’22 Sep: Bern and Basel, Switzerland

Leaving Corsica Arriving In Bern

Part of my crazy room in the eclectic and delightful Hotel Landhaus.

I had spent many days in Geneva earlier in the trip and heard mostly French. When I got on the train in Geneva to ride to Bern, French. I changed trains and bam, like that, all entirely German with, according to my sources…so many dialects.

Walking Around Bern

It’s my first day in Bern. I had plans. But then..

..I ran across this, and who can resist this?

Resist this? Certainly not me. So I asked if I could take their picture and follow them to the performance. Sure!

It’s Sunday here, nothing is open in the Old Town and the streets are quiet. They are headed to The Cathedral of Bern (Berner Münster) but they had to turn off into a hotel for a snack and a final tidy-up because they had come from a distance on the train..

..so they sent me off with this fine woman and we communicated for the next 30 minutes using google translate. I think she had never seen such a thing before based on her astonished expression. We had fun! She went in to the church early to get a good seat and I walked a little out of the Old Town for something to eat. I did find a place where I got to enjoy a $22 not-very-good small bowl of soup.

The Cathedral built in Gothic style, begun in 1421 and not completed until 1893 when the bell tower went up with the largest bell in Switzerland. In 1528 during the early days of the Protestant Reformation the council in Bern ordered “all masses should be stopped and all icons should be cast out.” Boo on this whole set of pictures, they should be cast out. Maybe I was rushing to get in? Excuses!

“Over the main portal is one of the most complete Late Gothic sculpture collections in Europe.”

“This collection represents the Christian belief in a Last Judgment where the wicked will be separated from the righteous. This sculpture shows the wicked naked on the right, while the righteous stand clothed in white on the left. In the center is Justice, with Saints and the wise and foolish virgins around her. In the center stands Michael the Archangel with a raised sword.”

The stained glass is quite spectacular and very precious to the city but I couldn’t get any closer because of the service. (I entered late and stayed in the back so I didn’t have to be there for two hours.) Someone told me that during the Reformation the Protestants decided no one was really praying at these windows as one would to icons so it was ok to keep them.

I was heading to this museum, the Kunst Museum Bern, before I got distracted by the singers. This was one of the more splendid museum visits ever for me. I loved the people working there. I wanted to take them home. The museum has done a major historical project detecting the provenance of a huge bequest called “The Gurlitt Collection” that you can read about on their website. All the museum tags are in German and if there is a second language it is French and the provenance is there too which is very interesting. You can often find this information on a museum’s website but I’ve never seen it posted before.

Circled is the Old Town where you will find 99% of the tourists and for good reason.

Behind this canopy is the train station and in front is the big tram-central to take you anywhere in the city. T

At the station the sign says “best before date” and those are refrigerators and grocery lists.

Wandering around the Old Town you will be treated to Clocks and Water Fountains. There’s so much to say about Clocks and Water Fountains in Bern. One thing I heard off the wall was that these fountains began to appear after the Reformation because all the artists of religious iconography had no more work so they turned their talents to these fountains that distribute potable water throughout the Old Town.


I took the tram to the place where you can catch the funicular to go to Gurten, the “mountain” of Bern. Everyone puts “mountain” in air-quotes because it’s basically a hill in a country of real mountains.

While looking for the tram I ran into this sweet family also looking for the tram and we went up together. Then they went to ride the toboggan. They were visiting from French speaking Switzerland and the mom told me when they visit the German speaking parts of Switzerland they speak English because there are so many Swiss-German dialects they just default to English, which they speak perfectly btw.

Last story: the toilet at the train station. You have to pay 2 franks or 2 euros which is about 2 dollars to use the toilet and when I came out I said “wow, nice, but a lot of money”. There’s a cleaner stationed there who goes into every toilet as someone leaves to clean up and then turns on the Available light. Men and women use the same room of stalls, no difference, just help yourself. But if you want to use only a urinal you can, for 1 frank/eruo/dollar. I’m conflicted that it should cost so much, but then again, it was nice.

