Yesterday, I was going to text someone “I’m feeling positive,” then realized, no, negative is actually positive.
Truly, the world has turned on its head. Every day is Opposites Day.
To which I shout a resounding Huzzah. As in, it’s now been 48 hours, I’ve not heard, and that means I didn’t test positive for the plague. Yeah, I’ll give them til noon. But I feel almost sparky—well, not quite, but good enough to take a short walk.
Who Doesn’t Love Switzerland?
So a friend/reader wrote to say, You seem to have a different blog now. Do I need to re-sign up?
I’ve changed the call to action to sign up, but, yeah, it’s still the same blog. And you know what? I started as a food/travel blog, and I feel like travel, and today that means Switzerland.
From the house in Germany, Steve and I are an hour’s drive from that Magical and Incredibly Expensive Kingdom. It’s not really a kingdom. But it might as well be, with its ridiculously gorgeous scenery, crystal clear air, and, well, prices that only royalty can afford on a consistent basis. So I decided to celebrate some highlights from past trips to give us all a break from me speculating about my imminent demise.
Actually, Mom and I Didn’t Love Switzerland
When I graduated from high school, Mom had long planned on the two of us taking a trip to Europe. We were looking around at different tours back when there were travel agents (this is 1978). Then my high school French teacher sort of railroaded us into going with her group. We’d see London, Paris, Switzerland, Rome, and Athens. So we ended up riding that train.
Well, it was interesting. We only spent one initial night in London, when I woke up in the middle of the night thinking it was morning—the sky never got dark outside our window, instead glowing with this weird, dystopic yellow light. We took the hovercraft to France, got to Paris, and our hotel room was disgusting. One girl on the trip walked in on, in her words, “the maid screwing the butler on the couch.”
So Mom pitched a fit. This accomplished three interesting things:
- We ended up in a beautiful hotel, alone among all the people on the trip, who had to deal with animal hair in the beds (we still got together with them for daily tours, at which time we got the updates).
- Mom and I were quickly marked as pariahs by the other groups that had joined the one from my high school.
- I thought Mom was awesome. Before and after, I had been and would be deeply mortified by Mom’s scenes—not frequent, but memorable. But this time? She got results.
Anyway, after a few days in Paris, we got on a train to Geneva, on which I became increasingly sick. In Geneva, I sort of stumbled through a tour of the UN—look, those tours are boring anyway. Then we drove up about a million twisty roads to a tiny town, Leysin, and were parked there for 5 Freaking Days.
Well, OK, But Why the Hating on Switzerland?
So I was in my room in the hostel, sick as hell, and Mom asked the hostel owner for a glass of milk. The lady returned, Mom reached for the milk, and the woman snatched it back, put out her hand, and said, “Two Swiss francs!”
Well, this was back when you had to change money everywhere, usually by cashing a traveler’s check, and we’d just gotten there. Somehow, Mom managed to get the milk. It was disgusting, at least to me; probably goat’s milk, which would have been admittedly healthier, and room temp, also healthier. But c’mon. I wanted some icy cold 2%.
I did recover. We were stuck in that little town for five days. We’d gotten three days in Paris. But this town, which had absolutely nothing to do but endlessly lap the village like bored hamsters, held onto us for almost a week.
We bought my brother a Swiss army knife and got a small bottle of wine. I graduated young, 17, but we would drink a little wine at home, and I felt wonderfully sophisticated with our Liebfraumilch or whatever it was. Wine and coffee were ways to show defiance amongst my Mormon classmates. In a class of 200, there were 3 non-Mormons, and one converted in the middle of senior year. Amazing.
The tiny corkscrew on the Swiss knife didn’t work, so we ended up hacking out the cork with the biggest blade. We were lightweights; we polished off the split, using plastic cups from the bathroom, and got increasingly giggly.
There were lots of goats, and at one point, some girl stuck her head out a window and began warbling, “High on a hill was a lonely goatherd—”
“SHUT UP!!!!” screamed about 10 people at once. Fortunately, no avalanche ensued.
Mom and I collapsed into hysterics.
Based on that experience, when Steve would say, “Let’s go to Switzerland,” I would make the same face when Joanna would tell me, “You have to watch The Crown,” which, she claims, includes me “barely suppressing your lip curling in disgust.”
I am SUCH a pain sometimes.
Our first trip there was just across the German border, closer to Zurich than Basel. I’ll have to dig those pictures from another drive, but suffice it to say that my Swiss snobbery was cured as surely as my Crown disdain has been. I can’t get enough of that show!
The next year, we went to Bern, the nation’s capital. I mean, when you can just nab pictures that look like postcards with your phone, what, I ask, is not to love?
Feeling the Bern
Bern’s center is closed off to cars, so the first thing you do is park, and then head to the train station to meet up for a free walking tour. I love how European cities restore all the old stuff like crazy but are still thoroughly modern. Also, I love the way the woman in front has her foot kind of twisted up. Is she stretching? Scratching the outside of her foot on the pavement? It’s endearing.
Since it’s the capital, there are banners representing all the cantons in Switzerland hanging all over. The designs have such graphic swagger.
The students who lead the free tours all over Europe always impress me. They speak tons of languages, they seem to really love their cities and also just like people in general. This woman is either squinting because of the sun or because this statue still scares her. It features the guy that little Swiss kids are convinced is going to break into their rooms in the middle of the night so he can eat them. Fear factor when raising children = effective and ensuring jobs for legions of therapists. Those Swiss are multitaskers, I tell ya. #swissarmyknife
You see crazily ornate churches….
….and when you look up close, you notice all sorts of fun stuff. The demon looks like he wants to cry, he’s so over his job. Also, those people in the front row look pretty darn happy to be going to the Bad Place. Run around naked!!
There’s tons of really cool art on the walls, from the old stuff…
…to the newer. I have no idea who this is, but I love the style of it.
Bern is close to “bären” which means “bears” in German, and so the bear’s the city symbol. I can’t resist getting the “I kissed a bear” shot.
Or the obligatory Couple with Bear portrait. Also, how sassy is Steve’s short hair? Now it’s longer—due to the pandemic, it got really long and we both liked it so it’s long-ish now. But I am digging this buzz cut. My husband, handsome however his hair hovers.
After hanging out in the lower part of town, and a brief stop at the Sock Museum—because why not?, and also, this just seems quintessentially Swiss to me….
…we headed uphill where there’s this crazy garden overlooking the city. We hit it in May, and the flowers were going into hyperdrive, trying to outdo each other.
And we saw the bear! Who apparently doesn’t come out on demand, but this day was feeling its inner Esther Williams.
We finished up with a Fitness Plate. This is a thing you can get all over Germany and Switzerland. I love the Richard Simmons name. And a Fitness Plate is pretty awesome, a bunch of different salads with some kind of protein.
And of course, coffee.
Next time: We leave Bern and head south, beyond swanky Montreux and practically in France. And we hang out at Charlie Chaplin’s place.
The Marcus Aurelius Moment* for 18-July, 2020
From my mother, that there’s a time and place for a hissy fit. And even for all the times she had them and it wasn’t so great, having one in a hotel room with animal hair in and on the bed is exactly the time and place.
*In the first part of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, theRoman ruler details what various people in his life have taught him. To read the full intro to why I care about Marcus Aurelius, click here.