Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Berner Hauptbahnhof

Rush hour below the platforms in the main railway station

Unitobler & the church on Freiestrasse

When I went to work this morning the whole town was swathed in freezing fog, with the few pastels of sunrise feebly dispersing and the streets unrolling from nowhere in front of me and rolling back up again right behind me... and suddenly this - the Unitobler faculty building, and die Pauluskirche.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Today felt like this

This is the only photo I took today. It's the view from my balcony across the sleeping neighbourhood where I live. I used to live in the old town but I moved out last year because I had enough of living the whole medieval thing, it was great but got claustrophobic. The smokestacks are from the town waste incinerator. The Swiss incinerate everything because they have no space for landfill.

I'm happy because I bought tickets to go see Arab Strap in Fribourg next month. So that's the kind of photo this is, melancholic suburban European happiness ;)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Washday at the Nydeggbrücke

This shot is taken from the Nydeggbrücke at the head of Bern.

Nydeggbrücke, literally the 'nether corner bridge', is the main thoroughfare in and out of the lower old town.

Barges used to tie up at the smaller, lower bridge pictured here, bringing cheese and milk from the Alps. The entrance to the Schifflände, literally 'ship-landing', has been preserved and can be seen behind the tree.

Today was obviously wash-day for the family in the Nydegg bridgehouse!

The Swiss Parliament

Taken last night from the Monbijoubrücke (Monbijou Bridge), you see the Bundeshaus at dusk with the River Aare running below.

There is some good detail in this photo that you can only see when you view it large, the small version above doesn't do it justice (click on the picture).

Sunday, January 22, 2006


It's Sunday and it's bitterly cold, so it's very quiet.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Swiss Parliament

The north side of the parliament, facing onto the Bundesplatz, or Federal Square

The south side, the top of which is lined with the coat-of-arms of each Swiss canton.

The vaulted arcardes at the botton of the south face, directly underneath the facade with the coats of arms.

A small anti-World Economic Forum protest on Federal Square. The WEF will take place this month in Davos, eastern Switzerland.

The woman's placat translates as "It's not about giving more to the people in the Third World, it's about stealing less from them." (Jean Zeigler)

Zytglogge - Berne clock tower

The east face

Tourists gather to hear the clock strike the hour. They're inevitably disappointed - despite all the grandeur and detail, the king just waves his wand and a little chicken spins round on a wheel! Forewarned is forearmed!
The west face

The neighbouring chemist (sign says Apotheke) is all lit up for Christmas
underneath the Zytglogge

post box and phone booths on the right, roasted chestnut stand on the left, and Kramgasse panning off in a slow curve down the hill towards the river

Putting Berne in perspective

This post is to put in perspective some of the photos I've been shooting around the town. Berne is a quaint old Swiss town, founded in 1296, and although in the last 150 years Berne has outgrown it's little loop in the river and modern neighbourhoods have spread out (see computer graphic, below), the heart and soul of Berne remains the old town. You can see from some of the old maps I've fished off the web that the old town really hasn't changed at all, mostly thanks to a group known as the "Citizens of Berne", who have a vast fortune between them and finance all the upkeep and restoration.

Berne - the lower old town

A computer model of Berne from the air, looking north and showing clearly how the town has expanded outwith the Aare peninsula.

A map of Berne from 1353 (i think - MCCCLIII), looking south. You can see by comparing with the two modern pictures above that the original style and layout of the town remains almost completely intact today.

One major change is that the roads became narrower. The width of the arcades is the width of the extensions from the original housing - many of the original buildings were extended four metres towards the centre of the street using stilts to prop up the new facades. Over time this arrangement became permanent, leading to the arcades...

Another major change is that the street level has risen by over two metres, so all around the town there are cellar flap-doors leading down to vaulted caverns which are in widespread used as shops, clubs, restaurants, storerooms, workshops, flats, churches, secret society meeting places...

An English-language town plan from 1800, with a key to the main buildings

Unexpected snow in January

trams and buses couldn't get into the town centre and had to let their passengers out to walk

snow on the rooftops of the lower old town

Even Kramgasse didn't look great

the trams and buses couldn't make it but this guy in his covered electric tricycle thought he could

the Swiss army looking glum

the Swiss parliament and the market on the Bundesplatz

Friday, January 20, 2006

Berne railway station

Swiss trains are awesome (you get what you pay for). www.rail.ch

The main thouroughfare

This is known as "the wave of Berne".