MORE Walking Around Bern

She and her husband run the hotel with such charm and goodwill. KUDOS guys! And so efficiently, like a Swiss clock, not to forget that!



Absolutely every soul I talked to in Bern, at a museum, in a cafe, on the tram, every soul wanted to know if I’d been to the Bear Park yet. It’s right across the street from my tram stop (which is up the hill from my hotel). Oh my it’s a popular place.

The Bernese are very attached to their bears. It’s on their flag, license plates, souvenirs, etc. Three bears live inside that oval. For so many years (wiki says the first reference is the 1440s) they kept the bears in pits making them easy to see but not so great for the bears.

Now it’s not so easy to see them but very exciting when one lumbers into view.

Love those walking tours. The topic of this tour was the UNESCO Historic Center. We learned mostly about the expansion of the city built as it was in a bend of the river Aare.

This is a pretty good example of the character of the historic old town. We’ve got a clock and a water fountain, the trams, the arcaded sidewalk and shops, the car-free street, the mid-rise buildings.

SB Nancy saw these chairs in one of my pictures from Corsica and sent me a picture of her exact same chairs. So now I see these chairs everywhere and I think I might need me some. These are located in 1) the plaza of the Cathedral, 2) the train station, and 3) the art museum. Stylish and sturdy, the Fermob Luxembourg line. Of course they’re expensive!

This place is called Zytglogge, “an elaborate medieval astronomical clock tower with moving puppets.” It’s a real crowd-pleaser.

Remember yesterday’s story about the “mountain”.

Halfway up the hill from my hotel we find the highly regarded Klösterli Weincafe. I had dinner here, my one big meal splurge.

I don’t have pictures of this splurge because sadly all my pictures of food do not look appetizing. There was an amuse bouche of tomato soup with pepperoni. Pizza soup? I don’t know what they did with the pepperoni since it was just the flavor of pepperoni and pretty dang tasty. Next I had made-in-house sausage with mashed potatoes and ratatouille. Yummm. And I got one of the fancy cheese mousse-honey appetizers for last course. Nice! And a good Swiss red as recommended by the mother of the two girls from yesterday.

One reason I haven’t eaten out so much is because of the very delicious breakfast at my hotel. We get plain yogurt just the way I like it, a very good granola and other cereals I didn’t try, fresh fruit, all kinds of bread, rolls, and super-good croissant, yummy home-made jams, and Delicious cheese. Oh yes, juice, milk, and very good espresso etc. and my favorite, flat white.

This isn’t my picture. I can’t get this view because the trees are leafed out. My hotel, Landhaus, is the smaller blue-ish building behind the white-ish building in the middle of the photo.

They do the breakfast in the morning and then have lunch and early dinner here too.

I called this place a Labor of Love. The details are a constant surprise. For example you are welcome to borrow these readers and sit around all you like.

A last view, tomorrow I leave for Basel.

Morning in Bern Afternoon in Basel

Before leaving Bern I decided to take a quick buzz up the hill (by tram thank you) to have a look at the Paul Klee Center (Zentrum Paul Klee) a Renzo Piano building. I’m very glad I decided to go.

They have bee hives and a sunflower forest. The inset is an internet aerial.

The only photo I took on the train ride from Bern to Basel because most of the time we were racing through long tunnels which was messing with my ears big time. The folks at the Paul Klee museum invited me to an opening event on Friday of their Noguchi show and I was considering doing the quick ride back, but now I’m thinking not.

My new street. My new accommodation has a small kitchen so I went to the market and bought so many vegetables and then I stir-fried them and ate a big big pile.

Basel Landmarks

First, The Cathedral, Basler Münster, “built between the years 1019 and 1500 in the Romantic and Gothic styles.” That’s a lot of time to be building a church. Everybody read The Pillars of the Earth? I never looked at a cathedral in the same way again.

