September 14th, 2013

Dr. Tectonic

Annecy to Bern

Thursday was our last day in Annecy. It was another full day of conference for me, and Jerry spent the day basically just convalescing. We ate enough at the reception to count as dinner, and then we did laundry, woo. The most interesting thing about the laundromat is that it was centrally controlled; there was one box to feed money into, and then you'd press buttons to indicate which machine you wanted to run (or whether you wanted detergent dispensed instead).

We got everything packed up and then got a poor night's sleep. (I did, anyway. If I have to get up early to travel, I tend to wake up every hour or two, and this night was no exception) We left the hotel at 6 am Friday morning, getting a ride back to Geneva with Steve and Aaron, who were taking an early flight home but had two open slots in their car. (Originally I had assumed we'd just take the train, but this saved us a hundred bucks or so in train tickets.)

At the airport (which connects to the train station), we said bye to the folks from work and found a bench to eat some non-perishables for breakfast. We bought an 8-day SwissPass (unlimited train and bus rides, plus free museum admission, etc.) online, but needed to pick it up, and we got there early enough that nothing was open yet. Once the offices opened, we went from the train station main office, then to the tourism desk in the airport, then (unnecessarily, as it turned out) back to the train station office, but we had the pass and got ourselves on the train by a little after 8:30.

The train from Geneva to Bern takes about two hours, and it's a really lovely way to travel. It's super-quiet, almost spookily so. We saw a lot of very pretty countryside and some great views of Lake Geneva. Took lots of pictures, read my book, relaxed.

We arrived in Bern and Jerry's iPhone wouldn't connect to the network to tell us where our hotel was. Well, it's and adventure, right? So we started walking, following some signs pointing toward "Tourism" (office of, presumably). After a bit, we found ourselves at what I know know is Bahnhof Bern, the main transit station, where a helpful English-speaking woman was able to give us directions to our hotel. I *think* she was some kind of official tourist helper, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it was not too far back the way we came and down the hill a little. We got there by about 11, and checkin wasn't until 3, so we offloaded our extra stuff, left our luggage in a locker, got a tourist map, and set out to wander the town.

Turns out, Bern is REALLY REALLY PRETTY. It is a ridiculously picturesque town, and the city center is all plazas and clocktowers and churches and fountains and fancy 18th-century buildings. Seriously gorgeous. It's also a for-real city, not just a resort town, so on the ground floor of all those old buildings are bazillions of shops (including very pedestrian things like groceries and convenience stores) and people going about their daily business.

We saw the interiors of an amazing old church and a cathedral, and a bunch of fountains, and a couple towers, and Einstein's apartment (didn't go inside, because our Swisspass only gave us a 25% discount and we weren't a dozen-francs interested in it), and the outsides of various fascinating government buildings, and then made our way down to the end of the old town and a bridge (from which the views are amazing and ridiculously pretty) and the bear pits! The bear its the heraldic animal of Bern, and they have a couple of them in a zoo enclosure. (It's bigger than just the old "bear pit" enclosure, but they connect.)

By then it was past 3, so we made our way back to the hotel (stopping by a farmer's market for some fruit) and checked in. Our room is small but very nice, with a balcony. There's an open wooden elevator to get up to the 4th floor. Settled in and rested our very tired feet. I took a nap; Jerry did a little exploration. Food here is very expensive, but we found a reasonably-priced pizza place. Had to hike a little to get to an ATM, but we got ourselves fed in the end. I have also discovered that my high-school German classes taught me enough very useful German to get by, so that's been nice. A lot of people speak English, but being able to ask "Can you tell me, where is...?" has been very helpful. Many pictures taken. Great city.