Bern, Focus on Gurten

22 Sep


Gurten is located just below the lower left-hand corner of the map. It is directly south of Bern. My niece,  Gwynne, has marked off a number of places, including the restaurant where we had dinner with Hans and Ulla.
>Michelin map



The Aare River is probably the most striking of all Bern’s fantastic features due to its unreal shade of green and awesome speed.  The average temperature of the water is 62 degrees. The houses with their terra cotta roofs are not unlike those we observed in northern Italy.  I would call Bern picturesque if it were not for the river, which struck me as unearthly and powerful.

Anna at Bern Restaurant.jpg

I love this picture of Anna.  She looks so pretty and it is a typical pose of hers. 

Hans and Ulla Olsen came from Denmark via Zurich to see us and they were in the restaurant, Lötschberg, that night.  It was probably the most expensive restaurant we went to, which brings up one problem in Switzerland, the high cost of dining out. Actually the time I ordered a second carafe of wine might have been the most expensive meal.  :>)

Hans is our former Danish exchange student through the Rotary program and a good friend of my brother, Barth.  Mom insisted that he sit next to her.  Hans is often the life of the party so that was a good choice.

Hans and Barth enjoyed many adventures across the U.S.A., including almost getting run over by a beach machine in Nantucket at a beach where they stayed overnight and staying fed in Las Vegas by partaking of the free food at the casinos.

Mom and Hans

I sat next to Ulla, who was quite entertaining.

Ulla Olson, Rebecca, and Rhonda

The next day the twelve of us took a hike up Gurten, a hill or what Mom referred to as the “small, old-looking mountain,” which looked squashed like one of the Catskills, outside the city.  Because of the arthritis in my knees, I was often behind my family on other hikes, so I appreciated the fact that Ulla stayed with me.  I thought we might run out of topics, but we seemed to do fine discussing banking, Swizz farming, and such.


I mentioned in another blog that the Swiss are very neat farmers–their grass is closely cropped and well-sculpted.  This farm was a more contemporary farm with John Deere-type machinery.  I wish I had taken a picture of one machine to make my point.



At this point in going up the hill, I turned to look back at Bern.  Even though it is only 2,815 feet high, I came to feel every single one of the feet by the time I reached the top. The Swiss refer to what you can see close up in this picture as the Bernese Oberland (the higher part of the Bernese canton, south of Bern.)

About halfway up we came across a dairy farm. The curious thing for someone like me with relatives who were farmers was the lack of any farmers to talk to or actual farming taking place. It looked like a model farm, the kind you play with as a child. The smell of manure wasn’t even that strong. Of course, these are heifers.



Dairy Farm on Gurten 3.jpg

You can see my family way up the road. The thing I couldn’t quite compute was the cylinder of what looked like wet hay to the right in the picture.

Sean Petting Cat on Gurten.jpg

We all stopped to pet a kitty, including Sean, Gwynne’s boyfriend. Gwynne was not around to observe him. My oldest niece is definitely a dog person.


Ulla Olson on the clim up Gurten.jpg

Ulla, my hiking companion, is always decked out in the latest fashion.  When I first met her, in Ithaca at a fancy restaurant, she had on a very short dress and boots.


Anna claimed I looked like Paddington in my sun hat.


Nearing the Top of Gurten


My niece Rebecca looking stylish (note the stripes), her father and my brother, Barth, talking.  They are standing near the gondola that Mom and Hans, always a gentleman, took with her both ways.  I took it going down.  Everyone complained about the downward trip, making me thankful I’d chosen not to walk downhill.



This is a picture from the Bern Tourism website.

The Gurten, a belvedere or summer house at the top of Gurten is quite striking, but what really made us interested was the wedding with its fifties theme: the girls in poodle skirts and pony tails.

Santorini in August: looking for solitude in a crowded beauty

17 Sep

“Santorini in August”: say that to a savvy traveller and he will probably get a headache from rolling his eyes too hard. The island, ten times smaller than Las Vegas, receives nearly two million vi…

Source: Santorini in August: looking for solitude in a crowded beauty

Jeizinen, Swiss Chalet in the Alps

17 Sep

Located at Gampel-Bratsch, Switzerland, Jeizinen is the cluster of Swiss chalets where my oldest niece, Gwynne,  made us reservations for our last two days in Switzerland.  Again, Barth had to drive the nine-person van up a road with tight switchbacks.  This time, however, we had beautiful weather.  You can see from looking at the road why a driver might be nervous about oncoming traffic




These first two pictures of the palominos were taken by my sister-in-law, Rhonda Mapes.  There’s barely enough space for two cars and then you have horses on top of everything else.  It was pretty neat to come on them without warning though.


