Switzerland Day 7 – around Bern

Published on 13 October 2008 in , , , ,

Despite being on a busy street, the windows block out all the noise, and the shutters all the light. As such, it’s nearly nine when we wake up, and pushing on for nine thirty when we eat breakfast in the Hotel Belle Epoque’s dining area.

As we arrive, a young American couple are already sat eating breakfast together. When we finish up half an hour later, they’re still there, eating away. In fact they’re still there a further 20 minutes later when we leave the hotel. Still eating.

Still, the weather looks promising after the previous days downpours and we arrive at the trolleybus stop ready for the number 12 to Zentrum Paul Klee, where the trolleybus convienently terminates.

Zentrum Paul Klee

The Zentrum Paul Klee is a museum dedicated to artist Paul Klee, and contains about 40% of his work. His work covered many different styles including expressionism, cubism, and surrealism.

The museum, housed in an impressive building of three undulating forms, contains two galleries, which house rotating collections of Klee’s work.

The main exhibition on our visit was entitled In Paul Klee’s Enchanted Garden – a collection of work portraying gardens, parks, flowers, plants and occasionally fruit.

Klee’s was clearly a man of many talents – as shown by the sheer variety of styles he worked with. He was a teacher at the famous Baurhaus in Germany when it was closed down by the Nazi’s for its “degenerate” art. The audio guide proclaimed that, bizarrely, the Nazi’s then created an exhibition of “bad” modern art. One cannot help but wonder how the Nazi’s came up with that idea. “Ah, yes, lets create an exhibition of all this awful modern art, which as far as we’re concerned, isn’t actually art at all.” You can imagine the visitors… “See the bold, strong vivid brush strokes…. of… err… this puppet of American propoganda and degenerate behaviour!”

An extensive audio guide told us what could often be deemed to be too much information about his life and work, and at times I pondered where I should have taken the “Music” option which, instead of commentary, provides you with music related to various paintings.

It’s all rather uplifting and happy, which is good because the other exhibition really liked to take that mood and run with it.

Lost Paradise: The Angel’s Gaze was a smaller exhibition based around Klee painting Angelus Novus which shows an angel looking at something. It’s famous, and lives in Israel and never leaves there. Except for a quick loan to the Zentrum Paul Klee who got it for an amazing time span of about three days…

By the time we got there, it had returned home, replaced by a photograph of it instead.

Surrounding this photo, an entire exhibition about the subjects of war, death, disease, conflict and calamity – mostly non-Klee. Video exhibits of the Hiroshima, Lego concentration camp kits, and a giant white skull with a video of a moving eye projected on it.

As we emerge from this rather depressing place, we find some other bad news. The bright sky and promise of sun has gone. The heavy, never ending rain is here.

We’re wiped out moneywise – audio guides and entrance fees seeing to that – which is annoying as by now it’s lunchtime and we have only 15 CHF left to see us through. The plans to walk round the sculpture garden are put on hold as we try to stave off hunger with a cup of tea, but even after that and the extensive tour of the Zentrum shop isn’t long enough for the rain to stop.

Not having planned for rain (we’re in our t-shirts) we can do little more than make a damp dash for the trolleybus stop, and head back to town.

Catherine’s lunchtime plan includes going to the graffiti laden Reitschule – an infamous student district where there’s an organic cafe called Sous le Pont. However it clearly doesn’t open on Saturday lunchtimes, not that we actually find it anyway. Instead we end up outside the Parliament once more where we find an organic takeaway van, selling falafel and bratwurst.

After that, a quest to find gateaux and cake, which seems a possible request, but in the end seems impossible and instead we walk towards the Bern Historical Museum where we take in the rather oddly-laid out Einstein Museum, which mixes the story of Albert Einstein with a history of Judaism and European history in the first half of the 20th century.

Bells in the grounds of Historisches Museum Bern

By the time we finish, it’s 5pm and the museum staff are trying to chuck people out. Unable to explore the rest of the place, and muttering under our breathes about ridiculously early closing hours, we take a quick stroll in the outside garden, before retiring for a coffee in the next door cafe.

This becomes an experience in itself, as we discover that my GCSE German teacher’s insistence that a white coffee is “Kaffe mit milch” is irrelevant when you’re in Switzerland. We eventually find out that what we actually want is a Schale – a Latte-esque coffee – which explains why coffee-serving staff everywhere have been looking at me oddly every time I’ve tried to order. At the same time, we get a mild rebuke for not speaking in English. Okay, I know my German isn’t that great (I did get an A in my GCSE but that was in 1996!) but I do at least think it’s polite to at least try…

Münster Cathedral, seen from the other side of the Aare River

Coffee finished, we walk on the river bank path towards the new bear gardens, pop to the hotel to take out the old contact lenses, and then towards the Kornhausplatz in search of food which seems unforthcoming, perhaps not helped by a dual combination of Catherine’s desire for pizza and the inability of most places to do any veggie pizza that’s not just cheese and tomato.

In the end, we find an Italian restaurant, upstairs on the Marketgasse, somehow end up in the smoking section and completely fail to manage to order to desert which is annoying as I’d ended up with too much cash left over given this was our final night. Even my attempts to spend it the next day on the train failed, as the train staff had no Swiss change…

Instead we head back to the hotel and have some drinks at its bar – a long, narrow room with a 1920s Parisian feel – supping beer and spirits.

The next day we’d be up at 7 and heading for an 8:25 train to take us back towards Britain. But until then, there’s time for one more drink…

Bad weather stops photographs! There’s a mere fourteen from day 7. Still, you can now view the whole great big dockoff complete set of holiday photos. Go on. Have a slideshow…