Quite a beautiful country in fact, with very varied landscapes, good food (though I expected a bit more from their rather famous wines, at least on the red side), friendly population speaking excellent English… Quite recommended as a destination for a week of wandering around the country!
Getting to the end of the first month working in Switzerland, time to do a first evaluation of life in Bern:
Everything is clean / tidy / on time / efficient, quite a change from the past seven years
The super-efficient train network (helped by the small size of the country) so as to spend an evening in Geneva or Zurich (thanks also to the location of Bern; it would be less easy from Saint Gallen or Lugano)
Greenery, greenery, greenery… everywhere, including right in the city (the office window allows a view on a field full of grazing cows, along with the Paul Klee Zentrum, with snow-capped mountains as a background)
The old city, quaint and very efficiently set up, with lots of shops in upper floors / in passages / in underground places
The variety of products in a number of fields (among others shoes, fruit & vegetable, hi tech products…)
The pace of life: after the Bombay rhythm, it’s hard to get accustomed to the short shop opening hours (everything closed on Sundays, and shutting at 5pm on Saturdays) as well as the long time to obtain information from counterparts, among others
Living costs: true, as opposed to Bombay (at least in matters of real estate), “you get what you pay for, but having to shell out 30 bucks for a plain ribeye at a supermarket seems kind of silly in a country full of cows
To change from the Swiss-based week-ends, let’s head to one of the last five countries in the EU not yet visited: Slovenia! In two weeks, big week-end (five days) scheduled in the capital Ljubjlana and around.
While living in Paris, the weekly (at least) classical music concert was a must, especially with piano concerts. Needless to say, it was difficult to keep the same pace in Bombay then Dakar during the past seven years.
The few weeks ahead therefore sound all the more refreshing:
Saturday 26/10 : Maria Joao Pires in Zürich
Saturday 16/11 : Evgeny Kissin
Monday 18/11 : Fazil Say
Friday 22/11 : Muray Perahia
Sunday 24/11 : Maurizio Pollini, all four in Lucerne
Taking advantage of an unexpectedly beautiful afternoon, let’s head to Neuchatel for a quick getaway (it was initially scheduled for next week-end). Barely further than Fribourg (35 minutes by train instead of 20), the city is on the northern shore of the eponymous lake, the largest national one entirely withing the Swiss borders.
The architecture looks a lot like Stockholm (quite strict, lots of ocher and sienna facades). The weather keeps improving, giving a superb view on the lake once we reached the castle, and its wonderful Collégiale.
The Museum of Art and History looks beautiful from outside, but the current program is not too appealing, so it is skipped on this occasion.
Like Fribourg, the local population is about 30.000 people, and life seems very (too?) quiet here. We are right in French-speaking territory here as well, even more so since the variation spoken here is renowned as the “purest” form in the country. Indeed, we here very few local idiomatic expressions, and the accent seems quite tame (even though we tend to hear in fact more Swiss-German from Eastern tourists).
Thanks to a quite sunny week-end, it’s a great occasion to keep exploring the Old City of Bern with the camera (and a ultra-wide angle). It’s especially great to see for the first time the mountains of the Bernese Oberland when crossing the bridge betwen Lorraine and Altstadt. Seven years hadn’t seen the Alps, the view is magnificent!
On Sunday, it’s also a great weather to head to Fribourg, only twenty minutes aways. In spite of this proximity, it looks (and sounds!) almost like a different country: all the signs (on stores, street names or placards), in German in Bern, are now in French.
It is a very pleasant city, and it would be tempting to live there were it not for the relative lack of stores, restaurants and places of entertainment in comparison to Bern. What Fribourg does not lack however is churches, as it is the most Catholic city of Switzerland (it even has the only Catholic university of the country).
These first ten days in Switzerland have been quiet on the blog front, since there are so many installation steps to undergo, both at work and at home. For example, it took me ten visits at various Coop or Migros stores before being able to find some strong mustard. Seems the German habit of sweet (almost sugary) mustard is also the trend here (goes well with veal sausages, I mus say).
As a consequence, there was in fact no Ticino trip last week-end, due also to poor weather, some shopping to settle as well as exploring Bern areas looking for a permanent accomodation. To make up for this, one of the afternoon this coming week-end will probably be spent in Fribourg (only twenty minutes by train), right on the Röstigraben.