The beautiful capital of Switzerland holds many delicious surprises that keep visitors coming back again and again.
By Wibke Carter
When thinking about Swiss food, cheese springs to mind. And chocolate, of course! But the common onion? In Bern, once a year, on the fourth Monday of November, the capital of Switzerland holds a very special folk festival when farmers from the surrounding areas bring more than 50 tons (100,000 pounds) of onions to the famous Zibelemärit.
It is an early start for the first visitors at around 5 a.m., though when I join the crowds at 6:30 a.m. it already seems impossible to move in some places. Around me, farmers sell tons of onions and garlic on hundreds of stands in the narrow streets of the Old Town. In the darkness, this sea of traditionally braided onions, flower arrangements, decorations and figures sculpted from onions in the foreground of illuminated historical buildings like the Town Hall is an enchanting sight. Other vendors offer seasonal vegetables, bread, hot mulled wine (a first for me, alcohol this early) and souvenirs. No one seems bothered by the early hour or the winter coldness. “The Onion Market attracts more visitors than any other traditional event in the canton,” says city guide Margarete Schaller. “It’s a public holiday in Bern and everyone gets behind it.” Whether onion tart, onion soup, onion pizza or sausage with onions—the local restaurants offer an array of onion-based dishes. Swiss Rail adds extra trains, and additional coaches are scheduled to bring in thousands of visitors.