Swiss City Days


Okay, time for the second instalment in my long overdue Switzerland series…

On our afternoons off (often when the weather was less than ideal for skiing) Matt and I would catch the train and visit a neighbouring city. Being based in Interlaken we were in a pretty central spot with most other large cities being only 1-2 hours away from us. 

On our first excursion out, we headed for Bern. Here we perused the city’s botanical garden. Run by the city university it was relatively small, although there were enough glasshouses to keep us both occupied and out of the rain for most of the morning!

After this, we wandered over to the Einstein Museum. Although Einstein was born in Berlin, he spent much of his life in Bern. And I don’t think either of us anticipated just how thorough or engaging the exhibition would be. Safe to say we got lost in there. Walking through the exhibition as it detailed his experiences as a Jewish man living in Europe during the early 20th century, we both came away with much to discuss, realising how little we actually knew of Einstein’s life.

On the top floor of the museum there was an exhibition looking at Bern over the past 100 years. Again we found ourselves absorbed, as it dawned on us how so much of the information we’d learned in our schooling regarding the World Wars, had been Britain-centric. I think we both had a vague idea that Switzerland had been neutral but perhaps didn’t realise entirely what that meant or entailed.

One fact that left us astonished was that during WWII only 18 people in Switzerland had died. And that was the result of bombs accidentally falling inside the country’s borders. There was also a video clip of Churchill giving a speech in Bern, in which he talks of the creation of the European Union and the importance of unity between the countries. It seemed so sad to watch in hindsight.

On another occasion, we travelled to Lucerne. Recommend to me by a friend, I could see why. The city was beautiful, pristine. Full of ornate, old buildings painted with murals and cobbled side streets, lined with continental cafes. We visited the famous Chapel Bridge and the city’s old town and finally stopped in at the Dr Oetker Cafe for coffee and pastries.

It has to be said that Matt isn’t much of a “city person”. So after Bern and Lucerne, he was content he’d seen enough Swiss cities to last him his stay. However I wasn’t quite done. So on other days I took myself off on little excursions. 

On one such day, I took the train to Zurich. Of all the cities we visited, I think this was perhaps my favourite. It’s hard to pin down why, but I felt more at home here. Perhaps it was the architecture, the culture of the place, the pace of it – who knows. But I spent much of my day in The Kunsthaus, wandering through its many rooms, amazed at the art and also amazed at how quiet it was.

I found myself on one occasion, completely alone in a room full of Van Gogh paintings and felt stunned that it was just me and them. No ropes, no security, no queue or line to be waited in. I took so many photos. Often zooming right in to capture the brushstrokes. It was divine. Afterwards, I took myself to the B2 Boutique Hotel. Having seen photos online of their amazing library-come-bar (or Wine Library as they like to call) I felt it was something to be witnessed in person. And I was correct. It was obscenely amazing. Even if most of the books were in German and thus rendered unreadable to me. I still sat down, ordered a coffee and got on with some writing.