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Bern: the City of the Bear

Bern is the diplomatic capital of Switzerland. It is here that the diplomatic missions and the headquarters of international organizations are located. Bern is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Europe and one of the finest examples of medieval architecture. In Bern, one can find the longest covered shopping street in Europe, with many cozy restaurants and cafes filled with an indescribable charm. Bern is also the cultural center of Switzerland: it hosts the country's oldest universities, museums, theaters, and art galleries. The numerous attractions one can see in Bern include Bern Historical Museum, Cathedral, Bell Tower Zytgloggeturm, Untertorbrucke Bridge, Art Museum, "Bear Pit" aviaries, the Parliament House, The Baroque Church of the Holy Spirit, the Botanical Garden, Kinderfresserbrunnen Fountain, the Museum of Albert Einstein, and the Swiss Alps Museum.

Bern's symbol is the bear. According to the legend, the name to the new settlement was given after Bertohold had killed a bear in the local woods. Since the XVI century there is a special "bear pit" in the city. Even one of the areas is named in honor of the beast - Barrenplatz. The principal part of the historical center starts from the modern station building and along the streets Spitalgasse, Marktgasse, Kramgasse and Gerechtigkeitsgasse and leads to the bridge Nideggbrucke. Here lies one of the most important architectural ensembles in Switzerland. The beginning of Spitalgasse is dominated by Hayliggaystkirche (1726-1729), one of the most significant baroque Protestant churches in Switzerland. Massive columns of sandstone and a circular gallery attached to the interior of the church give it a special design.

At Barrenplatz your attention will be drawn to the Kefigturm tower. And on Kornhausplatz tourists can see one of the most original fountains in Bern - Kinderfresserbrunnen ("Devourer of children"), built in 1516. It was conceived as a vivid example of punishment for juvenile offenders. Over time, the figure of a giant, devouring the little sinners, no longer seems so frightening. The central place in the square is occupied by Cornhouse (1711-1718), a typical example of Bern High Baroque. Next to it, there is a French church built at the end of the 13th century in Gothic style.

The main attraction in Bern is the bell Zytgloggeturm built in the 12th century. It served as a former western gate to the old city. At first it was a defensive tower with thick walls, the shape of which has undergone many changes as a result of rearrangements. The eastern facade is decorated with the famous clock tower showing not only time, but also the day of the week, month, the sign of the zodiac and the phase of the moon. Spacious Kramgasse is one of the most beautiful streets in Bern where the picturesque harmony of old buildings is violated by the two fountains adorned with banners. At the end of Gerechtigkeitsgasse there is the Nideggkirche church. This late Gothic church was built on the place of the old fortress. The street leads further to the bridge Nideggbrucke which is constructed on the 25-meter height above the Aare river. However, the oldest surviving bridge in Bern is a stone bridge Untertorbrucke, built in 1461.

Monotonous tiled roofs of the old city create an urban landscape with the 100-meter high tower of the Cathedral. This huge temple is known for exceptionally long construction though the cornerstone of the cathedral was laid in 1421. Tourists find the bas-reliefs depicting the Last Judgement especially impressive. The rich interior of the cathedral is complemented by luxurious stained glass windows.

Federal Parliament is a complex of buildings in the style of the Florentine Renaissance. Its central building was erected in 1894-1902 and was topped with a beautiful dome. It is here that the two Houses of Parliament - the National Council and the Council of States - take seat.