Monday, August 2, 2010

Weekend trip to Bern & Thun

I know I am a little behind on my posts... but its just that I have been really busy lately. I am working really long hours on my project at work, so most nights I am too tired to write...
Anyhow, two weekends ago I went with the IAESTE crowd to Bern & Thun.

Bern is the capital of Switzerland, and it is located in the center part of the country, It is surrounded by the Aare river. The city has been around since the 12th century, and it has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

On Saturday we walked around the center of the city, which is really pretty. Legend has it that the first settlers had to kill a bear, and that's where the city got its name from. So to this date they have a few bears roaming around the river. I was kind of disappointed though when I heard that they had to bring these bears from Russia, as there are no longer any bears left in Switzerland...

That afternoon we went to the Einstein house and to the history museum where they have an exhibit about his life. Although he was born in Germany, Einstein moved to Switzerland when he was 16 and later became a Swiss citizen. He graduated from ETH (which is literally down the street from where I am staying), and then moved to Bern, where he conceived the Special Theory of relativity. The exhibit was really cool, as it told his life within the context of what was happening in the world. It also explained really well some of his theories and discoveries. What a genius that guy was! That day we also went up the Münster tower, and walked around the Parliament. That night, as is customary for the IAESTE events, we went bar hopping :)

Given that Bern is the capital, I figured I would write down a few political facts about Switzerland that I have learned so far:
  • Switzerland is a federal republic, with 26 cantons
  • There are three branches of the government: legislative, executive and judicial.
  • The executive branch has 7 ministries.
  • They have no elected president, the role of president is rotated every year among one of the 7 ministers. The current one is Doris Leuthard
  • They have a direct democracy, which allows the public to call on referendums for almost anything. According to a few Swiss that I spoke to, they say that this makes the system really slow, but ensures a public consensus.

On Sunday we went to Thun, which is in the same area (Bernese Oberland) as Interlaken. Here we went inside the St Beatus-Höhlen caves. The caves are named after St Beatus, who lived here in the 6th century. According to legend he slew a dragon in this cave, and then proceeded to spread Christianity in the region. The caves were really cool, filled with stalactites and stalagmites. I always confuse which is which, so this British girl told me that 'stalactites hold on tight', to the ceiling! That is about as cool as the 'Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain' thing for remembering the colors of the rainbow! Later that afternoon we walked around the downtown Thun and went into the castle.

Here are some pictures:

The Parliament:

The Bern bears:

The Aare:


Me @ Bern:

IAESTE trainees:

Bern from the Münster tower:

Bern from the Münster tower:

The man himself!!

At the Museum of History:

The Parliament:

The outside of St Beatus caves (pictures were not allowed inside):

Los hispano parlantes :)

St Beatus caves:


Thun Castle:


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