Falling in Love in Switzerland, Day 03
On Day Three of our visit to Switzerland we were blessed with bright sunshine and most of the day to explore the city of Bern by foot. Simona and Bruno invited us to a BBQ at their house around 4 p.m. so that left the whole day practically to walk, take photos, and enjoy the beautiful summer day.
First of all I need to tell you that Matt and I love Switzerland and in particular Bern. It is the best city by far that we’ve ever been to. I’ve been there four times now and Matt five and every time we find ourselves in awe of how beautiful Switzerland is and how happy the people seem to be.
The first thing you might notice about Bern is that at every corner and statue there is usual reference to bears. The Bern flag has a bear on it and there are statues everywhere of bears. So you might be asking ‘What’s with the bears?’ well, to quote the guide book that I had it says ‘The city’s current emblem, a bear, first appeared in 1224. According to legend it was named after the first animal that the Duke (Duke Berchtold V. von Zahringen, who commissioned the city to be built on a peninsula which would offer natural protection on three sides) caught while hunting as the city was being built’ and since then the bear has been the symbol of Bern. There is also a Bear Pit in Bern with several real bears in residence and you can check them out and watching them playing, eating, etcetera. It’s pretty cool.
Another interesting thing is for those of you who have been to New Bern, North Carolina (I have, I have…) you will notice the same bear is the symbol of that town as well. This is because New Bern, North Carolina is the sister city of Bern, Switzerland! Pretty cool, ehh? Now you have learned something from this blog of mine and I feel my duty is done.
Now the picture above is one of the hundreds of fountains you will find in Bern alone. Switzerland has fountains galore but this particular fountain I found intriguing. I heard about this fountain through a book I read a few months back and although I have been to Bern at least four times I had never taken notice of this one but after reading that book I had to find it for myself. It turns out it was not hard to find at all. We took the number nine tram from our hotel to the Zyteglogge stop and there it was right in front of us. I find this fountain to be the most intriguing so far because it’s an Ogre who is eating little children. The author of the book I read suggested that it might have been a story that was told to children years ago like ‘if you don’t eat your broccoli or go to bed on time the Ogre will get you’. How brutal! But I have to admit it’s my favorite so far.
Another really interesting thing about these fountains is that you can drink from every one of them. All over Switzerland you will find fountains of all shapes and sizes, some are ornate and others are just spigots flowing with water but all of them provide the cleanest, purest water that you can get. It’s the same water that runs through all the household taps in Switzerland and the source is the same…the Alps. The Swiss pride themselves on having the cleanest drinking water. As you walk through any city it is not uncommon to see people filling their water bottles up in the fountains or splashing their faces to cool off right there in front of you. The mere fact that you can do that absolutely makes my heart flutter with joy! Every city should boost such clean water!
Every where you go in Bern (or Switzerland for that matter) there is water flowing. All of this water plays an essential role in Switzerland because 50% or more of the energy in Switzerland is gotten from Hydropower. There are dams that are controlled to keep the towns from flooding with water from the melting snow from the Alps and this power is harnessed to power the country with electricity. How green is that??? I love it!!
Another really amazing thing is that in Bern just about anywhere you are if you look up there’s someone, something, somewhere looking down at you. The details on the old buildings are great and they are everywhere.
Now if you want to go from the top of Bern and look down you’ll find the river flowing quite powerfully through the town but another thing you will probably notice is that many of the rooftops have grass and greenery covering the top of the buildings. I don’t know for sure why this is done but my guess would be that it not only offers a nice view for people looking down but it also probably provides insulation to the building as well. I know a lot of buildings lose a lot of energy through the roof tops as heat leaks out in the winter and cool air leaks out in the summer. So I would assume (and you know what they say about assuming??) that it has some sort of energy conservation reason behind it. Another thing about this that I could see being a reason is that the more greenery in a city the more you balance any pollution that is being put out by cars, etcetera. Knowing that the Swiss are incredibly into being ‘green’ and really care about their health I would think that this could possibly be a reason as well.
