Savvy Stews: Layover

Bern & Zermatt, Switzerland

Bern & Zermatt, Switzerland

Trivago Travel Tuesday finds the Savvy Stews visiting Bern and Zermatt, Switzerland.

Bern

dbz bern view of bern

Founded in the early 12th century Bern is the capital of Switzerland. Situated on a narrow hill, it is bordered on three sides by the river Aare. Bern’s Altstadt (“old town”) is the medieval city center of Bern. It is a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site since 1983.

In 1779 the famous writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang van Goethe wrote of Bern to a friend, “It is the most beautiful that we have ever seen.” Today Bern continues to attract visitors with its charm, diverse attractions and events.  It is a modern city that has successfully maintained its old town atmosphere.

HOTEL ALLEGRO

The Penthouse Suite at the Hotel Allegro offers outstanding accommodation. The Allegro has rooms to suit all tastes and budgets.

 

We recommend that you consult Trivago to find the perfect place for your stay in Bern. We chose the Hotel Allegro, perfectly located on the river Aare a stone’s throw away from the clock tower and the Old Town as well the main train station.

The 4-star Hotel Allegro offers its guests lifestyle, living comfort and superior standards of service, not to mention breathtaking views of Bern’s historic old town quarter. The hotel has 171 rooms and suites in various categories from Economy rooms, Comfort rooms (with balconies) and Panorama rooms (which offer not only fine views but also special design and décor). For guests who want a superior experience the hotel offers exclusive suites – Junior, Panorama and Penthouse – enhanced by distinctive design. The hotel offers a “pillow menu” — always s sign that a hostelry aims to please. And for those of you who want to add more excitement to your stay there is a casino adjacent to the hotel.

The hotel offers two outstanding restaurants: The Restaurant Yù , renowned for its Asian specialities and the Restaurant Giardino for tempting tastes from Italy.
DBZ Bern Hotel Allegro RestaurantGiardino

Restaurant Giardino

If you arrive by train you can easily walk to the Hotel Allegro in about 10 minutes, or take the tram to stop #9 (Kursall) located directly outside the hotel. Talk about convenience! The number 9 tram (on the side closest to the hotel) takes you into the heart of the Altstadt, just one stop away.
The hotel’s Fitness & Wellness Center includes a Finnish sauna, bio sauna, whirlpool and state-of-the-art fitness equipment. For open-air activities there are beautiful biking and jogging routes in and around Bern, notably along the banks of the River Aare not far from the hotel. Another way to see the sights in the city and beyond is by using one of the bikes (including electric models) which are available from the hotel.

 

Rosengarten (Rose Garden)

dbz bern rosegarden

The rose gardens are awesome, as is the view

dbz bern roses

 

A must-see when in Bern is the Rose Garden, a large park with a wonderful view of the Altstadt and Aare Loop. There are more than 200 varieties of roses, irises and moor beds located here, along with 28 types of rhododendrons. From 1765 to 1877 the Rose Garden served as a cemetery. Since 1913 it has been a public park filled with the beauty of flowers and a pond. From 1956 to 1962 the park was redesigned, introducing rhododendrons and azaleas as well as an iris garden.

Today a pavilion and reading garden provide a place to relax. There is a restaurant Rosengarten, although the park is also an excellent place for a picnic.

 

BEAR PARK

dbz bern bear

The figure of a bear occurs in the oldest known city seal, dated 1224 and living bears have been kept in Bern since 1513. The Bear Park used to be a concrete pit where the bears were kept in dismal confinement, but as a result of public pressure the BärenPark was opened in 2009. Located on steeply sloping land between the Bärengraben and the bank of the River Aare the bears today have a bear-friendly environment where they live, play and lounge. It’s a lovely stroll through the Aldstadt from the train station, and then across a lovely bridge over the Aare.

 

dbz bern bear piggy bank

Gailen deposits a few francs into the fund for the Bern bears

 

 

A visit with Chef Emil Bolli at Hotel Bern

One of the perks of doing a travel show is meeting great chefs. In Bern we had the honor of taking a cooking lesson in the kitchen of the Hotel Bern with Chef Emil Bolli  who is well-known as the head chef for the  Swiss national football team.

dbz bern with chef

 

In August 2014 after a long, exciting and successful career in the Hotel Bern Chef Bolli stepped down as the principle chef in order to concentrate on his duties with the Swiss national football team and to cultivate his many other activities (see his website).  Gailen and Bobby were shown the fine points of making Rösti, a potato dish some consider to be the national Swiss dish. In the canton of Bern it is popular breakfast, and it is served at all meals all over Switzerland. Made with coarsely grated cooked potatoes it is similar to American “hash browns,” but has a character all its own.

Rösti and sausages

Rösti with onions and sausages

 

Visit Chef Bolli’s website for a list of his best recipes, and to check out his “recipe of the month.” We did not write down Chef Bolli’s Rösti recipe, we were too busy following his directions, but here is one that will allow you to enjoy this Swiss dish at home:

Rösti

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 12 lbs large yellow-fleshed potatoes (Yukon Gold are perfect)
  • 1 onion
  • 34 teaspoon salt
  • 12 teaspoon black pepper
  • 14 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Bake potatoes on middle rack in 375F oven or in microwave until they easily pierce with a fork.
  2. Allow potatoes to cool thoroughly (overnight in fridge works great)
  3. Peel potatoes then shred with slicer into a bowl.
  4. Coarsely grate onions. Remove excess moisture by wrapping in paper towels and squeezing gently.
  5. Toss together potatoes, onion, salt and pepper.
  6. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a 7- to 8-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides. Add potatoes, spreading them evenly and pressing them down with a spatula.
  7. Reduce heat to moderate and cook Rösti until underside is a golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  8. Invert a flat plate over skillet (you may want to wear oven mitts) then invert Rösti onto plate.
  9. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter and remaining tablespoon oil in the skillet until foam subsides and slide the Rösti (browned side up) back into skillet.
  10. Cook until underside is golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  11. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into wedges.

