The moment I arrived in Bern (pronounced Bear-n) I knew I was going to like it. It´s so beautiful! While it is actually the capital of Switzerland, it feels like a little village. And it´s so QUIET! I still can´t get over that. So clean and quiet. While there is a pretty decent tram and bus system, you can pretty much walk wherever you need to go.
Tonight would be my first night Couch Surfing. And I´m still alive, so please stop fretting (Grandparents, I´m looking at you!). My host´s name is Nadine, and she´s a lovely structural engineer who has lived in Bern her whole life. She lives with her boyfriend Julian and their two cats Whiskey and Murphy (the latter make the bathroom smell a bit funky...) just near the centre of Bern. After being shown the way home (without a map, so photographic memory working overtime), I headed out into the ´city´ to see the sights.
Can I just say again how much I love Bern? Even though I´ve only seen a few cities so far, Bern is definitely my favourite. When you walk down the cobblestone streets, you feel like you should be carrying rounds of cheese on a stick over your shoulder, wearing a modest skirt and blouse, your hair in braided pigtails. It´s like a time capsule. The streets are still cobblestone, the building have these pretty frescoes on them, and most of the windows have window boxes with flowers spilling out.
One of the first things I noticed about Switzerland is that people are real sticklers for walking on the correct side of the road, as if you were driving. I have the unfortunate habit of walking on the left, and this does not go down well with the Swiss. Another, is that when parallel parking, disregard the direction the cars in front of you and behind are parked - if you´re driving on the right side of the road, please feel free to park on the left. Another, is that the people here speak a strange combination of French, German and sometimes Italian. Example, they say ´Merci´ for thank you (French), ´Tuess´ for goodbye (German) and ´Scusi´ for excuse me (Italian). A few times I went to ask someone a question, and I knew how to say it in German, but was too scared to in case that´s not how they would say it. But conversing is not a problem here. Unlike France, the Swiss are more than happy to speak in English. I think my quest to not look like a tourist is working, because more often than not people will talk to me in the local dialect first before they try English. HOORAY! Then I reward them with a confused ´Sorry?´. But it´s a good sign.
First things first - I had to get something to eat! I seem to always leave finding food to the very last minute, and by that time I´m about to pass out. But combined with all this walking, it will do wonders for my figure (ha ha ha)! I bought some felafel (a vegetarian´s favourite!) from a stall in the Barenplatz, where the man proceeded to douse it in the white sauce, that tasted like a salty yoghurt. That in hand, I had a a bit of a wander around, and sat for a while outside the Bundeshaus (parliament building), where there are these awesome water fountains that children like to play in. In a space about 10m x 10m there are random holes in the concrete that shoot jets of water upwards at random times, catching passers by off guard, and making children squeal with delight. What fun you can have without water restrictions! Almost as good are the fountains that are everywhere, with continuous streams of water pouring out. The water here is so good that you can fill your water bottle up at these fountains, and I saw locals washing their fresh fruit in there after purchasing it at the market.
Every hour, the Zytglogge, a 16th Century clock tower chimes (obviously), and these little figurines on the side of the clock dance around. It´s quite a cute thing to see. After five dongs on the clock, I began the long, steep climb up to Bern´s prime lookout, the Rose Garden (stopping along the hill to ´look at the view´, but really catching my breath!). It is so lovely and peaceful up there, with these lovely secluded gardens and a wall that runs along the edge that gives perfect views across the city. Nadine informs me that the majority of Bern´s postcards are taken from that view, so that gives you an indication as to it´s grandeur (as will my photos!). There were children and their parents playing happily on the lawns, and it reminded me just how happy the children in Europe appear to be. The other thing it reminded me of was that I haven´t seen one school in my travels so far (do they lock the kids in dungeons?).
At the bottom of the hill to the Rose Gardens are the Barengraben, these horrific pits that they keep bears in. Legend has it that the town´s founder named Bern after killing one of the beasts during a hunt, and the bear has remained a symbol of the town ever since. There used to be 3 bears sharing these concrete prisons - 2 have since died (unsurprisingly) and the remaining bear was nowhere to be seen. Steve Irwin would be appalled.
So that was my first day in Bern!
Talk to you soon!
Love Hayley xxx