Legend has it that the founder of Bern named the city after the first animal he killed. It happened to be a bear he hunted down on the Aare peninsula. “Bar” – German for bear – have since evolved to become today’s name Bern. The city keeps a family of four bears in a pit now, but symbolism can be found in every corner of the streets, from the coat of arms, fountains and taxis.
Time-honoured sandstone buildings, historic towers and unique fountains earned Bern a place on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Most of the buildings in the old quarter are built with tortoise sandstone. The small city is lovely to get around by foot.
The 500-year-old clock tower is the most impressive amongst all. We stepped into history to see how the mechanics calculated down the minutes, quarters and hours. At the hour, crowds will gather to watch a four-minute show with a rooster, a parade of bears, a knight, a piper, a lion, Chronos with his hourglass and a dancing jester. The clock is avant-garde for its time and now becomes the benchmark of official Bern time.
This humble city also houses an unexpected sightseeing site – the Albert Einstein house. The great physicisted rented this apartment on the second floor of Kramgasse No. 49 from 1903 to 1905. It may as well be in this very house he produced the five groundbreaking papers during the period he called the Wonder Year. You may not get to sit on his sofas, but you can still look out his windows and try to draw inspiration from the ancient neighbourhood.
The town's famous Clock Tower