Sarah and I woke up and wanted to make sure that we saw some of the older town in Lausanne that we hadn’t really seen in the dark. Primarily, this meant the Cathedral, which is at the top of the hill. We walked around the cathedral, and pretty much thought that it was closed. We tentatively pushed open the front doors after walking all the way around, and found that the cathedral was open…and we were pretty much the only people inside. It’s a little eery to be inside a huge space like one of these cathedrals, if only for the reason that your footsteps tend to echo and make you feel like there’s a huge space and you’re in an extremely quiet and isolated place. I honestly thought that it was just Sarah and I in the cathedral, but then we saw the cleaning guy. He was the only other person there. Lausanne was still sleepy, even on a Monday morning.
From the cathedral, we went and got ridiculously expensive coffees (9SF for a double espresso and a cappuccino!) in a ridiculously quaint café right by the cathedral. Since we had a train ride to Bern, and also figured that restaurants were probably going to be expensive, we stopped at the grocery store and got some stuff for lunch. This time, it was fresh bread, cheese, oranges, and beef jerky coated with alpine herbs from a grocery store that seemed to be more or less the Swiss equivalent of Whole Foods.
We went back to the hotel, checked out, and took the free (well, not really, the Swiss taxed us for it, but at least we made money on the deal since it was cheaper than paying to take the bus twice) bus to the train station. Got to the train station and bought tickets to Bern—there’s a train every hour.
We got on the train, and sat down. The ride to Bern is pretty cool, winding through Alpine meadows, small towns, cow pastures with lots of happy looking cows, and the mountains. Picturesque. We got to Bern, and again, took a cab. Again, expensive. Switzerland reminds me of the LCD Soundsystem song about New York. “New York I love you, but you’re bringing me down,” could just as well be replaced with Switzerland. I mean really, the whole place is unbelievably picturesque, but it’s so expensive, it defies logic. Sarah and I are entertaining ourselves walking around with the game “let’s see who can come up with the easiest way to get rich.” All of the ideas involve opening up businesses and undercutting Swiss merchants. When yoga mats cost 90SF ($100), tampons cost 18SF ($20) and New Balance shoes cost 220 SF ($246), well, it makes you wonder. Couldn’t I just like, you know, but them at retail in the States and bring them over? Sell them on Craigslist or something for an extra 10%? I win, the Swiss win. What’s up with the Swiss? They’re all friendly and nice, and they have free health care. But all of the merchants charge what I would consider to be unconscionable prices. Why do the Swiss put up with this? They have to know that they are getting ripped off, since even in Europe—which is expensive—things are cheap compared to Switzerland. The customs officials didn’t pay us any mind, either. You could easily go to France, or Germany, or Italy, and buy all of your stuff there a whole lot cheaper. One has to wonder at what point globalization and liberal trade policy with Europe will put an end to all of this gouging by the Swiss merchant population. Oh, and we also figured out why Sarah’s co-worker Christian is so happy all the time: it’s because he lives in the US and realizes what a great deal it is. He isn’t getting gouged constantly, and stuff is cheap! Even in LA, which is way more expensive than almost everywhere else in the US.
Sarah and I checked into our hotel, which is more or less a nice hostel. Why would we stay in a hostel? Because again, Switzerland is expensive. We didn’t want to spend $200 a night for a hotel. The hotel is nice. Really the only difference is that we don’t have our own bathroom.
We wandered through the town—which is well preserved, filled with fountains, bears, public transportation and bikes. It’s probably pretty safe, since people don’t always lock up their bikes. That would be unheard of in most cities. Yeah, most of the bikes are more utilitarian as opposed to nice (not a lot of carbon fiber), but still. The Zytglogge is neat. The fountains are neat. We got another double espresso and cappuccino at a cool place for 9 SF. Nicely done rosette on the cappuccino, and the dude was proud to show us, but it was still about $10. Which means about $3 for espresso and $7 for the cappuccino. Translation:expensive. We bought some awesome chocolates (not really too expensive, strangely), that we ate immediately. Later we got a pretzel with pumpkin seeds (expensive—3.5 SF, but delicious). We came back to the hotel, and Sarah did some work while I went for a run. I came back, took a shower, and we decided to go out and see the bears.
Bern is known for its bears…and they used to have a bear pit. Now it’s more than that, it’s more like a mini bear zoo or something. They have two bears: Bjork and Finn. Or at least that’s what we thought. They actually have four, because Bjork and Finn had cubs, named Ursina and Berna. We figured out that we saw Bjork, Ursina, and Berna, because Ursina and Berna were nursing. Finn didn’t seem to be around. They were all cute and fun to watch. The Bernese seem to be really into the bears as well; we saw quite a few people that had stopped specifically to watch them.
Since Sarah and I are staying in a hostel, we have access to a kitchen, so we grabbed some stuff at the grocery store to make dinner. Although expensive, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than eating out. In another WTF moment, this grocery store featured no alcohol. But the over the top expensive liquor store on the other side of the mall did…at an inflated price. We managed to grab a “reasonably” priced bottle that was even less than malt liquor. A forty of Old English was… wait for it… 14.50 SF ($16.24). Yep. Did we mention that Switzerland is expensive and the land of no competition? Why do the Swiss put up with this? Anyways, we got stuff for pasta and salad, a bottle of way overpriced wine, and then made it back to the hotel. We will never complain about Whole Foods being expensive ever again. Because if you were Swiss? It would be like Wal-Mart.
We cooked dinner in the kitchen in the basement of the hotel, met a nice Thai couple, and wandered back upstairs to drink our wine and watch the only English TV channel, CNN International, which makes it sound like the world is falling apart, even though it isn’t.