The capital of one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, Switzerland, is not its largest city Zurich nor the internationally renowned Geneva. It is Bern, comfortably and humbly tucked behind other more popular Swiss tourist destinations. It’s true. One doesn’t usually make a stop in Bern aside from making a transfer, and I guess…that was exactly why I went. I mean, there has to be SOME reason why it’s the capital of such a magical country, no?
It would also be the final stop in my week-long trip in mid-January and the final Swiss city I visit before I leave Europe. The night I arrived, it rain. It rained hard, and it was the first time that I saw rain during the entire week of travel, thank God.
Instead of staying at a hotel or hostel, I decided to go for Air BNB after hearing great things from several friends. As I was arriving in Bern rather late, Air BNB seemed to be the most convenient and budget-friendly option. I found my host Slawek’s place, after getting slightly lost around the train station, soaked all over. Thankfully my host provided a very warm and cozy night’s accommodation, especially as I was exhausted near the end of the trip. In the morning, I felt well-rested and ready to tackle the last day, exploring the humble Swiss capital.
The old town of Bern is very compact and could be easily navigated on foot. There were light drizzles in the morning and no snow as predicted in the weather forecast, but that didn’t dampen my mood. I started out down the main street in the old town and followed a map on a fountain hunt (which I will talk about in the next post), passing by the Zytglogge (Clock Tower) on the way.
Bern is traversed by the river Aare with amazingly green waters. I always believed that if a city has a lake or river where the water is ridiculously clean and clear…then you’re in Switzerland. The Aare snakes around Bern and makes the old town look almost like a peninsula from high up.
As I continued I climbed a big hill to the rose garden, which was unfortunately not populated by roses as it was not the right season. However, I did get a nice view of Bern with the Cathedral of Bern in a distance. Yep, visibility was severely reduced as it was still raining.
My initial impression of Bern was actually a gray one, complemented by rain. I had a couple of rather unpleasant encounters with Bern locals when I arrived the previous night. As I was lost, I stood at the door of a tram at the train station and asked the driver for directions. She promptly replied in German and shut the door on me without saying anything else…right. Then I asked a lady at a convenience store and while she didn’t seem very friendly (nor seem to know the way), she told me to ask the taxi drivers. Thankfully the taxi driver I asked was very kind and explained the directions to me. So, at least Bern’s image wasn’t ruined for me.
In fact, I liked Bern a lot, even if it rained. The bear park was closed as the bears were hibernating, and I didn’t have enough time to go to the hill of Gurten, a bit too far from the city. To wind down the week with a leisurely walk around the city, though, was just what I needed before flying back to Bordeaux.
Having seen enough gray weather for the morning, I decided to embark on a search for colour. And there was indeed a lot of colour hidden in Bern! Through the windows of a shop I saw these…rectangular tubes that are supposedly candy dispensers. Let’s see, I know the Smurfs, Bugs Bunny, Toad from the Mario series, and Pikachu…
…and from here, we have Donkey from Shrek, Snoopy, Wall-E and Eve, and Miss Piggy. It looks like a childhood dream come true all behind a window 😛
As if that wasn’t enough colour, this row of grocery carts is exceptionally appealing with unique designs on each cart. The yellow one with the sunflowers just screams out radiance and life 😀
This part of the old town was seen from a bridge and reminded me very much of the Petrusse Valley in Luxembourg. I think it was here, as I contemplated the similarities, that I began to think about the “originality” of cities.
I gotta mention this awesome bagpipe player. From far away (and I mean REALLY far away), I heard sounds of an instrument. The sound was bright and sharp, playing a lively tune somewhere down the street. It was catchy, and I had to find it. So I followed my ears…for a long time. I thought it was some sort of parade and was actually looking for a crowd of people, but instead came face-to-face with the bagpipe player, almost in a dance as he played with passion. The music was too unique to not catch my attention. I noticed afterwards that he was playing right next to the Bagpiper fountain. Well-played.
The inevitable end of the journey came like a rush and I almost didn’t believe that I already spent a week away from Bordeaux. From Bern I took a train to Basel, where I departed on a flight back to France. Bye Switzerland, magical land that I loved enough to go back again and again. I will most certainly see you another day.