Switzerland
Bern

Here you’ll find travel reports about Bern. Discover travel destinations in Switzerland of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.

320 travelers at this place:

  • Day1193

    Schwengimatt, Thal Regional Nature Park

    October 2 in Switzerland ⋅ 🌧 11 °C

    To watch the 3 minute video accompanying this post click here: https://youtu.be/YojxwhcOlb8

    Martha is currently parked 1053m above sea level. There is a howling wind and we lost visibility hours ago as rain and cloud closed in. It is only our second night in Switzerland, but from what little we've seen, we like it a lot!

    We began this morning at an altitude of just over 750m and crawled along a narrow, winding road, dropping 400m down to the flat valley floodplain and a good quality dual carriageway. (The forested mountain route was stunning, but buying a vignette for the motorways was definitely the right decision).

    10km later we pulled into a small rest area. Here there were litter bins, a drinking water tap and public toilets that we were able to empty our chemical free cassette into. Finding van facilities such as these is always a worry when visiting a new country, so it was comfort to have been able to access them.

    The next stop was in a town. Our friends Cath and Paul had helpfully provided us with some Swiss coins to get us started, but we needed an ATM to stock up on francs. The first we tried was a 'Postomat'. It didn't want to cooperate (perhaps it was only for Post Office account holders?) but another machine at a nearby bank happily provided us with notes.

    Confident we could pay for goods at the town's Co-op we trawled the aisles to get a feel for the place. The populous of each country has its own predilections when it comes to food; we find this is best represented in the way supermarkets stock their shelves. Unsurprisingly sauerkraut, raclette and fondue gruyere cheese featured prominently, but there was also a big selection of different flavoured mayonnaises in squeezy tubes such as you find tomato pureé in. To our relief the cost of food wasn't as high as feared.

    Another point of interest (for us at least) was that all prices were multiples of 5. It seems the Swiss don't have currency of less value than 5 subunits. The coins are called different things in each of the country's four languages, so are marked only with their worth. (Centimes in French, rappen in German, centesimo in Italian and rap in Romansh).

    Listening to the cashier and other customers as we queued to pay, was our first experience of Swiss-German. Through our knowledge of German we were able to understand a little, but couldn't begin to speak it.

    Our overnight parkup, on the edge of Thal Regional Nature Park required yet another slow and cautious drive up a mountain road with passing places. Maintenance work was taking place in the forest and at one point Vicky needed to hop out and clear a tree branch blocking our path. We were glad of the new tyres fitted during Martha's recent service!

    Cresting a peak an amazing view and our destination was revealed. Verdent forested slopes formed a huge valley with grazing pastures and isolated hamlets providing some sense of scale. We were awestruck. As if this wasn't enough, Maps.Me revealed a myriad of trails, so after lunch we set out for a short walk. Close by was a park with stone firepit, grill and tongs, giant seesaws and swings which amused Will for more than 5 minutes (just).

    Stones set into the forest floor marked the way and provided grip. Cloud enveloping the slender trunks to our right, lent a mystical feel to the air. The first viewpoint we reached had been obscured over time by growth, but the second, a bench on a small fenced platform, was magnificent. A town, patchwork fields and road network spread out on the flood plain hundreds of metres below, while hills with the occasional castle or grey stone cliff, rose up to the clouds. We were so high up it almost seemed we were looking at a miniature model world.

    Soon after settling back into Martha a vicious rain began to lash the hillside, ably abetted by strong winds. The heating was working double time to keep us warm and we were shocked to see a runner, then a cyclist braving the conditions and powering up the slopes. Respect to them!

    The temperature fell to under 3°C overnight, but happily the wind and rain abated. At sunrise Vicky walked to a different viewpoint. Both the steep climb and the vista took her breath away. A craggy outcrop provided the perfect natural promontory above a huge valley full of white cloud. With an amber sun just peaking through silhouetted pines to the left, it was almost 180° before you reached a nearby mountain peak to the right, the light of golden hour enhancing the warm hues of autumn leaves. Above the cloud rose the distant band of Alps and their foothills, while at its near edge, patches of pastureland and a village could be seen. Looking closely, Vicky made out a herd of cattle following the line of a fence. Through the still morning air the sound of their bells reached her, mingled with those of the village church.

