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.
’22 Sep: Bern and Basel, Switzerland
It’s my first day in Bern. I had plans. But then..
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?.
To get an idea because this is about 1/4 of the composition, down the middle, halfway.
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.
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.”
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.