I didn’t feel or really realize I was alone on this trip until I set off for Bern, the capital of Switzerland.
I’m currently in the middle of a two-month, mostly solo backpacking venture around Europe. I say mostly because, as you may have read in my previous post, I have met up with and plan on meeting up with a couple more good friends along the way.
But after parting ways with my friend in Zermatt (she headed to Florence while I headed in the direction of the Swiss capital), I found myself feeling lonely for the first time since leaving Granada on June 24th.
After dropping my backpack off at the exceedingly stylish and clean Bern Backpackers’ Hostel and Glocke (I can’t help but stress the awesomeness and accuracy of Hostelworld on my trip so far), I started to wander through the Aldstadt (Old Town) of Bern.
I’m not sure if it was because I was feeling tired and lonely, or because it was a bit of a shock to my system to be out of the Alps and quaint and tiny Bavarian-esque towns and back in a metropolitan, tram-, bus-, and taxi-packed city, but it took a good while for Bern to impress me.
The bear garden, the number one touristy site set up in honor of the city’s mascot, was an interesting start to my understanding and exploration of Bern.
I couldn’t help but feel somewhat sad for the bears, even though the enclosure seemed spacious and comfortable enough. Needless to say I enjoyed reading the various signs talking about the exhibit and the bears kept there, along with watching kids’ reactions to the bears’ behavior, especially when one of them chose to go for a swim.
After saying goodbye to the bears I went back over the Nydeggbrücke bridge (a place I would keep returning to in my 24 hours or so in Bern) and another more modern one and took in different views of the city. I was and still am in disbelief at just how gorgeous the turquoise Aare river is.
My overall impression of the city kept improving as the afternoon went by. Moreover, thankfully, the sense of loneliness gradually faded as well.
After stopping for some delectable truffles, I wandered the main drag of the Aldstadt up and down, fascinated by the arcades and the striking mix of old and new, in the buildings and cobblestoned street with the busses and cars and retail stores.
And later that evening I returned on a whim to the Nydeggbrücke right before sunset, and did my best to capture how beautiful the Aldstadt looked in that light.
But perhaps my favorite part of the evening was stumbling upon some wonderful street music; a larger group of street musicians than I’ve seen before, including three guitarists, a cellist, a violinist, and a guy playing lightly in a single drum. I liked it so much I crossed the street so I could get a better view and leaned up against a fountain and just listened.
It was one of those moments so priceless where you forget or simply choose not to take a picture.
However, in the end I felt inclined enough to drop them a franc at the end of their set and even tell them I really liked their sound. Apparently they’ve been touring around small music festivals for months, and while they’ve mostly been in Germany and Heidelberg they happened to be visiting Bern for a couple of days.
They were a really nice group from Australia, called Worldfly; I found them on Facebook and they’ve got some stuff on YouTube so who knows, maybe I will run into them again in the event I head for Germany (still in the works!).
Anyways, the following morning I only had time for an hour or so meander through the Aldstadt once more, but I did manage to stop by the Rose Garden for some more views and the Münster cathedral because, well, I really have a thing for religious buildings.
In the end, as I departed for Florence a couple hours later, I felt very satisfied with my short but sweet visit to Bern. It gave me the reassurance that even though at times I will be lonely and missing company on this trip, I’ll never be far from fascinating cities and cultures to immerse myself in, and making acquaintances or even friends from far off places won’t be so far-fetched.