We learned a lot about the Swiss flag. For example it is one of only two country flags that is square (Vatican being the other).
And the white cross (on the red field)? The answer to that is interesting. I've included the Wikipedia info to help not answer the question. Frankly, they don't know what it stands for but they are not short on alternatives.
The ultimate origin of the white cross is attributed by three competing legends: To the Theban Legion, to theReichssturmfahne (Imperial War Banner) attested from the 12th century, and to the Arma Christi that were especially venerated in the three forest cantons, and which they were allegedly allowed to display on the formerly uniformly red battle flag from 1289 by king Rudolph I of Habsburg at the occasion of a campaign to Besançon.
Want to know more?
On the Ferry Boat
At the Confederation Site
On Our Hotel
On Another Ferry Boat
On the Buildings of Bern
Fun with Flags
What We Saw
Roman City of Aventicum
On our way to Bern we stopped to explore some Roman ruins in the city of Acenches. Our tour guide for the visit was Rudolph. He did a good job considering what he had to work with.
As Roman ruins go these were pretty much middle of the road. The website for the site (you'll have to have it translated) has a lot of interesting information. It's suggested that you take some time at the website before going out to the ruins. It will make a lot more sense if you do.
From the Roman museum website:
The Roman city of Aventicum was born around the turn of our era. Its population is estimated at 20,000 people in 1 st century AD. J.-C. By late antiquity, the city served as a career, but many monuments bear witness to its past grandeur.
The foundation of the city of Aventicum is likely to be related to the failed attempt to Helvètes migration in 58 BC and their forced return to their starting point. The name of the town derives from the Celtic goddess protector Aventia. Aventicum was the capital of the Helvetians.
We know nothing specific about the date of the founding of the city. In recent years, the remains of the late Celtic period (1 st century BC.) Were repeatedly unearthed on the site, especially the graves and pits southwest of future parts of the city.
Want to know more?
The Original Entrance to the Amphitheater
The Way it Originally Looked
The Tax Barn
More of the Tax barn (across the road)
Sanctuary (with original pillars)
City Wall of in the Distance
Rudolph starts the Intro
A Performer Tries Out the Amphitheater
Roman City of Aventicum 1580 Avenches Tel: +41 (0) 26 557 33 00 FAX: +41 (0) 26 557 33 13
What We Saw
Our next stop on the historic trip to Bern was Murten. The town dates back several millennium. There is a great article about the town's history on Wikipedia. Want to know more?
There are a couple of pictures of a decorated fountain just inside the gate. The decorations are for the June 22 celebration of the Battle of Morat. On 22 June 1476, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, laid siege to the Murten. The town hung on for 13 days but finally was saved by the Bernese army.
We spent a little time walking the main street. Then we grabbed a couple of sandwiches (which we ate sitting on a step) and then found a store to buy some gifts.
Fabian introduces the city
Inside the gate
Looking down the main street
Where we bought a couple of gifts
City fountain decorated for the upcoming June 22 celebration
Looking back to the gate
Murten Canton of Fribourg, Switzerland.
What We Saw
Our final stop before getting to our hotel in Bern was the Rose Garden. The reason for the stop was the view of the old town ringed by the Aare River. It clearly showed how important the river was to the livelihood and security of the old city.
Here's some further information from a Bern city website:
The Rose Garden is a large park with a wonderful view of the Old Town and Aare Loop. The park is home to 220 different types of roses, 200 types of irises and moor beds with 28 different types of rhododendrons.
From 1765 to 1877 the Rose Garden served as a cemetery. Since 1913 the Rose Garden has been a public park resplendent with the rich beauty of flowers and a pond. From 1956 to 1962 the park was redesigned, introducing rhododendrons and azaleas as well as an iris garden.
A pavilion and reading garden provide a place to relax. The restaurant Rosengarten is a great place to while away the time, and it offers a view of the rows of houses in the Old Town.
Water feature near the entrance to the Garden
The heights overlooking the old town of Bern and the Aare River
This shot is a better view of the way the old twon was layed out.
