A tramride can be a great way to look behind the postcard face of a city. My recommendation is Line 8 to “Brünnen”. Hop in at Bern main station for a 25min ride through the post-war urban planning history of Bern.
The ride gets interesting around Europaplatz with its unique “Haus der Religionen” where 8 world religions pray under one roof. After that, the tram enters the diverse Bethlehem quarter (the origin of the name ist still disputed), where you will notice that the passengers change from white families and single businesspeople to elderly couples, students and foreign-looking families.
My favourite stop is called Tscharnegut. On the right side of the road you will notice the bourgeois two-story houses of Bethlehemacker with its well-maintained private lawns and impressive collections of garden gnomes (see image). It was built in WW2, when food was scarce and self-supply was a necessity. On the other side of the road, there’s Tscharnergut, the first high-rise quarter of the country built after the war. In that era, cheap housing was the dominant need.
Still, the city planners of that time built Tscharnergut as a social space with playgrounds, community centers and green spaces. When the tram ride’s on, those social infrastructures start to disappear – and re-appear in the post-millennial quarters around the last stops. The end of the trip marks the Westside shopping centre with its multiplex cinemas, plastic food and throw-away fashion. This seems to be the dominant need of our time…