Where the bears hide ...

It is hard to believe Bern is the capital city of Switzerland. Looking down across its higgledly-piggledgy rooftops from the top of the Munster, the city that is divided by the River Aar quickly gives way to lush fields with a backdrop of snowy peaks on a clear day. Wandering through its UNESCO-protected cobbled streets, you realise the layout and architecture have barely changed since medieval times.

The centrepiece of the old town is a rather picturesque clock tower: the Zytglogge. It is a squat tower with a design on one side depicting the phases of the moon and the elevation of the sun above the horizon. Bern is intimately connected with bears. Images of the impressive creatures adorn walls, statues and of course the city flag. There is also a bear park featuring three very cute bears. I felt rather sorry for them as they didn't have a lot of space, but they appeared playful and happy. One was rolling around on the hillside and then accidentally tumbled down towards the river, dusted itself off and went for a paddle. He must have been young and looked just like a Steiff teddy.

The houses of parliament cast an impressive spectacle above the river and the city features several high and elegant bridges. The whole look of Bern reminded me of the classic Disney village that nestles beneath the palace. We stayed at the Innere Enge, a jazz-themed hotel above the city. Its expansive windows boasted an unbeatable panorama across Bern, and yet set in extensive parkland, the hotel felt completely removed from the city. It had its own Jazz Room, where jazz and blues concerts take place regularly throughout the year.

A real treat was going to watch a concert by Louisiana blues star Bobby Rush as part of the International Jazz Festival Bern. He was 78 but was jumping about the stage like a young man and wearing a very glam diamante studded jacket. He cracked a lot of jokes, and much of his music was improvised meaning the whole set came to life despite the intimacy of the concert room. It was blues as I have never seen it done before. He told a rather moving story too, about how as a young man he was commissioned to play a concert for a group of white men. He was made to stand behind a curtain, because although they loved his music, they couldn't bear the colour of his skin. Society is at times a ghastly place.

Tim and I awoke on Sunday to more sunshine and positively unseasonal temperatures - the whole weekend was deliciously warm. We played a round of mini golf on the hotel's course, which was really rather testing. It tested my patience at least when, for the sixth time, I completely missed a shot. During our game, a cute little cat trotted right into the middle of one of the holes and began to bask in the sunshine! We were served by a hopeless waiter during lunch at the Old Tram Station restaurant beside the river, but the sunshine and brisk summer breeze made up for it. After a wander down the river and gentle potter back through the old town we made our way to the station - feeling satisfied that we had experienced the character of Bern.
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