Sunday, 27 September 2015

Pre-Convention 2015 Part 2: Bern

    The next day, we were at the train station to catch the 9.00am train to Bern. It may seem early but there's not many English channels on TV and the shops close early, so we turned in early the night before.
    Our first stop in the City of Bears was the tourist information counter. Here we got ourselves a map and plotted our route. The whole of Bern is a UNESCO heritage site. The reason for this becomes obvious when we ventured into the town. Although the buildings were not as quaint as some other European towns, Bern exudes a charm of its own. The city is dotted with numerous fountains, each topped with a figure representing an ideal or a place in Bern history. These fountains are also good landmarks to find one way around.

    The wifey wanted to visit Albert Einstein's house and that's what we did. In my opinion, it's not worth the 6 CHF unless you're into the man or his works.
Albert Einstein's living room.
    Other notable sites we visited included the Peter and Paul church and the Rathaus (townhall). It is interesting to note that unlike other European churches, the Peter and Paul Church had edelweiss painted on its ceiling instead of the usual frescos. A place not to be missed is the rose garden. This vantage point lies outside the old city walls (past the bearpark and the river) and up a steep slope. The view is worth the climb I assure you.
Peter and Paul Church.
Walking across the bridge out of the city, near the Bear Park.
View from the Rose Garden.
      The highlight of the day must be the visit to the Swiss Parliament. One has to book the guided tour at least a day before. Fortunately for us, the English tour fitted perfectly into our schedule. The very design of the Parliament illustrated the Swiss ideals of equality amongst the cantons (they had to make space for the latest canton Jura which came into being after the completion of the ceiling) and the power of the people above all (stained glass depicting the Swiss people lined the topmost level of the building). We learnt that the Swiss have a unique system where the President is simply another member of the government and is elected for one year terms. We visited both the state assembly and chamber where the people's representatives met. The bicameral parliament mirrors those of the UK and the US. Members of Parliament had to be conversant in French, German and Italian and sometimes even Romansh. Swiss children learn two languages in school. Thus it is no big deal that Singapore children are made to learn their mother tongue and English. Detractors of this bilingual policy should be knocked in the head.
Shields representing all the cantons of Switzerland, including the newest, Jurga, at the bottom.
     We left the Parliament building and were greeted by Chinese music. To my consternation the plaz in front of Parliament had been transformed into a cesspit celebrating 65 years of Swiss-PRC relations. The worst thing was that they blocked the view of parliament I wanted to take a picture of. Yes Ian, like "TV mobile" they are indeed everywhere (at least TV mobile isn't operating now).
    We had originally wanted to have a meal at the Rathaus restaurant. However, we found that most restaurants weren't serving food past 4.00pm. We finally found a place that seemed decent enough. The problem was I didn't know what I was ordering and the waiter wasn't much help. Surprisingly, the beef and pork escalopes were really tender and delicious. Even the wifey liked it. Until today I've no idea what the yellow floury thingy mixed with cheese is (I later found out it's egg).
    People will tell you that one of the main attractions in Bern is the clock tower. You will find small crowds waiting beneath the tower for the hour to strike. Stupidly, that's what we did too. In fact we waited a full 20min. A minutes before the hour, the mechanism started and a row of little figures started turning. One round and it stopped. When the minute hand finally reached 12, the figures above this row started moving, poking their heads in and out, as if performing an Indian dance. It was over in no time. What a let down! A group of rowdy youth even clapped and jeered in sarcasm.
    It was getting late. We headed back to the train station and made our way back to Interlaken Ost.

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