Thanks to the craziness of finals at the Sorbonne (and all the insanity that comes with that), this post comes to you a little late. On the 21st of November, my dear friend, Rachel, and I traveled to Bern, Switzerland.
We planned the trip with a sense of spontaneity, essentially looking through a list of cities in Switzerland, scrolling through a few pictures, and randomly selecting some small city nestled in the mountains of a beautiful country. I had never been to Switzerland, but Rachel had been once before. We were going on an adventure!
We took the train from Paris to Geneva then to Bern from there. It was in our 15 minute change in Geneva that we found out that Switzerland is not part of the European Union. This little tidbit of information means that they do not, in fact, do business in Euros. Our money had quickly become a little useless... But we were able to switch some before we ran to the train.
The train took us through scene after scene of snow capped mountains and little towns, typically covered in a dense fog. It was spectacular. The views out the window were absolutely incredible. I had planned on catching up on some sleep on the train ride, but I was so immersed in the landscapes. Wow, Switzerland, well done.
When we arrived in Bern after the pleasant train trip, we proceeded to get quite lost while trying to find our hostel. We discovered the next day that it was a straight shot from the train station to the hostel, but we decided to walk up a couple big hills, stroll down the hill, walk back up it, wander a little bit here, meander a little bit longer. We became hungry and tired and quite confused. Eventually, we found it, our little hostel snuggled in between the river and the hill we spent the afternoon traipsing around.
Hungry and ready for a lunch/dinner at about 4:30 pm, we went into historic Bern to find a cafe or restaurant. What we found was astronomical prices. Wow! I have been continuously shocked by Paris' obnoxious prices, but Switzerland was giving Paris a run for its money. We went to a cafe with food options priced in the 20 Swiss francs range, around $27 or so. We decided to try to find a cheaper place. But even McDonald's was selling food for 23 Swiss francs... I was not expecting it to be so expensive, but there we were.. Spending double digits for a plate of sliced cheese and a tomato.
But what Bern lacks in cheap prices, it makes up in beauty. It was cold in Bern, not as cold as it was back in Pittsburgh, but it was significantly chillier than Paris' sunny 50 degrees. Not only was it chilly, but the mountain air consumed the city in a dense, quieting fog. It was like a little blanket of winter. Needless to say, I loved it.
The fog would last throughout the night, dissipating a little bit during sunny midday, but it was back by 5 pm without too much difficulty. It made the town feel quieter, smaller, cozier. What a town!
At night, we happened upon a light show that Bern puts on for its visitors and residents for two weeks, beginning at the end of November and lasting until early December. It was about 30 minutes long; the children loved it and the parents sipped their hot wine, delighting in the scenes splashed across their government buildings. I guess it's as good a use as any for government buildings.
The entirety of it was in Swiss German (with about two French phrases), so I missed the full meaning of it. But at one point, Einstein discovered e=mc2 (a formula he worked on while working in the patent office in Bern), but then he changed it to e=vivre l'instant! Live for the moment; enjoy life as it is. This now is important.
Not to be stupidly cheesy, but that seems like a great message as the holidays start to spring up and the craziness of December start. Live for the moment.
Oh! And in case you're curious, Bern speaks Swiss German, they do not speak any dialect of French. Maybe a little bit more research would've been useful. Perhaps.
These are also some of the oddest people I've encountered in my travels in Europe. They're hearty and incredibly odd. The number one reenforcement of their odd behavior has to be a trip to the Natural History Museum that is located in Bern. The above image is an picture of the Board of Directors with bird feathers sticking out of their heads, framed proudly in the Natural History Museum.
This glamourous ostrich sits across from a 1 story replica of a human uterus (yes, in fact, you can explore it! What?) and beside a walrus in his natural habitat, a wedding clothing shop. In the same room, there is a taxidermied storke carrying a baby and a blue orb that recites Woody Allen quotes.
Bet you thought I was kidding about the Woody Allen quotes, huh?
But the most hilariously ridiculous part of the entire trip had to be the exhibit on Barry. Barry was a dog that saved 40 people in the mountains nearby by. He was a hero at the turn of the century, and to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of his death, Bern centered the entire third floor of the museum to his memory. He was taxidermied, audio dialogues were created on his behalf, scenes created depicting his heroics, and best of all, a green screen was put in place entitled "Barry & Me". Zero self control at the ridiculousness of what was being offered, we jumped at the chance to get our photo shoddily photoshopped next to a taxidermied dog. I've bought a lot of things over the years, but this was, without any doubt in my mind, the best 2 swiss francs I've ever spent.
Apologies to those of you who expected only high quality images on my photography blog. But this.... This is better.
In stark contrast to the museum my friend described as being only possible due to the probable excessive drug use of the curator, there was the fine art museum of Bern. It is the most spectacular museum I have ever been fortunate enough to spend time in. Despite the fact that it was laid out in such a way that the modern art sculptures were next to the 1200s paintings of Jesus Christ, it was the most spectacular museum. The pieces it had of artists both famous and unknown were incredible works of art. It was as if I got to pick my favorite styles and artists and pieces and put them in a museum just for me. We spent our entire Saturday roaming through this overwhelming haven. (The language I'm using here seems excessive, but I'm telling you that it was incredible)
Unfortunately, they did not allow pictures, but they did have almost every piece available in postcards. So... I may or may not have spent most of my money in Bern on the postcards.
It still surprises me that fall was still hanging on throughout Europe. There were leaves on the ground and on the trees a month after I expected them to disappear. It was a delightful treat.
We ended up spending a lot of time in the cafe located on the bottom level of our hostel. The food was cheap for Switzerland; the coffee was good. There was a steady flow of regulars each night, and we were able to read in the cozy atmosphere of our little hostel. It was truly a delight.
Again, the residents of Bern are a such an endearing form of odd.
One night, after a few coffees, we walked up to the top of the hill we had spent most of our time wandering on during our first day. Soft fog, cold air, and the glow of twinkling lights.. Bern, in all its weirdness, was full of these little moments.
Grateful, as always, for the opportunity to travel through Europe with great friends as my companions
Thank you, Bern, for a delightful yet odd weekend