We took a few trips to the mountains while we were in Switzerland, but we also did some cool stuff outside of the mountains. This post is about the other things we saw and did in Switzerland.
Olympic Museum in Lausanne
We were not terribly impressed with Lausanne. The city is on a big hill and we started at the top of the hill, and tried to reach the water at the bottom of the hill (Lake Lausanne). The walk wasn’t particularly scenic – just a bunch of buildings. We may or may not have taken the most direct route. However, we did enjoy visiting the Olympic Museum, since Lausanne is the IOC headquarters.
The museum had lots of different parts, and it was pretty well done. One of the most interesting areas was where they had clothes worn by athletes in past Olympics. Some we liked were Usain Bolt’s shirt, Michael Phelps swimming suit and Rafael Nadal’s shoes.
I really enjoyed looking at the Olympic medals presented to the winners over the ages. Each medal is unique, and the current ones just get bigger and fancier. Like the Opening Ceremonies have to keep topping the last one, so do the medals!
There were also some fun interactive activities where we could compare our skills to the Olympians.
The Gruyere cheese factory
We went to the town of Gruyere to visit the factory where the world-famous Gruyere cheese is made. We were able to watch parts of the actual cheese-making process at certain times of day, and when we arrived, they advised that we had a few hours before the next cheese-making step was occurring, so we decided to go to the restaurant while we waited. This restaurant is the holy grail for families. The kind where there is a kid’s play area within sight of the seating, so we can send the kids off to play and enjoy a peaceful lunch.
I ordered the fondue, and it was dyn-o-mite!
N’s lunch was pretty much Gruyere cheese with a side of pasta, since he decided he liked the cheese so much, he didn’t bother sprinkling it onto his pasta, and just ate it straight out of the bowl.After lunch, the boys headed back to the cow-themed playground until it was tour time.The tour was somewhat interesting, but not terribly exciting. It did include some free cheese (which we were all too full to eat) and fake cheese props for a photo op. But, I would say the trip was worth it for the fondue alone, so no complaints from me!
So, while in Switzerland, we sold our minivan back in the US – yeah! But it required us to get a notary – boo! Do you know where to go to get a notary outside the USA? Since this was our second time needing one – we do! We grudgingly shortened our second trip to the Swiss Alps to spend a day and night in Bern to take care of business.
Luckily – this is Bern:
It is a seriously adorable little town. We only got to spend a few hours there (our night was just outside of Bern – a story in and of itself), but what a delightful few hours it was!
We walked from the famous clock tower…
…through the streets of the UNESCO World Heritage Site-designated Old Town. We walked the mostly pedestrianized street, with fountains and those beautiful flower boxed windows.
Eventually, we came to the river, where the worst thing was deciding if the view was better looking back into the Old Town….…or down the river at the amazing fall colors.
Just as we were asking ourselves what could possibly make it better, we see a sign for “bärenpark” – wait, could it be what it sounds like…? yes, it is! It is a bear park! There are three grizzly bears living right in the middle of the city!
The bears live in a nice grassy enclosure and visitors are able to watch them from above or on the riverfront. However, they used to live in a concrete hole. That isn’t so nice for the bears. Happily, the city built them the new space, and it seems the bears are much happier this way. They can still go in the pit if they want (which was where we found two of them when we first arrived).
Once we got to the bear park, we were really hungry, so C wanted to stop at the first restaurant he saw. Luckily, it was the Altes Tramdepot and it was excellent! We enjoyed our food overlooking the town and river.
Not to end Bern on a bad note, but I mentioned that we had to make a last minute change of plans to get to Bern for the notary appointment. Well, that change of plans left us searching for an affordable place to stay in a not-very-affordable area (Switzerland is expensive!). I couldn’t find anything remotely inexpensive in Bern itself, so we settled for a hostel outside of the city. It wasn’t a bad experience, per se, but it was somewhat sketchy. I was the only female in the building, and the rest of the people seemed to be older, single men who lived there permanently (not that I blame them – I couldn’t afford to live anywhere else in that country either!). But, in any case, we got our locked room to ourselves, and managed to avoid having to go and used the shared bathroom in the middle of the night.
Though, if you ask the boys, they would say they loved the place, due to the foosball and table tennis tables! I guess it is all about perspective. Though, even there, we had cows with their bells tinkling just outside our window!
Roger Federer, tennis and Basel
Our last, and maybe most, noteworthy non-mountain activity in Switzerland was going to the Basel Indoors ATP tennis tournament to watch the unparalleled Roger Federer play in his hometown tennis tournament.
As we were planning our road trip months prior, we realized that we could easily get to Basel while the tournament was on. Now, RF is not a young man. We knew there was a chance he would be injured or just too tired to play, but we were banking on his loyalty to his hometown tournament. We got tickets for two days as well, not knowing what day he would end up playing. In fact, Rafael Nadal was also scheduled to play (what an awesome combo that would have been!), but he ended up pulling out with an injury. Luck was with us (and Federer) as he ended up playing, and winning, the tournament.
C & A went the first day and caught a few doubles and singles matches, but C kindly let me go the second day when Federer was scheduled to play (he was quick to point out that it was only fair, since he had gotten to see Scotland and Arsenal and would see FC Barcelona play football!)
I didn’t get any pictures or videos of anything that you couldn’t see in much better quality by just turning on your tv, but here is a pretty bad selfie of me and A.
For me, I thought Federer was bigger in person than he looked on TV, but A thought he looked smaller. Between the train ride to get to the tournament, the tournament itself, seeing RF play and hanging out with A, it was a pretty great day!