unconventional sensitivity never fully understood in his age.
The day ends with an aperitif on the Limmat, in the relaxed Sunday atmosphere on Lake Zurich, among the streets with rose-blossomed trees. Bern and Zurich, two big cities with a romantic Swiss soul.
The green fairy has revealed herself: who knows about new Swiss adventures…