First stop on the summer holiday road trip was Bern, just across the border in Switzerland, about 5 or so hours from Munich. We left early (well early-ish as early for us Clayton's is around 10.30am...yes, I know, I'm not the most organised of people and not an especially good morning person) after Matthew had picked up the hire car.
Previous holidays here in Germany over the past few years that included hire cars have seen us (I mean Matthew) driving BMW's, Volvo 4 wheel drive thingies, and of-course the odd Mercedes or two. This time my loving husband showed up in a tiny, white, beaten up VW Golf that had just been returned that morning and had not been cleaned very well (found a McDonalds caramel coated, sticky spoon down the side of my seat when reaching for something I had dropped. Nice.)! Oh goodie, I though, good start to the holiday, how on earth are all the bags going to fit in that boot? More to the point how are my legs going to fit in the passenger side? As it turns out - very wise choice of car. The smaller the better when navigating those tiny lanes and winding roads throughout France and Italy. Well done husband, good choice! And we even got all the bags to fit. Well done us!
Emma did some research for us before the trip and had a few fact sheets printed out ready for our walk around the old city centre. So, I'll tell you a little of what we learnt about Bern. Bern is the capital city of Switzerland, home of the federal parliament and has a population of around 130,000 in the city - a small city considering the federal power it wields. The official language is German spoken with a Bernese dialect, English and French are also spoken. The city centre is a medieval one founded in 1191 on and around the river Aare. Over the centuries it's city has remained virtually intact and in 1983 UNESCO proclaimed it a World Heritage Site. It was in Bern that Albert Einstein lived and worked, the Toblerone chocolate is made and Emmental cheese, known as Swiss Cheese reached out to the world.
With Emma's notes in hand we set off to explore the city. First stop was the very noble House of Parliament.
There are over 100 fountains throughout the city built around the 16th century and this, we thought, was one of the more interesting ones...
Hmmm yes, the Child Eater Fountain or Ogre Fountain. They think it was designed to scare disobedient children (You think?!).
The Zytglogge or clock tower has stood here since 1218.
Well, we are in Bern after all...a Saint Bernard taking a dip in a fountain.
Along with some very interesting fountains, Bern also has some very interesting statues.
And some very beautiful town houses overlooking the jade green river Aare.
Taking in the sights.
Love the blue shutters (a theme we noted in virtually every city and town we visited, mental note to self, must install blue shutters at home).
Bern's Munster Cathedral, a 15th century historic symbol of the Protestant city, has an amazing entrance portal with over 200 small figures representing the last judgement.
On a cloudy and overcast evening, this toy shop provided a blast of colour to cheer up the city.
Along with the longest covered shopping promenade in Europe, Bern also has some quirky underground shops in the cellars.
Pointy bits and pieces.
What are puddles for if not to jump in?
I liked these trees outside the Parliament buildings. They looked like something of out Dr Seuss.
After an overnighter in Bern we headed off on the next 5 hour leg of the journey. Crossing the border into France.
Not long after crossing the border we discovered blue sky, hello summer! It's true - it IS always greener on the other side (of the Alps)! And we also discovered this stunning mountain range was part of Mont Blanc. Cool! Now, where do they keep the pens?
In we go, into one of many tunnels running through the Alps.
Next stop Lyon.