We didn’t originally plan on stopping in Bern, we were going to skip straight from Basel to Geneva in one hop. However, the bad weather in the Black Forrest meant we had a spare day, so we added a diversion. I’m glad we did for a few reasons. One reason was it was was a pretty long drive just to Bern and all the roads were very congested. Combined with the bad weather, it was a pretty tiring drive. But the main reason I’m glad we stopped is that Bern, Switzerland’s capital, is very pretty.

The campsite was on the banks of the Aare river. We were only a couple of kilometres from the city centre, so we decided to walk in. By the time we got to the centre, the valley that the river was in had turned to a gorge.

One of Bern’s claims to fame is that Einstein lived there while he was a patent clerk. While in Bern he wrote several of his groundbreaking papers, including his paper on light quantum hypothesis, which later earned him a Nobel Prize, and the paper on the equivalence of energy and mass, which includes the famous equation, E=mc2. The ‘Einstein Haus’ in Bern’s centre is one of several he rented while he was in the city, but apparently he did stay there for a couple of years. It was in a great location, but it was a very small apartment with only one main room. It was great to see where Einstein did some of his important work but we were not as inspired as we’d hoped. I think this was down to the unimaginative presentation of the apartment. There was however a very nice and very popular cafe/bar downstairs where we had a lovely coffee.

Main room

The Aare is sourced in the glaciers in the mountains in the canton of Bern, so it pretty fresh by the time it flows through the city. Apparently it’s possible to swim in the Aare, which I’m sure would be refreshing as it was very cold. I’m guessing it is currently melt-water season, which made the water a very clear glassy blue-green colour. It was also moving very quickly (the ex-civil engineering student in me could tell it was supercritical flow, which is pretty, but potentially lethal).

Bern’s other claim to fame is the bears. Folk law says that in 12th century, the duke of the time went hunting and the first animal he saw was a bear, so he named the city after the beasts. There are records going back to 16th century of bears being kept in the city. Up until relatively recently, the bears were kept in pits for the public to view. In 2009, the river bank next to the pits was converted to allow the bears to also roam there. The BärenPark is much larger and includes some vegetation and water, so it’s much kinder then the former pits, although the bears do have free access to one of the pits if they want.

One the great things about Swiss campsites is they give you a free travel pass that covers all the buses, trains, trams etc. So after a long day on our feet we caught the tram back to the campsite.

Next stop is Geneva for a day of science nerdiness…

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