Friday, July 31, 2015

Tuesdays in Thun

It's going to take me a while to catch up - it's been a busy week. I can't believe how much we've packed in to the last two weeks (it's already two weeks since we left Langley!?) but at the same time, it feels like we'll be leaving far too soon. We have one more day trip planned, and then a few ideas for things to do with our last few days...all too soon this amazing trip will be done.

On Tuesday we went to Thun and visited my cousin and his family. THANK YOU SO MUCH for your hospitality. Especially you, Romy. Both David and Elisabeth have said that visiting you was the highlight of their trip, and they keep asking if we can go back.

We drove to Thun and arrived at ten am. We had a few things we were looking for (actually, David and Elisabeth had a few things they were looking for), and so we went to the main street to do some shopping quick. Mission accomplished, we headed to JJ and Romy's house for lunch. They had catered to my picky eaters and made spaghetti with homemade meatballs. I think it was the first meal where both of my children were happy - and both had seconds.

Then all four kids (their two and our two) went to play. The boys have these ride on toys and somehow, David and Elisabeth got it in their heads that it would be fun to race them down the hill in front of JJ and Romy's house.

These pictures don't do justice. The kids were FLYING down this hill.

And little J would fly after them down the hill in his bare feet.

Back up the hill to start the race again.

My youngest cousin - freshly up from a nap - and bemused by all the activity.

Isn't he adorable? They were such sweet boys.

Here you get a better idea of the hill they were riding down.

After a lovely couple of hours sitting in the backyard and enjoying coffee and fresh fruit and ice cream, it was already time to go. This is the hard part about having your family scattered all  over the world. Just as you're starting to feel comfortable, it's time to say good bye again.

Andrew and Dad were done for the afternoon, so they found a cafe to sit at while me and the kids went for a walk. We started by recreating a photo my brother and I took back in the 90s.

 And then started walking through Old Town. Here, we're walking past the upper shops.

 But you can see there are two levels. I love this little, crammed part of Thun.

 Then we found one of the alley ways up to the Thun Castle.

 We climbed an awful lot of stairs and were rewarded by a gorgeous view of the Thun rooftops.

And the old walled castle and church. I love these old walls. We're still hoping to find an afternoon to go back and explore some more.

 My awesome kids were all too willing to pose for me and I took advantage of their willingness.

 Loved this little cottage and the vespa parked outside.

 And here is the Thun Castle! Isn't it gorgeous?!

 By this time it was 4:30, and too late to go in the castle. But there's quite a lot to see just outside. And we went into the museum store and bought some ice creams for the walk back to dad and Andrew.

 Just inside the gates was a wishing well. The kids are trying to tell how deep it is here, and where the money goes that people throw into the well.

 Taking an even closer look to see if he can figure out how to get that money...

Perfect spot for a photoshoot, don't you think?

 And then we found another alleyway and some dark, creepy stairs.

And made our way back to the fountain square.

 What a beautiful day we had.

 The River Aare runs through Thun. I love the riverside cafes and restaurants.

 I also love the colour of the water here.

 Back on the main street and all the shopping.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

That day we went to Bern

I think every place we've been to in Switzerland is one of my favorite places in Switzerland. But I like them all for different reasons. Obviously, without a doubt, Lenk is my absolute favorite. But when you want to go to a big, beautiful city, then I like Bern. Now granted, the only other really big city I've been to is Montreux, and I haven't bothered exploring past the waterfront. But that's because it just doesn't appeal to me so far. But just look at Bern...

We had just exited the new train station. Heathrow, you could learn a lot from Bern train station. Now granted, in a train station you don't really have the same waiting areas and "locked in" areas as an airport. But their shops are done in an inviting way. You're not overwhelmed with the stink of five million perfume stores. And it felt very inviting and welcoming. Not that we had time to explore any of the stores or even the Starbucks (first one I've seen in Switzerland!)

Bern is the capital of Switzerland, they refer to it as the Bundesstadt, or Federal City. So it's very patriotic and there are lots of interesting buildings to look at.

We began by walking down Market Street because apart from all the stores there are fountains and clocks and lots of flags. Of course, David has a one track mind here (okay, two tracks. One for cars and one for pocket knives).

We passed a little bakery/sweet shop. The bread store in Lenk used to be like this. There window was full of interesting little chocolates and baked goods, and I couldn't resist going in.

But since the last time I was in Lenk they added a coffee bar and took away all the delicious looking displays.

So we haven't been in once. I was a little disappointed, actually. I had talked up our little bakery quite a bit and was looking forward to their first of August displays. Maybe we'll wander in and see if they have any mini ones later this week.

As I mentioned before, there are lots of fountains along Market Street. Each one has a statue which tells the story of an event or hero from Bern's past. Many of the statues feature original 16th Century artwork too. You can read more about them here.

They made for great photo ops anyway.

We made a small detour to the Bundesplatz (which I think would be federal buildings - and the square). As I mentioned before, lots of history and patriotism shown in the architecture of this city. I wish we had a little walking guide that explained what the significance of each statue plaque was.

I'll have to look for one before our next visit.

We were trying to see everything, so we continued on from Bundesplatz with a short detour along this side street.

