8 Wunderbar Days in Switzerland

Oct 21st, 2013, 04:57 AM
  #1  
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8 Wunderbar Days in Switzerland

Just back less than a week ago from my 8 day/night solo trip to Bern.
Stayed in a 333 year-old building apartment (VRBO) a half block from Bern's famous Muenster and half a block from Clock Tower.
Had sun, a little fog (on a hike on Stockhorn no less!), a dusting
of fresh snow at the Lenk Alpabzug (what a memory!), and a bit more rain .
Visited french-swiss towns of Solothurn and Fribourg for the first time.
And explored MOST (not all!) of the delightful nooks and
crannies that Bern has to offer in the evenings too.
Oh, and brought about
15 lbs of heavenly chocolate and cocoa home too ;-)) .
More to come....
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Oct 21st, 2013, 06:53 AM
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Looking forward to the rest! I hope you enjoyed Solothurn. I start my two weeks of day tripping next Wednesday (had to push it back a bit due to work commitments). Some parts of the Swiss Alps got record snowfall for the first half of October, but we're now having a few days of warm weather.
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Oct 22nd, 2013, 06:59 AM
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I still have Bern on my phone's weather app-its warmer there right now than my hometown!

So, leaving Pittsburgh, first flight to Phila was cancelled 'due to technical difficulties'
just 10 minutes before departure (never boarded). GRRR.
After frantic calls, rebooked. But this flight too was delayed, almost causing me to miss the overnight flight to Zurich. Double GRRR. Not a good way to start out. My leisurely 4 hour layover lolling in the FF lounge was reduced to a frantic 30-minute-connection-sprint to gate.

After everything, I settled in a plane with several empty seats (MOVE as soon as I can--no offense large seat-mate!)
Un-noteworthy flight. Did my usual errands at the Zurich airport-ATM, Post-stamps, Kiosk-Flash Telephone card, SBB-Half-Fare Card and ticket to Bern, Starbux.

Drizzling en route, but not cold. Overcast in Bern, but no rain. Arriving on a Sunday, so though many people are about, all the enticing shops are closed. Rolled luggage through the Lauben easily and got to my apt precisely at noon, the agreed-upon key time! (Points for my Swiss punctuality!)

I am one-half block from the Muenster in one direction and one-half block from the famous Zytglogge in the other-what a convenient spot!
My landlords are Canadian-Swiss and just moved here 18 months ago from Canada. Perfect english, and not much Deutsch at all!

Spiral stone staircase up to SECOND floor (remember the ground floor is level, First floor is up ONE flight, etc) with my arrival gear. Quirky but comfy apt, with many elements original to the 333-year old house maintained-think raised wooden door thresholds, perfect for tripping over on the way to the bathroom at 1 a.m., etc!

The bedroom and large airy living room-dining room are on Muenstergasse with great views,and perfect geranium window-boxes, but the bathroom and kitchen (water sources) are located on the OTHER side of the Treppenhaus! So, one must exit the actual apt to use the loo or cook! The hosts report that this construction was necessary to maintain the centuries-old architectural integrity. This quirky feature was a bit cumbersome, but I got used to it. The kitchen and bedroom overlooks a tiny courtyard, hidden beside the spiral staircase.....
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Oct 22nd, 2013, 09:04 AM
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I HAD plannned to nap an hour or so, but adrenaline forced me to unpack. One thing led to another...I had purchased a raisin roll and I needed butter and a few other grocery items...Walked back to the only open-on-Sunday Migros at the Bahnhof.
Can you say BUSY?

Bought essentials (TP, cheese, butter, chocolate and yogurt
;-)) ). Quick snack, then back out to scope the Lauben and climb the 254 spiral steps to the top of the Muenster. GREAT views, all to myself. Mini terror when I climbed back down by an opposite stairwell and couldn't get the door to open...Imagined that I might be stuck overnight!
The admission counter lady heard my knocking and rescued me!
Notable "Dance of Death" window in the cathedral.

Walked down Muenstergasse-->Junkerngasse-->Nydeggbruecke to the "new" bear park.
While it IS an improvement over the old dismal (and inhumane) bear pits, it seems like all the renovation was for spectators, with the welfare of the bears as a secondary thought.

Wanted to eat at the Altes Tramdepot, but all the terrace seats were taken. I was "squeezed" into an inside table 'near' the windows with a view (part of the table was reserved for an hour from then).
Weizenbier with Spaetzle had my name all over it (24.30 CHF).

A lttle more bear viewing. I swear it was the same neurotically-pacing bear that I saw 7 or 8 years ago. He wore a path on the muddy terrace. Maybe a little more of the 'right' type of bear stimulation would be kinder?

