So, Saturday was intense!
It was my first day of my grand Swiss (and Italian) tour, which involved Fribourg and Bern. I’d really wanted to go and see Bern since I got to Switzerland. Then a friend suggested that I go to Fribourg too, because it’s really pretty. And guess what, Ceri, they’re only 20 minutes away from each other by train, so you can do both in one day! Hmm…
So, this whole trip is revolving around me getting the train to places. In order for me to have a decent amount of time in both cities, I set off early (8:15am train – always fun), so I arrived in Fribourg early to mid-morning.
So, I got myself a little map from the tourist office, and did my own little walking tour around the city. Tip for budget travellers – if the tourist office has city maps, chances are there’s a suggested route to walk around the city, and both are freeeee. It happened in Fribourg and in Bern!
Anyway, Fribourg is so pretty! The map ended up taking me through the old town, through these steep valleys, over bridges and alongside the Sarine (the river that runs through the middle of Fribourg). I was actually amazed at how green it all was – half of it feels like a forest, and the monasteries that you think are far out in the surrounding hills and countryside are actually only on the edge of the city! It was all very Swiss and idyllic.
I then went to the cathedral where I decided (foolishly?) to climb the tower. 368 steps later (seriously – there was a sign saying so on the wall), I was greeted with a 360 degree view of the city and the countryside beyond, all the way to the Jura. Totally worth it (and CHF 2.50? Yes please). The interior of the cathedral’s beautiful too – it’s a mix of the old stonework and the modern stained glass windows, which have been painted to imitate the medieval designs you usually see. And in one of the side chapels there is an amazing, lifesize set of statues of Jesus being taken down from the cross by his disciples. It is so moving – I just stood and stared at it for ages.
Oh, and one more thing about Fribourg (or Freiburg) – it is a truly bilingual city. Basically, the röstigraben (the invisible, but so real, line in Switzerland where they stop speaking French and start speaking German) runs right through it – if you live east of the river, you speak French; if you live west of the river, you speak German (or something like that)!
So just after lunch (which involved an incredible salted caramel crêpe from the market), I hopped on my second train of the day to Bern, the capital.
Like I said, I did my own little walking tour with a city map, and it took me past all the main sights (the lady in the tourist office even circled some for the particularly famous ones).
Bern isn’t quite as quaint as Fribourg, but it still has some amazing buildings. The main shopping streets all have these arcades underneath stone arches before you actually get down to the road. And there are basements all along these streets, where it looks like you go through a trap door, and you end up in a shop, or a bar, or even a puppet theatre!
But I did take in the main sights – I went past the federal palace, where the Swiss government is held. My one disappointment was that I couldn’t go in! The one day I choose to go to Bern, and they weren’t doing tours. Oh dear, I’ll just have to come back another time, won’t I? I still wandered around the outside and took lots of pictures, though!
Next stop was the munster, which was more impressive in a more imposing kind of way than Fribourg cathedral. What I wasn’t expecting was the demonstration of Indian dancing that was happening on the square outside! I ended up sitting down and watching as the dancers explained how the music is counted, and about bols (a way of speaking/singing a rhythm before you play/dance it) before they started dancing. It was so cool!
But the best bit by far was the bear garden! Bern’s coat of arms is a bear, and they’ve had a tradition of keeping bears in the city for decades. They used to live in a concrete pit in the ground (which, we can all agree, is not very nice), but now they’ve built them a bear park along the river Aare. Now they have proper trees to climb and water to swim in. And they’re so fluffy! Wouldn’t want to try cuddling one, though.
I finished the walking tour ,which took me past Einstein’s house and then the clock tower, which has a stunning clock, and is beautifully painted on the back. Just time for a sit down in a cafe before I headed for the train again to get to Schaffhausen, where I was staying for the night.
So, like I said, intense! My friend was right saying that you can do both in one day, but I would have loved to stay longer in each! If you’re focussed and start early, you can do the basic tour, but there’s so much to see in both of them, you could spend a long weekend in each if you wanted to be a bit more thorogh, possibly even longer. But Fribourg and Bern come both highly recommended from me.
Next stop: Schaffhausen. I’ll keep you posted about what I get up to!