Bern, Switzerland

After a week in Wengen – in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland, we decided to spend the next night in the country’s capital: Bern. It is a lovely city and well worth a day or two.

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Why Bern?

  • We wanted an overnight somewhere in Switzerland because it takes a solid 3 hours of trains to get from Wengen to major airports like Zurich or Basel. The latest US-bound flights typically leave before 1pm or so… and in many cases, our flights have left more like 11am. While it is technically possible to make a late morning flight, it can be tight, especially if you need to eat breakfast and pack up an apartment.
  • When we took my parents to Switzerland 8 years ago, we stayed in Luzern our final night. Luzern is a lovely town, but Bern is great too, and they hadn’t been to Bern.
  • Compared with Zurich, Bern feels like a much nicer place to stay as a tourist – it has a cute covered downtown area, it’s more accessible, and feels more relaxed.
  • For getting to Zurich Airport in the morning, Bern is surprisingly convenient. There are frequent direct trains to Zurich airport, with no changes, and take just over an hour.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Arrival

We caught a mid-morning train from Wengen, and made it to Bern in time for a late lunch.

On arrival, we transferred to a tram, using our hotel reservations as a transit voucher. Our hotel (the Novotel) was a little outside the center, but right next to the Expo convention center tram station, so really, quite convenient. The front desk took our tourist tax, and in return, presented us with a local transit pass that would be good for our entire stay.

After dropping off our stuff and freshening up a bit, we were ready to explore! So we hopped back on the tram and took it to the city center. Given that there was a bit of rain, we were very pleased by the city’s covered walkways and didn’t use our umbrellas much.

As we got off the tram, the boys – probably missing home – spotted McDonald’s and insisted that they wanted to eat there. To the boys’ delight, they were offering a special where you could get a free Coca-Cola glass with the purchase of a certain type of meal! Everyone was pleased, although it would mean a little more work to pack them safely into our suitcase.

Afternoon Wandering

Window shopping was delightful. The kids particularly liked the alpaca store, but we discouraged purchases since alpaca products are a better souvenir from Peru.

We wandered by the Cathedral, the Parliament buildings, and we saw a delightful Saturday market where we got quite wet. With the rain, none of our pictures turned out all that well.

Deciding we were tired of the rain, we went back to the hotel to rest and wait it out. Once it had mostly passed, we headed back to the clock tower and decided to walk down the hill to the Bärengraben, or Bear Pit, but none of the bears were out. Disappointment!

Dinner

Feeling hungry, we took the bus to Bärenplatz and found a rösti (Swiss hash browns) restaurant. Delicious!

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Evening Walk

After dinner, Jeremy and I decided to take a walk from the hotel and randomly ended up at the Rosengarten. Beautiful!

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We continued on to the Bear Pit and found the bear! Or, at least we saw its ear and part of its face. It was in an obscure corner and was using some bushes to hide.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

In the morning, we woke up expecting rain, but to our delight, the sky was blue! Jeremy needed to make his way to Zürich so he could get back to work on Monday. The rest of us would take a less expensive flight in the evening and do an overnight in Dublin. Even with the added expense of hotel rooms, we were able to save a significant amount of money with this strategy.

We knew that once we checked out, it was going to be a long day, waiting for our 10:00pm flight, so we decided to have a long breakfast and hang out at the hotel until checkout time. The kids were pleased with the idea of a morning of cartoons.

Rosengarten

After storing our bags at the front desk, we decided to take the bus to the Rosengarten. The kids had a delightful time at the playground.  Mom even enjoyed it!

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And Mom and I had a delightful time looking at the flowers.

Bern Münster

We decided to take the bus to the clock tower, then wandered to the Cathedral to get pictures in the sunshine.

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The boys remembered that this is where they saw their alpaca store and that they really wanted to get their souvenir from there. Reluctantly, we went to check it out, but since it was Sunday, the store was closed. They were disappointed, but I was secretly relieved that they might actually pick something Swiss for their souvenir.

Afternoon Wandering and Shopping

Feeling a bit tired of really heavy Swiss food, we decided to go to an Italian place.

Afterwards, John decided that he was on a quest for nice Swiss chocolate. Given that it was Sunday, there were very few shops open, but he succeeded in finding one!  Confiserie Tschirren. Quite expensive, but with only a couple of tiny pieces each, I was okay with it.  We were all amazed by the quality. Delicious!

We took the bus back to the Bear Pit, and to the boys’ delight, the bears were out and active. They were wandering, swimming, playing, and having a wonderful time.  The boys spent a while watching in amazement.

After a while, we put Mom and Dad on the elevator down to water, while the rest of us walked down to avoid the line.

Dad and I found a bench, while mom and the boys decided to wade their feet. To the boys’ amazement, a bottle came floating down the river. They were able to snag it and discovered a message inside! Best souvenir ever!

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What a wonderful day!

We eventually decided to take the bridge back to town. The boys spotted a souvenir store that was open and decided that they did want t-shirts after all, so we picked out a couple to help us remember our delightful day. Both of them selected bear-themed shirts.

Time to Leave

Realizing that we needed to get to the airport, we took the bus/tram back to the hotel, picked up our bags, then headed for the main train station and hopped on the next train to Zurich.

James thoroughly enjoyed the observation deck at the airport.

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On to Dubin, Ireland, for a quick overnight layover!

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