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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade


Updated: Sep 24, 2019

September 23, 2019

It is Monday and the weather is starting out rainy, so what do you do? For us, we head to Bern. There are arcades to walk under to keep us dry.

The mountains can often cause a difference in weather. Once we were past Spiez, the heavy rain stopped and clouds started to break. Streaks of sun shone on the mountains by Lake Thun.

The two things I really wanted to photograph today were the bears and the Zytglogge, the medieval Clock Tower.

The Bärengraben is a bear pit situated at the eastern edge of the old city, next to the Nydeggbrücke and the River Aare. Although still in use, the Bärengraben has been supplemented since 2009 by the adjacent BärenPark, a larger and more natural enclosure alongside the River Aare.

When we first saw the bears, they were in the larger enclosure by the river.

Brown bears walk on all fours, on their soles, mostly at a leisurely pace. They can, if necessary, reach a speed of 50km/h over short distances.

Summer is the mating season. Gestation can last from 3 to 9 months because pregnant females can influence the development of embryos according to food availability and climate. Cubs are usually born in December during hibernation and are about the size of guinea pigs at birth.

Brown bears can live more than 20 years in the wild. In captivity, a balanced diet and careful medical supervision can prolong the animals lives beyond 30 years.

After 20 minutes or so, the bears seemed to disappear. Well, it was snack time and the bears were lured to the Bärengraben.

Today, it looked like they hid carrots in the enclosure. The three bears hunted around the pit for the treats.

Finn was born in Helsinki, Finland's Zoo on January 15, 2006. He came to the Dählhölzli Animal Park on March 17, 2008 and struck up an immediate friendship with Björk.

He is the father of Ursina and Berna.

Berna is the twin sister of Ursina. The two were born as cubs of Björk and Finn in a winter den in the BearPark in December 2009.

Berna left the BearPark on July 22, 2013. After increasing conflicts with her mother, Björk, the park decided to remove Berna from the group. She now lives in a new enclosure in Dobrich Zoo, Bulgaria. Bern Animal Park Dählhölzli is in close contact with this zoo and supervised the design and construction of their bear enclosure.

Brown bears are omnivores. Plants constitute 80 percent of their intake. The rest consists off animal fodder: anything from bugs to dead game or young elk.

If you were a bear, what would be your prayer?? Michael said, "Dear Lord, they have only given me vegetables today. I am oh so hungry!! One of them wouldn't be missed if they fell into the pit. Would they?"

I just love reflection pictures.

Brown bears always follow their noses. They have a particularly acute sense of smell and keen hearing, but their vision is less developed.

Of the two smaller bears, I'm not sure which one is Björk and which one is Ursina.

Björk (Swedish for birch) was born on December 19, 2000 in the 'Skandinavisk Dyrepark’ Kolind in Denmark.

She came to the Dählhölzli Animal Park with her sister, Barba, on May 6, 2004. Barba went to the Wildnispark Zürich-Lagenberg on January 10, 2008, and was replaced in Bern by Finn.

Björk and Finn moved into the BearPark at the beginning of October, 2009.

Ursina is the twin sister of Berna. Both were born in the den to their mother Björk in December 2009. Their father is Finn.

After finishing their snacks, they immediately wanted to go back to the other section, the BärenPark.

Björk became quite aggressive. He clawed at the ground and charged at the door. From across the enclosure, you could heard the pounding on the door. You could see him clawing the door, too.

The BärenPark is next to the Aare River.

You can get from the top to the bottom very quickly now.

The Bärengraben and BärenPark are administered as a geographically discrete part of the city's Dählhölzi Zoo.

The bear has long served as symbol of Bern. Legend has it that, in 1191, Duke Berthold V of Zähringen vowed to choose as namesake the first animal his hunt met in the wood that was to be chopped down for his new city.

As Konrad Justingers chronicle puts it: "Then they caught a bear first, which is why the city was called Bern; and so the citizens had their coat and shield, which was a black bear in a white shield, going upright."

The first records of bears being kept in the city come from 1513, when the chronicler Valerius Anshelm described how the Bernese returned home victorious from the Battle of Novara, carrying both the captured standards and a living bear as spoils of war.

The first bear pit was at what is still called the Bärenplatz (Bear Plaza). The current pit is the fourth such enclosure. It was first opened in 1857. In 1925, a smaller adjacent pit was added to raise the young bear cubs.

Between 1994 and 1996, the Bärengraben was completely renovated to improve conditions for the bears. Despite this, the keeping of bears in what still remained a bear pit led to many complaints. This, as well as new legal requirements, prompted a rethink of how the bears should be kept.

As a result, the BärenPark was opened in 2009, on the steeply sloping land between the Bärengraben and the bank of the River Aare. The original bear pit and the BärenPark were linked by a tunnel, allowing the bears to make use of both spaces.

