It was hard for us to appreciate the beautiful city of Bern because it was so hot the day we visited. Air temperatures were climbing toward 100 degrees and the cobblestone streets were even hotter. Nevertheless, we pressed on, finding shade under the arched covered sidewalks and inside the beautiful Gothic Münster Cathedral. The cold waters of the River Aare provided contrast to the air temperatures. Its light blue waters suggested the cold glaciers in the Bernese Alps where the river begins. This being Sunday, the town was very quiet, but many of the few residents we saw were in and along the river.
Switzerland is a land of many nuanced languages. By the time we reached Bern, we had encountered three different dialects of German, and Bern has its own Bernese German. In researching this post, I found the interesting fact that Old Order Amish in Indiana speaks this same Bernese dialect. I had hoped to put my college German to some use, but Swiss German is nothing like Standard German and many Swiss speak English anyway.
Confession. I missed SO MUCH of this trip by not really preparing. We placed our deposit about nine months before departure, and Marcy urged me to review the itinerary and do some research. We did purchase the Rick Steves and Fodor Travel books, but I never studied anything. I just wasn’t interested. That won’t happen again. For example, I stumbled off the bus in the Bernese Old City and wondered why a huge crowd had gathered in the square with their attention directed toward a clock tower. Our tour guide, Otmar, explained what was happening, but I couldn’t half hear what he was saying. It turned out that this was the world famous medieval clock Zytglogge (pronounced sit clock eh ) striking the hour. We managed to catch the last little bit and we could have gone back an hour later had we realized what a big deal this was. The Gothic Münster Cathedral was beautiful. If I had just spent a little time learning how to properly photograph churches, we could have come away with much better shots.
Speaking of preparation, one thing “we” (it was Marcy) DID come prepared with was a dining plan. Meals are ever so expensive in Switzerland and Marcy did an outstanding job thinking this through. (The complete story of our dining on the cheap will be subject of a future blog.) Our daily picnics were memorable and dinners were a lot of fun to pull together. The picnic this day in Bern was no exception as we found a beautiful park next to the cathedral and the little finches came to eat trail mix right out of my hand.
Keep an eye out for our pictures of flags and statues from this trip. I will give it to the Swiss for having some of the most colorful and creative flags and statues. The yellow flag of the Canton of Bern features an interesting impression of a bear. And speaking of which, what do you think of this bear statue. It is called the Zähringerbrunnen and was probably built in 1535 as a memorial to the founder of Bern, Berchtold von Zähringer.
Sigh. I would like to think we will be back. About the only way would be to get a job in Europe and hang out in these beautiful cities on weekends. But really, I am sure that the Bernese would find the streets of our Southern small towns to be as quaint as we found their town. I keep going back to the words of Alan de Botton (He happens to be Swiss-born) in “The Art of Travel”:
“If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if we are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.”
― Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel