“You should go on a day trip.” Always a good idea, and from Zürich, the possibilities were overwhelming. Lucerne, Geneva, Basel…after talking with some locals and doing some digging on Wikitravel, I finally decided on Bern. I chose Bern because it is Switzerland’s capital but is also small enough to walk around and there were many sights to see.
Train travel within Switzerland is fairly simple. In my case, I just showed up at Westbahnhof, the big train station in Zürich, and bought my ticket 20 minutes before the train left. The ticket machines are easy to use, everywhere has easy to follow signs, and the trains will leave EXACTLY on time, accurate to the second. Although I have to say, while simple and efficient, the Swiss train system, like everything in Switzerland, is by no means cheap. It cost 100 CHF for a round trip ticket to Bern!
Once I got to Bern, I made a beeline to the tourism office, where I picked up a map with a self-guided walking tour that took me through the major sights. Bern is quite small, so I was able to take my time and take lots of pictures. One of the first things I saw was the Astronomical Clock, which reminded me of the one in Prague.
I continued wandering, passing Einstein’s house as well as a bunch of weird fountains. Bern is really obsessed with bears.
Eventually I crossed the Aare River and made my way up the hill on the other side to probably my favorite spot of the day, the Rosengarten overlooking the city. This park was beautiful, and as you would expect, it had lots of roses. I spent some time in the grass reading and savoring the day, but it was the view of the city that was the highlight of the Rosengarten.
Afterwards I made my way back down, stopping by the bear pits, which I went into (the bears were on vacation), and then crossing the river again. I was there on a warm summer day, and lots of people (tourists and locals alike) were floating down the river. I kicked myself for not bringing a swimsuit, but I did take the chance and wade into the icy waters. It was the perfect way to cool off and take a break after so much walking.
After that I took my time wandering back to the Bahnhof, taking in a few more sites before boarding my train back to Zürich. By the time I slumped into my seat, my feet were sore, and I’m pretty sure my face was sunburned. But wow, what a great day. Bern was perfect for a day trip: small enough so I could see all the sites in one day, with interesting history and architecture around each corner. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to see more of Switzerland than Zürich.
Have you ever been to Switzerland? If not, what Swiss cities would you like to visit?