Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bern - the city of the bear

So I'm finally getting to blog about our trip to Switzerland.  I'm a bit late as we've been back over a week now but you know how life gets super busy. The morning after Geoff finished (and passed, yay!) his ATLS course, we got up early and took a taxi to the train station in Landstuhl.

Our train riding experience is limited aside from the Frontrunner in Salt Lake so it was a bit of a learning curve. Example: the very first train we got on was the wrong one.  It was going to the right city but would making more stops along the way. So had we stayed on that train we would have arrived at Manheim too late to catch our high speed inter city train to Bern.

Luckily, Geoffrey figured out our mistake fairly quickly and we were able to change trains at the first stop. Our second train ride took us into Switzerland in about four hours and with one more small change at the Bern train station we arrived in Zollikofen, the suburb of Bern where the LDS temple is. Our Google maps walking directions from the station to the temple turned out to be WRONG but we didn't get too far off course before Geoffrey saw the angel Moroni on the spire of the temple.
 We checked in to the temple housing - which turned out to be very affordable but very basic accomodations. The clerk asked me if we needed a two bedroom. I responded that one bedroom would be fine. Then I realized what he said was a two. bed. room.  And that pretty much summed up the furniture of our very narrow room.

We had just enough time to change and make it to the 3pm session, the last session of the day.  This session happened to be in Italian, so we got to wear headphones for English translation.  Mine were stubborn and only spoke to me in French no matter how much I turned the language dial so a kind French speaking sister traded with me.  It felt so nice to be back in the temple. We feel blessed to have a little branch to worship with each Sunday there in Incirlik but we've missed being able to attend the temple. Sitting in the (very small) beautiful celestial room was so peaceful and I felt some of the worries and anxieties that I've been carrying around this summer finally lift off my shoulders.

After the session, we still had plenty of daylight so we took the train back to Bern and walked around the old town. We visited the high rose garden park with its amazing flower beds, then walked down the steep valley side to the river which winds through the city.

The name Bern means bear and the city keeps real brown bears on display. Until a few years ago they were kept in a small pit that I'm sure angered the PETA people to no end. But the bears now exist happily in a large riverbank habitat which even connects to the old bear pit in case they ever get nostalgic for the old pit.
We ate a hearty but expensive dinner at the bear pit restaurant and then walked around the charming old town.
Every building had window boxes filled with red geraniums. Every window. Every building.  At first we thought maybe they were fake. I mean, what kind of city maintains mass floral compliance? This city, apparently. We started seeing the red petals on the ground under the windows and realized all the flowers were real.
The old town had several fountains depicting various people and scenes. The above fountain is my favorite. I wish you could see it better. Its called the Ogre fountain and its a giant. Eating children. Around the bottom tier march a row of Bern bears, guarding the ogre and his pediatric feast.
We wandered until it got dark and on our way back to the train station we saw this. In a city of famous (and infamous) fountains, this water works topped them all.  The metal structure spanned the whole street. Every ten seconds or so droplets of water would fall from the cross beam.  They were lit from above and released in such a way that they spelled out words as they fell. Words from all languages. It was beyond cool.

With a bit more familiarity, we managed the train back to Zollifen just fine. We did get a scolding from the temple housing night guard for being an hour past curfew (we plead ingnorance) but all in all it was a fantastic day.

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