    After sharing this outstanding panorama with Will via video chat, she peeled herself away, only to stop soon afterwards, having spotted something large moving between the trees. It was an Alpine Ibex, just 20m away! She could hardly believe it when another appeared and they allowed her to raise her camera and film them. Although very aware of her presence, they stayed around for five minutes or more before disappearing into the shade.

    Later we retraced the route together and picniced on the viewpoint bench. We felt so very fortunate to have been able to travel to this incredible place.

    Rounding the day's activities off, Vicky went in hunt of a nearby Geocache, eventually finding the little box stowed away at the base of a Beech tree. Snug within the van we relished the stillness, quiet and beautiful views, which were capped off in style by a stunning cloud formation at sunset.
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  • Day1195

    A day in Bern, the Swiss Capital

    October 4 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Before travelling to Switzerland neither of us would have been able to name its Capital; Bern. Having researched this diminutive city, located in the Mittelland region, we decided it was most definitely worth a visit.

    With the provision of a metered car park (belonging to the Paul Klee museum) just 2km from Bern's central square, we chose a day visit instead of staying overnight at a less central location. Charges came in at 2Sfr (£1.60) an hour, or 7Sfr for the day.

    Bern is a small city, the roads are well designed and despite being a Friday, were quiet, so the drive in was as stress free as any we've experienced.

    Modern, efficient and frequent electric buses had a direct line into the centre, but we thought we'd gain more of a feeling for the area on foot. What immediately struck us was the calm, uncongested and unhurried atmosphere; not what you'd expect in the suburbs of a capital. Well designed and maintained low rise apartments mingled with elegant townhouses and surprisingly, an orchard with a small flock of sheep! Compact gardens and balconies grew colourful flowers, ornamental grasses and shrubs, while ancient Beeches and Horse Chestnuts thrived in larger plots of wild ground. We were definitely liking what we'd seen so far!

    Bern's UNESCO listed Old Town, built between the 12th and 15th centuries, occupies a tongue of land within a sharp meander of the Aare River. Even on this drizzly grey day the view of the terracotta tiled houses rising up from the turquoise blue water made our hearts melt. Protruding above the skyline were the Gothic spire of Bern Münster and the green and gold domes of the parliament buildings, each sporting the square Swiss flag.

    Crossing the arched stone Nydegg Bridge we passed the Bärenpark, home to Finn, Björk and Ursina, three brown bears. Bern has a long history with bears, some even say this is where the city's name originated. These creatures have long been kept in cramped pits, the last one closing in 2009 following the death of its remaining occupant. Whilst this new Bear Park is 6000 square metres with trees and a river fed pool, we weren't convinced with the ethics of keeping bears captive in this city centre confine while tourists leant over the bars of their enclosure trying to attract their attention for photo opportunities.

    Once over the bridge we were caught up in the quaintness of cobbled streets, flanked by porticoed walkways, off which lay a smörgåsboard of boutiques. Many outlets contained skilled crafters making and mending leather goods, watches and shoes. Others sold fabrics, fashion, souvenirs, Swiss Army knives and antique curios. Bern again defied our preconceptions, having the feel more of a high end market town than a major administrative centre.

    So enthralled were we that the need to find food was forgotten, until Vicky turned from Jekyll into Hyde. There were a range of options; fondue, kebab and some really expensive looking restaurants, but mindful of our limited budget we opted to find sustenance at Bread à Porter bakery, who heated up a tasty mozzarella and tomato baguette and a small leek quiche for us.