Some of the Rose plants of the garden
Rebecca and Geoffrey taking a moment in the shade
Der Berner-Rosengarten 3006 Bern
What We Saw
Diccon Bewes Introduction to Bern
This tour was as much about meeting and talking to Diccon Bewes as it is about seeing Bern. Diccon gave us a great tour around the old city. We learned a great deal about the way the city was formed, how the wall (no longer there but several towers, like the clock tower, still stand) protected everyone and other interesting information like:
The reason the street signs are in different colors. At one time the city was under military control. The commander at the time found that his men were having trouble finding their quarters. So he broke the city into four parts and had the street signs in each part painted the same color. This made it easier for his troops (who couldn't read) to find their way home.
The Aare River encircles the old city. On hot summer days it was common for the river to be full of people floating around the old city to cool down. In fact, many use a waterproof bag to hold their clothes so they can have a turn while they're on a break from their job.
We stopped by the place where Einstein lived when he was formulating his theory of relativity. He worked in the post office just down the street.
A close-up of the artwork on the Bern Cathedral clearly shows several kings burning in hell. It's clear what the Swiss think of kings.
As we worked our way through the city we came upon the Parliament building. To the outside world, Bern is the capital of Switzerland. The Swiss don't believe they have a capital since governing decisions are made by a consensus of the people voting on each issue directly. This, of course, makes for VERY slow change. For example, it wasn't until 1979 that woman had the vote at the federal level.
The president of the country serves only for a year and is truly a figure head. The government of Switzerland is run by a committee of seven (they are the heads of the seven "departments"). The president is one of these seven and has no power as president. He/she only represents Switzerland to the outside world. BTW the "seven" are not term limited in any way.
One of the statues we encountered (it's in one of the pictures above) shows an ogre eating children. The history of the statue is apparently a little vague. Diccon suggested one reason was to remind children to behave.
At one time the city was ringed by a wall. Little of that wall remains. Some of the wall has been absorbed into buildings and the rest has been torn down to be reused. There are, however, entrance towers remaining. The Clock Tower was one of those.(check the video).
The bear was a symbol of both the city and surrounding canton, and was featured in their coat of arms. We made our way over to where the Bärengraben, or Bear Pit is located (a tourist attraction in the Swiss capital city of Bern. It is a bear pit, or enclosure housing bears, situated at the eastern edge of the old city of Bern, next to the Nydeggbrücke and the River Aar. Although still in use, the Bärengraben has been supplemented since 2009 by the adjacent BärenPark, a larger and more natural enclosure alongside the River Aar. Want to know more? )
Our final stop was to a beer hall for a Q&A with Diccon. What a great time. He answered all our questions about Switzerland even those we didn't know we had until after the discussion started. The ONLY bad thing was that this was on our last day in Switzerland. Too bad the tour didn't start in Bern so we'd have the Q&A with Diccon to start the ball rolling.
Diccon Bewes introducing our tour
Looking across the bridge from the hotel
They use a LOT of bikes in Bern
The ogre statue
Close up of the ogre status
Back side of the clock tower, one of the entrances through the city wall
Flag of the cantons
The apartment where he lived
The symbol of Bern...the bears
The mama bear
Q & A with Diccon
The other end of the table at the Q & A
The Tower Clock in Motion
Where We Ate
On the last full day in Switzerland, we all joined together for one last dinner followed by final goodbyes. It's always sad to end a trip where we've had so much fun, met so many wonderful people and seen and enjoyed the wonderful country of Switzerland. We didn't know what to expect when we started the trip, but we were certainly not disappointed.
Thanks to Fabian and Robyn and to all our fellow travelers. Great to meet all of you and to get to know a little something about each of you. May all your future travels be as rewarding as this trip.
The hotel was located directly across the Kornhausstrasse Bridge from the old town of Bern. There was a tram, which runs right in front of the hotel, which crosses the bridge. The third stop on the tram was the train station.
The hotel itself was quite impressive. There was a large restaurant on the main floor (although we didn't eat there). The room was well decorated with great air conditioning.