View from Porch attached to Shalet

The stone wall of our Swiss chalet is on the left. I took the picture from the porch.

This view is the same one from a slightly different angle. Weiss Horn is in the background between the two closer mountains.

One of my regrets is not taking interior shots of the Air bnbs where we stayed. This one was the most attractive of the three, but also the most compact. Clicking on the following URL for Jeizinen will enable you to see our exact interior:

Rebecca, Anna, and Coleman had headed back to the states, so we were  down to six people.  On my right when I walked in was a chest of drawers with a marble top that I determined to be Early American or Early Attic depending on the lineage.  The wood was a honey-colered yellow.  Maybe they have an Early Swiss.  The first thing I noticed was the stairway of wrought black iron and wooden steps that that led up into the second floor.

The upstairs consisted of two bedrooms, one with its own door and a double-sized futon where Barth and Rhonda slept.  The bigger room contained about six single-sized futons with special Swiss coverlets made of a brushed corduroy on top of them–this is where Gwynne, Meghan, and I slept.

Mom slept on a sectional sofa downstairs.  We knew that having her climb the stairs would be a major mistake.  She slept under a gray blanket, similar to the heavy blankets one can buy at L.L. Bean.  The living area consisted of another antique-looking chest of drawers, the sectional and a dining room table.

The remaining pictures were all taken on a hike I took around the periphery of the camp.





Small Waterfall


Back down the hill to the chalet.


The Swiss build drains differently from Americans.  This one looks ingenious.


Light and Shade


Finally, moutain spring water!


Meghan, Gwynne, and Rhonda

I felt oddly that I was on the inside of the mountain looking at my family on the outside.



The Mapes and the Mountains

14 Sep

In this first set of Switzerland pictures by my sister-in-law, Rhonda Mapes, Barth was driving us into Switzerland from Italy and toward Bern, where we would be staying several days.  Gwynne, my oldest niece, had considered going the route that consists of a long tunnel from Italy into Switzerland, but when Barth decided not to take the tunnel, he inadvertently chose the scenic route.  He has a fear of heights and  had eight other people besides himself in the van for whom he was responsible, so he was under pressure.  At first we were driving on flat land, but then, all of the sudden, we were climbing a mountain.

During our car trip and later when I returned to the U.S., I tried to figure out why I was given such a fright.  I have driven switchbacks in the Catskills, in Pennsylvania when headed to a conference in Towson, Maryland, and in the Rockies, especially in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, but also in various National Parks.  In addition, I drove Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco during the night.   The Highway 1 drive was nerve-racking, but I couldn’t see the ocean.  The Alps are taller than the Rockies.  It’s also true that American highway engineers often try to design highways that have longer loops.  The switchbacks we experienced were unusually tight.  However, people who drive through the tunnel miss quite a lot.



The pictures are beautiful, but they only suggest our height above the valley floor because of the smallness of the farm buildings.  In actuality, we were thousands of feet above the farms.  I think the railing makes the valley look closer  than it is.  Jim Gwynne could  probably explain how a painter creates the illusion of depth that the railing tends to dispel.


At one point, Barth started to sing “Edelweiss” in an attempt at gallows humor.  Apart from Rhonda, everyone was nervous.  I was afraid to take pictures because I had the sensation that if I leaned to the left the car would be more likely to flip, although I knew intellectually that was not the case.  Gwynne, who was sitting in the front of the van, said she was pressing her foot against the floor every time we went around a bend.  Rebecca said that her worst fear occurred when we encountered fog on our way down the mountain, which was, in fact, pretty scary.  I actually can’t relate how Coleman felt because he was lost in the American West of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, by way of earphones no less. If intentional, it was definitely a smart way to depart the scene.

The view, however, was spectacular.  It is an “awful scene,” as Shelley describes it in  his famous poem about one of the Alps, Mont Blanc :

Thus thou, Ravine of Arve—dark, deep Ravine—
Thou many-colour’d, many-voiced vale,
Over whose pines, and crags, and caverns sail
Fast cloud-shadows and sunbeams: awful scene,
Where Power in likeness of the Arve comes down
From the ice-gulfs that gird his secret throne (12-17) .
Shelley uses “awful” in all its meanings–the viewer of the Alps has both a sense of wonder and a sense of terror when  viewing the greatness of nature in all its splendor.



