Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bern: Swiss Capital

This post is a bit late in coming. As you may recall, I spent two weeks of September in the Northern Italian region of Verbania, just northwest of Milan. One weekend Fr. Eric Fasano of the Diocese of Rockville Center, and I traveled to the Swiss capitol of Bern - just a few hours north by train.

This was my first time to see any of Switzerland - flying into Zurich doesn't count. Historically, Bern is one of the oldest establishments and held political and economic importance making it the capitol city once the Swiss Federation came into existence.

The name of the city, Bern, comes from a legend dating back to the founding of the settlement when hunters captured a wild bear and treated it as a sign of good luck and fortune. Through the centuries, Bern has always had bears in captivity - even now.The city is charming, with its miles and miles of colonnaded shopping walkways, it's medieval towers and walls, and its outdoor markets and churches. The clock tower pictured to the right is now near the heart of the city, but when it was built, it stood as the main defense of the city. As the decades progressed along with the city, wider and larger walls encircled the growing city. A treat is to see the clock chime at noon with its intricate designs.The city streets and piazzas are decorated with various ornate statuary. This one, in the piazza near the cathedral is of Moses. At the top of this post is a photo showing the beautiful design above the main doors. The cathedral was formerly Catholic but after the Protestant Reformation it fell into the hands of those Christians whose understanding of sacramentality and the beauty of art is far different than Catholic's. In a word, the church is "empty". Though, the gift shop at the entrance is well stocked. We did find a Catholic church in the heart of the city though we were shocked by the limited hours it was open. Our hearts were downtrodden. But that same night, in a newer section of the city, we found a Catholic church celebrating a vigil Mass in French and it was well attended and looked "alive" and "full".After much touring one is able to get those endorphins flowing again with classic Swiss chocolate - and there was plenty to choose from. The food in Bern provided a welcomed change from typical Italian fare. Some of the typically Bern/Swiss foods listed were beers, pumpkin, chestnuts, and wild boar. Again, quite different from their Italian neighbors.Our departure took us along a different route, this time, through the lower Alps that connect Switzerland and Italy. The views were spectacular and I was amazed by the people who were capable of living in the many small villages that dotted our route.

No comments: