Today marked our second day in Bern and it was actually a great day! We woke up super early (6:30AM) and headed to the train station. We had tickets to Paris that left at 8:23am but we wanted to change them because of our lack of a hotel for the evening of the 21st. So, we spoke to the agent who at first was unwilling to change them but changed her mind when I told her that we needed a late train because we were homeless in Paris and had nowhere to go. I definitely played that fiddle but hey – 10 Euros later and she changed our tickets for us.
So, with our victory behind us, we headed back to the hotel for some free breakfast. It was actually a pretty great free breakfast! Eggs, bacon, fruit, toast, yogurt, cereal, croissants, coffee, juices, etc. made it a great stop after such an early morning. We filled up and headed back to our room.
Trina decided to get some more sleep while I worked. Around 9:30am, I headed down to do some laundry as I was getting pretty tired of wearing the same clothes as much as I have… It’s funny though how much your tolerance changes when you actually get out and backpack for three weeks. Laundry started, we grabbed some Starbucks and worked a bit longer after convincing the guy at the counter to let us have a late checkout (he gave us an extra hour!) Showered and packed up, we headed to grab my newly washed and dried clothes and then it was on to the bear pits again.
Did I mention I love bear pits?
Another sleepless night… The main difference with this night compared to the others was that I re-routed our course online. We were going to head to Paris for the 20th and 21st but after checking out hotels and finding nothing under $600 USD, I decided to look for an alternate solution. While Trina worked away in the hotel lobby area, I plotted out a detour to Bern, Switzerland.
I booked both legs of our train (Milan to Bern and Bern to Paris), booked our hotel room and also checked out some things to do in Bern. This is when I came across the bear pits but more on that later. So, after booking all of our travel, I then realized that we still needed to find lodging for the night in Paris… for the 21st.
I tried near the airport to make it nice and easy but there was NOTHING available. The only hotel that showed availability was a hotel that (and I’m not even kidding with my next sentence) charged $3,800 a night. WHAT?! I could fly around the world with an around-the-world ticket for less than that price. Insane. So… we decided to try out a hostel instead. We looked at a few but a friend of ours told us that Paris hostels, while a whole lot of fun, tend to be a bit ghetto. I booked us into one but after the fact read some reviews on it on TripAdvisor.com (a great website to use if you are ever looking for information and reviews on different hotels. Users post photos, reviews, rate it by star level and recommend it to certain subsets of people. So… back to the hostel.
Trina got really excited about this one because it had a name that said ducky in it… Or three ducks… Or something like that. She just thought the ducky part was funny. I was sceptical and did my research. Turns out, this place is disgusting. According to reviews, there is dirt everywhere and one girl reported that in the middle of the night, she woke up to someone OUTSIDE of her room reaching inside her room to grab her backpack and run… This person SCALED the wall of the hostel to grab her bag… After reading a few more nasty reviews, I immediately went to the e-mail and requested a refund.
So anyway, after going through the insanely priced Paris hotel experience (our first night in Paris at the Paris Hilton wasn’t that expensive… I wonder why the insane price increase?!) and going through the ghetto hostel experience, we settled on the next best thing… We’re going to sleep at the airport. You see, I’ve done this more times than I can count… Most times, involuntarily. Tonight, we’ll be going because we have nowhere else to go and the airport does provide some comfort as well as a roof over our head. We won’t be homeless!
Anyway, I stayed awake all night and Trina slept for about an hour or so. We both showered and got ready and headed to the train station. I was thinking we had lots of time as I had wrote down 7:52am and we were doing the self-issuing ticket thing so I thought we’d be flying through. Well… turns out my dyslexia got the best of me and I wrote down 7:52am when it should have been 7:25am!! So, we were 30 minutes late… The worst part is that we SAW the train when we came up the stairs but we had to check since Bern, Switzerland isn’t what is written on the platform sign… Turns out, Brig is the last stop and Bern is just a stop along the way.
So, we head back downstairs to ticketing and I leave Trina to sit against a wall with all of our bags. She had already had experiencing doing the pseudo-homeless thing… In Munich, I had left her with all of our bags to go inside of a store and stock up on drinks and snacks for the train. Well, when I was inside, she was holding a coffee cup out sort of at arms length and people were staring at her like she was homeless. Turns out, in Milan, some guy offered her 10 Euro! With the price of the Swiss Franc, I kinda wish she would’ve taken it
Anyhow, I go to the ticket counter to get new tickets and was told that I was going to have to pay a change fee. I got nervous for a split second – I can’t stand extra fees and often find them ridiculously over-priced. Turns out, this one was only 5 Euro! Woohoo! So… we got our new tickets for an hour later and we hopped on the train for Bern, Switzerland.
