Train to Bern – Switzerland Itinerary

| July 10, 2011
The first leg of our trip - Zurich Airport to Bern, Switzerland

The first leg of our trip – Zurich Airport to Bern, Switzerland

Touchdown in Zurich: Train to Bern

After landing at the Geneva Airport at around 8:00am, we immediately caught a train to Bern by train to rest from the long flight. The train to Bern from the Airport is an easy one hour and twenty minutes. To board the train, we went to the ticket office in the train station and bought a Swiss Half Fare Card as well as the two discounted tickets to Bern. The rail station attendant was really helpful and spoke English very well. If you buy a discount card like we did, make sure you sign it and keep it with you at all times. You will have to show both your signed fare card and your ticket once on the train. I figure we saved about $800 using our Half Fare Card because it provides discounts on not only trains but also trams, buses, and funiculars as well. Your specific situation may vary.

Our hotel (right) and the Bern parliament building from the river

Our hotel (right) and the Bern parliament building from the river

Upon arriving at the train station in Bern, We used my iPhone to navigate to the hotel by foot. It only took about 20 minutes to reach the hotel, which was perfect considering I would rather walk than take a cab. Despite arriving a little early for check-in at the Bellevue Palace (shown in the upper right of the above photo), we decided to see if our room was ready and it was! Thankfully, that gave us a chance to drop our luggage, freshen up a bit, and then head out for a some pre-lunch exploring. This is when I sized up photo opportunities and got the lay of the land for our next full day of exploration. If you stay in the old city center of Bern like we did, you are within walking distance of everything. Awesome!

A note about jet lag

To manage jet lag, we usually arrive early (8:00am), stay up until after lunch, and then take a short nap at some point between lunch and dinner. This allows us to have a productive first day without getting too tired and completely messing up our sleep schedule. It is tough to get up from the nap after lunch so I set my iPhone alarm to wake us up in time for dinner. This method works pretty well for us. After dinner, we usually turn in early the first night and try to get a full night’s sleep. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I sometimes take a Unisom to zonk me till morning. Donna can sleep through an earthquake so she is good. Jealous!

bern city center map

A map of Bern to help you visualize distances

Exploring Bern

Filled with excitement, I got up at the crack of dawn to go get my first photo of the day. Donna said, “See ya later!,” as she stayed comfortably tucked in bed. It was dark when I left so I only saw two or three people out as I made my way along the cobblestone road to the river location at the edge of town. I set up on the bridge and waited for about 80 minutes for the sun to rise enough to light up the clouds. It was so peaceful waiting on the bridge with my camera as Bern woke up. Frankly, I did not know if anything visually interesting was going to happen. Boy did it ever! The light that you see below only lasted about three minutes but it was glorious. Once I saw it, I snapped away in awe. Over the past couple of years, I have learned to love slowing down and patiently waiting for the right moment to snap the shutter.

With a solid victory in hand, I made my way back to the hotel to get Donna for breakfast. We ate on the patio at the hotel overlooking the river and Bern’s skyline. After breakfast, We headed out to see what Bern had to offer. There is a high level of architectural uniformity in Bern that is very pleasing to the eye. One of the jewels of the city is the clock tower that sits in the old city center. As you can see, the city is very well preserved and a joy to walk.

bern clock tower

The Bern Clock Tower, just a stone’s throw from our hotel

We also visited the Bern Münster that day (shown below). One of the more striking features of Bern’s Münster is the depiction of the Last Judgment over the main portal, which contains more than 200 carved wood and stone figures. Justice is in the center with angels and the Wise and Foolish Virgins to each side. Above is the Archangel Michael bearing a sword and scales. It is not hard to conclude that the saved are on the left and the damned are on the right.

TheLast Judgment Portal at Bern Münster

TheLast Judgment Portal at Bern Münster

One of the memorable experiences was watching young adults jumping from the bridges and floating down the Aare river. I thought, “No way would that ever happen in a US city!” Evidently it is a “thing” to do in Bern and there are a number of places that you can get back onto land after floating down the river. I am sure the water must be cold having made its way from a glacier up high in the Alps. The green water you see in the photo is not a manipulation. It is the real deal. It is a fresh green and was not murky at all. Actually quite refreshing looking.

bern the river aare

The River Aare in Bern, Switzerland

After a full day of walking, shopping and taking in the beautiful scenery, we found an outdoor restaurant for dinner near the row houses in the photo below. It was a perfect night and we had fun watching the people of Bern relax in their beautiful city. The service at the restaurant was very friendly and the food was fantastic!

bern row houses

The charming row houses of Bern, Switzerland

On our way home from dinner, we walked past our hotel to the Parliament building, which was a couple of blocks away. My primary objective was to shoot a picture of the Parliament building at night. Thankfully there were not a lot of people there, which provided an great opportunity to shoot the photo below. The light blue stripe in the lower right leads to an in-ground fountain that a bunch of children were running through. The temperature was just right for summer night time fun.

bern parliament building switzerland

Bern Parliament Building by Night

In my opinion, one full day and two half days was plenty in Bern. It is a beautiful place to see and a great way to start a vacation in Switzerland. We could see the alps in the far distance, which was a sign of great things to come, which leads to my next post. We are on our way to the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Please check back next week for the travel details on this gorgeous location.

Other posts related to this trip to Switzerland

Tags: ,

Category: Photography, Switzerland, Travel

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. AutumnLeaves says:

    I’d be like you, Lee – not wanting to miss a beat. That second photo is especially exquisite!

  2. Lee says:

    That’s the spirit Sherry. I totally agree!