 

Marzili-Bahn

Every city has unique and fun features and we found one in the Marzili-Bahn. This short funicular connects the center of Bern (Bundesterasse, near the Federal Parliament Building) with the Marzili district by the banks of the Aare River. In the summer locals use this funicular to get to and from the Marzili outdoor swimming pool by the river. The ride is a short one, only about a minute long, but beats walking up the steep 105 meter incline.

dbz bern funicular

From 1885 to 1973 this funicular was run by a “water counterbalanced” system, which was replaced in 1974 by the automatic electric system in use today.

 

Gelateria di Berna

DBZ bern gelateria display

Since 2010 the Gelateria di Berna has been producing gelatos using ancient Veronese recipes and their own innovative touches.  Using the best milk, cream and yoghurt from a local organic dairy,  Bronte pistachios from Sicily, fur mountain-plums from Gerzensee, premium bourbon vanilla from Madacascar, sour cherries from Kirchlindachstrasse, Criollo cacao from the house Felchin, Sfusato limonene from Amalfi, sugar Aarberg Coffee from Ethiopia — you get the picture — the artisans turn out some of the best frozen concoctions imaginable.

Gailen watches gelato creation

Gailen watches gelato creation

In addition to their house flavors based on chocolate, nuts, and the daily specials at the local fruit market, the Gelateria produces unique seasonal specialties: rhubarb, ripe plum, figs, apples, tangerines — there is always a new delight.

"Tastes like apple pie!"

“Tastes like apple pie!”

 

Zermatt and the Matterhorn

From Bern we traveled on the convenient and modern Swiss Federal Railways — SBB to Zermatt.

Zermatt railway station

Zermatt railway station

 

Jess joined Gailen and Bobby on the journey to Zermatt

Jess joined Gailen and Bobby in Zermatt

The town of Zermatt, elevation 5,310 feet, is nestled at the foot of Switzerland’s highest peaks. It is famed as a mountaineering and ski resort.  Until the mid-19th century Zermatt was an agricultural community. Following the first aascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 there was a rush on the mountains surrounding the village leading to the construction tourist destination it is today.

dbz zermatt matterhorn

The Matterhorn is what draws tourists to Zermatt

The area retains an agricultural base. We came across a small herd of Valais Blacknose Sheep, a heritage breed and possibly the cutest animals on the planet. They have been around since 1400 and are well-adapted to living in the extreme climate of the high mountains. They graze on steep, rocky slopes.  But, they don’t even look real.  Many people have mistaken them for craft projects!  They are raised for wool as well as meat. We were told they are a hearty breed, but really, they look like they’d be perfect for cuddling.

dbz zermatt sheep

dbz bern zermatt jessica and sheep

The herd of adorable Valais sheep decided they wanted to follow Jessica home.

We also got to meet an honest-to-goodness icon of the Alps: a St. Bernard dog complete with a keg!

St. Bernards are no longer used for Alpine rescues –the last recorded instance was in 1955 — but they remain an important symbol of the local heritage. Since the early 18th century monks living in the snowy, dangerous St. Bernard Pass—a route through the Alps between Italy and Switzerland—kept the canines to help them on their rescue missions after bad snowstorms. Over a span of nearly 200 years, about 2,000 people, from lost children to Napoleon’s soldiers, were rescued because of the heroic dogs’ remarkable sense of direction and resistance to cold.

 

dbz bern zermatt st bernard and three

 

Their remarkable sense of smell allowed them to discover and rescue travelers even buried deep in snow. When finding victims buried in snow the dogs would dig through the snow and lie on top of the injured to provide warmth. Another dog in the team would return to alert of the stranded travelers. The system became so organized that when Napoleon and his 250,000 soldiers crossed through the pass between 1790 and 1810 not one soldier lost his life. The soldiers’ chronicles tell of how many lives were saved by the dogs from what the army called “the White Death.”

 

Switzerland is famous for cheese.  We were treated by Amade Perrig​of  of Zermatt Tourism to a delicious tasting of Raclette cheese.

Raclette  is a semi-firm, cow’s milk cheese – most commonly used for melting. It is usually fashioned into a wheel of about 13 pounds. Raclette is also the name of a popular dish. The Raclette cheese round is heated  in front of a fire or by a special machine then scraped onto diners’ plates. The term raclette derives from the French word racler, meaning “to scrape,” a reference to the fact that the melted cheese must be scraped from the unmelted part of the cheese onto the plate.

Jessica is given the task of cutting the large round of Raclette in half

Gailen, Bobby and Jess met with Amade Perrig​of of Zermatt Tourism to have a close encounter of the most cheesy kind.

Traditionally the melting happens in front of an open fire with the big piece of cheese facing the heat. The melted cheese is scraped off and served with potatoes, gherkins, picked onions and dried meats. It also goes well with wines.

Melted Raclette cheese served with potatoes

Melted Raclette cheese served with potatoes

 

When making your plans for a visits to Bern and Zermatt take our advice and consult Trivago.com to find the perfect place to stay at the perfect price.
The Savvy Stews would like to extend our deepest appreciation and thanks to the wonderful people at MySwitzerland.com for their outstanding assistance in planning our visit.

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