I couldn't help stealing this post's title from an email subject line that my husband sent to me when we were in the planning stages of our trip!
Originally we were planning to just visit France and Italy for our Europe vacation, but Ian spoke to a doctor he works with who told him how amazing Switzerland was -- specifically, the train trip from Switzerland to Italy which winds down through the Alps. We then knew we wanted to stop over for the night, so the question became -- Zurich or Bern? Ian did some research, and when I got the email from him saying "Bern, Baby, Bern", I was excited to get planning!
We spent a little more for first class train tickets for the trip to and from Switzerland so that we had really nice seating arrangements and a good view.
Arriving in Switzerland was a bit overwhelming for me -- I can speak conversational French and Italian, but I know NO German other than "danke" (thank you) which, I guess, is a good word to know if you only know one. We caught a cab to the hotel and were so surprised at how nice the cabs were there -- ours was a BMW.
I booked our night in Bern at Hotel Alpenblick after reading awesome reviews on Tripadvisor (here). I loved the modern, minimalist decor and knew that it would be a nice juxtaposition from the other hotel rooms we'd encounter in France and Italy. What really set the hotel apart was the staff, who really bent over backwards to make sure we were happy and comfortable.
The hotel isn't located in city center -- it's about a 15-20 minute walk down the hill to get to it, but I loved being a little removed from the hustle and bustle. It had more of a neighborhood feel. Plus, it was a quick five minute walk to the Rose Garden (Rosengarten) which was our first stop once we'd set down our bags.
It was a pretty wet and dreary day, but we bundled up to stay warm and walked all around the botanical gardens in awe.
This picture shows where we were in relation to the city center. It looks like it's quite a ways away, but it wasn't a bad walk at all and it helped us to justify the beer and cheese fondue that we consumed!
We walked down to the city center, called the Old Town, and enjoyed walking the streets and peeking in the shops and restaurants. For lunch, we found a quick place where we grabbed a sandwich and continued exploring.
Bern is known for their bears -- in fact, the area you see below is right in front of where three bears live! You can see the gate behind me that encloses their play area. The river here is the Aare River and we dipped our toes in ... chilly chilly!
I'd say the highlight of this trip for us was an afternoon drink at the Einstein Kaffe (here). This little place had such great character and charm, and it's located in the very house where Einstein stayed when he was in Bern. The reason why this was such a fun experience is that we shared a table with three locals who spoke English pretty well. We all started chatting and they were able to give us some awesome insight into the city and its must-sees. They were incredibly friendly and getting and insiders perspective on Bern was so enlightening.
After lunch we continued walking around for a bit. We visited the clock tower, the federal building, and popped into a few shops. No souveniers for us, though -- Bern's prices were shockingly high! We even shared dinner that night due to the steep prices.
The next morning started off with an incredible breakfast, which was included in the room rate. Our Paris hotel did not include breakfast, and many mornings there we just grabbed a coffee. The spread you see below had us giddy -- there was so much to choose from, and the food was incredible! Cappucinos, juice, muesli, fresh fruit, meats and cheeses. Oh, and the flaky croissants ... delish!
Our next train left that day for Italy, so we made one last trek to the Rose Garden to bid farewell to beautiful Bern.
We strapped on our packs and walked down to the train station, which was about 20 minutes by foot. And then the Italian adventures were set to begin ... recaps coming soon!