I just love the view of the Aare River and the city from the BärenPark.

When the weather is warm, people go into the water at certain locations and then float down the river. Our friend Fränzi does this.

I'm happy to see Kauffmann still open in Bern. The one on the Bahnhofstrasse in Zürich closed a couple years ago. When in Zürich, I would shop for chicken legs and apple tarts. I would take them down to the lake and have a mini picnic. Delicious!

My favorite fountain statue! This is the Kindlifresser or “Child Eater.” Construction all around the fountain so it was difficult to take a picture. Good thing I had my telephoto lens!

"It was created in 1545/46 by Hans Gieng in place of a wooden fountain from the 15th century. The new fountain's original name was Platzbrunnen (Plaza Fountain); the current name was used first in 1666. Kindli is a Swiss German diminutive for the German word Kind, meaning child. A literal translation of the name Kindlifresserbrunnen therefore would be "Fountain of the Eater of Little Children".

The fountain sculpture is a sitting ogre devouring a naked child. Placed at his side is a bag containing more children. Because the ogre is wearing a pointed hat resembling a Jewish hat, it has been speculated about the possibility of the ogre being the depiction of a Jew as an expression of blood libel against Jews. Another theory is that the statue is the likeness of Krampus, the beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Christmas season who had misbehaved. According to other theories it is a depiction of the Greek god Cronus eating his children or the Roman Saturn eating the months, though Cronus should have six and Saturn twelve rather than the sculpture's eight. It may also represent a warning to children to avoid falling into the, at that time, nearby Bear Pits. Another theory is that it represented Cardinal Schiner who led the Swiss Confederation into several bloody defeats in northern Italy. An alternative theory is that it is a depiction of the older brother of Duke Berchtold (founder of Bern) who it is claimed, was so incensed by his younger brother's overshadowing of him that he collected and ate the town's children but such an incident is not recorded in Bern's history books. A final theory is that it is just a carnival character intended to frighten disobedient children.

Around the fountain's base runs a frienze showing armed bears going to war, including a piper and a drummer. The frieze may have been designed by Hans Rudolf Manuel Deutsch.

The Kindlifresserbrunnen is an important object in the novel L'ogre (The Ogre) by Jacques Chessex."

They are doing quite a lot of construction in Bern. Also, Parliament is still in session which means more people.

City Hall

Bern has well over 100 fountains, eleven of which still retain the original tableaus with their beautiful allegorical figures.

Lit candles and wrote prayer intentions at Saints Peter and Paul Church.

I thought Michael might enjoy a tour inside the Zytglogge, Clock Tower.

It was amazing I could go up those 175 winding and very steep steps and not trip up or down.

The clock is wound by Markus Mart, a 75 year old retired engineer, whom still leads some tours. Markus has maintained the machine for nearly 40 years. He has two assistants. When he was younger, it took him 10 minutes to care for the clock and now it takes him 15 minutes.Our guide explained how a maze of iron parts powered by a swinging pendulum has, second by second, counted off the last half millennium.

Markus has a delightful job title, which roughly translates as the Governor of Time, although his responsibilities are quite serious. Every day he or one of his two assistants must wind the clock, a full-body effort that pulls a set of stone weights to the top of the 179 ft (54.5m) tower. As the load slowly descends, it powers the timepiece, which rings every 15 minutes. Bern residents pace their lives to the sound.

Built in the early 13th century, it has served the city as guard tower, prison, clock tower, center of urban life and civic memorial.

"Despite the many redecorations and renovations it has undergone in its 800 years of existence, the Zytglogge is one of Bern's most recognizable symbols and the oldest monument of the city, and with its 15th-century astronomical clock, a major tourist attraction.

When it was built around 1218–20, the Zytglogge served as the gate tower of Bern's western fortifications. These were erected after the city's first westward expansion following its de facto independence from the Empire. At that time, the Zytglogge was a squat building of only 16 meters (52 ft) in height. When the rapid growth of the city and the further expansion of the fortifications relegated the tower to second-line status at around 1270–75, it was heightened by 7 meters (23 ft) to overlook the surrounding houses.

Only after the city's western defenses were extended again in 1344–46 up to the now-destroyed Christoffelturm, the Zytglogge was converted to a women's prison, notably housing Pfaffendirnen – "priests' whores", women convicted of sexual relations with clerics. At this time, the Zytglogge also received its first slanted roof.

The walls are three meters thick.

"In the great fire of 1405, the tower burned out completely. It suffered severe structural damage that required thorough repairs, which were not complete until after the last restoration in 1983. The prison cells were abandoned and a clock was first installed above the gate in the early 15th century, probably including a simple astronomical clock and musical mechanism. This clock, together with the great bell cast in 1405, gave the Zytglogge its name, which in Bernese German means "time bell".

