There are so many amazing destinations on our list of places we would love to visit while we live in London. The Swiss Alps was definitely at the top of this list. So, as soon as we could nail down some dates, we booked a trip. We bought some tickets for the 1.5 hour flight, found some great places to stay online, bought Rick Steve's Switzerland, and researched how to use the Swiss railway system. Our first stop would be in Basel, where we landed late on Saturday night. We shuttled to our airport hotel/casino, which felt a bit like stepping into Vegas, but the girls thought it was the "fanciest hotel ever"-mostly because of the gold building, red shag carpet and the multi-colored lights in the rooms. Fancy! ;) We woke up and made it to church in Basel, which was in the neatest old building that fit right in to the city. Its so nice to visit churches outside of your own, and especially in a foreign country. Most businesses are closed on Sunday in Switzerland, so we searched and found an open gas station with a small grocery, where we picked up some fresh baked bread and real swiss cheese, the creamiest stuff you've ever eaten for lunch (a little different than what you'd find at a US gas station) and it was so yummy I could eat it for every meal (and we pretty much did!). We all devoured it.
Next up was a walking tour of the old town of Basel, which was old, perfectly charming and sitting on the beautiful Rhine River. We let the kids throw in a coin and make a wish at the Tinguely-Brunnen Fountain and then walked through the old streets, admiring the beautiful buildings and even happened upon a pro volleyball tournament, which we sat and watched for a few minutes. Then, on to the narrow streets and charming old houses (with dates above the doors!) of the city center and along the Rhine to the bright red town hall, or the Rathaus. Filled with ornate paintings and an intricate and colorful tiled roof, we relaxed in the inner courtyard before moving on to the Basel Munster, an old church filled with incredible wood and stone carvings as well as another colorful patterned tile roof with a killer view of the river below.
We ventured down the steps so we could dip our toes in the river and get a better view of the many people floating down it. It looked totally relaxing and refreshing (it was hot!) so we took our shoes off and put our feet in the very cold water of the Rhine...so nice!
We took a bus back to our hotel, packed up, and headed to the main train station. After buying Swiss train half fare cards for our entire stay as well as a ticket to Bern, we were on our way. A short train ride later, we were that much closer to the Alps and in the capital of Switzerland. The peninsula of Bern is an amazing, beautiful, old city that sits on the turquoise waters of the Aare River. Its suprisingly quaint and small for a capital, so we enjoyed walking around and learning about the city (thanks, Rick Steves for your walking tour!). It was a perfectly clear day, so we grabbed dinner and sat on a bench and could see the stunning snow-topped Alps clearly in the distance. Bern is well known for their beautiful (and freshwater) fountains dotted all over the city- each with intricate carvings that tell their own story. The kids loved drinking and playing in the cold water pretty much whenever they pleased because the fountains were everywhere. After checking in to our hotel, and getting settled, we all passed out after a long and full day.
We woke the next morning to find that we had a view of the temple from our hotel room! It was pretty far away, but we had to go and see it. We headed there first thing- about a 15 minute train ride and a short walk got us to the perfectly manicured grounds on a gorgeous day. However, the temple was closed, so we relaxed on the grass outside for a while. Its a beautiful temple and as always, has such a perfect sense of peace that comes when you're close to it. Brian and I loved taking the kids there.
We took a train back and walked all over Bern, starting at the the huge square off the main train station, the Bahnofplatz and down the arcades and fancy shops of the main street, Spitalgasse. Bern was once a walled city...3 times they were successively torn down and built again to accommodate growth. Each time the walls came down, huge town squares took their place and gave the city its many large gathering places where walking around, shopping, and people watching are clearly its favorite pastimes.
It was a hot, sunny day, so we took a break and let the kids play in the 26 shooting fountains (one for each canton in Switzerland) in front of the Parliament building. We then walked across the Kirchenfeld Bridge and then over to the famous clock tower, the Zytglogge-Turm, which marks the first wall of the city in 1250 AD. From there we wandered over to the gorgeous Bern Cathedral (Berner Munster). I never tire of walking through old churches- they are all somewhat similar, but yet so different and speak of a time when cities were built around churches as a main part of people's lives. I love that you can walk into a cathedral in any old city and literally feel the quiet reverence of what is a holy place. Brian took the 3 older girls and climbed the 344 steps to the top while Tessa and I waited in the choir seats below.
From there we wandered over to the oldest and most beautiful bridge in Bern, admired the crystal blue water of the Aare, grabbed some ice cream and sat in a pavilion while we cooled off.
We still had a few hours of daylight, so we took a train to Murten, per Rick Steves' recommendation! And, we are so so so glad we did. Murten was a step back in time- ramparts still surround the city, which you enter by a huge gate which directs you on to their perfect Swiss main street, the Hauptgasse. The houses and flowers and shops oozed charm and it was the perfect time of night, where life just seemed to stand still- it was totally endearing. Mount Vully overlooks Lake Murten and the town, and gives the city a sort of beachy feel down by the water. After we tried some of their traditional Nidlecheuche- an incredibly delicious tart that tasted like a doughnut with custard topping- we grabbed some dinner on an outdoor arcade and then walked down to the water, where the girls played for a long time. We then boarded a train back to Bern as the sun set on another beautiful Switzerland day.