My second full week in Bern was even hotter than the first. The first was tolerable most of the time with temps in the high 20s, but the second week was full on 30-35 every day. Makes being in a non-airconditioned office super difficult, but we survived the week!
The people of Bern have dealing with the heat figured out, however. It seemed in the evening seeming the whole town would descend on one of the outdoor pools connected to the Aare River via swimways:
Despite the heat, I kept up with my runs a few nights a week as the sun was setting. The bears in the bear park at least knew how to stay cool-ish hiding in the shade:
Even more tightrope walkers out the second week, and they still weren’t falling in the river enough to stay cool. I’m seriously in awe of their balance!
Even more popular than the pool, however, was the ice cream shop across the street – Gelateria di Berna – which had a super long line every evening with people drying to beat the heat. At only five francs for a large cup, it’s one of the few good values in Switzerland!
I had decided since I had one day off on the weekend I would definitely try and take another trip, so had bought a daypass again on Monday (they’re usually cheaper the further out you buy them) and decided to decide as the weekend got closer and the weather got clearer what I’d do.
The weather looked pretty iffy, so I decided going into the mountains again would be pretty futile since I might not see much, but since the morning at least looked nice I decided to try the Gotthard Panoramic Express trip which starts with a boat ride from Lucern to Flüelen and then a panoramic train ride to Lugano. The idea would be to enjoy a few hours walking around Lugano and then head back.
Day started early, but not too early with a short train trip to Luzern/Lucerne where I would catch the boat across the lake to catch the train. It was a couple hours on the boat and it was absolutely gorgeous in Luzern so I had about an hour to walk around and see the wooden bridge that Luzern is famous for:
As the time for the boat departure approached it got more and more crowded until a couple hundred people were waiting for the boat. Ugh. Looked like it would be a crowded few hours.
Once on board, it took quite a long time wandering around to figure out all the compartments and decks on the boat, but I finally found two first class areas on the upper decks that were a little less crowded.
Then, about 20 minutes into the trip…well over half the passengers (looked like a tour group) got off. WTF? So a short 20 minute boat ride must be a “must do” and then on to the next attraction? I was glad I had a few hours to enjoy the beauty of the lake and really relax.
The first class deck even had table service with waiters, so I decided I might as well enjoy a nice lunch on the trip! I wish I could remember the name of this salad…it was with some local cheese, lots of vegetables, and also diced up strips of a local sausage. What’s not to love about a gorgeous lunch al fresco on a boat?! (I can say al fresco because this trip ends in Lugano in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland)
Gorgeous day and all smiles!
The water was so blue…and it was just really nice to be outside!
The last twenty minutes of the boat or so it was starting to cloud over, and fortunately the walk to the train was less than two minutes from the boat because it started to get a bit windy and sprinkle a little. Ugh!
The panoramic train was pretty much identical to the one the previous weekend, but there was one exception: the attendant on this train was absolutely wonderful and clearly loved his job. He said it was just a weekend fun job for him, but he clearly loved it – coming around to each passenger when there was something to see and telling them to look out for it!
One of the biggest highlights of the train trip is the Church at Wassen which you actually see three times from three different vantage points as the train climbs altitude in a series of spiralling tunnels inside the mountain.
Lots of fun little things on this train….branded chocolates, pre-stamped postcards that the attendant would send for you at the end of the trip, a branded pen…although this train may not have had the views of some of the other trains, the overall experience was amazing!
Nice spacious seating too – too bad it was absolutely pissing down rain outside most of the trip.
Arrived in Lugano right on time, and any thoughts I had of wandering the city and taking in a bit of Italian-Swiss culture were dashed by the absolute downpour outside. I waited it out for 30 minutes having an espresso at the train station (which thanks to Google Translate I managed to fake just enough Italian to order) and eventually gave up.
Fortunately, there was a direct train back to Zurich about an hour later so I decided to wait it out with some ok beer. The name that is – ok. Not the beer…which was also just…ok.
Hopped in the train back to Zurich, which is one of two main types of Intercity trains. One type is a double decker and seems to ply the main line from Geneva – Bern – Zurich and this type is single deck and seems to hold less people.
Grabbed a beer at the International Beer Bar in Zurich which has a great selection of craft beers before heading back to the station to go to Bern and call it a weekend. Was really pleased how much value I managed to get out of this daypass!
Got to Zurich Hauptbanhof a bit before my train so did a little bit of trainspotting while I waited to leave.
Finally, this is the style of the other main Intercity train, the double decker on the inside. All trains in Switzerland (except the panoramic ones which need reservations) are open seating, so on an empty train like this plenty of choices!
Back to Bern after a long and exhausting but rewarding day, and ready for another week of work!