I had the opportunity to visit Bern in Switzerland a couple of weeks back. It was a work related trip. Having traveled to Berlin and Munich in Germany 3 years back, I was excited to be visiting Europe again.
My first impression of Bern, the capital of Switzerland, was of the airport. It is easily the smallest airport for any capital city I have been to! The airstrip looks very small - I doubt if long range jets can land there. And the airport was not much larger than a big shed!
My 6 day stay at Bern just reinforced that first impression. Bern is a small town. The population of just over 100,00 would make it smaller than most suburbs of Mumbai! And the centre - the old town of Alstadt as it is called can be covered on foot in 15 - 20 minutes! The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it has been preserved as it must have been from medieval times. The buildings are made of sandstone since the earlier wood buildings burnt down in a big fire centuries ago. Covered walkways make walking in the old town a pleasant experience.
There are a few sights to see around Bern. The Munster or Cathedral in the centre of the old town is worth seeing, for the tall stained glass windows and the tall spire that one can climb for great views of the town. There are over 600 steps, so it is hard work to get to the top! Work meant that I could not take time off to visit the fames Swiss Alps which are just 90 minutes away from Bern. But the long hours of sunshine at this time of the year meant that I could see some places even after getting free from work at 6 pm. On one such evening, we visited Gurten - a hill top park a few kilometres south west of the city from where we had fantastic views over Bern, the surrounding towns, and the Alps in the distance.
On the way back from Bern, we stayed in Zurich for a day. With over 300,000 inhabitants, Zurich is a much larger city than Bern. While Bern has the river Aare flowing through it, Zurich has a lake. We enjoyed our day in Zurich, walking around, seeing the churches, and just sitting down on a bench by the side of the lake.
We were lucky to enjoy great weather during our week on Switzerland. It was sunny throughout, with pleasant temperatures in the early 20's (Celsius). I was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of food we got to eat. There were good vegetarian options at all the places we went to, and some innovative vegetarian dishes. It helps that Switzerland borders Italy, so Italian food was widespread. But the food was tasty, and most definitely not bland!
All in all, a pleasant trip.