Bridge Jumper

BERN, SWITZERLAND

I came to Bern not to ride but to swim. But I got in a ride. (And a blog entry!)

Bern is a neat city. As a genealogist, I trace most of my family history to Germany and England but I trace my Wenger line to Bern. My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, John or Hans Wenger, was born here in 1705. Welcome home.

I count among my blessings in life the years I worked with YFU. Those amazing foreign exchange students in the 1990s are now amazing young adults in their 30s. Céline Oreiller met me in Bern and knew my bucket list item – jump off the bridge into the freezing River Aare.

Looking back to the city from the bear pits

We walked the downtown area over to the bear pits. We followed a steep hill up to the gardens and across a high bridge back into town.

 

WARNING: Octopi in the River Aare

After lunch we made our way to the Cathedral of Bern, a place Céline had never been. Although I had a Swiss Rail Pass which was good for local transportation, it was in my stored bags at the train station. I cursed my decision not to have it. With it, we could have taken the funicular to the top of Bern. And we could have avoided the river.

The Kindlifresserbrunnen
A literal translation of the name Kindlifresserbrunnen
would be “Fountain of the Eater of Little Children”

Céline seemed to think I really wanted to jump off a bridge, probably because I told her that. Many times. I was content to climb the high towers of the Cathedral. Or just ride local transportation if I had my rail pass handy. She made it her mission to get me into the river.

Cathedral of Bern
Too Large to be captured by my camera

Around 5:00 p.m. the sun finally came out. We looked way down at the river below and found a “city bikes” location which offered “free” rentals, an oxymoron, indeed. For the first time today I was in my element. On a bike.

Céline, Barry

We rode across a high bridge then found some streets to quickly take us down to the river. At first we didn’t see anyone swimming but as we approached the Schönausteg Bridge, I thought must be the jumping bridge. Someone in a bathing suit walked by. We followed him across the bridge and watched him slip into the water and swiftly was taken away (safely).

Schönausteg Bridge

We didn’t see anyone jumping but the bridge looked like one I remembered in the BBC segment on swimming in Bern. Thankfully it wasn’t the bridge over to the bear pits which I thought I remembered.

I wasn’t sure if it was legal. There were no signs prohibiting it. So I went out on the bridge, climbed over the railing, being watched by others, not knowing what they thought. I was in the middle of the river and was standing on the suspension rails of the bridge. I thought I stood there for an eternity although it was really only a few seconds.

Jumping into the river I was carried away by the swift and cold current of the River Aare. At first it seemed cool being caught up in the current. But I remembered the most important thing is to get out of the river – there is a dam downstream.

Céline on a City Bike
I rode the same cruiser model

I swam towards the shore and saw the first take out point about 100 meters downstream – stairs built down to the river with a railing in the water. I tried to grab the railing and missed. I was being carried downstream. Just briefly, I stopped. I found a rock that I could prop my feet against.

The Dam Awaits

I was only one meter (three feet) away from the railing but the current was too strong to go against the current. And I could not climb out onto the river bank. I let go and went to the next one. I almost missed this, actually thought I had, but I grabbed the railing at the last possible second. Mission complete. So I went back and jumped again.

After I changed, we had to find our way back to the bike rental place. We climbed up a hill and found ourselves next to the American Embassy. I stopped for a photo op although was warned not to photograph the Embassy itself. I didn’t but the Swiss guard was cool. He turned his back. I could have.

U.S. Embassy

We dropped the bikes off after our ride and headed back to the train station to pick up my stored luggage and for me to catch the 6:36 p.m. train to Zurich. Bucket list item achieved.

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