Crossed the bridge again with waning sunset and views down to the oldest part of town--Matte.

Back at the apt, I settled my rent and inquired about the missing (though aadvertised) flat scren TV. I use it to watch news programs and the occasional American (dubbed) show to improve my german listening comprehension.
TV was set up 45 minutes later, and I was happy!
Texted home and fell into a coma in bed...
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Oct 22nd, 2013, 11:17 PM
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Enjoying your report mokka4 - looking forward to more.
Melnq8 is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2013, 01:29 AM
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Lovely experience shared by you. I hope you had enjoyed your trip.
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Oct 23rd, 2013, 05:33 AM
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Awakened to ?knocking/?pounding noise--whhhaatt?
My alarm clock had been going off and for how long?
I think the tenant either below or above me was trying to
awaken me!~~Wow! What kind of deep sleep?
Of course, I can never sleep on the plane, so I was up for
30+ hours!

Had a wonderful Nespresso Cappuccino (new to me, I am now an addict!)
Hosts had gifted a loaf of coarse peasant bread and jam, in addition to ten Nespresso pods!
Decided to stay local while I worked on overcoming jetlag.

Bought a Libero Daycard (after consult with SBB staff) @ 7.90 CHF and caught the 11:02 to Wabern, located the Gurtenbahn, and up the funicular went! Cool and cloudy, couldn't see the town well from above.

Walked to Ostsignal, then round the very large, park-like setting. Lots of families out this Monday morning. Climbed the wooden tower for even better views.
Had forgotten my bottled water, so sacrificed 4.20 at the self-serve resto for a bottle of carbonated grapefruit drink (note to self: Mind your preparation to cut costs!)
'Hiked' through fields on a level Wanderweg--two asian guys were picking through the field's corn-cob leavings for ?dinner. They collected quite a large bag of imperfect corn to take back with them.

Very nice amble through small hamlets, beautiful farms and flower gardens. Clearing with sun peeking out!
All downhill sloping, so calves and shins started to rebel a little.
After 75 minutes or so, I reached the Kehrsatz Bahnhof for my ride back to bern.
Bought a nice ready-made salad at the Migros Take-Away for 7.90 CHF.

Then I meandered from the station learning a new way "home" along Neuengasse and Zeughausgasse, checking out a couple of restaurant targets for another day. So many people! For a city of 150,000, it reminds me of New York~~~really!
Kept going along Kirchenfeldbruecke toward the museum to
see where the Qin Warrior Exhibit would be.
Nice new views and angles of my city!

Back to apt 15:45 for my salad and a pc of Linzertorte (4CHF), bought a tiny bakery 3 doors from apt!
Planning, planning...should I go to Luzern this evening for the Fall Festival?
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Oct 24th, 2013, 08:35 AM
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Aimed to leave Bern at 17:00, arrival Luzern 18:00 (direct with HFC=37 CHF RT). Bought ticket at self-serve kiosk w/o problem. Wrote out a coupla postcards on the crowded train.
Wet upon arrival in Luzern, cloudy/overcast with no views of the ringing mountains.

Watched the ferris wheel for a while, summoning courage.
One ride cost 6 CHF. Couldn't do it last year due to heavy rain while visiting this same fair.
Finally, JUST DO IT!
Wasn't bad at all, though I dared not switch from side to side in the partially enclosed seat for fear of swinging it!

Meandered around the wooden booths, scoping out fair food options....Bought a single, large macaroon (3 CHF). MMMM, not too sweet.

At the opposite end, came to a booth selling hand-crafted earrings of steel and various semi-precious gems (coral, amethyst, pearl, graphite), which caught my eye.
Passed it up while considering. Suddenly, the booths started closing up--WHAT! Then I vaguely recalled reading something about 7 PM closure of the vendors (but not food or amusement rides).
Doubled back to the jewelry stand, where the owner was happy to close a few minutes late to make a sale! Bought pair of Kristall Iris shape earrings (79CHF). Glad I had at least raced to Luzern for this scant hour of browsing!

Bought a currywurst with roll(7.50CHF) to enjoy while slowly strolling the lakeshore setting. A mild evening.
And HOW could I ever pass up Oma's Crepe stand?
Got a somewhat less-messy-to-eat Zimt und Zucker Crepe (6).
Next, back to Bachmans in the Bahnhof for my very fav coffee!

Back in Bern by 9 PM or so. A very full and enjoyable first day.
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Oct 25th, 2013, 04:14 AM
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Checked my weather app and discovered that rain is predicted for Wednesday, my tentative Stockhorn hiking day. Maybe I should 'do' the Stockhorn tomorrow, when fair weather is predicted?

