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Did you know that Casanova also amused himself here? In when he arrived in Bern, Mattequartier was replete with bathhouses that doubled up as brothels. Switzerland is relatively safe but I prefer renting an Airbnb apartment from a woman, especially if I will be sharing the place with the host.
The bathroom and kitchen are spic and span, and the folding bed in the living room with its butter-yellow sheets, is comfortable. Bern is a compact city without the usual trappings of a capital. For a closer look at the Parliament Building, sign up for the minute guided tours held from Monday to Friday. It hosts weekly markets, political rallies and cultural events. Come winter, it transforms into an ice-skating rink. Swimming in the cool, blue waters of Aare River, which originates in the Alps, is not uncommon during the summer months.
Along the way, I notice the ubiquitous public water fountains; Bern is known as the City of Fountains, and has more than of them. In the Old City there are a dozen fountains that are decorated with allegorical figures, which are supposed to drive home social and moral lessons. Atop another fountain Pfeiferbrunnen stands a barefoot bagpiper in a powder-blue cloak, playing pipes.
His bare feet are supposed to signify his exclusion from society for sins unknown. These covered walkways run the entire length of the street, connecting the sandstone buildings above. The lauben house shops, restaurants, cafes and trendy bars. At No. Meals in Bern often feature cured meats, like sausages or ham, served with bountiful salads, and glasses of chilled beer or dry white wine. There are several stone or wooden staircases connecting the upper parts of Bern to Mattequartier, as well as an electric passenger lift.
I walk down the steps to head back to my Airbnb apartment. On the way a street plaque inscribed with a message catches my eye. Alexandra tells me that it is one of the few surviving written records of Mattenenglisch, a sort of pig Latin that the people of the Matte invented to communicate among themselves without others and especially the police understanding them.