Cheap seats: Don’t miss the Swiss
November 19, 2008
Pack your hat and gloves for a winter holiday to Switzerland.
Start in the peninsula city of Bern with its cobbled streets and alleyways, steep river banks and breathtaking views; it leaves visitors with no doubt why this city has been added to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage list.
In the center of the old town, visit the Zeitglockenturm (clock tower), where, at four minutes before the hour, mechanical figures — a crowing cock, a parade of bears, Chronos with his hourglass and a dancing jester — come to life. Once daily the tower is opened to visitors for exploration of its workings or for a visit to the rooftop offering panoramic views.
Stop at No. 49 Kramgasse, the Einstein House, home and workplace of Albert Einstein, the famous scientist and former employee of the Bern patent office.
For a lively souvenir hunt, explore the bustling Marktgasse and shopping district west of Zeitglockenturm, which is home to many specialty shops, restaurants and cafes.
Before leaving Bern, visit the Barengraben, or bear pits, on the eastern bank. These two large sunken dens house Pyrenean brown bears. Visitors are encouraged to feed the critters using food provided.
Another popular travel destination in Switzerland is Basel, where art enthusiasts will enjoy the Fine Arts Museum, the country’s oldest museum. It contains a fine collection of paintings and a courtyard with sculptures by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and more. A five-minute walk away is the Kunsthalle gallery, showcasing contemporary artists’ experimental works.
If, after seeing all that art, you want some of your own, the city has many galleries specializing in art, furniture, ceramics and silver antiques.
Then head to the "three countries corner," where visitors can cross from Switzerland into Germany and then into France — all with just a few steps.
Or perhaps Zurich, the banking capital of the world, is more your cup of tea. The official Web site of Zurich tourism, www.zuerich.com, recommends visiting the Fraumunster Church, noted for five stained-glass windows created by Chagall in its choir section and its elaborate organ.
The city’s Museum of Fine Arts has a large collection of Edvard Munch paintings, Alberto Giacometti stick figures and works by Monet, Van Gogh, Rodin and Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler. Be warned that a visit to this museum could take several hours to complete.
The Swiss National Museum, housed in a castlelike building with a distinctive tower, contains a comprehensive collection of artifacts from the Stone Age to modern times. Look for an exhibit of wheels found in Zurich that are believed to be the first ever discovered, or explore an exhibit on Swiss clock-making.
For a little window shopping, visit Bahnhofstrasse, advertised as one of the most beautiful shopping streets in Europe. Along with the Paradeplatz, this street on the left bank of the River Limmat is home to elegant boutiques, specialty shops, trendy cafes, restaurants and bars. Among the items for sale: Switzerland’s own Freitag bags, made from recycled truck tarpaulins.