My spring break this year was absolutely packed. After spending four amazing days in Paris with four amazing friends, it was time to say goodbye to the City of Lights and begin my first ever solo adventure! I was filled to the brim with excitement and nervousness as I boarded the train to Bern, Switzerland. A short six hours or so later and I arrived at the train station – at which point I promptly made my way to my hostel and collapsed into bed.
I slept a bit later the next morning than I had originally planned to. But hey, there was no one around to tell me what to do, so what did it actually matter? All it really meant that I was awake and ready for the day ahead.
I started my day off by walking to the edge of town and up a small hill. There, I found the Bern Rose Garden. While it was still too early in the year for the roses to be out, that wasn’t what I was there for. I was there for the view. And boy, did the view deliver.
I spent the next half hour or so perched on top of a wall, legs dangling over a path down below and the sun shining on my face. I did one of my favourite things to do while traveling here and people watched. A construction worker was eating an early lunch. A girl about my age was reading a newspaper and enjoying the sun. Kids were playing in the playground behind me as their parents watched. For a minute, I imagined what it would be like to have this view as a regular part of my day. It was with regret that I forced myself to get up and keep exploring the city. I easily could have sat there all day.
Wandering through the city
Without much of a plan in mind, I made my way back down the hill. I checked in on the famous Bern Bears, but they seemed to still be hibernating, so I made my way back across the bridge to the Old Town.
Once across the bridge, it wasn’t long before I was finding interesting things left and right. From figures on the sides of buildings, to churches with somewhat block-ish architecture, at the very least I could tell that Bern was a city full of imagination!
Bern is famous for its fountains, and I was already starting to find a lot of them while wandering through its streets. One of Bern’s most famous fountains, the Kindlifresserbrunnen (the Child Eater Fountain), was actually located just a few feet my hostel. This fountain in particular only reenforced my belief that Bern is an imaginative little city.
The Einstein House
After all of the fountains the next thing in Bern I found was the Einstein House. Before I arrived in Bern, I had a vague idea that the place existed and that you could visit it. I hadn’t actually put much research into the question beyond that. But, while I was walking down a street a saw a huge group of school students exiting a building – and then I saw the sign for the Einstein House.
Even though I’m not a huge fan of science, I gladly paid the CHF4.50 student entrance fee to see the apartment. There was really only one room which was left as it was when Einstein and his family lived there. This was a little bit disappointing, but there was also a short biographical video and exhibit upstairs. I spent a good deal of time there, so I felt that the price was more than reasonable – especially for Switzerland!
And a bit more wandering…
After the Einstein House, I paid a visit the the famous Bern Zytglogge. Standing underneath the medieval tower was the only place where I really saw any tourists at all. Part of this was of course explained by the fact that I was traveling in the off season. But I also realized later that this was because, even though Bern is Switzerland’s capital, it’s not on a lot of people’s radar when they are traveling through Switzerland. If it does catch their attention, then it may just be a day trip. So it makes sense, then, that they maybe only had time to visit a few of Bern’s ‘top sights’. The tiny Einstein House and far-flug Rose Garden which I had already visited were probably lower down on the list.
All the same, the Zytglogge is pretty impressive. Built around the years 1218-1220, the Zytglogge served as Bern’s gate tower for a time, as well as a women’s prison for the ‘priest’s whores’, which I found pretty funny. The astronomical clock on the tower is one of the oldest clocks in Switzerland.
I stopped by my hostel for a quick (late) lunch after this, as it was so conveniently located.
Bern Historical Museum
After lunch, I made my way across the Aare River once more and to the Bern Historical Musuem. This, I had decided, was where I would spend the rest of my afternoon. I paid the extra CHF5 to have access to the Einstein Museum as well, and thought that this was money well spent.
I made my way to the Einstein Museum first. Once there, I absolutely fell in love with the mirrored entrance of the museum. I spent a good amount of time trying to photograph it, but it seemed to be a pretty fruitless effort. None of the pictures I took turned out nearly as striking as the room itself.
Once inside the actual museum, I learned not only about Einstein and his life but about his Theory of Relativity. I have to admit, I either didn’t learn this in school or I completely ignored what was going on when I did “learn” it. So I spent longer than I’m willing to admit at this part of the exhibit trying to figure things out. I was really proud of myself when I did. All the same, the more historical parts of the exhibit were probably more well suited to my tastes.
Going back a little further in time
Once I had had more than my fill of Einstein for one day I made my way out of the exhibit. It was time to start exploring the other exhibits in the museum. All of this stuff – from the medieval tapestries to throne-like mayor’s chair – was right up my alleyway. I would have loved every second of it if it weren’t for the fact that I was literally the only one in the museum. Very eerie. It was definitely one of those times that I would have much rather had been traveling with someone else, instead of alone.
I finished my day off by making my way back over the river and to the Old Town once more. I stoped off for a minute at the Berner Münster and took the surroundings in. There was a nearby park as well, overlooking the river. Another place, I thought to myself, where I could while away the hours if I lived in Bern.
After a packed day of wandering, I found my way back to my hostel. This was easy enough to do in such a small city, which I was glad for after a long day of walking. I made myself dinner while reflecting on the day that I had just lived. It was my first, successful day of solo travel, and I was pretty darn pleased with myself. I was starting to get comfortable with the idea of being on my own for the next week and a half (though not if it meant more abandoned museums), and was more than ready for the adventures that lay ahead.
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