Barth said that he was grateful he had ordered a rental van that was standard shift, because he thought it gave him better control.  Every time he came to a bend he downshifted.  Of course, with an automatic car,  there would be a natural tendency to ride the brakes, which is definitely not as safe.


This picture indicates a comforting scene with trees one almost feels as though one could touch.  However, a hurtling car would definitely plunge through them.  Part of what makes driving in the Alps scary is the lack of knowledge of the drivers who are coming toward you.  We tried to look ahead for oncoming cars, so Barth could pull over on the shoulder when he knew that someone was coming.




The last two pictures suggest the depth of the view more concretely.  In the very last picture you can see the road we had covered (in the background).  The viewer immediately grasps the beauty of the stark scene, made more evident by the interplay of the dark and light clouds.

The Tram, Train, Boat, Train, Walk to Trümmelbachfälle

6 Sep

On August 9 we took a day trip from Bern to Interlaken and then on to Trümmelbachfälle.  Gwynne had her hardest day in terms of buying tickets and organizing our journey because of all the different vehicles we traveled on.

Boat to Interlaken Slide 1

Boat to Interlaken Via the Thuner See


This map contains a portion of the Aare River Watershed. You can see how the river goes through two lakes. We took a boat ride to Interlaken via the Thuner See (Lake). Interlaken literally means between lakes and that’s where it’s located on the map. The Aare is part of the Rhine. It is contained within Switzerland, although the Rhine is obviously much bigger.

Boat to Interlaken--Slide 2
Continuation of Journey


Boat to Interlaken--Slide 3

As Gwynne reminded me, we took a train from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen and then walked along the valley there to the falls.  We left Mom back at a hotel in Interlaken.  This was the one time that it was hard for her not to come with us.
Interlaken to Trummelbachfalle

Alps on Walk to Tummelbach

Alps on Walk to Trümmelbachfälle  Coleman, my nephew-in-law, said he was reminded of El Capitan at Yosemite.  I would say that the cliffs were like those of Yosemite, but without the tour buses.

Rhonda and Kathy --trail to waterfall (2) A

Kathy and Rhonda–Trail to Waterfall

Rhonda Taking Picture--Walk to Tummelbach Falls

Rhonda Taking Picture at Aare River.  The unearthly green of the river is due to the fact that it is composed of glacial water that has material suspended within it.

Road to Tummelbach Falls 4

Sheer Cliff on Trail with Waterfall.  The valley we were in is called the Valley of Seventy-two Waterfalls.  Out west we refer to the kind of waterfall you see here as a bridal veil falls.  It’s a kind of waterfall that is long and slender.

Road to Tummelbach Falls 5

Road to Tummelbach Falls 6

The hang gliders look incredibly beautiful against the rock cliffs.

Road to Hummelbach Falls 7

You can see the closely-cropped green here and the small huts that are typical in the landscape.  This hut looks like a small version of the Swiss chalet in which we stayed.

Walk to Trummelbach--Slide 8

I tried to focus on the landscapes and take pictures of my family in restaurants, but you see that they are in the lower right of the picture.

Walk to Trummelbach-  Slide 9

We talked to a couple of the guys when they landed.  Naturally my guy was from Minnesota.

Walk to Trummelbach--Slide 10

I wanted to take a picture of a woman who was shifting grass with a pitch fork, but she looked like a pretty tough customer, so I decided not to ask her permission.  Much of what I saw and heard was like the stereotyped view of Switzerland: the cows wore bells, the farming I witnessed was an older version, there was quite a bit of terracing, and the fields often looked like golf courses because they were cropped so close.  It was funny–this was the one time I wished I had a guide.  Of course, if dad were still alive he would have been able to explain the farming to me.


Tummelbach--7th level


I went up the inner elevator with the rest of the family,  stepped out on what is referred to as level 6, and did a Jimmy Stewart.  In other words, I experienced vertigo.  Luckily, I was able to take the stairs up one more level and see a portion of the falls inside the mountain. There are ten glacial falls inside.

Mitchell, his wife, Sean and Mitchell's mom. Sean and Gwynne

At the end of the day, we met Sean’s family in Interlaken at da rafmi (name of restaurant).

Of course, this was the day’s highlight.


