Lonely planet described Bern as the planets most underrated capital. It also said that the 15th century old town was ‘pretty enough to sweep you off your feet’.
I was pretty excited as I thoroughly enjoyed the festive shops in Lucerne, surely the Capital would be ultra Christmassy too. It wasn’t though, and it most definitely did not sweep us off our feet. We actually thought it was quite ugly; it used to be built of wood, but burnt down in 1405 (ironic as Bern sounds remarkably like burn) and was rebuilt in sandstone. It’s best known for its 6km of covered arcades which house shops and cafés. The sandstone just made it look unfinished, if they were all painted colourfully it would look beautiful. The shops weren’t very exciting either and we kept wondering if we were in the right area – we were.
There were numerous folklore characters atop fountains in the centre of the road, they looked very similar to Indian gods in a Hindu temple.
The city has a long history with bears, after the original founder killed one they decided to make the bear their city symbol and keep them in the town. So they made this ghastly concrete ‘bear pit’ which, no surprise, wasn’t approved of by animal rights and the bears are now housed in a fenced off area between the river and the bear pits. They were in hibernation when we visited but we didn’t really like it, bears shouldn’t live in cities.
We ended the day at Gruyeres, home to its namesake cheese. Craig and I are huge cheese lovers, infact this is the first roadtrip we’ve been on where we haven’t been able to find our staple of cheddar. 6 months later and I’ve lost 1 stone of weight! We made up for lost time at the local cheese factory. Helloooo free tasters! We did everything you could do without paying; admire the overpriced souviners, try three varieties of gruyere, gawp at the thousands of cheese wheels maturing in the cellar, use the modern self cleaning toilets, and go back for more cheese tasters.
Afterwards we walked up to the tiny medieval village atop a hill with a picturesque castle. Before arriving in Switzerland I said I really wanted to try cheese fondue, and what better place – till we saw the price! About €20 per person! Holy crap, we couldn’t justify paying €40+ for a bowl of melted cheese and bread cubes. But we’ve vowed to attempt to make our own with a tea light and mug…watch this space.
The village was aimed at tourists and sold all things Swiss; cow bells, Swiss army knifes, Swatch watches, chocolate, fondue sets and more cheese. There were a couple of odd museums to find in such a tiny village in the countryside; a Tibetan arts museum and what looked like an erotic alien museum.
It was really odd entering the shops as all of a sudden the locals spoke French. At least when they spoke German they’d try to use English, but not here! I don’t know what it is about the French language around the world, it makes them stubborn. I’m sure they all speak English, why don’t they use it?
We’ve started having a scented candle lit in Pablo each night, but I’ve had to ban Craig from using it..at the tender age of 31 he just can’t be trusted. Firstly he stepped on it, spilling it on its side, almost setting fire to Pablo and covered his hand-knitted socks in wax. Instead of just adding a new candle each night he keeps messing around with the wax first ‘to make space for the next candle’ he keeps saying.
Tonight, we were about to put the bed up when I turned around to see if Craig was ready. He just stared at me, dead still, with a face that said ‘Please forgive me!’ Then I saw why, his face was splattered in green wax, along with his long johns and fleece jumper. In the candle pot was a very green finger, which was clearly the culprit. I pissed myself with laughter! When I looked back at him, his face hadn’t changed and I roared with laughter collapsing my head into a pillow.