Helen in Europe travel blog

private garden views from the bridge in Bern

crazy hand puppet by the artist at the Paul Klee museum

view from Ursula's apartment

After being generously escorted to Chiassi (the traditional border between Italy and Switzerland) by my home exchange host, Salvatore, I burst into the station, not to dirndl clad Heidi like Swiss people, chocolates and cows but a somewhat dirty station, and the only toilet was (gasp)– a filthy squat toilet! After landing back to reality, I put my extra 20 minutes to good use and sought an ATM to extract Swiss Francs from. Having already spent approximately 10 times more in public transport online for Swiss trips than you would in the rest of Europe, it was hard to tell just how long these francs would last. A few days ago I had purchased a new/ replacement 30 day sim from a rather handsome and hipster Vodafone salesboy (coincidentally named Salvatore, the same name as my Italian host) who assured me I could use it in Italy AND Switzerland. Not so!! Suddenly, whilst in transit I was left with (horror of horrors) no internet and no way of phoning my 5W host who was meeting me at the Bern station. After numerous train changes I knew I had to act. In the final train trip to Bern, I chose two middle aged women and did the usual intro when you want to communicate in English ‘Enschuldigung, sprechen sie Englisch?’ the woman, after taking some time to work out how to actually make a phone call (perhaps I should have chosen the sullen teenager on the next seat instead) phoned my swiss host, Ursula, who simply said ‘Meet you on the platform’ and hung up. After missing the connection that would have seen me arrive on time I found myself on the platform and wandered around, realising that I wasn’t sure what Ursula actually looked like. After wandering around the station of Bern to no avail, I headed for information and was amazed that the young staff member there allowed me to use her phone (even handed it through the glass – I could have run off with it!!) and I phoned Ursula and told her to meet me at the info desk. About 1 minute later, I was greeted by a woman with short black hair, not the blonde one I had looked up (stalked?) on Facebook – how many Ursula Mori’s are there in Bern after all? (perhaps quite a few it seems as Ursula indicated that her name was very common in the course of our conversations). Ursula, a bit like me has adult children, but very like Maria, now lives in a small one bedroom apartment. So we took the bus back to her apartment, past the clean, tidy, tasteful and largely historically beautiful Swiss buildings. Ursula was a host in every sense of the word, really giving her time to me, deciding to give up a a day of work the following day to do some galleries and walks with me. She also gave me her bed and slept on her own sofa bed, very generous indeed. This was somewhat unlike the (almost) host from Staefa who treated any email or query I made as a huge inconvenience and even made antagonistic and patronising comments. She even had the gall to suggest, two days before my arranged stay that I stay at a YHA!

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