Tuesday, May 1, 2012

June 14 - Day 7 - Bern, Switzerland

June 14 - Day 7 - Bern, Switzerland

We had had a busy day already, and it wasn’t over yet. We had seen Piz Gloria in Murren, Staubach Falls in Lauterbrunnen, and now we were on the train to Bern. Trains made travel so much easier. We were also able to use our train pass efficiently. We could jump on and off the train as many times as we wanted in the same day. We also could read, take pictures, or what I usually did, sleep. The trains were so smooth and clean. Much better than a bumpy road. They would usually stop for just a few minutes to drop off and pick up passengers, and as always, arrive and leave right on time. These people don’t mess around with their schedules.

Along the way to Bern we passed through Interlaken, a city we had planned to spend a lot of time in while doing our hike, but we had to take it off the list in order to do the other things we wanted to see. We got to Bern in the afternoon, and as usual it was very cloudy and it had obviously been raining there. We immediately got directions to the campground and started walking. It was a pretty long walk. We had to walk through the main part of the city which was very crowded with people and cars. It was much busier than the other places we had been, even Zurich. Zurich had very few cars, but that wasn’t the case with Bern. It was still compact enough that you could walk everywhere, nothing like the cities in the U.S.

We took a trolley to the area we were directed, Camping Erchholz. The campground seemed like it was in a neighborhood, I remember walking around in what seemed like a subdivision with lots of houses. When we got to the camping area we were a little surprised. We knew campgrounds in Switzerland weren’t anything like we were used to, but this was literally a city park with a swimming pool. You had to pay to enter the park, and then a little more if you planned to camp. It was very nice and wide open, but nothing to suggest this was a campground. They said we could put our tent anywhere. We decided to put it under a tree in case it rained and so we could hang our clothes to dry since they were still soaked. We had hoped to do laundry here, but never had an opportunity.

After we got our campsite situated we decided to go back to the downtown area to see some of the government buildings and other significant sites. The route we took was along the river. It seemed like a good walking path that lots of people were using. Once we started walking on it it seemed deserted. To one side was the river and on the other side a fence. I was thinking it was a good place for criminals to hide out and rob unsuspecting people. I don’t know why I thought that, I guess because in the U.S. you would expect something like this, but Switzerland seemed extremely safe. Along the walk we passed people playing sand volleyball at what appeared to be a college, but I don’t know.

This route seemed to take much longer than the way we came in, but it was ok. It gave us a chance to see a different part of the city. We finally got back to the city center and everything seemed to be under construction. Switzerland was hosting the European Championships with Austria in July and Bern was one of the host cities. As a result, all the buildings were getting a makeover. It did make it a little disappointing, the whole country was perfectly clean and organized, and the capital Bern was under construction.

Not only were the buildings under construction, but so were a number of the roads. They had trolley’s in town and they were being improved as well. Even though the city wasn’t in it’s best condition we were still able to see what we wanted to.

We spent about four hours hiking around the city. We began our sightseeing at the train station on the Marktgasse, the main street in the old town. We saw the parliament buildings, which were under construction, with a water show out front. We also saw the Hotel Schweizerhof - a famous hotel where important world leaders often stay when visiting the city. We passed the Church of the Holy Ghost as well as a lot of shops.

It seemed like every street had a fountain with a very detailed figure on top. One of the first we saw, Kornhausplatz, is a fountain with a carnival figure on top. Because I was running out of space on my memory card I wasn’t able to take very many pictures of them. There was one with a bagpiper, another with a knight, and one with bears known as Zahringer Fountain, plus many more. I wanted to save my last few shots in case I saw something really cool.

Because everything was under repair, it was cloudy, and lightly raining, we decided to head to the Einstein Museum, I’m not sure it was originally on our list of things to do but it was neat. It had a lot of information about scientific experiments. Outside in the courtyard there was something like a playground. I’m sure it was mostly intended for little kids, but it had different things to test scientific theories.

We then took a trolley to see the Cathedral of St. Vincent, which had a huge spire on the top that you could climb. Some of the people that were on the trolley looked extremely weird. I remember there was a group of four teenagers, probably 15 years old, two boys and two girls. They had strange piercing and weird hair, much like the punk rock look I mentioned before. They got on at the same time as us, but as we were driving one of them decided to jump off the back. He tried to run and jump back on, I don’t remember if it worked out for him or not.

At the Cathedral of St. Vincent we intended to climb the 270 steps to the top to see great views of the city, however, it was under construction so we were unable to do that. Instead we just took a few pictures of the fountain out front and the door. There was an iron fence out front that must have been locked because we didn’t go inside. However, the door was huge and very detailed with a number of religious figures and events.

It was becoming dark so we continued deeper into the Altstadt or Old Town. The streets in this area were very narrow and all coblestone. I was wearing some very warn out hiking boots and it was kiling my feet. Whoever thought coblestone was a good idea made a mistake.

We passed a really neat arched bridge and decided to walk down to the bottom of it and get a few pictures. There were some very old buildings dating back to the 17th century as we made our way through the city. We bought some Swiss chocolate in one of these shops since it was highly recommended.

We eventually came to the Zutgloggeturm, which means clock tower. At the clock tower there is a puppet show with bears, jesters, and emperors. It is the world’s oldest and biggest show of its kind. It takes place four minutes before every hour. I was down to my last few pictures, but I did get one shot of the clock tower itself.

After the show we passed through the Prison Gate, which dates to the 1200s. There is a small museum inside it today, but we didn’t go inside. We then made our way back to the area of town with the parliament buildings. Again the water show was taking place so we took some photos. I had to delete a few pictures I had previously taken so I could take some of this.

It was now pretty late and dark so we started our hike back to the campground we were staying at. We walked along a different path this time, taking us through the city. We were able to take a trolley to the general vicinity of the camp and walk the rest of the way. Because it had rained our clothes were still wet. Great!

"Nexte Halte, Freiburg..."

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