Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Bern

Bern is a cluttered medieval city in German-speaking Switzerland, home to Einstein’s theory of relativity. The entire city center has been designated World Heritage status for its well-preserved medieval architecture.

Here’s a bird’s eye view of its Matte district, the traditional home of artisans that once had its very own Bernese dialect.

While ground level views were spectacular, like this one over the river Aare,

Seeing the city from above really was the way to go.

We climbed the hill across the river to see the snow-covered cluster of rooftops in the city center.

Yep, good view!

Bern’s name comes from the word “bear” in the local dialect. Wouldn’t you know it, they actually keep bears in a pit in the middle of the city! So on the way down from the hill, we visited Pedro. Anyone else think that’s a hilarious name for a bear in Switzerland?

After all that walking and shivering, we sorely needed some fuel. We stopped at the nearby Altes Tramdepot microbrewery for a glass (or two?) of their seasonal honey brew.

We also figured, why the heck not, and ordered some bone-warming Kasespatzle - spatzle mixed with Emmenthaler cheese, onions and bacon and chucked under the broiler to make it melty and warm.

Here’s Phil raving about the bread that just totally rocks in Switzerland.

With food in our bellies and beer in our veins to keep our blood from freezing, we headed to Bern's 15th century Gothic Munster cathedral, the tallest cathedral in Switzerland. Phil checked out the impressive stained glass windows.

We passed by the famous Zytglogge clock tower in the medieval center on our way back to the hotel.

Our hotel restaurant owed us two free beers so we chose a locally brewed Junkerbier.

We decided to eat in the hotel restaurant that is known for its Bernese specialties. I started with Pastinakencrèmesuppe mit Lauchstroh. The owner of the restaurant explained to me that the vegetable used to make this creamy soup was only grown in the Bern area and that you couldn’t find it anywhere else in the world, therefore she couldn’t translate it for me but to trust her, it was very good. She was right, it was very good, and I thought it tasted suspiciously like parsnip. Well, when I got home I plugged Pastinakencrèmesuppe mit Lauchstroh into Google translate, and whadaya know, it’s parsnip cream soup with fried leek straws! She was a good saleswoman, but her English sucked.

I also ordered Bratwurst (from Metzgerei Steiner, Kramgasse, Bern) an Zwiebelsauce mit Rösti und Salat- Bern sausage with onion sauce, rosti, and winter salad. The sausage was moist and flavorful, the rosti was perfectly smooth on the inside and crisp brown on the outside, and overall the dish was hearty. The side salad of arugula with a vinegary dressing really cut the heaviness of the main plate. But, I’m not sure about the pile of onions on top of the sausage. I had a hefty fork full of onions with every bite of sausage and half of the onions were still leftover when the sausage was spent. The Bernese must REALLY love their onions. Like, a lot.

The clear winner of the night was Phil’s Suure Mocke vom Rind mit Kartoffelstock und Saisongemüse - a Bernese specialty. It is basically a Swiss pot roast, beef braised in wine and vinegar served with a platter of whipped potatoes and seasonal veggies. The sauce was very unique and rich, and the meat yielded easily to a fork. The veggies left something to be desired but who could complain with a huge platter of whipped potatoes to soak up all the sauce?

The perfect dish for a Swiss winter’s night.

1 comment:

Jacqui said...

Hi Cari
I came across your blog when I googled Gastronomy (!) I'm very interested at the MA program at Adelaide and would love to ask you a few questions about your experience over email if possible. I will leave my address. Thanks a ton in advance.
Cheers
Jacqui
jlgabel@gmail.com