Taking the fast northern route, Bern, Switzerland’s capital city, is about 1 hour and 20 minutes from Stans, where we are staying. But the longer south route looked much more scenic.
There were actually so many “wow” moments where I wanted to stop and take photos, but there was no place to do it. So we need to rely on our unreliable memories of the splendor we witnessed. But take our word for it, the lower, shorter-in-distance, longer-in-time route is worth the extra 20 or 30 minutes.
Arriving in Bern, we followed the signs to the Rathaus parking garage (is it only me who thinks it’s funny that Rathaus translates to City Hall?), which was perfectly located for walking around the city center.
We followed our noses straight across the little peninsula that is Bern’s old town, and walked right into Münsterplattform (Minster Terrace), a large plaza overlooking the Aare river, and the Berner Münster (Bern Minster). The cathedral is the tallest in Switzerland thanks to the tower that was completed 470 years after construction started on the rest of the structure.
Münsterplatz (Minster plaza) on the main entry side of the cathedral was filled with booths for the final Christmas market day. Not in the market for anything, we just wandered along the streets to see what we could see.
Streets like this one are for pedestrians and transit only, with trains and trolley buses divided from pedestrian areas by only a painted line. If you’re just inside the line, you may feel the train brush past you. If there are no transit vehicles at the moment, then the street appears to be a wide sidewalk for pedestrians.
Along the shopping streets, Bern boasts what they call arcades–covered corridors that run the length of the streets, joined between buildings, and offering customers rain-free shopping.
At the street level, typically a few steps down from the arcades, are shuttered doors that provide access to the cellars. Sometimes these are used for storage but, in many cases, they offer additional shop space.
Since we were visiting on the last Saturday before Christmas, we ran into many Christmas markets, as well as Saturday markets (though the latter were mostly being dismantled by the time we arrived).
The train station is an intriguing example of old mixed with new. This elaborate and artistic glass roof keeps passengers dry as they purchase tickets, wait for trains, and access the station and shopping mall below.
A bit more wandering, and our time in Bern came to an end.
Returning to Stans, we took the quicker, longer, faster route and found it quite boring. However, it does pass two Ikea stores if you’re in the market for flat-pack furnishings. 🙂
Parking: As in all of the cities we have visited in Switzerland, public parking areas are well signed and easy to find. 9 CHF for 3-4 hours (see note above re unreliable memories, thus the vague timing).