Bears, Rampant Einstein, and the UN Building

Thursday, June 11, we got up and drove into Bern, the capital of Switzerland. We parked on the outskirts of town and walked into the center. Along the way we found some discounted Swiss Chocolate and purchased a huge bar to split amongst the four of us. We agreed that the Swiss have rightfully earned their reputation of being superior chocolatiers. We walked to the main square in Bern and saw the government building and the main bank and noted that they are the same size. Only in Switzerland do they need as much space for a bank as their government.

Next we walked across the river to the famous Bern bear pit. Bern was supposedly named because the founder of the city killed a bear on the land and founded a city there soon after that; thus they keep bears around to impress the tourists. We approached the bear pit and heard a bunch of excited screaming and hoards of children running around the bear pit. Our interest was piqued—I thought that this may be how bad Swiss children were punished: a trip to the bear pit—but it turns out that the pit was void of bears. Now only children occupy the space, which is a smaller attraction for the four of us that the promised bear. Pedro, the last bear to inhabit the pit, died in late April and they are in the midst of building a new pit so they decided not to acclimate a new bear to this pit before moving him to the new one in October.

Although Bern does not show off any real bears currently, the symbol of the bear still dominates the city: rampant bears adorn flags throughout Bern and an armored bear stands guard over a main street.

We started walking back to our car but stopped at Einstein’s house along the way, but did not have time to enter the museum at his residence. Einstein lived in Bern from 1902-1909, during which he published his famous Annus Mirabilis papers. We all agreed that Bern should drop the rampant bear from its flag and instead have a rampant Einstein. Would any flag be better than one with a rampant Einstein? We didn’t think so either.

We left Bern and drove to Geneva, but since we were running behind schedule we saw very little of the city. We stopped by the United Nations Headquarters and looked at the building and all the flags in the courtyard before heading out of town. Along the way we passed the world headquarters of Red Cross – Red Crescent. We were running a little behind—we had made a contact with a family near Lyon, France through the Mennonite Your Way directory and told them we would be at their house by 6:00—so we had very little time in Geneva. I guess I’ll have to spend more time there the next time I am in Switzerland.

david miller

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