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2nd Trip - 18 days Switzerland Dec 2018 - part 2


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longservice
longservice
35 posts
active member
Dec 26, 2018 - 4:26 AM

Our second…. 18 day trip to Switzerland - December 2018 – part 2

2 nights in Bern.

Our next stop after Zurich was Bern, and again, we had booked a Hotel as close to the train station and the centre of town as possible. It has become a pretty solid habit of ours now after many years of travel, to always book a Hotel that meets two very important factors. The first is that it must provide a good buffet breakfast and the second being, that it must be within close walking distance of a few places of interest and some general food outlets. Many years ago when our budget was a little more restrained than it is now, we had the dubious privilege of being part of a group bus tour that landed in the unfortunate situation of being stranded out in the suburbs of Rome on a weekend, in a “stand-alone” hotel that did not have a restaurant of any kind. Thinking this wasn’t going to be a big problem for us to easily overcome, we set out together with some friends to hunt down supplies in the surrounding area. After walking several blocks in 30 degree heat searching for something to eat, we finally admitted total defeat as there was virtually no shops to be found and everything was closed. Upon returning to our Hotel with empty hands and empty stomachs, we stumbled upon a vending machine on an upper floor and immediately proceeded to empty it of smarties, peanuts and chocolate. Always willing to make the most of a bad situation, we made merry of our meagre gatherings by entertaining ourselves with tales of great meals we had devoured in the past while vowing never again to be caught out in the “burbs” in a Hotel without a kitchen..!! Of course while I cannot recall the name of the offending Hotel, nor the name of the suburb in Rome, I have never forgotten the names of the friends or the snacks we devoured creating holiday memories on a journey through Rome. And for us, this is what travel is all about anyways.

But I digress…… getting back to the point I was making about booking a Hotel in Bern that was close to the train station, the fact is….. we simply couldn’t find it and….. to make matters worse it was raining quite steadily.…!! Now I knew by my research that this hotel was less than 300 metres from the station. But of course not knowing what our orientation was after exiting from the station, and seeing as it was raining, I figured the smartest and fastest thing to do would be to use the GPS on my phone and simply follow it. But after walking in circles for about 40 minutes in the rain, I concluded that the GPS was taking us on a tour of Bern all on its own, and we weren’t quite ready yet to see the sights.!! My wife, keen to get out of the rain as soon as possible, stopped four different people and asked if they knew the location of our hotel… one didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Russian, another wasn’t a local, the third was a clueless tourist just like us, and the fourth I think from memory was searching for food or a vending machine..!!! ( just kidding on the fourth )

I eventually abandoned the GPS idea, noted the street names on the map, and then logically worked my way in the general direction until we found it. Note to self – and affirmed by the concierge at the hotel … “do not rely on GPS when walking about Bern. The narrow streets and tall buildings with many covered walkways play havoc with GPS signals, it happens all the time” she said..!!

The following day, we walked the streets of Bern’s Old Town and despite the continuing rain, I couldn’t help thinking that if you had to walk about a city in the rain, then Bern was the best place to do it. Most of the Old Town has covered walkways with beautiful archways, and this made for a great opportunity to still get out and about and take in the sights and do a little Christmas shopping at the same time.

After checking out the local Christmas Markets, we noticed an optometrist store opposite, I wondered if there was something they could possibly do about my glasses which had become very loose and I was quite worried they would soon fall apart. We entered the store and immediately I got the impression that this was no discount store offering 2 for the price of one. It was a rather upmarket affair and with a quick glance at the prices and brand names of the spectacles on display, I was beginning to think this was going to turn out to be a rather expensive visit to just get some screws tightened. A young man approached us, and after explaining the situation with my glasses, he kindly offered both of us seats, and as we watched, he proceeded to rebuild my glasses and frames from the ground up. It was fascinating to see just how many different tools he used to complete what I figured should have been a mere tightening of a couple of minute screws, We waited about 15 minutes watching him the whole time while he did his thing, and of course we couldn’t help but begin to wonder if we were going to have to take out a second mortgage once we had paid the bill..!! However upon completion of the task, the young man presented my glasses back to me smiling broadly with total confidence and asked for me to try them on and tell me if I was satisfied. Not only was I satisfied, I was totally amazed…. my glasses were not only now nicely tightened, but they were the cleanest I’d ever seen them since new, they fitted my nose and ears better than they ever had before and casting a quick glance into the mirror beside me, I could clearly see that I now looked at least 10 years younger…… okay…. I exaggerate the last point.