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Lorrainebrück (Lorraine Bridge) - Bern in winter

The Lorraine bridge spans the River Aare and connects Berne railway station with the east of Switzerland - out to Lucerne and Zurich. The green-domed building is the Swiss parliament.

Kramgasse in Winter

A typical Bernese fountain, and the No. 12 trolley bus

Münstergasse Christmas lights

Cathedral Street in late November

The Bernese Cathedral, from Münstergasse (Cathedral Street)

Berner Münster (Bern Cathedral)

The Berne Cathedral viewed from a corner of Cathedral Square. The impressive gothic church is undergoing restoration, the result of which can already be seen to great effect on the arches at the front entrance. Interesting is that just below the spire, where the white scaffold is, the "cathedral masters" (a married couple) have an apartment. They sell entrance tickets when you climb to the top levels and are on hand to tell visitors about the cathedral's history. The lady who lives and works up there told me that for the best thing about living in the Münster is waking up every morning, opening the curtain, looking out and realising where they are and what they are doing to earn a living.

Münsterplatz 180-degree panorama

Münsterplatz - Cathedral Square houses

Münsterpark autumn trumpeter

Views from the Münsterpark

This tryptych is a left-to-right panorama from the Münsterpark (cathedral park)

The house with the garden is where world political leaders will stay during state visits to the Swiss parliament.

Looking down the slopes, we see the Mattequartier, badly flooded in summer 2005 when the River Aare burst its banks.

And fully to the right, you see the River Aare basin and a cool lift that rises about 50m from the Matte-Quartier" to the Münsterpark. There is an atmospheric covered wooden staircase for those who prefer the climb!

Fountain by the Town and University Library

This beautiful "Brunnen", or fountain, can be found at the head of Münstergasse on the side wall of the "STUB", the "Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek"

Rathaus (City Hall)

Very solid looking building... I will have to try and get in there sometime...

The famous Café du Commerce, on Gerechtigkeitsgasse (Justice Street)

Under the arcades at the Kornhaus

This is just a taster - I'll get some photos inside this place sometime.

It is deep underground, cavernous and so atmospheric. There's a great bar, a swanky restaurant, an amazing restored painted ceiling and the biggest barrel I ever saw in my life (really, it's huge). So yeah, I'll get round to that sometime.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Hotelgasse 1

This house is right beside the Zytglogge

I don't know for sure but I have a suspicion that in medieval times this might have been the town garrison house. That would figure, because the Zytglogge was the original town gate, and this place is jsut across the road.

The Reitschule

This place is one of the less well-documented sides of Berne, certainly not on the official tourist website...

A billboard stating "The Reitschule also belongs to Berne - vote no!" . The digital edit of the old town of Berne, the Zytglogge (the symbol of Berne) and the Reitschule into the one picture says that the Reitschule is as important to Berne as the more traditional cultural elements.

Some background... The Reitschule is Berne's old riding school complex, now a left-wing/anarchist/art student/drop-outs hang-out... They have rock concerts, cheap food and good reggae, and the place benefits from a number of legal exceptions and loopholes. It's regarded by some, such as the designers of this advertisement, as "culture", and by others as an eyesore and a social problem. The political right want it razed to the ground to make space for a multi-storey car park, whereas the left see things very differently. I'm undecided, because the crazies around there are genuinely scarey and threatening, but at the same time I'm all for art student hangouts and the alternative scene.

A recent local vote on the Reitschule's legal status and rights was the reason for this leftist-originated advert appearing on hoardings all round town.

Some travellers outside the Reitschule - these travelling folk rolled up and parked their caravans right in the middle of the main hall (you can see the entrance on the left). They exploited a legal loophole and stayed for weeks. Their occupation led to the cancellation of a couple of major events (concerts, I think) and caused an outrage amonst the Reitschule's political opponents.

the bar

the restaurant, Sous Le Pont (the Reitschule is almost under the Lorrainebrücke railway bridge)

The upstairs dj bar