Food Memories from Italy and Switzerland

27 Aug

I’ve added quite a bit to this post, so I’ve decided to reblog it.


This European trip was organized to celebrate Mom’s 90th  Birthday.  The code words for the trip were “Coleman’s hungry.”  The girls have discovered that if they exclaim over the hunger of my new nephew-in-law they get to eat sooner, because Rhonda, my sister-in-law, is always worried about whether he has had enough to eat. When I was growing up, our favorite restaurant in New York City was LaScala, a restaurant that served northern Italian food, so we had some preparation for what we were to encounter in Milan.

Coleman, Mom, and Anna in Berne.jpg

Coleman, Mom, and Anna in Bern

Aug.2– Osmate, Italy, Osteria-Jerry’s


This dish is risotto, a northern Italian food.  It’s made from rice, butter, and onion.  It was presented in a wheel of cheese. I’m not sure how one person would make it through a wheel. We were at our first restaurant in Osmate. I took this picture at a stranger’s table and he laughed. …

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Food Memories from Italy and Switzerland

21 Aug

This European trip was organized to celebrate Mom’s 90th  Birthday.  The code words for the trip were “Coleman’s hungry.”  The girls have discovered that if they exclaim over the hunger of my new nephew-in-law they get to eat sooner, because Rhonda, my sister-in-law, is always worried about whether he has had enough to eat. When I was growing up, our favorite restaurant in New York City was LaScala, a restaurant that served northern Italian food, so we had some preparation for what we were to encounter in Milan.

Coleman, Mom, and Anna in Berne.jpg

Coleman, Mom, and Anna in Bern

Aug.2– Osmate, Italy, Osteria-Jerry’s


This dish is risotto, a northern Italian food.  It’s made from rice, butter, and onion.  It was presented in a wheel of cheese. I’m not sure how one person would make it through a wheel. We were at our first restaurant in Osmate. I took this picture at a stranger’s table and he laughed.  Although Anna didn’t want to admit it, she was the best at figuring out Italian, probably because of her background in romance languages. The proprietor kept bringing out dish after dish, causing Anna to ask him if we could please look at the menu. Although he was very friendly, we were charged for everything he had already brought out, so this was a smart move on her part.

Anna had the above dish mixed with red wine at another restaurant in Osmate, Restaurante della Zucche, and then made it for us at the Air B and B in Bern. She said that it requires a special kind of rice. I googled risotto and found that she was right. In What’s Cooking America, Linda Stradley says to “Use only Italian short-grain rice varieties such as Aroborio, Carnaroli, Vialone, Nano, and Baldo (Arborio is the most commonly found short-grain rice)” (2004). I wouldn’t mind having it again.

Here she is with Mom at Jerry’s:
Mom and Anna at Jerry's--Osmate

Pumpkin Tortelli

Pumpkin Raviola in Osmate.
This is the dish I enjoyed at Jerry’s.

Aug. 3–Milan, Italy

Santa Maria delle Grazie, convent/church
Santa Maria

Last Supper

This is DaVinci’s Last Supper, a meal of a different sort. It is located in a room on the left=hand side of the above picture of the church. Sadly, my camera does not work well in this kind of situation–too dark. The Allies hit the church during WWII and there is still damage that has not been repaired in the convent. DaVinci’s Last Supper was sandbagged for protection.

Cup Meringue Pistachio

Cup Meringue Pistachio from ice cream/ coffee shop, , in Milan. Needless to say, this was my favorite food memory from the trip.  Mom, whose picture appears in the background, enjoyed a parfait of mixed fresh fruit and sorbet.  Most everyone else had some kind of sweet dessert.

Aug. 3–Café Sempione

Aug. 4–Intra and Osmate

Mom with Raspberry and Chocolate Gelato

The next day at Intra, Mom indulged in chocolate and raspberry gelato, while we went swimming in Lake Maggiore.

Tobacco Vending

It seems strange to include smoking as part of the dining experience, but I noticed it because we are no longer allowed to smoke in restaurants in the USA.  I saw one tobacco vending machine in Italy (this one was near the ferry on Lake Maggiore) and one in Switzerland.  Smoking does not occur in restaurants, but often right outside it in the outdoor, café section of establishments.  I used to feel protective of smokers and actually enjoyed the smell, but now it bothers me a bit.  The Swiss people actually look more fit than Americans do on average.  Bern, the capital, is a city of walkers like those in New York City, but there are many smokers.