BTW, they say BAzel, like BAz Luhrmann.

Cool windows in the gorgeous arcade (or colonnade or loggia or…).

These plaques are commemorating the people buried under the floor.

The front plaza is so graciously sized I could actually get far enough back to take a picture! The website basel.com has good pictures of all the sites. Let’s see if I end up using some.

This is from the large back patio of the cathedral where musicians were playing music, kids were playing ball, and everyone was enjoying the lovely day. Basel is definitely bigger than Bern. You can feel it in the views and on the busy streets. And anyway, wikipedia told me so.

Many of the streets were torn up – there’s probably a big public works job happening (yes, I heard the tram tracks are being refreshed as is the sewer system).
To My Shopping Friends! You do want to visit Basel. There are plenty of chain stores, Plenty, but on smaller side streets and alleys, so many independent shops of highly curated goods.

This was a high profile exhibit at the Kunstmuseum Basel. The museum itself is housed in three very distinct buildings but it seems none of the buildings called my name since I don’t have a picture. The exhibit was very cool..

Pictures copied from their website, the pictures were arranged side by side for comparison, the audio guide came with the ticket, and the commentary was excellent.

The picture that blew me away at the Frick Madison last year was here now, Saint Jerome. At the Frick it had a wall all to itself and wowzer. Goes to show how much context in a museum plays into one’s experience. I just now looked it up – the Frick website tells us that “El Greco and his workshop produced this popular composition at least four times.” So maybe it’s a different version?.

Another landmark building, the 500 year old Basel Town Hall.

A think it’s a school. The entire fence was draped too.

In one of the small alleys, looking up..

To get an idea because this is about 1/4 of the composition, down the middle, halfway.

..reflected in the windows of the shop across the alley, it’s all an effective effort to make you look.

City Tour In Basel

King Frog guarding the gates.

On this tour we walked to many of the places I had visited yesterday so I skipped the repeats. I had failed to get a ticket ‘before’ and by last night they were sold out. I decided to go to the meeting place in case someone didn’t show up. And sure enough, TIM didn’t show up so I bought his ticket from his father-in-law. Too bad I didn’t take our picture, it would have been cute.

Except the Cathedral. I had to take another picture here.

The Tinguely Fountain where everything moves. “In 1977 Jean Tinguel created sculptural machines in a shallow fountain where the stage of the old city theatre company once stood, and in the process gifted Basel a famous new landmark.”

Basel is particularly known as the art center of Switzerland including the yearly Art Basel fair and more museums than you can shake a stick at, some represented by all those red dots.

I guess these sculpture fountains will be in all the towns.

Notice the symbol on the base of the sculpture. I’ve been seeing this everywhere, much like Bern’s bears. Copied: “The Basel emblem, symbolizing a bishop’s crozier, dates back to 999 when Basel began being ruled by prince-bishops. The emblem also represents a support or guide (the shepherd’s crook that saves straying sheep) and an emblem of authority and administration.”

My dining treat in Basel was to find a highly regarded Rosti place and go for the classic. The place was on this street. I looked up what makes a Rosti classic – different from hash browns or latkes. There seems to be a consensus. Use Yukon Golds, par-boil the potatoes, chill them, then peel and grate, then fry those babies up with salt and pepper in plenty of butter.

Another view of the Tinguely Fountain and in the background, the 1800s Church of St. Elizabeth.

On the map you can see how Basel borders both France and Germany. I visited with a young man from Ventura CA who had married a woman from Germany and they were both now living in Switzerland. He told me the local saying is for economy: Live in France, Shop in Germany, Work in Switzerland.

I looked up the weather in my next destination – rain! Tomorrow should be just cloudy and then three days of rain, so if I want to do any mountain assents I should get up early tomorrow to make the journey to Lucerne to arrive in enough time to give Pilatus a go.

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