Monday, May 18, 2009

Recaps: Bern

Bern, Switzerland
Kristina and I arrived in Bern mid-afternoon on a Saturday, to find that, once again, the directions I'd copied from the hostel's website were a bit unhelpful. They instructed us to get on a particular tram, but gave little to no indication where the tram station might be. So we set off in a random direction, hoping that we'd find street signs, but all we really managed to find was a residential area. After we turned around, though, we ran into a few middle-aged women who, despite not speaking a word of English, we got directions from. (They say "ciao" in German-speaking countries too, interestingly. Must've borrowed it from the Italians.)

Our hostel, once we found it, instantly made a better impression on us than the Parisian one. It was clean, roomy, and comfortable. The staff was friendly, spoke great English, and gave us a map and information about the town. After we settled in, we wandered around a bit, but the streets were very quiet and most of the shops were closed.

The next day, EVERYTHING was closed, since it was Sunday. A bit bummed out because we could foresee nothing to do with all the shops closed, and no particular attractions in Bern, we went into the church we'd decided on for morning Mass. That, too, was silent and empty, and I was beginning to wonder if we'd arrived at the wrong time when a young priest walked up to us and said something in German. We shook our heads, and told him we only spoke English - and to our surprise, he answered not only in perfect English but with hardly a trace of an accent. He explained to us that because it was Palm Sunday, Mass would begin half an hour later - and also downstairs. We followed him down a winding flight of stairs into a cold, cavernous basement of a room... but it was also fully furnished as a church, complete with altar, pews, and a very small organ. He explained to us that Mass was held here throughout Lent, but today, we'd only begin downstairs, then go outside and up to the main church in the Palm Sunday procession. In concern that we only spoke English, this amazing man also found a woman, Margot, who agreed to translate parts of the Mass for us!

The Mass was lovely, as well as interesting because, in the lack of palm branches, they handed out sprigs of holly instead. Also, at the conclusion of the service, the priest said, in English, that there would be a coffee and breakfast across the street - something he only did for the two of us, as the rest of the congregation spoke German. :) We, of course, went to the breakfast - which was mainly coffee, tea, and chocolate Easter eggs.

Margot, as it turns out, is an art history professor at the university in Bern, and it was her pleasure to show us around the town, and particularly the formerly-Catholic-now-Reformed cathedral in the middle of town. We walked around both the outside and inside of the church, learning far more about architecture and the old protocols for building a cathedral than I ever thought I'd know. We inspected carvings, stained glass, the columns, the ceiling.... It was fascinating. The three of us went to lunch across the street from our hostel, and then said our farewells.

We took a siesta at the hostel, then got dinner - cheese fondue. It was my first experience with non-chocolate fondue, and to be honest, it's not my favorite. Kristina was a little cheesed-out by it as well. But it was pretty good, and a quiet end to a quiet day.

The next day we went briefly to Zurich, Switzerland, then Munich, Germany.

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