Exploring Bern, the capital of Switzerland, is like stepping back in time—way back.  The well -preserved twelfth-century medieval city has a completely different feel than Lucerne with it’s covered arcades and colorful flags.  As a result, the old quarter is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Lucerne and Bern are two gorgeous cities, but in completely different ways.  We thoroughly enjoyed them both.

(For all photos, click on the image for a full screen view.)

The symbol of Bern has been the bear since the founding duke of the city decided to name it after the first animal he killed in a hunt—at least that’s what legend says.  There are other theories as well. Regardless of how the city really got its name, live bears have been held on display in various pits around the old town since 1549.  Poor bears; they couldn’t have been very happy.  Finally, enough outcry from the citizens resulted in the closing of the old bear pit and a new park was built along the Aare River.  Bear Park is free for all to enjoy, and the bears seem quite happy there.  We witnessed one of the three bears hunting around for food, finally sniffing out some meat that had been buried deep in the ground by the staff.  He dug and dug until he landed the prize—a huge piece of raw beef he happily woofed down.

Meanwhile, besides those live bears, the bear symbol appears on flags, coat of arms, fountains, trash cans, and even the manhole covers.  Those bears are everywhere, especially on souvenirs.

The bear even appears on cakes and chocolates.

Following our walking tour of the old town and Bear Park visit, we hiked up the steep hill to the Rosengarten, a beautiful park with fountains and gardens.  The biggest draw?  A spectacular view of the city below.

Exploring the old town during our tour and on our own was so enjoyable.  We finally had some sun after the rainy days in Lucerne, and there was so much to see.  The following are scenes from our full day in Bern as well as the prior afternoon and evening when we arrived.

Words can’t possibly describe what I thought of this fountain! What the ???
Bern Cathedral
Ceiling inside the church
The view across the street from our hotel window.

And, that’s how pooped we felt after all that walking! (Check that guy out; he’s made of wine corks!)