Capital idea to make Swiss visit your Bern-ing ambition
"Bern, Baby, Bern" is obvious intro to travelogue reviewing Switzerland's capital city.
But, while disco infernos aplenty feature among eclectic cellar bar night scene, this desirable destination - picture postcard painted by Pixar, medieval buildings and bridges redolent of Brave meets Beauty and the Beast animations - has so much more to offer around river Aare that cuts through the close-knit community like cratered cheese wire.
Vegetables, for instance! Read on ...
KNOW YOUR ONIONS: This place sure does, 57 tonnes of 'em - equally eye-watering as 120 spirited swimmers who take to icy waters day before - artistically woven into braided plaits to mark Zibelemärit. While author Terry Pratchett decreed “a woman always has half an onion left over, no matter what the size of the onion, the dish or the woman,” all produce here disappears annually on November's fourth Monday. Kids too get in on the act with confetti fights while breakfast Glühwein provides welcome central heating. Bereitermusik brass band leads procession featuring parading “Onion Heads” - not an insult or indie band, but masked group recalling year's event in song.
LIFE OF PIE: Seamlessly, visit Hotel Best Western restaurant Volkshaus 1914, where pie's the limit for master chef Emil Bolli, whose hobby has developed into hob cookery school and lecturing road shows. Upper crust just doesn't come close to this feted giant of the culinary arts, whose recipe for success sees him no less than national football team head honcho, serving soccer stars such as Almen Abdi hopefully winning mix of pasta and protein. "Cooking was, and is, my passion," says this Caligula of the kitchen, whose signature dish is onion cake, so good it could reduce greatest gastronome to tears.
SAY CHEESE PLEASE: Just as"blessed are the cheese-makers" is quality Python, so this region is endowed with holey grail that is excellent Emmental, none better than Affoltern's Emmentaler Show Dairy where time-honoured practices complement modern manufacturing. It is an area of rolling hills, branched ridges, steep rifts and verdant valleys, whose rich vegetation cow herds exclusively eat to ensure fat-free milk purity for end pocked product that, after intricate process involving ancient fires and 21st century vats, is unmistakably trademark savoury delight.
MUSIC MAESTROS: Squeeze in time to visit nearby craft village Wasen where, alongside seamstresses, horseshoe and watch makers, artisans toil at family-run labour of love. Imagine Geppetto's workshop but, rather than puppet Pinocchio being brought to life, here has been born sweet sound of accordion music for quarter of a century. From microscopic precision hand assembly of hundreds of parts to finely tuned tonal ear, bass, reeds, keyboard and bellows are assembled for finished article, truly music to any squeezebox aficionado's ears..
EINSTEIN A GO GO: Bern's beloved genius, favourite famous son, father of relativity, is celebrated four-fold across city benches as well as honoured at the house where in 1905 the physicist developed - within sight and sound of landmark clock tower chiming automatons - his E=mc2 famous theory. There's also 1,200 sqm space - a must-visit for culture vultures alongside Zentrum Paul Klee and Kunstmuseum - where you can marvel at manuscripts and memorabilia celebrating Albert, arguably greatest mind of his - or any - generation.
BERN'S NIGHT: Behind, and beneath, sandstone walls of UNESCO World Heritage site lurks havens numerous for night owls, from heady heights of 360° panoramic view Sky Terrace bar above Schweizerhof hotel, home in its day to guests Peter Ustinov and Grace Kelly, to depths of Tredicipercento, unassuming coal cellar become fine wine emporium.
'‹WHERE TO STAY:'‹ Move at brisk speed to Hotel Allegro '‹www.kursaal-bern.ch/Hotel, four star superior base, surrounded by scenic trees and picturesque pond, perfectly placed in most compact of cities. If you love to go a-wandering (val-deri, val-dera), there's no finer place to rest your knapsack than this ideally located bolt-hole, whose terraces and higher among 171 rooms '‹offer breathtaking views, by day and night, of historic old town and distant Alpine peaks. Grand casino, restaurants, bars, fitness area and underground parking complete up-market package for perfect resting place amid adventures.
SWISS ROLE: Oldest neutral country in the world, Switzerland has not fought foreign war since 1815 Treaty of Paris. What's so funny 'bout peace, love and underground bunkers? This land is unique in having ample nuclear fall-out shelter space to accommodate its entire population.
WHERE TO DINE: Restaurant Kornhauskeller www.kornhauskeller.ch is your go-to, surrounded by striking Münger frescos, for typical Berner Platte. The dish, a carnivorous celebration of smoked sausage, pork, beef, bacon, served with sauerkraut, dates back 220 years to Bernese forces, having defeated French at Battle of Neuenegg, returning to just such short notice signature dish of variously available preserved supplies.
"Original Swissdom does hype" are watchwords for centrally located establishment, incorporating deli and bar, that is Lötschberg www.loetschberg-aoc.ch, promising "youthful open-mindedness in trendy restaurant" as well as revered Rösti. Originally farmers’ breakfast fare from German-speaking section of the country, this national dish varies regionally with Bernese version crispier creation fried in butter.
I beg your pardon, local cuisine can promise you a rose garden, in form of a lofty eatery combining revisited traditional plates with self-made Mediterranean creations. Rosengarten www.rosengarten.be affords arguably best view of blooming brilliant park featuring 223 rose, 200 iris and 28 rhododendron flower varieties as well as enchanting water lily pond.
Pure transport of delight comes, bordering bear park that reinforces fact city was in 1710 named by settler hunters after first animal they saw, in form of Altes Tramdepot www.altestramdepot.ch, again serving unrivaled vista as well as appetising offerings aplenty, washed down by foaming beers, brewed in on-site capacious copper tanks.
Food and drink lovers need look no further than Casa Novo www.casa-novo.ch "stylish spacious family establishment with incomparable atmosphere". Jesús Novo can't quite turn table water into wine but he and Dominik's take on Mediterranean cuisine is, none the less, heavenly. "What could be better than relishing Spanish delicacies while enjoying a view of the Aare?" they ask. "Very little." we reply.
SWISS INTERNATIONAL AIR LINES: Offering 180-plus weekly flights from Manchester, London City, Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Dublin to Zurich, Geneva or Sion, all-inclusive from Â£74 one-way including airport taxes, hold and hand luggage, meal and drink, free first set of ski or snowboard equipment and boots. Info: swiss.com, 03456010956
SWISS TRAVEL SYSTEM: Swiss Transfer Ticket, covering round-trip between airport/Swiss border and destination, Â£112 second class, Â£182 first class, offers all-in-one train, bus and boat pass on all-inclusive basis from 3-15 days including admission to 500-plus museums and half-price scenic mountain railway routes. Info: 00800 10020030, www.swisstravelsystem.co.uk