August 4, 2016–Restaurante della Zucche in Osmate, Italy

Every time we went to a restaurant we would order bottled water and sparkling water and white wine.  Once we arrived in Switzerland we found ourselves “ordering Wasser mit Gas und Wasser ohne Gas.” When I was checking online about ordering water in restaurants, one of the sites mentioned that Americans are known for being too fussy about tap water, and that the restaurants take advantage of this. On one of our bills, I noticed that we had been charged $4.00 for each bottle of water. That really adds up with nine people.

Barth and Rhonda dining out in Osmate

Barth and Rhonda

Breaded Veal.jpg

This veal was okay, not great.  It was a little bit thin, which made it dry. In Italy and Switzerland, they have fewer beef cattle than we do–hence, the veal.

Rainstorm in della zuche

A tremendous rainstorm caused us to stay on at the restaurant and order dessert. The lights blinked on and off several times. I don’t remember the dessert but I do remember the sound of the hail. This picture shows the rain shooting down the side of the restaurant like those beaded curtains from the sixties.

Aug. 5–Lötschberg

This restaurant is highly ranked, which may be the reason that Gwynne chose it for our reunion with Hans and Ulla Olsen. Hans was our former Rotary Exchange student and there have been various reunions over the years in Denmark and in the United States. Hans is a ship broker, while Ulla is in charge of marketing for IBM in Denmark. They were great company, which I’m sure helps them in the business world.

I had Pork Cordon Bleu, which was very good. The portions were quite large. Cordon Bleu was originally an English dish from back in the time of Henry the VIII. The Swiss use pork, which is a staple in many of their meals, while the Americans use chicken. I was able to sit next to Ulla and then to hike with her the next day.

Pork Cordon bleu

Ulla Olson, Rebecca, and Rhonda

Ulla, Rebecca, and Rhonda

Mom and Hans

Mom, Hans

Aug. 9–Interlaken, da rafmi (name of restaurant)

Mitchell, his wife, Sean and Mitchell's mom. Sean and Gwynne

This dining experience’s main purpose was to meet Sean’s family, including his mother, brother, and sister-in-law. His new nephew was not present. I spent most of my time talking to his brother, Mitchell, who works in retail. Like Sean, Mitchell speaks several languages, among them Africans, because the family is from South Africa and has lived several places. Gwynne is very taken with Sean.

For dinner, I had pizza; I believe it was the third time. When the pizza comes to the table, it is not scored. The reason for this is that they do not want you picking it up. Pizza is eaten with a fork and knife in both Italy and Switzerland. Gwynne says they think Americans are gauche. I used a combination of cutting it and then lifting it with my fingers.

Interlaken at night.jpg

Rhonda,  Anna, Meghan, and Rebecca  after dinner in Interlaken

Aug. 10–Belle Epoque Restaurant, Lunch in Bern, Switzerland

Barth at Bella Epoque


Swiss Meal--Quiche and Salad

Swiss Quiche and Salad. In Switzerland, salad items are often served separately. I had cold corn served to me in both Italy and Switzerland. I guess the closest thing we have to it is corn relish. It was good and probably the closest thing I had to American food.

Aug. 10–Dinner by Sean at Air B and B in Bern, Switzerland

rosti-5webSean, Gwynne’s boyfriend, made us rösti, a shredded potato dish, for dinner.  The food items we have that are closest to it are hash (because of the arrangement of the eggs) and hash browns.  I used to serve hash when I was a waitress and it was served with two eggs on top. Sean served each portion with an egg on top, along with spätzle topped with mushroom gravy.  I couldn’t find a picture that was exactly like his version on the web.  It’s a native Swiss food and used to be considered a breakfast dish.  I was planning to take Rhonda and Sean’s picture cooking in the kitchen, but I managed to knock over a glass from a tall shelf and Gwynne took over with the vacuum instead. This is a dish I would like to learn how to make. My dad used to make breakfast food and I ate many servings of hash browns at Byerly’s, the store where I worked as a waitress.

Aug. 11 and 12-Jeizinen, Swiss Chalet in Alps

Mountain  Water

This is where the girls obtained water from a mountain spring and we finally escaped bottled water.

View from Porch attached to Shalet

This is the view from the porch attached to our chalet.  The stone wall and roof you see to the left are part of our chalet.

This time when I had Pork Cordon Bleu I split it with my mother.  It was good, although not as good as the Bern Cordon Bleu. We were pretty full at this point.