Tag Archives: bern

Zu Zürich

I didn’t go to Luzern. I hung around Bern until 11:00 to watch the clock. It didn’t really do all that much, but it is pretty interesting to see a working mechanism from 1530.


Luzern would take several hours, and I didn’t want to get to Zürich that late, so I took the train directly to Zürich and got there by 1:00.

I arrived at the Hauptbahnhof and set off confidently in the wrong direction. I knew I needed to cross the river, but I didn’t know that there are two rivers. Fortunately, there was a Starbucks just on the other side of the Sihl, so I could map the hotel and see that I needed to cross the Limmat.

Of course, I should have been able to map it anywhere, not just at a Starbucks, but the flakiness of Google Fi will be the subject of another post.

The Hotel Arlette is small but nice, as advertised. After I checked in, I went back across the river and walked the length of Bahnhofstrasse, which for some reason makes me think of New York City in the 1920s.


Then I walked randomly through nearby alleys and back across the Limmat to Niederdorf, which seems like Zürich’s equivalent of Paris’ Latin Quarter.

I spent most of the afternoon wandering around on both sides of the river.



For dinner I got some currywurst at this place that has barrels for tables. I didn’t notice it at the time, but it seems to be part of the strip club next door.


A little later I went up to Lindenhof and sat on the fourth-century Roman wall and took pictures of the city and river under the full moon. I couldn’t quite hold the camera still enough…


The Cellars of Bern

One of the more intriguing aspects of central Bern is that the streets are laid out for walking in the street as well as on the sidewalks. The sidewalks are covered, with one or more steps down to the street. The streets are cobblestone, and have wide areas where merchants used to sell their wares. Now these areas merely provide a safe place for tourists to wander around and take pictures without getting run over.

Along the edges of the sidewalks, facing the street, there are cellar doors. In centuries past, these were used as wine cellars or general storage, but now they house restaurants, bars, and all manner of stores. For example…

There’s a theater.


And a tango studio.


And a wat phoo.


And a bar that serves absinthe.


And the Einstein Kaffee und Rauchsalon, below the aforementioned Einstein Cafe.


This Flammen-Bar is beneath the Paraguayan embassy.


The Hardware Store, mentioned in the previous post, is the perfect fit for a cellar environment.


As you approach the river, the street drops off faster than the sidewalk, the cellar doors become regular doors, and the cellars become the ground floor.


Feel the Bern

I spent the entire day walking around Bern. Roughly ten miles. The sky was overcast and murpy, with occasional light rain, but nothing that someone from western Washington can’t handle. Some people were carrying umbrellas, but that’s just a sign of weakness.

Bern — at least the central area where I was — is one of the most attractive cities I’ve seen. The city dates to 1191, but most of it was rebuilt in 1405 after it…wait for it…Berned down.


I went on the walking tour described in the Rick Steves guide book, with detours for anything that looked interesting, then wandered around on my own after that.

I was going to take a tour of the parliament building, but they were all booked for the day, so I picked up a free booklet about the Swiss government. They had it in all four official Swiss languages, plus a few others for visitors, so I got one in English and one in Romansch.


I visited the Bern Cathedral and paid five francs to go up the 210-foot-high tower.






Then I walked down Gerechtigkeitgasse to the river and across to the bear pit, where the bears don’t live anymore. Several years ago, it occurred to someone that it was really sort of cruel to keep bears in a pit, so they moved them to a larger park setting next to the river. You can ride a funicular to go down to them.



In fact, these are not the same bears, since the earlier pit bears died. These are newer, younger bears. They have names, but I don’t remember what they are, so let’s just call them Todd and Thelma. Here’s Todd looking appropriately ursine:


And Todd and Thelma together:


So the Bärengraben is now a Bärenpark, but the Bären should not be confused with Beeren, even though Bären have been known to eat Beeren.


Anyway, the bears were cool, but ten minutes or so is probably your maximum bear-viewing time, so I went back across the river and up to Albert Einstein’s house. It’s not his house now, of course, and it wasn’t really then, because he just rented, but he lived there from 1903-1905 while he was working in the patent office and formulating the special theory of relativity. You can walk through it. Afterwards I had lunch downstairs at the Einstein Cafe (“relatively the best”).


Just down the street from the Einstein Cafe I found this place.


You can’t not go into a place like that, so I did.


It’s the storefront for Voodoo Rhythm Records, a local independent record label for both current bands and obscure bands from the past. It kind of reminded me of Rhino Records, though somewhat weirder.

And of course there’s the famous Zytglogge-Turm, the clock tower, which was built in 1530. I walked by it numerous times over the course of the day, but never while it was doing its elaborate chime presentation at four minutes before every hour.


I need to check out and get over there so I can see it before I get on the train to Luzern.

Farewell to Jungfrau

I left Mürren at around 10:00, taking the BLM train to Grütschalp, the cable car to Lauterbrunnen, and another train to Interlaken Ost. I had planned to take a Golden Pass train to Luzern, have lunch on the river, then take a train to Bern, but that seemed like a lot of extra time just for lunch, and it was already noon by the time I got to Interlaken, so I took the train straight to Bern.


But then halfway to Bern I thought, why not go to Basel? The train goes all the way to Hamburg, so I could ride into Germany, but my Swiss Rail Pass only takes me to the border. Still, I can get off, walk across the border and look around, then take the train back to Bern. I can’t check in until 3:00 anyway.

As it happens, the train station is several miles from the border, but there’s a central tram stop in front of the station with trams that go all over the city. Two of the stops had “Grenze” in the name, so I picked the one that didn’t sound French and got on that tram. I didn’t have a ticket, and I don’t think local trams are covered by Swiss Rail, but I thought I’d see what happened.

The tram actually went across the Grenze and into Germany.


I got off, then realized that it was just going to turn around and go back, so I got back on again and rode back to the train station.


No one ever asked to see my ticket, nor did I see any machine that accepted tickets. But there were machines that sold tickets next to the trams. Weird.

Then I took the train to Bern, where I have the tiniest hotel room I have ever seen. Even the Japanese business hotels were bigger than this.


The hotel itself is all faded elegance, with an ancient cage elevator.


Now I’m drinking a complimentary Schneider Weisse in the hotel restaurant and planning the next day.