In the late 15th century, the Zytglogge and the other Bernese gate towers were extended and decorated after the Burgundian Romantic fashion. The Zytglogge received a new lantern (including the metal bellman visible today), four decorative corner towerlets, heraldic decorations and probably its stair tower. The astronomical clock was extended to its current state. In 1527–30, the clockwork was completely rebuilt by Kaspar Brunner, and the gateway was over arched to provide a secure foundation for the heavy machinery.

The Zytglogge's exterior was repainted by Gotthard Ringgli and Kaspar Haldenstein in 1607–10, who introduced the large clock faces that now dominate the east and west façades of the tower. The corner towerlets were removed again some time before 1603. In 1770–71, the Zytglogge was renovated by Niklaus Hebler and Ludwig Emanuel Zehnder, who refurbished the structure in order to suit the tastes of the late Baroque, giving the tower its contemporary outline.

Both façades were again repainted in the Rococo style by Rudolf von Steiger in 1890. The idealizing historicism of the design came to be disliked in the 20th century, and a 1929 competition produced the façade designs visible today: on the west façade, Victor Surbek's's fresco "Beginning of Time" and on the east façade, a reconstruction of the 1770 design by Kurt Indermühle. In 1981–83, the Zytglogge was thoroughly renovated again and generally restored to its 1770 appearance. In the advent season and from Easter until the end of October, it is illuminated after dusk.

The Bernese German Zytglogge translates to Zeitglocke in Standard German and to time bell in English; 'Glocke' is German for 'bell', as in the related term 'glockenspiel'. A "time bell" was one of the earliest public timekeeping devices, consisting of a clockwork connected to a hammer that rang a small bell at the full hour. Such a device was installed in the Wendelstein in Bern – the tower of the Leutkirche church which the Münster later replaced – in 1383 at the latest; it alerted the bell-ringer to ring the tower bells.

The name of Zytglogge was first recorded in 1413. Previously, the tower was referred to as the kebie ("cage", i.e., prison) and after its post-1405 reconstruction, the nüwer turm ("new tower").

The Zytglogge has an overall height of 54.5 meters (179 ft), and a height of 24 meters (79 ft) up to the roof-edge. Its rectangular floor plan measures 11.2 by 10.75 meters (36.7 by 35.3 ft). The wall strengths vary widely, ranging from 260 centimeters (100 in) in the west, where the tower formed part of the city walls, to 65 centimeters(26 in) in the east.

The outward appearance of the Zytglogge is determined by the 1770 renovation. Only the late Gothic cornice below the roof and the stair tower are visible artifacts of the tower's earlier history."

"The main body of the tower is divided into the two-story plinth, whose exterior is made of alpine limestone, and the three-story tower shaft sheathed in sandstone. The shaft's seemingly massive corner blocks are decorative fixtures held in place by visible iron hooks. Below the roof, the cornice spans around the still-visible bases of the former corner towerlets. The two-story attic is covered by the sweeping, red-tiled, late Gothic spire, in which two spire lights are set to the West and East. They are crowned by ornamental urns with pine cones knobs reconstructed in 1983 from 18th-century drawings.

From atop the spire, the wooden pinnacle, copper-sheathed since 1930, rises an additional 15 meters (49 ft) into the skies, crowned with a gilded knob and a weather vane displaying a cut-out coat of arms of Bern.

The tower's two namesake bronze bells hang in the cupola at its very top.

The great hour bell, cast by Johann Reber, has remained unchanged since the tower's reconstruction in 1405. It has a diameter of 127 centimeters (50 in), a weight of 1,400 kilograms (3,100 lb) and rings with a nominal tone of e'."

"When the great bell rings out every full hour, struck by a large clockwork-operated hammer, passers-by see a gilded figure in full harness moving its arm to strike it. The larger-than-life figure of bearded Chronos, the Greek personification of time, is traditionally nicknamed Hans von Thann by the Bernese. The wooden bell striker, which has been replaced several times, has been a fixture of the Zytglogge since the renewal of the astronomical clock in 1530, whose clockwork also controls the figure's motions. The original wooden Chronos might have been created by master craftsman Albrecht von Nürnberg, while the current and most recent Hans is a 1930 reconstruction of a Baroque original.

The bell-striker has been gilded, just like the bells, since 1770.

Below the hour bell hangs the smaller quarter-hour bell, also rung by a clockwork hammer. It was cast in 1887 to replace the cracked 1486 original.

This is the golden cockerel which crows three times and the man who turns the hour glass, as well as Hans von Thann, the knightly figure at the top of the tower whose hammer strokes beat out the time.

The revolving bears – dressed in the colors of Bern – were added in 1610. They symbolize the power of the city. The procession is opened and closed by bears on their hind legs, carrying musical instruments or weapons. Between them comes a bear on all fours wearing a crown and a knight in armor on a horse.