Planned (operative word!) to catch 9:04 to Erlenbach (change in Spiez) to begin my hike day, but overwhelming fatigue/jetlag in the morning made me decide that a 9:39 departure was just fine!
Had my peasant bread with butter/jam and addictive Nespresso for breakfast.
I purchased the Bern to Erlenbach part of train ticket at self-help kiosk (25CHF), but as the connection in Erlenbach to the Stockhornbahn would be tight, I went into the SBB center to purchase this leg in advance (26 CHF up and down with HFC).

Turns out that the train to Erlenbach splits in Spiez, so you MUST make sure that your car is labelled for Erlenbach, and not Zweisimmen (thank you helpful train conductor!).

As expected, there was a large band of like-minded travellers who also followed the Wanderweg thru the cute small town (church spire, Agentsteinhaus Museum over 300 yrs old)to the Stockhorn base station. Sun began to shine .
Reached the base station in time to catch the 10:50 up to Mittelstation CHRINDI.
Ascending, it was overcast, with no views of the surrounding mountains .

Although I had investigated various hikes on the 'net before leaving US, I ignored what I had printed out, and followed a couple families down toward the Hinterstockensee Rundweg--a circular path around this alpine lake.
It was a bit rocky at times. A few folk fishing...Little kids proudly casting off...nice views upward as we were in this little depression now.
Path was well signposted. A thick fog rolled in and I resolved NOT to follow a detour to the Bergwirtschaft Oberstockenalp, as the directions were a bit unclear.

The fog obliterated everything behind me, and no one else continued on my circular route! A little eerie...I'll just have faith!
Now the climb was more of a gentle uphill...
Finally passed noisy waterfalls, and realized that the hike that I had planned to follow was COUNTER-CLOCKWISE(inattention to detail!)
After about 65 minutes, I had rounded back to the Chrindi Mittelstation (TG!)
After a brief pause, I caught the next gondola up to Stockhorn summit.
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Oct 26th, 2013, 03:37 PM
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This too was socked in with clouds and fog . I sat on the outside terrace & had a hot chocolate in the very chilly wind!
Eyed the path to the summit-a steep, layered and rocky bit up...hesitate and swallow (could you tell I have a fear of heights?). . But, families with little kids were clamboring all over the rocky walls-my pride would take a hit if I didn't do it!
So straight up, hugging the inner path. Sun came out & jacket came off. Joined those working on their tans!Occasional bench or rock provided breaks for photo ops-a rare glimpse of distant snow-covered peaks above the cloud deck.

After climbing back down, I deserved lunch at Stockhorn Resto-Aeplermakkaroni vegetarisch (no bacon) mit Apfelmus(22).
Even with a slow-paced meal, I was able to catch the 14:35 back down to Erlenbach, in a gondola cabin decorated with butterflies (the Leitmotif of my deceased dad-he was here with me!)
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Oct 28th, 2013, 05:34 AM
  #11  
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Back in Bern by 4:30 PM...nice to be back in town earlier!
Did a little grocery shop at large Migros on Marktgasse. Where is the Bier mit Alkohol? Main display all alcohol-free?

Got two croissants for tomorrow's breakfast, Cailler Schoko mix and a bunch of yummy yogurts.
At the smaller Coop, I found some single bottles of beer-Belgian and dark Appenzeller. Two Bratwurst rounded out my purchases.
So dinner cooked 'in' was sausage on rustic bread, a few cubes of Gruyeres cheese, perfectly chilled Belgian beer and an apple-nod to health... ;-)

Evening stroll and phonecall home. Watching TV with one eye.

Plan Solothurn (and city shoes) tomorrow.
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Oct 28th, 2013, 05:51 AM
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Wednesday~
Very hard to get up again. After a couple of alarm clock re-sets, I finally rose.
Butter croissant with jam, banana yogurt and Nespresso (GOTTA get me one of these back in the States!)

Opted for the 10:05 direct to Solothurn; there 40 minutes later. I REALLY liked this town of 15,000 or so.
Had my pre-printed map page and easily located Kreuzackerbruecke, the pedestrian bridge leading to the Altstadt. Nice views over the Aare river.
First came to St.Peters Chapel (locked), followed immediately by the baroque St. Urs Cathedral, which I briefly explored, lighting a candle.

Then, I noticed the tower! I am drawn to all towers and must climb every one that I encounter (even with the bothersome fear-of-height-thing and all!) Not to mention just penance for every calorie-laden torte that I enjoy!

