I had the pleasure of having a job interview in Bern a few days ago. It is one of my favourite cities in Switzerland the the little known capital of the country. It is a city that just has a really pleasant feeling and atmosphere about it. I like the city so much that I can’t even complain that the parking anywhere within a stone throw of the city costs insane amounts of money. I understand that this is done to encourage people to use public transport and not to drive so much, but it makes life for visitors extremely difficult! When I arrived I promptly began looking from places, anywhere, that I could park my van for free. Eventually I found a spot a 15 minutes drive outside Bern in a little town called Wohlen. It is along the river Aare and near the Bremgarten, all of which promised a delightful walk into town. What could be bad about a walk along the river followed by a traipse through a forest. It was a mere 2 hours walk into town. I could, and did manage it. The Aare river is one of the most peaceful rivers I have walked along. It just meanders through the valley with hardly a ripple. I’ve heard that a popular summer pastime is to float down the river on a tube with a few drinks in tow. That is how tame this river is.
Eventually I left the river’s edge and cut across the forest to get into town quicker. This is a delightful Swiss forest with all the maintenance and order that you would expect from a Swiss forest. Not a tree trunk out of place. They have a fantastic running circuit set up in the forest, allowing you to choose between 5, 10 and 17km loops, all very neatly demarcated as is Swiss style.
After a lengthy walk through the forest I came to the city itself, a place very easy to wander around in to look at the artwork, buildings, shops or even just the people. The bear garden was empty (because bears hibernate) so I made my way over to the animal garden on the outskirts of town where I indulged in watching hamsters, rabbits and flamingos for ages. Flamingos are one of the most entertaining and bizarre birds I’ve ever bothered to stop and watch.
After all this wandering it was time for me to head back to my van and find a free overnight parking spot (there are plenty of those, apparently its only expensive to have a car during the day). The walk back that afternoon was tough. Still beautiful but after a day of sight seeing, a 2 hour walk back to the van is not easily accomplished! Next time I’m in Bern I’ll research the bus system a bit better and make full use of that public transport system the Bernese brag so much about. Or I’ll come back in summer and float my way back to the van!
(As a side note, the spot in Wohlen would be great for a night of stealth camping, it has toilets, bbq areas and a river right in front of you)