    Now it was time to see the sights! So compact is the Old Town that we ended up criss crossing the same latticed streets more than once, but first we headed to a viewpoint on Kirchenfeldbrücke, where looking back revealed even better sights of parliament on the left and the cathedral spire on the right. We timed our arrival at the Zytglogge just right. A few tourists were beginning to gather in the fenced off 'tourist photo' areas at the junction under the medieval Clock Tower, while a traffic warden made sure buses didn't have to dodge those focussed on their selfie sticks. At 12:56pm a chime rang out and the miniature carousel of figures embedded into this arched old western gate revolved a quarter turn. For the next four minutes we listened and watched as further notes were struck and the guilded characters came to life; the cockerel flapping its wings and the bell player striking their instrument. The artistry of these and the astronomical clock was impressive, but the hourly event a bit of an anti-climax.

    Next port of call, less than 500m away was the Bundesplatz outside Parliament. The grey skies and dull light didn't show this square, nor the fine sandstone building off to their best, but they were impressive nonetheless and the 26 water jets layed into the paving (one to represent each Swiss canton) added a modern element of fun. Our hope had been to enter and watch the house sitting from a gallery, but arrangements seemed to have changed from when our guidebook was written because we were informed by security that we'd need to book online.

    Nevermind, we'd saved the best for last! The tallest church spire in Switzerland rises 100m and belongs to Bern Münster. For 5Sfr you can scale the tightly spiralled stone staircase at one corner of the bell tower, peaking through tall, narrow, arched openings as you climb to see the terraced rooftops dropping away beneath you. At 46m we emerged onto a walkway leading around the outside of the rectangular structure, before taking another 90 steps to the second, smaller, octagonal gallery platform at 64m. From here we took in Bern's position, cupped amongst lush green hills, with far off views of the snow capped Bernese Alps. We spent a long time enjoying this new found perspective, Vicky was particularly taken with the different hues of hexagonal tiles capping identically shaped dormer windows and surrounding cutesy roof top gardens. Although many were hidden by the arcades lining each cobbled thoroughfare, we still marvelled at how few people we could see. Perhaps Swiss prices make foreign tourists (like us) think twice about visiting, but whatever the reason, Bern's uncrowded, unhurried nature is part of this very likeable city's charm.

    N.B. Special thanks to our friends Cath and Paul. We counted out 10Sfr worth of their centimes to pay for entry to the Münster spire - definitely the highlight of our day!
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  • Day1195

    Gurbrü woodland

    October 4 in Switzerland ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    We are relieved to have arrived at this woodland car park near Gurbrü after a long afternoon exploring Switzerland's capital.

    We'd already travelled over 60km and done a service stop before arriving in Bern that morning. (There'll be a seperate post covering our city adventures). After 5 hours exploring we drove a short way to motorhome parking at a leisure centre, only to find it wanted to charge 40Sfr (£33) for a sloped patch of tarmac with no facilities. Moving on swiftly we travelled a further 25km as the light began to fade, arriving at this peaceful wooded setting.

    Turning the engine off, we raised the blinds and drew the curtains, heating up some leftovers for tea and treating ourselves to a drink. We'd had an exciting city tour, but now was time to relax.

    Before departing Vicky put on full waterproofs and stretched her legs in a morning drizzle. A 3.1km 'Vitaparcours' route had recently been created. The course led between the trees and alongside feilds, with over a dozen Green Gym fitness stations, like balance beams, sit-up benches and gymnastic rings, off to the side.
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  • Day9

    The ten pound box and Grindelwald 2.0

    July 23 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 68 °F

    About that go cart/bike trip. It was low to the ground and required getting out and pushing at flat spots. Not good for a guy with a bad hip, so Tim put himself on injured reserve and declined. Then I noted that the brakes were on the handles and I have a bad trigger finger on one hand, so I wisely, I think, joined him on that list. But we thought you might enjoy a few more pics, and what’s not to love about cows⛰. Oh, the box... I packed winter clothes for the mountain peaks as well as long sleeved shirts. They are currently in a level 3 heat wave. So I packed about ten pounds of not needed clothes and am shipping home.Read more

  • Day11

    Maybe it was revenge...