And back to the fountains on Market Street (Marktgasse if you're trying to follow along on a map.)

About half way down the street you come across this beautiful clock tower. It's gorgeous to look at any time of day, but if you can try to be there on the hour. Even better, come at noon. Here's some history of the clock tower.

We weren't even close to being there on the hour, so we continued down the street, hoping to catch the chiming on the way back.

Here's the artwork on the walk beside the clock.

And across the road.

I'm very lucky that my kids mostly enjoy this sort of tour. There's so much to look at and the fountains were a pretty fun distraction. Plus, we'd promised them McDonalds for lunch if they behaved.

Elisabeth was astounded that her favorite store also exists in Switzerland.

Then we found another interesting building. This was on Postgasse, but I'm not sure if has anything to do with post or not. It was a pretty ornate building in any case.

With a lovely, stereotypical cafe across the road (around the fountain). And a beautiful Catholic Church beside.

Just a few more fountains and we would have made it to the Nydeggbrucke over the river Aare.

Do you see all those doors at the bottom of the buildings. Each of those leads to an underground space. Many of them were stores or hair salons, a few were even cafes or restaurants. Not all were open all day and many of them seemed to be under renovation.

Here we are at the bridge. From the bridge you can look down on Old City.

I'm not sure exactly how it works, since I think all of this U-shaped part of Bern is OLD, but from my understanding this low part on the outside is the oldest part. It's right on the river, and at the bottom of the hill from the rest of Bern. And it's just gorgeous.

After looking down on the old city, we wandered across the bridge to look at the Bear Pits. I had heard that they'd built a new habitat for the bears, but when we got there they were renovating the new habitat and had shipped the bears elsewhere because of the noise and danger concerns. So I showed the kids where the bears used to live.

And we posed for a picture outside the Bear Pit Restaurant.

And then we actually got to go in the pits. One had been transformed into an information area with wooden bears.

(can I feed the bears food other than figs?)

And the other pit was just as it had been, only the kids could run and climb on everything.

We didn't see any bears though (except for this boy bear here).

Tickling a cubs belly.

The kids begged to ride the carousel (beware tourists! One side asks for two franks, the other for only one. The carousel seemed to work just fine with only one frank...)

I told David to look scared :)

Sorry about the crooked pictures...I'm trying to blog all of this before we leave for another two night trip...and I'm not taking the time to edit anything.

The restaurant at the bear pits had a microbrewery and they had these great pictures outside the brewery part. I loved em.

Then we passed the bridge and walked towards the Untertorbrucke to see if we could see some of Old Town. In between two little cafe restaurants was a little alley that led to this view.

And then we crossed the bridge:

Finally we crossed the bridge. See why I like Bern so much?

Pure dumb luck I caught the MG crossing the bridge.

On the other side, we found this gorgeous little cottage.

And then wandered up a side alley past all these little the graphic designer with the pez dispenser collection.

On the side of the big bridge we found this inscribed. No explanation though.

Andrew made the comment that these Swiss are tough. I  mean, look at this guy. His helmet bearer is a bear.

Looking up the opposite direction from the bear, this was the roadway. Yes, there are two roads there. Yes, they're both two way.

We returned up Postgasse towards the church and found a Coke Life van and people giving out samples. It was like Coke and Gingerale's love child.

This is the architecture as we walked along the shop fronts on Postgasse. I had to take a picture because it felt like we were walking in a castle or something.

But no, it's just the sidewalk along the street. Incidentally, notice how many fewer people there were on Postgasse as opposed to Marktgasse!

Then we found a fountain with a build your own statue. So we did. Here's David.

And the model, Lizzie.

Our next stop on the walking tour was the big Munster. We took a slightly different route to get there, in the hopes of seeing more interesting things. Like this old man trapped in the wall.

And the painting on this wall.

This time we hit the clock in time to hear it chime. The men at the top of the tower clang on the bell, and there was a little movement down on the lower clock face. But I really recommend you come during one of the chimings when everything moves.

We did finally let the kids eat while we waited for the clock though. See how happy they are to have McDonalds?

This guy was holding up the scrolling and detailed stonework on a building.

And then we made it to the Munster. The artwork around the main entrance is the only Gothic artwork on the church to have survived the Reformation (when all icons were destroyed).

The artwork was incredibly intricate and very beautiful.

Although I'm not really sure why wiener dogs  climbing through holes in pillars formed a part of this portal. Again, this is when a guided tour or even a walking tour booklet would have been helpful. Maybe I should put one together.

This gives you a sense of the massive size of this entrance way.

Once inside the church there was a strict no photography policy. The inside was amazing. I would love to be there for a service and hear the organ (which was almost bigger than my house) and a choir sing.

Me and the kids bought tickets to climb the tower (a mere 100m), but not too far up Elisabeth and I got scared and climbed back down again. David wasn't very pleased with us. But it was a spiral staircase climbing up without windows or landings....and it was very, very windy. I don't blame us for getting scared.

Behind the church was a little garden with a playground, many benches and a restaurant. Also this truck. We thought about putting it in our backpack and bringing it home.

To make up for not doing the tower, we let David and Andrew ride this elevator. David said you couldn't actually see out from it though.

And one last glance out over the river before we headed home. What a beautiful day.