I had a flying visit to Bern in Switzerland for work back in August, just as they were having a bit of a heat wave. I hadn’t been to Switzerland for a while (my last and only visit was a day in Zurich) and I’d forgotten how expensive the country was (an old work friend from Oslo even claimed Switzerland was pricey!). Here’s how I whiled away my time outside work (with a day free in the city) and the relatively budget decisions I made with regard to food.
I flew into Basel and then caught a train to Bern. From the main station it was a short walk to my Airbnb flat – having a flat with a kitchen is a definite budget helper. I didn’t have time on this trip to do any proper cooking but it’s nice having a space for a morning coffee.
It was straight out again for dinner and I settled on a cute restaurant’s beer garden for my meal – this was Restaurant Beaulieu. My kind waiter talked me through the entire (Swiss German!) menu and I decided to have schnitzel with rösti (Bern is known for its rösti). Excellent stuff it was too. The schnitzel were thick, unlike the thin kind you get in Vienna, and with a good crisp coating. The rösti had been cooked with onions and bacon, never a bad thing!
I somehow managed to fit in a lemon and yogurt mousse as well. Delicious. As it’s quite a casual place with a beer garden, prices weren’t too high.
It was only after my work days were over that I had time to properly wander through this UNESCO World Heritage city. Here’s the famous Zytglogge …
… and the Alps in the distance. One of those is Jungfrau.
The old town is surrounded by the river Aare …
… and it’s small but beautiful.
Dinner that night was with a friend at Lötschberg, a casual, contemporary Swiss restaurant with a seriously impressive wine selection, all on display along the wall. My friend’s Hausgemachte Rösti mit Speck und Raclettekäse was a large rösti topped with bacon and melting raclette cheese.
My St. Galler Kalbsbratwurst, a very tender, finely ground veal sausage, was served with an onion sauce and more rösti. This was probably the most rösti I’d ever had in my life up to now – good thing I like rösti!
A green salad with lots of honeyed sunflower seeds on top helped us feel a little better about all that potato! The restaurant is expensive by London standards but seems about normal for Bern.
The next day was my free Saturday in the city, the one I dedicated to some sightseeing. I was in luck! Not only were all museums in Bern free that day (something about it being August and too hot for most people to bother with museums) and there was a festival celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the train line between Bern and Solothurn. In addition to getting my photo snapped as a driver of a vintage train, there was freshly pressed apple juice for all.
The rest of my morning was then filled with a visit to the art gallery and then to the Zentrum Paul Klee, a beautiful Renzo Piano designed building set out in the outskirts of the city. The latter is definitely worth a quick visit if you can. (Of course, it’s a lot better when it’s a free visit…)
I had purchased a takeaway sandwich from Migros, a supermarket chain, in the centre for lunch prior to catching the bus to the museum. This turned out to be the smart budget option!
It was back to the city and a quick visit to Einsteinhaus to see Einstein’s actual desk …
… and a quick view of what must be my favourite fountain in Bern (there are many fountains – all beautiful and most featuring bears) – the Kindlifresserbrunnen. Yes, he’s eating children…
I made a quick pit stop at the tea room of the Confiserie Eichenberger – iced coffee and a paper cake, the latter being a delicious chocolate sticky meringue baked in a slip of paper.
Then it was a late afternoon spent on Gurten, the local mountain where the locals go for picnics and I go to ride the toboggan!
It was another bus to the Rosengarten (rose garden) above the old city, with its fantastic views.
It was also goodbye to Bern’s resident bears in the Bärengraben. Yeah, poor things – it had been a very hot day.
That evening, along with a bit of takeaway from the station, I bought some meringues and double cream from Gruyère, the combination being a very typical dessert in Switzerland. I just placed a couple of meringues on my plate and dolloped this incredibly thick and luscious cream on top. The combination is indeed fabulous! (And yes, it’s cheaper to get these from the supermarket than to have the dessert at a restaurant!)
But that wasn’t the end of my travels for I had to travel again to Basel for my flight back to London. For my train ride, I picked up a brunch from Sprüngli, definitely one of my favourite patisseries in Switzerland. They’re famous for their little macarons called Luxemburgerli but not this time. This time I had one of their quiches (oh so buttery) …
… and my first in Switzerland Bircher muesli. This was, of course, a particuarly luxurious version made with lots of fruit and cream. Fantastic! And we’re now obsessed with it.
There was a rapid tour of the centre of Basel before my bus to the airport. Highlights included the incredibly red Basel town hall …
… and the ridiculously cute Tinguely fountain. I’m glad I didn’t miss this animated fountain which brought a smile to the faces of everyone who saw it.
All my photos can be found in this Flickr album. I’m hoping I can go back one day with Blai to see more of the Alps in the region!