Thursday 23 April 2009

TRAVEL TALK: Switzerland 2009

On our 2007 visit to Switzerland, a photographer called Mannfred (who reminded me of Einstein, all wild, white hair) recommended that we visit Bern. "You'll find it interesting," he said.

Left: Me in contemplative mode, staring out the hotel room window in Geneva, watching a boat float down the Rhone.

This visit started in Bern and how right Mannfred was! A mixture of old and new, Bern struck me as an example of how opposites – past and future; tradition and technology – can co-exist in a seamless harmony.

From the ancient clock tower, the Zytglogge, which acted as the city’s western gate from 1191 to 1250, with its face criss-crossed with overhead tramlines and staring down at the streets dotted with statues that are also water fountains (see left below) to the crack addicts lighting up in a darkened doorway, Bern is a city of the unusual.

As the capital of Switzerland, Bern is clearly a city, but also has a bucolic atmosphere and its quaint streets, crowded with ancient buildings , have an artistic soul.

Best Experience: Sitting on the Münsterpromenade (built in 1334), soaking up the weak, warm sunshine as I ate handmade Swiss chocolate and watched my husband take photographs of the river Aare.

Left: Beric (bottom left hand corner) strolling along the Munsterpromenade in Bern, loaded with his camera bag and carrying his monopod.

Worst Experience: This was a problem throughout Switzerland: everyone smoked everywhere. For non-smokers, there’s nothing worse than walking into a crowded, hot room filled with clouds of smoke.

After Bern, it was off to Geneva for a few days of work. In addition to several business meetings, my husband Beric presented a paper at a conference for Swiss bankers. His talk, and the new orange silk tie (see left) I gave him for good luck, was well received!

I spent the time re-visiting old haunts and discovering some new ones, as well as enjoying a solitary walk along the Rhône. I could have done without the howling wind, which felt as if it had come straight off the Arctic!

Best Experience: Once again, the highlight was attending a morning service at the Russian Orthodox Church with Beric.

Left: The Cathédrale de l'Exaltation de la Sainte Croix (Russian Orthodox Church) in Geneva.

Worst Experience: After listening to the Geneva Chamber orchestra give a wonderful performance of Die Schӧpfung (The Creation) by Haydn in the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, we went on an unscheduled, unguided late-night tour of Geneva because (wait for it) my husband followed his nose and would not ask for directions back to the hotel!

Our visit to Geneva ended on a high note with the conference formal dinner at the beautiful old Hotel d’Angleterre: a discreet atmosphere, a great table of fellow guests and delicious food made for a good ending!

Below: Beric taking a break from photographing the famous water fountain in lake Geneva.

The next day we left for Zurich. With only half a day available for exploration we didn’t have much time for anything other than a stroll down Bahnhofstrasse to the lake and, on the way back to the Hotel Schweizerhof where we found a handmade chocolate cake welcoming us back for our second visit, we dawdled past the Fraumunster and the Grossmunster.

Right: A swan on Zurich lake

Best Experience: The white, white swans drifting past on a lake framed by the snow-capped alps.

Worst Experience: Zurich has a plethora of the saddest looking dogs I’ve ever seen.

Left: A yacht skimming Zurich lake with the snow-capped Alps looking on.

Then it was a quick nine minute train journey to Zurich Airport in time to catch the plane to Zagreb in Croatia. But that's another story...(continued in next post)


Lady Glamis said...

Oh, wow, thanks for sharing such lovely pictures! I remember when I visited Europe that was the worst thing... everybody smoking everywhere. I never did get used to it. What a beautiful swan! And I'd love some of that chocolate... oh, gosh, yum!

Justus M. Bowman said...

Darn it! Your husband is giving men a bad name. Ha ha.

Yeah, smoke and I don't get along. Fortunately, Arkansas has passed (and continues to pass) laws that are tough on smokers.

Marilyn Brant said...

Oh, Ann--you had me at "handmade Swiss chocolate" :-). Gorgeous photos and lovely recap. Looking forward to reading about Croatia, too!

Amanda Holly said...

Ok so now I have to travel! Lucky, for my pocket and me, I haven't seen much of South Africa yet!

Wonderful to have you back blogging Ann - I was getting withdrawl symptoms! And trust me - it wasn't pretty!

Ann Victor said...

Lady Glamis & Marilyn - I have to say that chocolate was worth every calorie! It was so yum on our stopover in Zurich airport (from Zagreb to Johannesburg) we actually took the train into Zurich for the sole purpose of buying some more of it to take home with us! (it didn't last long though!)

Ha ha Justus! In his defence he did redeem himself (and men) by some superb navigating in Croatia!

Amanda - LOL! Your symptoms must have been the same as mine...not pretty at all!! :)

Anonymous said...

Great to read your stories, Ann. You need to teach me how to set up a blog