After expressing my delight and amazement, I proceeded to go for my wallet as I was now feeling quite happy to take out that second mortgage, but before I could even retrieve it from my back pocket, he waved us away saying “No No….today is free… today is free”.

Seriously, I really think the Swiss should be employed in Australia to train our retail staff..!! We have always been amazed at how polite and helpful the staff are in the many stores we have visited on our travels throughout Switzerland. Oh hang on a minute…. With one exception…. Upon noticing in a store window while walking the streets of Bern, the most gorgeously decorated cushion with 3 little red/white Christmas stockings attached, my wife and I entered the open door of the store to check out the price and have a look around. Within a matter of seconds of entry, I was accosted by a rather curt lady asking me to leave immediately as the store was not open, they were just waiting for someone to arrive. Oh well…. we decided right then and there to keep the 159 Swiss Francs we weren’t going to spend on Christmas cushions anyways.

Bern is a great example I think, of the way in which the retail sector so heartily get into the Christmas spirit in the way of decorations. Even just the simplest touches of using strings of mistletoe and pine cones adorn many of the smaller stores adding so much to the overall atmosphere of celebration and feeling. One store we past had even gone to the extent of inserting tree trunks of aspen cut perfectly to size reaching from floor to ceiling, adding the sense of being in a small forest as you entered the store. (see pic attached) Bern is a beautiful city to wander about under the covered walkways (even in the rain) with Christmas trees and various decorations adorning the archways and store fronts, and we are so glad we included it on our list of places to visit this time round.

Tomorrow we head to Montreux……

Kind regards

Longservice.

Last modified on Dec 27, 2018 - 7:20 AM by Lucas
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Danielsan
Danielsan
310 posts
top member
Dec 26, 2018 - 5:59 PM

Hi Longservice,

I enjoyed your trip report (2nd Trip, parts 1,2 and 3). I have even gone back and read through your reports from the first trip. Very nice indeed. It must be quite beautiful in the winter time there. I would like to see it in the winter time, but I hesitate because the time of year is tough to get the time off, and I am not a skier (I realize you aren’t either), but I prefer going in September as I did just 3 months ago. The weather was magnificent. Not at all to cold, and not hot by any means. If you get the chance to go in September, I would certainly consider it, especially with the time you have off, and the fact that you seem to love Switzerland as much as I do. I just read your part 3, Montreux. I only spent one night there, and it is one of the places I will return to next September. I am somewhat envious that you made it to the Peak Walk, one of the places I wanted to see, but the last cable car went up over my head just as I arrived there. Disappointed I was. So, I made my way to Montreux and enjoyed the lake-shore and a beautiful sunset over Lake Geneva. Looking forward to reading about Interlaken.

Regards,

Danielsan

longservice
longservice
35 posts
active member
Dec 27, 2018 - 3:12 AM in reply to Danielsan

Hi Danielsan,

Thank you, I'm glad you got something out of my drawn out ramblings. Yes, Montreux is definitely worth a longer visit. As mentioned, we also only stayed there one night in 2017, but learned quickly that the next time we should allow more time. There is a reason we chose December to travel to Switzerland, partly to experience the Christmas Markets which we love, and also because we don't actually mind the cold at all. In Western Australia where we live, we can easily hit 40 degrees from December through to March and the cool is always a welcome relief for us. I also lived 25 years in the South Island of New Zealand, and spent my teen years there hunting, camping and fishing and trekking in the snow, and so the cold and the snow is something I do miss here in Australia. I am so sorry you missed the Tissot Peak to Peak walk by but a whisker. It was even better than the one at Titlis in my opinion and a little more exposed, making it just that little bit more exciting I guess. Mind you, that's not a put down on Mt Titlis at all, it was one of our favourite mountain trips last year, and in my opinion a better excursion than Jungfrau which I think is a little over rated in comparison to Titlis and especially Schilthorn in terms of the view, but still worth the doing of course. I hope you manage to get back to Montreux sometime soon...

