Zibelemärit in Bern

Zibelemärit, also known as Marché aux Oignons, is a holiday celebrated on the fourth Monday of every November in Bern, the capital of Switzerland. Little miss Michelle and Beata were not aware of this little known fact. On paper, all of the vendors in Bern come out to sell onions and garlic and really yummy food. It sounds great, doesn’t it? But what you don’t know is that the children come out to play too. Right after school ends, they all run to the center of Bern and buy bags upon bags of confetti. The next step is to buy their two-sided hammers (with a whistle on the end, might I add). What now? They shove their hands in the bags of confetti, and throw a fistful into the face of an unsuspecting passerby. While this person is incapacitated, the children hit the people on the head with their hammers. If they’re really feeling evil, they would whistle right afterwards, thus hurting the eyes, ears and heads of those unlucky enough to get assaulted. Thank goodness Michelle and I did not experience the whole trifecta, but we did find ourselves incredibly paranoid and skirting around younguns to avoid being taken advantage of. Once I was hit by a guy the same age as me on the head and while I walked away, he hit me on the ass as well! These people really have no shame. AND, at a certain point, Michelle and I had strayed from the conventional market path, where we were surrounded by five or six 10-year-olds. We saw the malevolence in their eyes so we started walking away carefully–of course this did not please them. They ran over to us and hit us several times with their hammers, at which point she and I began to run away. We were chased by two children, one of whom gave up on me, whilst the other was able to chase down Michelle and smacked her every which way! Violent, violent holiday.

The other downside to this holiday is that apart from the fact that it was Monday (so all the museums were closed), everything else was closed too! We couldn’t enter into any buildings or churches because not only were they on vacation, but they were also sheltering their businesses from the dirty confetti. It’s another reason why many stores and shops were closed, because the confetti became a real nuisance, as it was in the train station. (In the station, there were several escalators that stopped working because they were completely stuffed with confetti which prevented the gears from turning!)

Aside from all of the impediments, the holiday was a great time to find ourselves in Bern. The atmosphere was incredibly vibrant and we got to see a different side of the city that we could never have seen otherwise. A little bit of history: Bern is a World Heritage Site, as deemed by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The idea behind these sites is: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” Since 1945, UNESCO has been designating beautiful cities, landscapes and cultural assets as heritage sites as a means of preserving them. Bern was founded in 1191 and declared a heritage site in 1983. Some of its prominent sights include sculpted Renaissance fountains, clock towers and its cathedral, the Berner Münster. I took as many pictures of the fountains as I could, but sadly I don’t know all of their names. If I encounter them, I will label them.

For the entirety of our visit, we just walked around and took pictures of everything. It took a surprisingly long amount of time to do this! I really enjoyed our discovery of the Münsterplattform, the park behind the Berner Münster cathedral. It was very peaceful, green and had a great view. After promenading quite a bit, we took the train to Lyss, where we stopped by the Kambly factory–which apparently sells Switzerland’s best biscuits–twenty minutes before it closed. They had free samples of almost all of their cookies and bread sticks! What more could starving college student tourists ask for? It’s funny, I didn’t know that taking pictures was prohibited so I took some pictures of Johann by goldfish. When I turned to take pictures of the store, I was told it was not allowed. Ha! Little does the woman know, I have a picture of my travel buddy. I ended up buying tomato bread sticks which I gifted my host family–and which are practically gone by this point.