The jester was added in 1642. He strikes his bells and kicks his legs when the cock crows."

"Both principal façades, East and West, are dominated by massive clockfaces. The Zytglogge's first clockface was likely located on the plinth, but was moved up to the center of the shaft during the tower's 15th-century reconfiguration.

The eastern clock face features an outer ring of large golden Roman numerals, on which the larger hand indicates the hour, and an inner ring on which the smaller hand indicates the minutes. The golden sun on the hour hand is pivot-mounted so that it always faces up. Below the clock face one sees an idealized profile of city founder Duke Berchtold V of Zähringen. While the exact decoration of the clock face has varied from renovation to renovation, the current (post-1983) layout is generally that of 1770."

The dial of the Zytglogge's astronomical clock is built in the form of an astrolabe. It is backed by a stereographically projected planisphere divided into three zones: the black night sky, the deep blue zone of dawn and the light blue day sky. The skies are crisscrossed with the golden lines of the horizon, dawn, the tropics and the temporal hours, which divide the time of daylight into twelve hours whose length varies with the time of year.

Around the planisphere moves the rete, a web-like metal cutout representing the zodiac, which also features a Julian calendar dial. Above the rete, a display indicates the day of the week. Because leap days are not supported by the clockwork, the calendar hand has to be reset manually each leap year on February 29th. A moon dial circles the inner ring of the zodiac, displaying the moon phase. The principal hand of the clock indicates the time of day on the outer ring of 24 golden Roman numerals, which run twice from I to XII. It features two suns, the smaller one indicating the date on the rete's calendar dial. The larger one circles the zodiac at one revolution per year and also rotates across the planisphere once per day. Its crossing of the horizon and dawn lines twice per day allows the timing of sunrise, dawn, dusk and sunset.

The painted frieze above the astronomical clock shows five deities from classical antiquity, each representing both a day of the week and a planet in their order according to Ptolemaic cosmology. From left to right, they are: Saturn with sickle and club for Saturday, Jupiter with thunderbolts for Thursday, Mars with sword and shield for Tuesday, Venus with Cupid for Friday and Mercury with staff and bag for Wednesday. The painting of the entire clock area was refurbished in 1983. Only the matte areas on the clock face are from the earlier coat of paint.

The clock dial has been dated to either the building phases of 1405 or 1467-83, or to the installation of the Brunner clockwork in 1527-30. Ueli Bellwald notes that the planisphere uses a southern projection, as was characteristic for 15th-century astronomical clocks; all later such clocks use a northern projection. This would seem to confirm the dating of the clock to the 1405 or 1467/83 renovations.

A clock is documented in this tower since 1405, when a new bell was installed.

The Zytglogge's internal layout has changed over time to reflect the tower's change of purpose from guard tower to city prison to clock tower. The thirteenth-century guard tower was not much more than a hollow shell of walls that was open towards the city in the east. Only in the fourteenth century was a layer of four stores inserted.

The rooms above the clockwork mechanism were used by the city administration for various purposes up until the late 20th century, including as archives, storerooms, as a firehose magazine and even as an air raid shelter. All but three of the original wooden beams supporting the intermediate floors were destroyed. Since 1979, the tower's interior is empty again. It is only accessed for maintenance and in the course of regular guided tours."

From inside the Clock Tower, we could follow the clock’s movements step by step, from its mechanical figures to the cock’s famous third crow.

There were stone steps, wooden steps and metal steps to climb up and up.

Some original beams from 1500's.

People whom tended the clock and watched for fires, lived about three quarters up the tower. This was the kitchen area.

View toward the newer section of the city.

Construction for the tram lines

Looking toward the older section of the city. The Münster towers overs the rooftops.

Original chimney

Original beam

The tower clock served as the master clock for the city of Bern and hence set the standard. From there, the hours were measured which are indicated on the hour stones of the canton’s roads.

The Zytglogge's astronomical clock is the oldest working one in Europe. There is an older clock in Germany but it does not work.

If the legend is to be believed, this venerable clock inspired a revolution in our concept of time itself. Albert Einstein, who lived not far from the Zytglogge, was allegedly led to his theory of relativity when he looked at the buses coming round the tower and wondered what would happen to them if they moved at the speed of light...

Einstein heard the toll one evening in May 1905. He had been confounded by a scientific paradox for a decade, and when he gazed up at the tower he suddenly imagined an unimaginable scene. What, he wondered, would happen if a streetcar raced away from the tower at the speed of light?

If he was sitting in the streetcar, he realized, his watch would still be ticking. But looking back at the tower, the clock – and time – would seem to have stopped. It was a break-through moment. Six weeks later, he finished a paper outlining a “special theory of relativity”. Later he would show how space-time, as he called it, affected mass, energy and gravity, foreshadowing the nuclear age, space travel, and our understanding of how stars and celestial bodies interact.

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