Kind Regards

Longservice

Danielsan
Danielsan
310 posts
top member
Dec 27, 2018 - 1:40 PM in reply to longservice

Hi Longservice,

I don’t at all mind your ramblings. (If you don’t mind ramblings, you may consider reading my trip reports – “Grand Train Tour of Switzerland” from earlier this year.)

I plan to spend more time in Montreux next September when I go back. Want to get that Peak Walk in. Am considering staying in the village of Les Diablerets itself, to ensure I get to the Glacier 3000. That was one of the things I really wanted to do on my trip, but the stop in Montreux was just an over-night on my way to Wengen via the Golden Pass, coming from Zermatt. I thoroughly enjoyed Montreux and didn’t want to leave the next morning, so I will definitely spend more time there on my next journey. I also don’t mind the cold weather, which is why I did choose September, but not having to pack heavy jackets and such makes things that much easier to travel, though I can see why folks enjoy the winter scenery as it looks beautiful from all the pictures I have seen. I am not computer (or electronically) savvy enough to get some pictures onto here, but I am working on it and hopefully after the new year I can get to it. Looking forward to reading about Interlaken.

Regards,

Danielsan

Last modified on Dec 27, 2018 - 3:37 PM by Lucas
maggiehorswell
maggiehorswell
701 posts
top member
Dec 28, 2018 - 4:27 PM in reply to longservice

Glad you liked Bern - once you found your way! Bern has often been our "go to" place on a rainy day! enjoying the shops under cover! Indeed in 2016 we made a concerted effort to go on a sunny day for a change so that we could enjoy the rose garden in the sunshine! Seemed unfair to only go there in the rain.

Maggie

longservice
longservice
35 posts
active member
Dec 29, 2018 - 5:39 AM in reply to Danielsan

Hi Danielsan,

I have just finished reading all of your past trip reports and I am so impressed with your journey. It really does emphasise to me that if we learn to appreciate it, our world can be a true place of beauty at any time of the year. Obviously each of the seasons sculpture their own shape upon the landscape and the scenery in winter can look entirely different come summer, autumn or spring. As a child growing up in the South Island of New Zealand, I spent much of my youth in the mountains and would visit many of the same locations at various times of the year either hunting, fishing, camping or hiking. The seasons would always present different challenges coupled with a different beauty, and this is what makes every journey unique. I was caught in a blizzard once, arriving at a mountain hut so sold I could not use my hands to undress and remove my wet clothing, but the beauty that surrounded me when I woke the following sunny morning was of such magnitude that it drew my breath away. I climbed the same mountain six months later in searing summer heat and arrived at the same location badly dehydrated suffering heat exhaustion.But I awoke before sunrise the very next morning to the most glorious chorus of the birds of the forest awakening the dawn. Thank you for such a wonderful trip report... I hope your next journey to Switzerland brings you more, but different delightful experiences and memories.

Kind Regards

Longservice.

Danielsan
Danielsan
310 posts
top member
Jan 2, 2019 - 4:05 AM in reply to longservice

Hi Longservice,

Thanks for taking the time to read the trip report, I’m glad you enjoyed doing so. Happy new year to you and all the good folks out there at Myswissalps. Hope everyone has a great year and even happier travels.

Regards to all,

Danielsan

Adelaidean
Adelaidean
121 posts
active member
Jan 5, 2019 - 12:28 PM

You definitely did not need that Christmas cushion, LOL.

Love your photos, I imagined it would look kind of bleak in December, but Bern looks gorgeous. We missed it in 2017, so definitely visiting this trip.

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