The touring exhibition of the Terracotta Warriors has been at the Bern Historical Museum since March and ever since it arrived I’ve wanted to go and see it. This weekend (two weeks before the exhibition closed!) I finally managed to make the trip up to Bern. Rather than go up and back in a day I decided to book a hotel to make a weekend of it and explore the city a bit as well.
Saturday was surprisingly sunny and dry (they had predicted rain), but extremely windy. Making the most of the good weather I rented an iPod from the tourist office and embarking on a walking tour of the town. This was in two parts, one going from the train station down to the Bear Park and then the reverse via a slightly different route.
I arrived around noon and because I’d snacked on the train so I wasn’t too hungry before I started the walk. However with all the walking and the wind by the time I reached the half-way point of the Bear Park I was starving! Luckily for me there’s a lovely Microbrewery there serving a mix of German, Swiss and general International Cuisine (Altes Tramdepot).
I don’t drink beer myself, but apparently theirs is very good. It’s certainly very popular! The place was packed even at just gone 2pm and they were having to turn larger parties away. However luckily for my rumbling g stomach being by myself I was able to share a table with another couple who were already seated.
Aware that I still had plenty more to see before the light faded I opted for a quick snack and a glass of wine (to protect against the cold wind!) rather than a full meal. I ordered a pretzel with sweet mustard and a glass of the Petite Arvine. Rather than the cold, crisp and salty pretzels that I am used to this was a warm and soft affair with no salt. While not quite what I was expecting this was delicious – I wish I had ordered two!
Fortified, I set back off on the return leg of my walk to see more of the beautiful old town. Towards the end of this second leg I was getting rather peckish again. I was glad to spot a Migros takeaway and even happier to see that they were selling “cronut”s inside! Migros has been making its own version of these treats since August (angering the original creator), but for some reason it only sells them in certain stores in German speaking cantons.
After all the hype worldwide about the originals and all the press in Switzerland about Migros’s recreation I had been dying to try one. When I was in Zurich recently I popped in three different Migros take aways in the hope of locating a “cronut” with no success so I was excited to finally be able to get my hands on one. I was the only one by the looks of it, there were about 5 people in from of me in the queue all of whom it turned out were after the same thing.
When I did manage to purchase mine (yoghurt flavoured) I wasn’t disappointed. Delicious and moreish the lemon yoghurt filling was cut nicely through the sweetness (I dread to think how sickly the nougat version is!). The texture is much lighter and richer than a doughnut with all those buttery flakes and despite what I assume is a hefty calorie count it wasn’t heavy on the stomach. I can see why they have become so popular and I have no idea why Migros aren’t selling these in Geneva, they could make a fortune!
After a rest and a (free!) welcome drink at my hotel I set off in the evening in search of some tradition Bernese grub. Most of the Bernese cuisine I came across on this trip was of the sweet variety (more on that in a minute), but I during my walk I had spotted a couple of places offering a savoury dish called a Bernese Plate. This carnivore’s delight I had at Brasserie Chez Edy near the Parliament buildings consisted of slices of sausages, bacon, boiled beef and smoked belly pork, a piece of bone marrow and some potatoes and sauerkraut.
Heavy and rich, despite being very hungry when I started, this dish was more than I could manage. The different meats had been slow cooked and were succulent and delicious. The belly pork was a particular highlight with its oh so soft layers of fat, the sharp sauerkraut a necessary and welcome relief from the never-ending pile of meat!
The next day I enjoyed a continental breakfast at the hotel and headed off (in the pouring rain!) to the Historical museum.
I’m really glad that I made the trip to see this exhibition. While the number of warriors on display is small compared to what can be seen in China, you see them at close quarters and the information on the creation of the warriors and the society at the time was fascinating. After exploring the exhibition for a fair few hours I was ready for lunch so headed to the museums Chinese themed restaurant. As with the Bear Park this place was packed and I had to share a table.
After the all the food I had eaten the day before I fancied something a bit lighter and so choose the stir fry of chicken, peppers, leeks, peanuts and chillis and feeling adventurous to go with it I tried a Chinese red “Cabernet Blend” wine. The meal itself was disappointing with the stir fry very bland, the peanuts burnt and the accompanying “Jasmine” rice very dry (it did not taste at all like Jasmine rice!). The wine on the other hand was much nicer than I expected.
When I first smelt the wine it seemed rather sweet and I wondered what I had let myself in for, however upon tasting it was fruity, mellow and inoffensive. Aside from it being from China I wouldn’t say there was anything particularly distinctive or great about this wine, but it was perfectly nice, if a little boring, and it came in a large measure (for Switzerland) which I really needed to help me with the food!
After the Historic museum, and a quick detour via Einstein’s house, it was time for me to hit the bakeries (the only places other than museums that were open on Sunday!) to get some Bernese treats. During a bit of research before visited I had discovered that there were two types of biscuits that are traditional; Huniglebkuchen and Haselnusslebkuchen . I managed to grab one of each type as well as a Berner Mandelbärli, an almond cake in the shape of a bear!
The bear was by far my favourite (I love almonds!). It was quite a sturdy sponge but it was still moist and the flavor was lovely and strong. The Huniglebkuchen was in the same vein as the ginger/spice biscuits that you get all over the German speaking world, it just had bear on it! That’s not to say it wasn’t nice, just not particularly special. The Haselnusslebkuchen on the other hand was very unusual. It had a texture more like a set paste than something that had been baked! Unfortunately I didn’t like it, I could hardly taste any nut flavour and the texture was just too cloying in the mouth.
I won’t be trying either of the biscuits again but next time I’m in Bern I think I might just stock up on the little cake bears!