The train ride wasn’t too long (but then again, my definition of “long” has changed a lot since being here… Now, a four or five hour train ride is peanuts while a twelve hour bus ride seems only slightly long…) and the scenery along the way was absolutely gorgeous. We had the opportunity to drive through the Swiss Alps which was nothing short of beautiful. It was a peaceful train ride and I sipped Espresso and read more of “My Year of Living Biblically” while Trina snapped shots of the scenery that passed. Oh yes – I also worked on campaign / promotional text for Sheri McConnell’s preview call series… Check it out and register if you’d like to!
We landed in Bern, Switzerland and we were greeted with sunshine and the most peaceful, calming air I have felt on this trip (next to Vienna… the air there was really, really different). It’s hard to believe that air could feel different but it does. There is this generally sense of calmness in places like Vienna and Bern. Almost like stress levels are gone, people are kinder and the atmosphere is just more laid back. A place like Prague had thick, busy, heavy air. You could feel the tension, the oppression and the general, “I’m on a mission… get out of my way” sort of attitude.
Coming out of the station, we walked a short ten minute walk and ended up at our hotel. The Swiss Metropole hotel which was in a prime location. Although, due to Bern’s small size and small population, despite being the Capital city, I can’t imagine anything is a hike! We had a Starbucks at our doorstep, a few cafes and bars and walking trails. Perfect for a city to relax in.
After checking in, we checked out our temporary digs for the next 24 hours. It was really old and at first we were thinking, “Oh boy… coming from some of the hotels we were in, this is not a luxury hotel by any means!” but after a little investigation, we realized we might have come across the most service-oriented hotel yet. The hotel had laundry facilities on site (7 Francs to do an entire load whereas most hotels in Europe charge 3.50 Euros for a pair of panties!), free breakfast, Internet service available, terrace with views of the city, games room and more. Great place to spend our last night in a hotel!
So, we dropped our stuff and set out to explore the city. As I mentioned previously, my research that I was able to sneak in about Bern (otherwise known here in Europe as Berne and if you want to learn how to actually say that properly, ask any person who speaks Swiss German!) taught me that the Capital city was actually named after the Bernese Bear – a common bear found in these parts. Due to the animal being so highly revered (it made its way onto coats of arms, various emblems and uniforms throughout history and as part of the architecture in Bern) the city erected bear pits where they placed bears to be seen and enjoyed by the public.
Well… one thing you’ll learn about me is that I love zoos and seeing any animal in person that I’d be scared to meet in the wild. It’s sort of like testing the primal waters without being overly scared about doing so… Anyway, we found the Bernese bear pits and video taped him and took photographs of him for nearly an hour. I was enthralled! We did a little National Geographic moment too where I explained what I knew about the Bernese bear (okay, I was reading) and Trina taped the bear. It also laid on its back and people threw approved bear food down to him and he caught nearly every piece in his mouth. It was really cool! (Yes, I realize that I now sound like a fourth grader after her first time going to the zoo… haha)
Oh, I almost forgot. Before we got to the bear pits, we took a walk down the hiking / walking trail. Luckily, it led to the bear pits so it only made sense for us to experience some of Bern’s beautiful nature. We walked along the river and the leaves were all beautiful colors and there was a small walking bridge where we stopped to take some photographs. It was gorgeous and the weather was perfect… oh, and we had Starbucks in hand! We hadn’t seen one since BERLIN! For shame.
We headed back toward the hotel and walked past different shops that were outdoors yet covered. Imagine this, you’re staring down a street and you see beautiful buildings. The buildings look fairly inconspicuous. Now, you walk through an archway and find yourself beside the road but now in a long hallway that has shops and shops and shops lining it. It’s really neat actually because I almost feel that they’ve preserved the city from looking too commercial yet still included all of the much-needed retail stores.
We decided it was time for some lunch so we stopped in at this place called Tavver which was a grocery store and a cafe. The neat thing is, that we only learned after ordering, is that the cafe is entirely organic. So, the food and drinks were not what you’d find elsewhere but rather purely organic. The buffet was a little expensive but to me, it was totally worth it. The food was delicious and light and contained a lot of vegetables and fish. Delicious! I also had some lemonade that was sweetened entirely with honey. Really good stuff.
After we ate, the rest of the day didn’t contain too much travel excitement. We headed back to the hotel, setup our computers for Internet and spent the evening working. Both Trina and I got caught up entirely with zero e-mail in our inboxes, so we decided to sleep a bit before heading to the train station around 6:30am…
So, that concluded day one in Bern. Very pretty city… a bit on the boring side and you really can see all of the attractions there quite quickly if you wanted to but we didn’t go for the sights. Bern is the capital of Switzerland which means we can add another country to our list and we got to take a train through the Alps. Bern also has amazing views of the mountains and really… you don’t get much more Swiss than that.
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