Day 1,626 of Traveling the World | Bern, Switzerland | July 16, 2022

Bern, Switzerland has a lot more going for it than a clock – the famous Zytglogge – yet that is all we remembered from our one-day visit in 2003! It is on the top of every list of what to see here, but check out our photo and commentary. Yes, it is big; yes, it attracts crowds; but it was a little short on performance, as we were expecting more. We have seen city clocks in Germany that have figurines going around in a circle, and even chasing each other, on the hour.

This time, we took a tour of the National Parliament building. The outside doesn’t do justice to the fabulous interior! It was just magnificent, and the city offers free tours with a great guide, in English. The police checking people into the Parliament Building were gruff and unpleasant, which surprised us for a country like Switzerland. But their unpleasantness didn’t ruin the tour. The tour gave us an up-close and personal look at the building. We have been on tours of many centers of government, including the US Senate and the British Parliament. This is the first time we remember being able to sit in the chairs of the members, which made it a very down-to-earth experience.

While in town we visited some churches and just walked the streets of Old Town. There are statues with fountains, as we show below, in the middle of the streets here and there. The streets are lined with covered arcades, which cooled us from the unrelenting sun and heat. Did you see that there is a heat wave in Europe? It is supposed to reach 100 degrees here early next week. We have been in several hotels with no air conditioning, so that would be most challenging. Good thing we have our small fans! At night, they provide just enough air movement to feel comfortable.

WHY are we starting this set of photos with etched glass windows? Well…because they are not! Etched, that is. These unique window decorations in the Bern Parliament building are actual embroidery, harkening back to the city’s textile beginnings. There are six of these windows, and the embroidery is inset in a wooden frame that fits over the windows. There are another six for when they get swapped out for cleaning!
The plain gray Bern Parliament’s exterior gives no hint of what lies inside!
Inside, there is a stained glass dome, statuary of the founding fathers, and stained glass windows depicting Bern’s past. The dome includes a separate panel for all of Bern’s cantons when the building was constructed.
One of the Parliament chambers, with a glorious chandelier and a beautiful wall mural depicting Swiss history.
Even the corridors are quite highly embellished!
Looking more like a figure from an advertisement, we have no idea what she has to do with Swiss history, but she is on the corridor ceiling!
The walls of the corridor look to be marble, but it is covered wood. The builders wanted to see if it was possible to fool people, and it was! It did!
Bern’s famous, famous clock, the Zytglogge. We thought that when it struck noon, the figures would turn and we would get a show. The audience had their cameras ready for photos and videos. The clock struck 12, there was silence, and a little bird went, “Aah.” That was it. End of show. The entire audience laughed, shrugged, and walked away.
This is a view of the Zytglogge from down the street. The statues with fountains that you see dot the Old Town, and shady arcades line both sides of most of the streets.
A close-up of one of the statues and fountain.
This lovely old “balcony” is across from the clock.
The many-spired Bern History Museum, dating to 1894. It is very casual here – the man sitting on the fountain was fully in the water, and when we passed a few minutes later, he was sprawled out, lying on his back, smoking a cigarette.
A glimpse of the Aare River and Bern Cathedral from the Kirchenfeldbrucke, one of the city bridges.
Many streets, like this one, displayed the flags of all 26 cantons.
One of the old existing murals on the front entrance of the cathedral, along with some of the carved figures.
The inside soars, with angels at the top of the column capitals. Many more rows of statues are above the angel, including a Nativity scene, and the ceiling is decorated with symbols of the city as well as Christianity.
The ceiling vault, windows, and columns make for a gorgeous scene.
Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) window in the cathedral, dating from 1516-1519. Danse Macabre was popular in the Late Middle Ages, having started with the Black Death of the 14th century, reminding people that “you are dust, and into dust you shall return.” This window shows death (the skeleton) taking people from every walk of life.
A close-up of the magnificent ceiling, with Bern’s symbol, the Bear, in the middle gold circle. And look at all those faces staring at you!
We liked the steel design on this door in the church!
The very elaborate organ.
One of the city arcades.
An overlook outside the Parliament building gave us this great view.
This is just called the Old Clock, not to be confused with the Zytglogge, even though both are in Old Town.
An interesting tower, with Starbucks at street level.
Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. The outer door was open, but locked gates to the aisles met us inside, so this photo was taken from in between the bars!
The gentle simplicity of this side chapel was simply lovely.
The city theater! “Stepping out” for the evening?
Checking for allergies in a shop window!
We are not sure what these last two sculptures are, with this one created out of metal…
…and this one of plaster, maybe? See the head smiling at you??