    July 25 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 50 °F

    It occurred to me that perhaps my paragliding instructor suggested this :easy waterfall hike" in the woods as revenge for ruining his perfect take off stats. Or maybe it was that at several thousand feet in the air, everything looked a lot flatter. For we climbed straight up the road and then through a "short cut" through a farmer's field which was straight up, and then through the woods straight up. Among the way Tim acquired a hiking partner of the feline variety. We left the cat behind after crossing through a cow meadow, but then upon our return(we gave up before the falls as we had been taking that short hike for two hours), here came the cat up the trail to join us for the hike out. Then we met a lovely Swiss couple on holiday who invited us to their home in the mountains for coffee and homemade bread. We were told by our hosts, Andy and Marianne of Zurich, that a "short hike" to the Swiss starts a one hour. Good to know since our total hiking time was over three hours... in the heat.Read more

  • Day15

    Thanks for traveling with us...

    July 29 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 61 °F

    Well, friends. All good things must come to an end. Here are our final pictures from our walk to Gimmelwald. We finished our day by going to Hotel Stechelberg, at the end of the valley, for homemade spaghetti, a Greek salad, and, finally, homemade Black Forest cake. Since the next bus would not be there for 40 minutes, we walked a final time in the cool of evening along the Aare River to our home. We said goodbye to all our favorite cows, and we reveled in the sound of the river as we debriefed what we learned during this adventure. Having you all with us gave us great joy. Can’t wait to see you again soon.

    Love you all...feeling blessed.
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  • Day10

    The narrow canyon of the Aare River

    July 24 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 82 °F

    After arriving in Brienz and departing the boat, we saw a train for Meiringen was leaving in two minutes, so we spontaneously jumped onboard. Then we saw that we were close to the Aare River gorge. Close a relative... it actually was about an hour walk in the heat. Finally we were there, and we trekked through a blissfully cool tunnel carved in stone for the next two hours. Along the way, we walked unto platforms suspended about the river, grateful for the respite given between the canyon walls. At the end, we trekked again down a hillside in the 95 degree heat. At the bottom, there was actually a metal door that opened only when the train arrived. This little important piece of information cost us dearly in the heat of the previous hours. We were actually about two minutes from this gorge by train when we started walking. The funny thing is I said to Tim, “Let’s have an easy lake day!” Sixteen hours later we have arrived home. Whew!Read more

  • Day8

    The blooper video

    July 22 in Switzerland ⋅ ☁️ 68 °F

    Just walked back on the trail after our paraglide landing down the road from our home. Boy, ice cream never tasted so good. No pictures yet, but here’s the scoop. Leaving the cable car in Mürren, we hiked up a steep hillside to the launch area. Tim and his instructor had a flawless take off. I assured Buzz, my instructor, that I would follow all instructions and obviously had misunderstood one, so instead of launching we veered, got tangled up with each other and all the lines, and rolled down the meadow we had just. Climbed. But then we had a great take off for the 2nd attempt.

    The winds were good and we floated, rising up and down, turning in tight swirls and slow circles. You fly over the tops of huge trees and along granite cliffs, past waterfalls and in sight of glaciers. It is like being a human drone. Buzz let me fly it for awhile...so beautiful.

    I rate this experience even higher than swimming with Sharks. Unbelievable! Photos and video when we return!
    Char
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  • Day9

    Top of the World again!

    July 23 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 70 °F

    One train, three long chair lifts later! A different view of the endless glaciers. We voted against a second cliff walk, but I think we will give the scooter three wheelers a shot down to the next chair lift. What could possibly go wrong? It's all downhill. We walked down a ways from the top and are now having hamburgers... we need energy for the coast ride down. This is truly a restaurant with a view.Read more

  • Day6

    I hope someone knows CPR

    July 20 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 55 °F

    At last sighting in Birg, Tim was headed to the Skywalk, which is attached to the side of a cliff. I made it about 100 yards and abject terror took over. I took a pic of Tim before he turned the corner. Next stop Murren! Love having so many cable cars but I am ready to start walking downhill. You wouldn't believe how many people they cram in!Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Canton de Berne, Bern, Berne, Berna, 베른 주

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