Six super reasons to visit Bern this weekend

Most people don't need a reason to visit Switzerland's capital. But, just in case, we've got 6 super reasons why you may want to stop by this weekend...

Six super reasons to visit Bern this weekend

1. shnit International Short Film Festival

From humble origins as a short film evening in Bern, shnit has grown into a very popular film festival with events taking place simultaneously in eight cities around the world – from Cape Town to Cairo, New York to Moscow.

Dubbed “a premium venue for the exhibition and promotion of short films”, shnit runs for 11 days and showcases over 200 films of every genre and style. Although opening night was on Thursday, this weekend has a packed programme spread across more than 10 venues. Learn more

2. Rendez-vous Bundesplatz 

The spectacular lightshow that is Rendez-vouz Bundesplatz returns this weekend for its eighth outing. Watch as the Swiss parliament building is lit up by a mixture of animation, light, sound and storytelling. This captivating crowd pleaser lures in more than 500,000 visitors each year – and why not? It’s free, right in the heart of Bern and sure to be enjoyed by the whole family.

As always, the lightshow has a special theme and this year’s edition celebrates the 75th anniversary of ‘The Little Prince’ by telling an abridged version of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s well-loved novella. Performances run daily from October 19 until November 24 with showings at 7pm and 8.30pm, and additional performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 9.30pm.

3. Cyclocross World Cup

After an eight year absence, the UCI Cyclocross World Cup returns to Switzerland, and, for the first time, the world’s best cross riders will meet in the nation’s capital Bern. A unique course has been built around Europe’s largest open air swimming pool (Weyermannshaus) and organisers have promised fast and thrilling races with lots of corners and technical sections. Think of a muddy, super intense assault course/triathlon event – but on bikes.   

The main event is for the professionals and takes place on Sunday 21 October, but there’s also races for children, youths and hobby riders planned for Saturday too. More information can be found on the official website

4. Art Workshops for kids and teens

Let your children’s inner artist run free at the Kunstmusuem’s Cool Kids’ Classes this Saturday. The classes are run in English and Russian, and are set up to allow participants to draw, paint and sculpt.

Suitable for 6-14 year olds, the class runs from 10:30AM until noon and costs 10CHF. More details are available on the museum's website.

5. The Indonesian Food Bazar

Fancy trying something a little different this weekend? Then the Indonesian Food Bazar could be for you. With a variety of popular dishes as well as a mixture of traditional specialities, clothes and accessories for you to enjoy, the family-friendly bazar runs from 11AM until 4PM.

We recommend you try the Sate Ayam – or chicken satay skewers – and make sure to get some Bumbu Kacang -peanut sauce – with it (see photo above). Taking place in Gümligen, this event is just a 10-18-minute journey (depending on which bus/train you take) away from Bern central station.

6. zoom in Festival

The 'zoom in' festival for improvised music celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, organisers have invited 45 musicians from all over the world to play 15 concerts at various locations in Bern – including Bern Cathedral and the Museum of Communication. 

Known as the hub of contemporary improvised and experimental music in Bern, this year’s festival features a blend of more established international acts and exciting up-and-comers. Headliners on Saturday night include English saxophone player John Butcher and Welsh harpist Rhodri Davies, as well as Lebanese trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj. Get an idea of what to expect in the video above.

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Will Switzerland be able to feed itself in the future?

Amid a worsening climate crisis and an increasingly unstable world food system, Clare O’Dea looks at what Switzerland and its population need to do to ensure there is enough food on the table in the years to come.

Will Switzerland be able to feed itself in the future?

Faced with a growing global population, the climate crisis and increasingly degraded agricultural land, the challenge of how to feed the world in the near future is one of the burning issues of the day. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created a multitude of additional food security problems, contributing to already rising global food prices and rising input costs for agriculture, such as energy and fertilisers. 

Meanwhile, Switzerland’s food self-sufficiency rate is relatively low for Europe at around 50 per cent. The government’s new agriculture strategy for 2050 has set the seemingly modest goal of maintaining that level.

The 79-page strategy document, like most such publications, does not look beyond 2050. But this is just the point when climate change and increasing demand for food are expected to intensify.

Should we be alarmed?

One thing the Covid-19 pandemic showed was that not all countries are equally affected by a global crisis. Money is usually the main protection against disaster, but leadership, preparedness, and the ability and willingness to respond quickly are also important. 

For domestic food production over the next two to three decades, hope still rests on two main pillars – boosting productivity in a sustainable way, and changing consumer behaviour. There’s not much else that can be done. 

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The bad news is that the Swiss population is not eating a well-balanced diet and the average intake of calories is too high.

People are not eating enough dairy products, pulses, fruit and vegetables and consuming too much meat, sweet things and alcohol. 

We all know this.

But did you know how harmful this love affair with our stomachs is? The strategy document spells it out: “The environmental impact of consumption could be halved if people adopted a healthy diet, based on the nutritional recommendations.”

With a different portfolio of food grown in Switzerland corresponding to a healthier diet, the self-sufficiency rate would increase too. Consumer behaviour is changing but not radically or quickly enough. It’s hard to see the harm being reduced without enforced measures of some kind. 

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Another crying shame of our food system and lifestyle is that a third of the food produced by farmers ends up being wasted between field and fork. All that energy, money and ecological impact for nothing. 

Although food self-sufficiency carries its own risks – vulnerability to local shocks, extra pressure on the environment – being too reliant on imports is not ideal. Overall, the EU is a net food exporter. But the Swiss government has made it clear that Switzerland will continue to rely significantly on imports for the foreseeable future. 

One simple reason is the limited availability of agricultural land. Currently 36 per cent of Switzerland’s land surface is given over to agricultural production and pasture. Farmers have to compete with growing urbanisation and, of course, the non-negotiable presence of the mountains that cover 60 per cent of the land’s surface.

During the Covid-19 pandemic we saw that money can, up to a point, buy you health. Switzerland nabbed so many of the globally available vaccines that it has had to donate or destroy surplus. Money can also buy you food, and this, along with proximity to supply, puts Switzerland is a rather secure position. 

In fact, Switzerland came fifth out of 113 countries in the Global Food Security Index which considers the issues of food affordability, availability and quality, as well as natural resource and resilience. By which we could conclude that everything is under control. 

The victims of this year’s global food crisis – the 323 million people who will become acutely food insecure, according to the UN – live in the countries that routinely appear at the bottom of such indexes. 

Nevertheless, according to the Swiss agricultural research body Agroscope, we should not feel a false sense of security. Apart from dependence on foreign countries and climate change, power supply is one of the key threats to Swiss food supply. 

In its latest annual assessment of threats to food supply, Agroscope wrote that the probability of and the potential damage from a serious power shortage are particularly high compared to other risks. “Supplies of vital foodstuffs would be massively affected, the effects would be manifold, and would not be overcome quickly.”

If the worst comes to the worst, Switzerland stockpiles compulsory stocks of essential goods for bridging in case of crisis and shortages. Mandatory storage facilities around the country hold three to four months’ worth of basic foodstuffs like sugar, rice, cooking oils, cereals and animal feed. 

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Is that reassuring? Three months doesn’t feel like a lot.

These stocks are only released when the economy itself is no longer able to satisfy demand. In any case, Agroscope says “household emergency stocks are of great importance”.

I don’t know about you, but I’m off to the supermarket.