On the 16th December we decided to pay a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old City of Bern, which is also the capital of Switzerland. Over the years, we heard a lot about 11 medieval fountains, so we focused our afternoon visit on them. We were fortunate enough to have local participate, so we could learn the original pronunciation of all of their names. We made a video in front of them all.
Bern is known for having over 100 fountains. Most of them have theirown stories, as people from Bern like to give meaning to all monuments. It isfun to walk through the streets of the Old city, and amongst other beautifulbuildings, see the fountains that are placed in the middle of the Spitalstreet, with trams running from both sides.
In the Old city of Bern you can find 11 fountains that were made 600 years ago that are thesubject of this post. They are the part of the UNESCO World heritage sitedesignation in 1983, and the most interesting part.
These fountains are of great interest today to a modern Bernese and the tourists. They are a place for meeting up, in front of one there was a Christmas market, the one in front of the city hall is a place to protest against local government policies, and so on…They are colourful, grotesque statues, typical for Central European middle age style, and have been made (presumably) by 16th-century Fribourgartist Hans Gieng. They depict the city’s history, dominant family and customs from that era, so they are considered as sort of a reminder from that time. Some of them were moved around the city, but they are still close o the main Spital street. Come with us and discover the story from the 16th century Bern.
We visited them starting with Anna Seiler fountain, which is in front of the Zytglocke, a clock tower where little statues come out and do a little dance every quarter to the hour. We stood in the middle of the street and filmed a little intro toour fountain tour. Anna Seiler was a founder of the first hospital in Bern. Shedonated her house to the city, which made it into a modern 16thcentury hospital with working staff and a dozen beds. The main street where most of the fountains are today is called Spital street, because of thathospital.
Next fountain was the Pfeifferbrunnen (Pfeiffer means bagpipe player and brunnen means fountain), in the video you can hear it from a local how is it pronounced. His feet are bare, which is a sign of an exclusion from the society. Even though it was Sunday, streets were crowded, trams were passing, but only tourists stopped to take photos of the fountain. Locals are going to be happy to tell you something about it, but their individual stories are a wonder to them, as well. The third, Ryfflibrunnen, the fountain that is the only one in the contemporary part of the city. The fourth, Schutzenbrunnen, where the archsman (Schütze) wears a funny hat with feathers, which would in middle age context mean that he is about to go to festivities.
Next was the Kindlifresserbrunnen is the most popular one of them all. The statue is of an ogre who is devouring a baby and has seven other babies in the bag or tied to him. This fountain is confirmed to be authorship of Hans Gieng, together with Pfeifferbrunnen and Samson fountain. This fountain is just a couple of meters from Spital street, in front of the Kornhausplatz. Very close to it, you can enjoy the traditional cuisine of Bern – roesti done in various ways.
The sixth on our list was Zahringerbrunnen, a fountain with a bear, a symbol of the city. Zahringer were the founding family of the city and ruled it for generations. The bear is armed and human/like, standing on his back feat. Each of the fountains has either a bear (symbol of the city of Bern) or a lion (symbol of the Zahringerfamily), where the animals are in the secondary role and in interaction withthe human statue, but this bear is the only one where the animal has the mainrole. Down the street, we found the seventh Samsonbrunnen which has a Samson fighting a Golden lion.
The eighth one we saw that day, Mosesbrunnen is in front of the Bern cathedral, where there was one of the many Christmas markets with a very festive atmosphere of people sitting on thebenches and pleasant food smells surrounded the area. We had to move from themain Spital street to get to this one.
On theother side of the Spital street, parallel to the street where Mosses fountainwas found, there was a Vennerbrunnen. Venner means flag carrier in SwissGerman. This fountain is positioned in front of the city hall and has a little podium next to it. People usually feel invited to stand on it and present their points of views on the newest policy of the city or other things they are not agreeing on.
Justice fountain was our tenth fountain. We were back on the Spitalstrasse. This is the only replica of the eleven fountains. The original is being restored in the Museum of Bern, as it was originally destroyed, presumably by Jura separatists. Jura is the newest canton in Switzerland, based in the Jura mountain range, anda part of it is still a part of Bern canton. The statue is blindfolded, as thejustice is blind
I found many funny stories about the last one, Lauferbrunnen. It is said that it was moved so many times around the city, that they decided to name it the Runner(Laufer). The eleventh fountain of the day is a bit further away, in a park,and it was already dusky, even though it was 5 PM. There you go, eleven wonderful stories that paint a picture of the middle ages in the capital city of Switzerland. We would definitely suggest visiting and seeing for yourselves the magnificent details, colours and drink the water from these fountains. Thewater is delicious, as it is fed by underground resources.
Within the event, we also visited three #fairspots (places that are doing some good actions for the environment or the local community) and supported a local restaurant, café and an ice-cream place (you can read about that experience here).
It was a pleasure to participate #makeheritagefun day on the 16th December and we are looking forward to the next one. I hope that the stories inspired you to stop in Bern and enjoy the fountains.