Last year we have visited Switzerland for the first time and made a promise to return there again. We didn’t set any exact date, and it happened so that we managed to come back a year later on 25th of October . I am not going to write much about Montreux in this post- all has been already described here.
In this post I want to tell more about Bern, but as we have spent more time in Montreux this time, no wonder more details have caught our eye compared with the previous time.
Having covered the distance from the airport of Geneva to Montreux quite safely and quickly we pulled our suitcases along the promenade that we fell in love with during our last trip. With the rumble of suitcase’s wheels we were disturbing the Universal peace and quietness of the place. This time Montreux was strikingly empty and quiet. We stayed at a splendid hotel on the first line close to promenade, we were lucky enough to get a spacious room with a fabulous view on the lake and the Alps. Every time passing the window I saw the different scene: so much the weather affected the view of the lake and the mountains.
This time we were less lucky with the weather. Only once Montreux was the same as when we had fallen in love with it, all other days it was extremely windy, damp and foggy, because of this the mountains were hard to be seen and the colors of the flowers growing along the promenade were not so bright any more. It’s absolutely true that a good weather in Switzerland is the best filter for photos.
The weather became a major reason why we didn’t manage to take a long – anticipated trip on Golden Pass, so we couldn’t enjoy a panoramic mountain view because of the fog.
Nevertheless we managed to have a bus and a train trip from Lausanne to Bern, and these rides were no less panoramic.
The idea with the bus trip came spontaneously. We seldom use public transport while traveling, but in the hotel we were given a traveler card, that included free usage of public transport during our stay in Montreux. As last year we visited most of the ‘must see’ places of Montreux we decided to go by bus to the nearest neighborhood town Vevey to see a famous monument to Charlie Chaplin and the Fork in the lake of Geneva.
By the way, the Fork was mounted by Nestle Company, which has its headquarters here. This construction made of stainless steel and is a sort of a monument to food.
Vevey looks very similar to Montreux it only misses a promenade and has fewer tourists. Nevertheless it was interesting to wander around old Swiss streets and even find something that reminded us of English culture.
The next day the weather was much better and we decided to see Montreux at it’s upper levels as I wanted to climb rather high in to see the lake from above. But quite spontaneously we got interested in the surroundings of people living in the upper part of Montreux. We spent 40 minutes of steep ups and downs and finally were at a loss, as we didn’t know how to go down as there were no proper sidewalks and every time when a car was passing by we had to squeeze ourselves into the nearby bushes. Something resembling the stairs we finally found near the vineyard. Having taken a great number of pictures of the doll-like and typically French houses in Montreux we started planning our trip to Bern.
It took us about two hours to get to Bern. The train going directly from Lausanne was as panoramic as the Golden Pass.
The sun was shimmering on the endless green fields, which I only saw on the wrappers of Swiss cheese and chocolates.
And what struck me the most – everyone on the train was reading books. Every person regardless of age or gender, having taken a seat immediately reached for a thick or thin book and kept on reading during the whole trip without looking up. I have never seen so many people reading and I even felt ashamed that instead of tasty-smelling pages of a printed book I read from my favorite Kindle.
As soon as we got off the train in Bern I had a constant feeling that we were in a different country. The capital absolutely differed from what we had seen in Swiss Riviera. German spirit was everywhere- in architecture, food, in the manners and gestures. This is neither good nor bad – it is just unusual to be able to visit several cultural worlds within one country. In Bern we immediately headed to the old city, practically without googling we found the city sights either following a group of tourists or being attracted by “some interesting tower over there”.
Being already on the site we learned that the city’s symbol is the bear. Later looking for additional information about this symbol I found that once at the feast the founder of the city Duke Tseringensky being a little bit drunk publicly stated:
– Agreed! Tomorrow morning I am going hunting. And the city will get the name of the animal, that will be killed the first.
His speech was lost in the applause.
According to the official version the first animal hunted down at the opened hunting season was a bear. So the city was called Bern. But there is another version. Duke`s foes used to argue that that places were not inhabited by the bears and insisted the rabbit was killed during the hunting. However it is clear that the name ‘rabbit’ is not really fancy for the name of the city.
Yet, since that time there always has been a living symbol in Bern, and inanimate as well. So, besides real bears (l’ll tell you a bit later about them) all sorts of souvenirs and pictures around Bern reminding us about this big animal. In the capital there has always been a real bear, living in a special pit, where the locals used to throw food. And all that because of the rumors that kinda confirmed that if the bears will disappear in Bern then 40 misfortunes would hit the city. There were no misers; live symbols were fed properly, so their destiny could be the object of envy for the bears living in the wild.
In principle, all sights of Bern can be visited within a few hours, because the center of the city, where all its ancient sights are placed, is very compact Though there is a tram there, you can move around only on foot and it wouldn’t be exhausting at all. And one more interesting point – no map is required in Bern: the streets are straight and it’s just impossible to get lost.
Bern is an ancient and very beautiful city. The streets are straight, spacious and well paved. The houses are almost all the same: made of white stone and tree-storied. What I liked most in Bern is arcades under the houses, a sort of covered galleries so convenient for the pedestrians who can walk there safely and find shelter from the rain and the trams running everywhere every minute. Besides the street itself, paved and flat, from each side at the level of the ground floor level there is a sidewalk that goes along the entire length of the street.
Once walking under the arcade we have came across Mr. Einstein’s apartment, where we were not allowed due to the lack of cash, but standing in line to get long – awaited “cards are not accepted” speech we managed to observe 70% of the apartment. We hadn’t seen anything special so we decided not to run around and look for ATM. Later we got much more information at the Einstein’s museum, where life of the famous scientist is clearly and vividly shown.
Another landmark of the city. In front of it at a particular time everyone calms down expecting to see somewhat magical and beautiful- the Clock Tower. To witness the magical moment, you should come earlier to hear the chimes and to see the movement of mechanism – from fifteen minutes to an hour. Five minutes is necessary to find the place with a good view and if it is all of a sudden occupied by tourists, say from Germany, then you will have to work with elbows, ‘clearing the place under the sun”. Sorry, surely under the clock.
We were more interested in seeing live bears, so we decided to miss the whole ritual with the clock. Frankly speaking I doubt that in pursuit of living Winnie the Poohs we have missed something very important. Without even noticing, we came to the bears’ park where major repairs had been hold couple of months ago and the bears were brought for permanent living quite recently. The park is free of charge, you shall not feed animals any more, however everyone can admire them. Furthermore, the view of Bern from there is fantastic, so visiting the park one may kill two birds with one stone – admire both panorama of the city and the bears. Of all three bears we saw only one, apparently the public favorite, the crowd of people couldn’t disturb his sleep. Next to each ‘house’ there is a detailed biography of the bear, its relatives and hobby, so when finishing reading you have a feeling as though you have known this bear for several years, so many details about its life and character you have just learned. There is a great plus – the bears are getting nearer and dearer to the locals, becoming the characters that everybody knows.
Then we headed to Einstein’s museum, where we spent a good hour, having read all the inscriptions and seen all the films about his life and discoveries. The museum is wonderful, I highly recommend it.
Having returned to Montreux, I had no strength left, the way back I remember vaguely, only remember how we dropped on the bed exhausted still digesting the day in Bern, rich in the events and very beautiful.
Switzerland has not left my heart, moreover, it has found its special place in it. This time I was lucky to see it from the different angles. I can say definitely the trip to this small, but very beautiful country was not the last one.
Meanwhile I will just remember how beautifully the fog envelopes Geneva Lake in the morning and how lazily the Alps` snow caps can shine, emerging from the purple haze.