The St-Ursen-Kathedrale-Turmterasse (3F, pay at top) was accessible from behind. Good climb and...great views! It gave me a good orientation for what I might want to explore.
Many photos of the Baseltor, then the round, squat Riedholzturm. Not many tourists came up to this end!
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Oct 28th, 2013, 08:35 AM
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Walked back down Hauptgasse to the TI for a free map.
Everything's in French first here! And I know just a phrase or two! How picturesque!
Meandered over to the Marktplatz with ancient clock tower (why was time-keeping such an essential 3oo years ago?)
Detour up cobblestone Barfuessergasse to Town Hall (VERY few people up here!)
Zig-zagged a bit and ended up at the BurriTower and Bieltor at the western edge of Altstadt.

Then, I realized I was in front of the recommended Kaffeehalle on Gurzelngasse AND it was lunchtime! Of course,
al fresco given the mild temps.
Milchkaffee (4) and Steinpilz-Ravioli (17F). Sun peeking out.
After awhile, an elderly swiss woman sat at the two-table next to me, and we struck up a bit of conversation. How very pleasant!
Finally, I HAD to experience the Solothurnertorte--meringue top and bottom with hazelnut cream in between...lecker!

Used the WC and headed down Schmiedengasse in search of the Fodor-recommended Italian Beauty products store--L'Erbolario (am Stalden). ANOTHER picturesque square with fountain!
Found the store immediately--the very nice clerk spoke italian first, german second and english a distant third.
She was really pleased to hear that the store had been recommended, and was able to help with the redness/rosacea products I asked about. She seemed especially enthused to hear that these products would be going to the US!
I tried several lovely lotions and had two wrapped as gifts for my sisters.

On to new alleys and views down to the river (though I didn't make it over to the Krummturm). Detours on a whim (the best kind). Crowds grew, but never a word of english ;-) . A lot of nice shops (and regrets over a pair of shoes that I didn't return for).
Into Luethy Buchhaus for gifts of small calendars and day planners.

I even made it to the Kunstmuseum (small art museum)! Free-will entrance donation.
First floor was modern installations (not my thing).
Next (only other) floor with several religious (and other) masterpieces, including the recommended "Virgin in Strawberies" (1425) and "Madonna of Solothurn" (Holbein the Younger). Limited exhibits made for happy feet!
After the dose of art, I walked back down past St. Urs, and crossed the bridge back to the train station.
Easy trip home.
Migros takeout of Salat and organic spinach mini-quiche (12 CHF). And who could resist that Apple-Caramel Torte? I see more steps in my future!
Bought a box of premium chocolates at Laederach on Spitalgasse (26CHF) for mom's gift.

Really enjoyed my day in Solothurn and hope to return soon! (Thanks weissertee).
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Oct 28th, 2013, 11:22 AM
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I'm so glad you liked the café and the l'Erbolario store! Did they give you free samples with your purpose? They are usually quite generous about those.

I will be in Solothurn next week, probably Monday afternoon and plan to stock up with soaps and lotions. And will stop at the café as well, of course.

Looking forward to the next instalment of your trip report
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Oct 30th, 2013, 04:27 AM
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Only one free sample...maybe next time?

Back at the apt, quickly ate my salad and mini-quiche.
Decided to walk along the Matte-Quartier, the oldest section of Bern. Started at Muensterplatz with its large green, park-like setting. Many people playing such things as bocce-ball and table tennis...
Great pics of the very old homes and their terrraced gardens-all new to me.
A great many wooden steps descending toward the rushing Aare river. Twilight. Returned via Badgasse and a stepped stone path upward. I think I worked my dessert off ;-) .

Rain and dropping temps are predicted for tomorrow, so my plan for the Paul Klee Center and arcaded shopping is good!
Located the nearest bus-stop and a few more good stores--a home store with a kitschy ceramic cow decorated for Alpabfahrt, and Tschirren chocoaltes among them. I'm gonna be sorry about my suitcase if I buy too much!

Reviewed a few texts and emails from back home (the apt DID have Wi-Fi), while sipping my Schneiderweisse Bier...hope I don't have to stumble to the loo in the night, with the apartment's inconvenient set-up and raised thresholds!
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Oct 30th, 2013, 04:59 AM
  #16  
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Thursday:
Even though I was "allowed" to sleep in a bit, the raindrops on the metal courtyard roof and jetlag still made it very difficult to arise! Umbrella needed today.
Breakfast and TWO Nespressos followed.

Started shopping at Spring Moebel-the home interior store. The kitschy painted cow with floral head-dress and boots practically jumped into my hands!
(This Saturday was the planned AlpKulturFest at Lenk--I'd never had the pleasure of attending one before. I'd be back too late on Saturday, and of course, the store would be closed on Sunday, so....)Browsed a few antique stores and an artist with a contemporary view of Bern-nice!