As Matt and I walked around Bern on this nice, warm, sunny summer day we came across the plaza in front of the Bank of Switzerland where there are fountains built in to the ground. Now a few hours earlier there were no signs of these fountains that shoot off randomly in the air and instead there was a farmers market on that very spot but now children and adults alike were in their swimsuits (and some were fully dressed but wet and enjoying the fountains anyway) frolicking around in the fountain trying to guess the randomness of where the next shot of water was coming from. What great fun!!
Matt and I continued to walk around mumbling ‘Beautiful’ at every turn while taking pictures of everything that caught our eye including the above ‘typical Swiss scenes’.
After roaming around for about four hours we headed back to the hotel room to await Simona who was going to pick us up for the BBQ at her and Bruno’s house.
The BBQ….Swiss Style
At the BBQ Matt and I had the best time. I don’t think either of us has laughed so much in a long time. First of all there were people there from the United States (a.k.a. Matt and I), The Czech Republic (Simona’s family and friends), Germany, and Switzerland (Bruno) so there were challenges in communications because the American’s (a.k.a. Matt and I) didn’t know German or Czech or Swiss German (a totally different form of German that is unwritten. It is learned through speaking it even though in school the Swiss learn ‘High’ German which is what they speak in Germany). The Swiss (a.k.a. Bruno) knew German and English but no Czech and among the Czech people half knew English as well and half only spoke Czech!
Simona had to constantly translate between the German and the Czech and the Czech and the English and the English and the Swiss German and back again. Fortunately for her she had the help of her friend, Pavel, from Czech Republic who helped her translate between English and Czech and back again.
But despite the language differences (and in some instances, because of them) we all laughed and joked and told stories galore and Matt and I couldn’t believe just how much fun we had at that BBQ which just goes to show you that there really is no language barrier. We all laugh at the same types of things and enjoy the company of friendly, intelligent, happy people no matter what the nationality.
Pavel and His Bad Karma
One of the things that had us rolling in tears and left our faces hurting was Simona’s friend, Pavel, explaining why he feels his Karma is bad. Pavel explained that the property that he owns in Czech Republic used to be his grandfather’s property and his grandfather used to get upset by the fact that moles used to destroy his property and garden. So his grandfather used to sit there with a garden tool (now known among us all as the ‘Mole Whacking Tool’) and wait for hours for one of those nasty, garden destroying moles to pop up his ugly head and then he would…well, whack the mole.
Now years after his grandfather (now known as the ‘Mole Whacker’) has passed on Pavel said that he feels like the moles are angry at him and that his karma is damaged because of the deeds of his grandfather. Simona suggested that he sit in the field and apologize to the ‘Whacked Mole’s Souls’ and maybe he would get some reprieve and his karma might be cleansed. Pavel said he would give it a go because there’s nothing worse then being haunted by the souls of murdered moles.
Now the story in itself was hysterical but what made it even better were the expressions and the intensity with which Pavel told his sad story and then after he had us all laughing so hard we were crying he would immediately turn around to the Czech speaking people and re-tell the entire story in Czech with the same passion and intensity and expressions that you couldn’t help but laugh so hard your face and sides hurt. It was a really great time and Pavel was really entertaining and fun to listen to.
The food at the BBQ was excellent as well. Bruno used his culinary expertise to stir up a chicken and seafood Spanish rice meal made on the grill. How he was able to balance all those little pieces of rice on the wires on the grill is beyond me….oh, okay, actually he had this great frying pan thing that balanced on top of the coals and created the perfect cooking surface. The meal was great and accompanied by home made Sangria made by Bruno himself. Then we followed it up with left over desserts from the wedding the day before. Yummy!!
Around ten p.m. Bruno set off some fireworks in the backyard with the Swiss farms in the background and we all headed back to our respective abodes for a good nights’ rest.
** I don’t have many pictures of the BBQ because although I brought my camera I didn’t take one picture because I was having so much fun I didn’t think about using it. I guess if I am going to do this blogging thing right I am going to have to learn to document the events in pictures a little better. J
Stay tuned for Day 04 of our Swiss adventures which will take us to see our other great friend, Jurg, in Zurich.