Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bern, Switzerland (May 24, 2008)

Bern is the capital of Switzerland and the country's political and educational hub. But with its picturesque Old Town along the banks of the Aare River, Bern feels more like a provincial town than a bustling capital city.

Bern was founded in 1191 by Berthold V, the Duke of Zahringen, who called it Barn for "bear," the animal featured on its coat of arms. After the fall of the Zahringen dynasty, Bern became a free city and joined the Swiss Confederation in 1353.

When a fire destroyed much of the town in 1405, Bern was rebuilt in stone. Many of the 15th century stone buildings can be found in Bern's Old Town, which is considered Switzerland's best preserved historic town center and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This Renaissance fountain in the center of Kramgasse street features an armored bear holding the Zahringer standard. At the end of the street is the Zytglogge, or clocktower, which served as the Old Town's western gate from 1191 to 1250. The 16th century astronomical clock contains mechanical bears and a rooster that spring to life every hour.
My mum admires the plants at Bern's bustling fruit, vegetable and flower market, held every Saturday in the Barenplatz
Two brown bears pose for photographs at the Barengraben (bear pits), a town landmark since the 16th century
Houses line the banks of the Aare River
Mum on the bridge over the Aare River, with Bern's medieval Old Town behind
Bern's towering Gothic cathedral, the Munster St Vincenz, was built in the 15th and 16th centuries; at 100m high, the Munster is Switzerland's tallest church

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