BERN, SWITZERLAND: Time. Space. Gravity. Acceleration. Four simple words, but four complex concepts that were the driving force behind one man’s perception of the universe. His name was Albert Einstein.
Einstein Haus in Bern, Switzerland
When Einstein lived in Bern, Switzerland from 1903 to 1905 while working as a Level III assistant examiner in the Swiss patent office, he developed his Theory of Relativity that changed perceptions of the cosmos forever. Renting a small second floor flat in the center of the Old Town with his wife Mileva and son Hans Albert, Einstein’s brief residence in the Swiss capital was a perfect storm for the world famous physicist.
Switzerland has always been known for precision timepieces and its clock making industry so it was not unusual for patent applications relating to time to regularly cross Einstein’s desk. Some of those ideas helped to spur his insatiable lifelong curiosity about the relationship of time and space to the universe.
Ironically, the Einstein apartment at Kramgasse 49 is only a couple of blocks from Bern’s famous Clock Tower or Zytglogge. Today, the flat is open to the public, but it may just be one of the best-kept secrets in Bern.
With its arcaded streets, the Old Town of Bern has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.
Because of this, other than the cars which line the street today, visitors to the apartment can look out of the front window and gaze at the same views of Bern that Einstein himself saw over a century ago.
Thanks to Bern’s arcades, it has been said that when you stroll through it’s streets, you can walk through the Old Town in the rain and never get wet.
Einstein Haus: Easy to miss
One reason the Einstein Haus is so frequently missed by “tourists” is the unassuming manner in which it is promoted.
Were it not for a small sign on an outside wall just before the entrance, visitors could easily walk past it without ever knowing it is there.
For “travelers”, rather than “tourists”, the Einstein Haus is a must visit place. It is small, seemingly cramped at times, and appointed with understated furnishings, but that combined with Bern’s historic architecture is what provides the overwhelming sensation that one of the world’s greatest minds might actually walk through the door at any given moment.
Honoring the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s residence in Bern, the entrance was renovated in 2005 to welcome visitors showing an illustration of the Milky Way.
The spiral staircase to the second floor remains in its original state, adding to the aura that Einstein and his family still live in their humble surroundings while also serving as a memorable image of how they walked up and down the stairs on a daily basis.
Albert Einstein: His papers and photos on display at Einstein Haus
A third-floor space offers Einstein’s biography, papers, and photos of his life’s work. There is also a 20-minute video which further enhances the allure of the surroundings.
Though adept at creating elaborate formulas to calculate his theories, Einstein would see the world in what is known as “thought experiments.”
Wikipedia explains a thought experiment as considering
“some hypothesis, theory or principle for the purpose of thinking through its consequences. Given the structure of the experiment, it may not be possible to perform it, and even if it could be performed, there need not be an intention to perform it.”
Einstein devoted his entire life, thus making his elaborately complex calculations easier to comprehend, with this simple thought:
“The common goal of a thought experiment is to explore the potential consequences of the principle in question.”
Several decades after leaving Bern, Einstein emigrated to the United States in 1933. Adolf Hitler had come to power necessitating that the Einsteins leave. Due to his Jewish background, Albert Einstein never returned to his native Germany, living out his days in Princeton, NJ instead.
Visiting Bern, Switzerland
Bern sits atop the hill on a peninsula created by the meandering River Aare. It is a favorite destination for visitors and, because it is the Swiss capital, the already magnificent Swiss rail system provides even greater access to the rest of the country with countless departures and arrivals each day.
From the main railway station, you can get to Kramgasse 49 aboard the tram in the direction of “Barebgraben.”
It is also an easy walk by heading to the Clock Tower and walking a couple more blocks under the right hand arcade. Bern is a compact city and a popular place for a casual stroll.
Directly across the street from the main train station is Hotel Schweizerhof, a 5-star hotel property with its own unique historical perspective.
Bern has much to offer visitors seeking something a little different and unique apart from Switzerland’s stunning alpine scenery; the Klee Museum, the Postal Museum, the Bear Pit, the Alpine Museum, majestic government buildings, the Rose Garden, arcaded streets, the Onion Market, the Clock Tower and much more.
But if you fail to visit the Einstein Haus at Kramgasse 49, you haven’t seen the whole city and sadly, too many people pass it by because they don’t even know it is there.
Be a “traveler”, not a “tourist”, and you will be richly rewarded by the city of Bern and the legacy of Albert Einstein. It’s simply a matter of time, space and relativity.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime
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