Saturday, 30 July 2016


Over the last twelve months we have visited numerous cities and villages in Switzerland. But we did not have the chance so far to visit the Swiss capital. As a matter of fact, Switzerland does not have a capital at all. At least not from formal perspective. After all, it is a confederation of cantons, each of which is to some extent a separate state. Still, there exists in Switzerland one special city, called the "federal city", where the parliament of the Confederation resides. Ladies and gentleman - welcome to Bern.

Bern lies on the banks of the river Aare.

On top of the hill you will see one of the most prominent buildings in the city - the parliament house, known as the Federal Palace.

The Federal Palace was built at the beginning of the twentieth century, in neo-classic style.

My Postcrossing friends surely know that Bern is not only the seat of the Swiss parliament and government, it is also the seat of the Universal Postal Union. Which even has a special monument in the city center.

The Old Town of Bern is centered around the main street, which is bordered by similar houses, all of which are decorated with flags of Switzerland and the canton Bern.

In the middle of the street you will find fountains. But they are not just fountains. They date back to the sixteenth century and each of them is different. That one represents the Piper.

The arcades of the buildings facing the street constitute one of the longest covered shopping promenades of Europe.

You might have noticed the tram rails on both sides. They go in waves, since the trams have to respect the fountains. That one is the Carrier of the Flag.

The tower in the back is the Zytglogge, an old guard and clock tower, built in early thirteenth century. It includes a huge clock on one of the sides.

Well, on the other side it includes two clocks! The fountain representing a bear in full armour  is a memorial to the founder of Bern, Berchtold von Zähringer. According to a legend, Berchtold shot a bear on the Aare peninsula as he was searching for a site to build a city. Since then, the bear is a symbol of the city of Bern. And it is not the last bear that you will see today.

The Zytglogge and the fountains, together with the rest of the Old Town, has made UNESCO to inscribe Bern on its World Heritage list.

Look up. And yes, yet another bear, this time painted on the wall.

Let's move in the direction of the river Aare.  The high gothic tower belongs of course to the Bern cathedral.

On the hill you surely noticed terraces. And yes, the capital city of Switzerland, in the very heart of the Old Town, conceals vineyard. And possibly some vegetables as well.

The river is divided by some kind of dam.

As we cross the river, I need to ask you to look on the other side. The hill looks unusual, isn't it?

Let's come closer. It includes again some terraces and a little brook.

No, it is not yet another farm in the city center. It is the Bear Park, house to the living symbols of the city of Bern.

As you might have guessed, the bears are not excessively enjoying the interest of all the tourists, especially taking into acount the high fence that does not allow to treat them as lunch. So what would any wise bear do in such a case? Obviously - take a nap.

Let's not wake him up and turn back on our tiptoes in the direction of new adventures.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Tectonic Arena Sardona

Some of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are so breathtaking that it is kind of obvious why and how they have landed on the list. For others it is less obvious. But when you go there, you are likely to be surprised in each case.

Today, we will visit one of these less obvious sites - the Tectonic Arena Sardona, located in the Swiss canton of Glarus.

The Sardona site is unique because of it geological features, where different parts of rocks have moved in a way to create clearly visible lines.

To see them you may decide to take a longer hike. Unfortunately, not too well prepared for horses. Or you can go to one of the visitors' centers. There is one in the town of Elm.

You can admire there many different rocks. Striped of course.

Alternatively, you can go to the capital city of the canton Glarus, called (what a surprise) - Glarus. There, you need to look for the train station.

Next to it you will find yet some more rocky mountains, almost entering the city.

Inside the train station, you can visit the Natural Museum of the canton. There are foxes ...

... and beavers.

You can also study plans under a microscope.

You can also touch the precious stones. Well, maybe they are not really precious but for sure they are special.

Finally,  you can read lots of stories about the geological history of the region.

Finally, as a third option (am I not being generous with you today?), you can go on the shores of the Walensee, at the border of canton Glarus and Sankt Gallen. The mountains that surround the lake are part of the Sardona Tectonic Arena.

The contrast of the turquoise water and the high mountains is really impressive.

When you look up, you will spot immediately the layer of the rock that was inversed, turning in a way where the younger layer is actually on top of the older.

I must say that the Tectonic Arena Sardona was a surprisingly nice place to see. If you have a spare hour somewhere in the Eastern part of Switzerland, come and admire yourself the mountains and their stripes.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Maison Calliers

Everybody knows that Switzerland is the country of chocolate. Some weeks ago we have visited the Lindt factory outlet. Unfortunately, it was not possible to visit the factory itself. It left me with a feeling of disapointment. It took me some time to find a cure for this feeling but finally I was sucessful - dear friends, let me take you to Maison Cailliers.

Cailliers is a famous Swiss brand of chocolate, produced for over a century in Broc, near Gruyère. Since a couple of years, it is possible to visit the factory and take a tour to understand better how chocolate is made. Let's grab our choco-guides and off we go.

In the lobby, you can meet the two fathers of the Calliers chocolate. François-Louis Cailler was the first Swiss manufacturer of chocolate.  

Henri Nestlé, the founder of Nestlé and the inventor of condensed milk is the second important person in the history of Calliers. The combination of the art of both gave the world the milk chocolate.

Because chocolate was not always a sweet milky melting treat as we know it today. Cocoa trees used to grow mainly in South America.

The Aztecs believed they were given to humans by their gods. Aztec gods were nothing close to nice so the way cocoa was prepared and drunk was bitter and strong.

It is Hernán Cortés who brought cocoa to Europe. Initially, it was considered by the church as a pagan drink, coming from the devil himself. A special letter from the pope was required to open the doors of European dining rooms for chocolate.

So do you know what is needed to make good chocolate? Of course cocoa beans. If you wish you can try to eat one. It is rather bitter.

Then comes the cocoa butter.

My favourite type of chocolate would require also milk. Did you know that the taste of milk depends on what the cows were eating? There is also a difference in the taste of summer milk and winter milk. The employees of Caillers are able to judge from the taste of the chocolate if it was made with summer or winter milk.

Last but not least, you can pimp up the chocolates with some additional ingredients. My favourite are almonds.

So how is the chocolate made? Everything starts here. In these huge devices the chocolate is mixed.

Here it is formed and cooled.

The smell is just awesome. Those tiny pieces of chocolate are called "Branches" and they are a spécialité of Calliers.

As a last step, they are packed into colourful packaging.

As we leave the manufacturing site, the smell of chocolate becomes even stronger. Yes, this is heaven on Earth - the tasting room.

Do not be shy, try these ones.

And those ones as well.

You can also try to make some chocolate yourself in the Atelier du Chocolat.

Unfortunately we did not book a session so we can only sneak through the window and admire young chocolatiers at work.

If you are still not fully filled with the brown gold, you can follow me to the factory shop. You will find there Calliers chocolates in all colours and tastes.

For those who look for something more special wait those friendly chocolate farm animals.

Before Calliers, chocolate was hand made. As a result, it was very expensive and available for aristocrats only. François-Louis Cailler invented a way of automated manufacturing of chocolate, making it accessible for everyone. I do not know what you think, but for me the man really deserved a Nobel Prize. Or at least a standing applause.