18.09.2014 - 20.09.2014 18 °C
- * Guest Commentary from Hodge
After a week in the incredible, yet vulgar city of Paris, I find it fitting to compare Bern to a burlesque show, only the attraction is for true beauty, nature and mysterious culture rather than, boobs, the cancan, boobs and seedy old men.
Ah Switzerland. The neutral country that everyone loves but could f*** you up in a heart beat. Pardon my French, I'm still kicking the habit after a fortnight in France. So, some little known facts about Switzerland which will justify my opening statement. It is the richest country in the world per capita (except for Monaco... And probably the Vatican City). It prefers to ride solo rather than join the EU. It has hollowed out mountains which contain enough reinforcements and food to allow the whole country's population to live inside for fifty years if they need to. They also have compulsory smaller underground bomb shelters outside every single store in their capital city. It is compulsory for every male to do a year of military service at 18 and they're required to keep their guns at home for the rest of their lives. They have fake grassy mounds which house aircrafts inside them all over the country. They have aircraft runways painted like roads nearby so as not to draw suspicion from overhead. They have four national languages. Even their national flag is a big plus (haha, couldn't resist). In short, as our guide told us, Switzerland does not have an army. Switzerland is an army.
With all that in mind, Bern has to be a contender for the most beautiful capital city in the world. Picture an old-style town laden with cobblestone streets and green buildings, surrounded by a crystal clear river, beautiful bridges and more greenery than all of Melbourne's inner suburbs combined. Add to this it's almost non-existent crime rates and homelessness and it's quite possibly the safest and cleanest city in the world. Maybe that's the reason it's so expensive. Our first night here we went out and had the equivalent of a medium sized pizza for 22 Swiss francs each. Roughly converted to around $28AUD. This pretty much crushes any touristic dreams of ever living here.
Bern was discovered and named after a bear, the first animal hunted on the land which the city now rests. The bear is symbolic in every inch of the city with the Swiss flag and Bern province symbol found hanging from most rafters and on each registration plate. The Bern province symbol is a bear (no surprises there) but the humour lays in the intricate details of the design. Since foundation, the bear has always been illustrated with a red tongue, red claws and... Wait for it... A red penis. "Why?" I hear you ask. It's simple, if you're going to name a city after an animal, you don't want to be a coward who killed a 'weaker, far inferior' female bear. Just ask the locals. This is yet another quirk of a place which has many. Nevertheless, this city has a proud history and ever since its foundation, live bears have been kept in captivity within the city. This concept has evolved dramatically in recent years with bears moved from a small pit to a large outdoor enclosure with access to the lake and almost-natural habitat. More furry friends can be found by wandering along the crystal clear river until you reach the local zoo, which housed everything from llamas to flamingos.
If you're more into watching creatures of the human variety, you can comfortably spend an afternoon lazing by the river and watching people float down it.. They trek a few kilometres up stream, sporting nothing but some questionable bathing apparel, and happily drift back with the current. At the end of summer, I'm sure that the water would be ice cold as well as ice clear. Bern is heaven for those who love a city lifestyle, but want to stroll through pristine country only a few kilometres away. Though a few million dollars short, I would be glad to call it home.