From there, I hit the big Coop for more moderately-priced chocolate favorites~~Cailler/Villars/Lindt/Torino. Fancy chocolates at Beelers and Eichenbergers followed.

Then a break back at apt for lunch-remember that Apple-Caramel Kuchen?

Back out to catch the Bus #12 to PaulKleeZentrum. Didn't know how much a ticket cost, but neither did the TI (they assured me you could pay on board-not true), nor the nice-turned-out-to-be-Australian man, nor the older Swiss Frau.

Everyone else jumped on board and so did I. Turns out that you must purchase your ticket at the kiosk beforehand, not on board...so I rode for free as a scofflaw--yes I know, lucky I wasn't caught!
Turning much colder with fogged-up bus windows and a driving rain. Bus stops were clearly displayed on a digital board-so helpful!
PKZ entrance was a little walk along a gravel pathway. They seemed to be doing a booming business in children's activities.
Entrance 15CHF, with free audioguide. Coats, umbrellas and purses had to be stashed in lockers (refunded coin).

I had done my homework in advance on Paul Klee, and looked forward especially to 4 or 5 paintings that I was drawn to, realizing that the display was rotating, so I might not actually see my favorites.
But, HOW disappointing! Central display room had only about 40 works...and none of the really well-known ones. The clerk at the entrance explained to a very unhappy Indian gent that "things are undergoing renovation. Thats why there was a reduction in your admission price."
Usual price 18 CHF!
Bought a few postcards of my favorites.
Then discovered someone had taken my carefully stashed umbrella from its hidden spot! I scoured the rack-it was gone.
Well, this could not do. So I helped myself to someone else's basic model. It was still pouring outside.

Bought a bus ticket at the kiosk-which one? Is the Einzelbillett (2.80 CHF) correct? Who knew.
To be legal....

Definitely colder and windier. Another break in the apt (so convenient). Temp now 42 degrees WITH SOME SUN!
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Oct 30th, 2013, 03:58 PM
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My Bern target restaurant tonight was Ristorante Luce. Even at 6:40 pm on Thursday night it was fully booked! No room except at the bar-and so it was.
Enjoyed my brick oven baked pizza w/ ham & mushrooms + glass of rose (26 CHF). Quite a brisk business, as they are recommended for their pizzas and Italian dishes.
Walked back to apt and watched "The Help" in German on TV!
Plan Fribourg tomorrow...
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Oct 30th, 2013, 04:05 PM
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WT: my mistake-home 2 weeks now and only just opened the little l'Erbolario packet to find 4 lovely samples of Bagnoschiuma/Bagnolatte and Crema per il Corpo...! All in Italian-assume the first two are for the bath...?
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Oct 31st, 2013, 06:50 AM
  #19  
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Friday~~
Heavy rain through the night so I justified not getting up early again ;-) . Leisurely breakfast.

Caught the 10:45 to Fribourg and there half hour later.
Drizzling off and on...umbrella up...umbrella down....
Everythings frenchie again!
Stopped in TI for a larger map and they drew a suggested walking tour.

Very shortly thereafter I was approached by a young guy asking me something in French. When I responded that I didn't speak french, but rather english or german, this smooth operator then latched onto me for the next half hour or more, causing me mild consternation. I didn't want to be rude, but
I really wanted to see Fribourg without a distracting tail, wondering all the while what he was about...Carefully guarding my 'stuff' all the while. Tells me he is in France studying Finance, by way of Boulder, Colorado, though from Niger originally.....Just wants to speak english with someone...

Scenic photos of cobblestone lanes and narrow alleys, framed by autumn-colored trees. I want crepes! (But I so recently had breakfast...)
My initial target was the St. Niklaus Kathedral (and its tower of course).
But of course, the tower was closed between 12 and 2 PM ;-((.
Lit a candle for dad, but had no privacy to say a prayer.
Finally, outside the Kathedral, Michel made his pitch. Air kisses and I sent him firmly on his way!
Mad at myself that I allowed his presence to be so unsettling/distracting.

Free of my unwanted escort, I continued following the cobblestone streets and the path outlined by the TI through Unterstadt/BasseVille. 11th to 16th century houses, churches, convents, bridges and more bridges and fountains. No one else around--?because it was lunchtime and ?drizzling.
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Nov 1st, 2013, 12:40 AM
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thanks for the head's up about the Klee museum! I'm heading to Bern for the day and it had been on my list. I will still take the bus to the museum and then walk down.
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