At the weekend I again took advantage of Switzerland's top notch transport system to visit my mate Paul in the nation's capital city - Bern.
With Zoe bending over backwards to make it to a yoga class she's found, and having made plans to meet up with one of her new friend's from a Zurich ladies get-together she attended, I made the 50 minute trip to Bern solo.
Aforementioned Paul is a top bloke I know from my time working at a PR agency and he's a bit of a trailblazer for me when it comes to making the move to die Schweiz. He left London's PR scene to make the move some months ago because his good lady got herself a great job out here (sound familiar?).
Paul and his adorable four-legged friend Uma (who responds only to German commands having been raised in Berlin!) kindly gave me a tour of the beautiful 'Hauptstadt'. It's a fascinating place with the city's main arteries for shopping and business intersected by small winding alleyways and the winding river Aare. Many of the streets have shops or bars in the basement level - aladdin's cave type holes accessible only by what looks like a trap door in the floor.
The most unexpected encouter of the afternoon was with a bona-fide brown bear. The bear is the symbol of Bern and a 6000 square meter enclosure on the banks of the river is home to four of these icons - Björk, Ursina, Berna and Finn. Just one had dared to leave the comfort of hibernation for the biting cold at weekend. I'm no sure which of the family members it was, but it was certainly a very impressive specimen.
After taking in the main sights including the famous Zytglogge clock tower (shown at top of post) on foot we figured it was time to do what Brits do best - head to the pub and watch football. Our first port of call was a bar in a converted school gym, complete with stage for assemblies and wooden climbing bars. I managed to resist the temptation of an impromptu PE lesson (I'd forgotte my pumps) though after a couple of nice ales, including a lovely dark number complete with bear on the bottle, it did cross my mind. We then headed to a local British pub to watch the weekend's scores come in. I must say, though I've enjoyed a month of Swiss immersion, a taste of home was due. There was no forgetting where we were when it came to pay for the wheat beer though. I don't think the northerner in me will ever get used to paying over £7 quid for a pint!
In summary, Bern is a beautiful place. I bet it's great in the summer when the banks of the river come to life. Big thanks to Paul (and Uma) for the welcome and the tour - it was great to catch up and I'm looking forward to a return to the capital city with Miss Lavender in tow very soon.
Mike Stuart moved to Switzerland in 2013 when his better half Zoë landed a job in Zurich.