Traveling to Switzerland for a classicist is like traveling to the Ganges for devout Hindus or San Francisco or Portland, Oregon for hipsters. This is because the first actual Latin text a classics student will read is Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars. And the first tribe of barbarians that Caesar subdues? The Helvetians, today known as the Swiss.
I’m very impressed by this country so far. Everything runs very efficiently and the chocolate is delicious. According to my friend Margot, who I am staying with, the Swiss are very protective of their natural resources and resistant to the kinds of business interests that elsewhere like to see those areas developed. She and I rode by train today across kilometers of gorgeous postcard scenery and took a hike along the edge of a valley. I still cannot believe she actually lives here. When I want to take a day trip, I go to Nashua or something. When she wants to, she goes to various tiny towns nestled in the Alps, nbd. Then she showed me Bern by night.
Bern is built on a semi-peninsula where the river Aare does a kind of U-bend: the city stands on the finger of land created by that U-bend and had walls across the side of the city that wasn’t bordered by river that were built outward in series as the city expanded. One cool thing about the city is that the buildings lining the main streets of the old part each have a differently designed archway in their ground level frontage; this is because the owners of each building was responsible for building the archways themselves, and most of them were shopowners. The archways themselves are not particularly ostentatious, but the effect down a long straight road is rather cool. Also, lots of fountains, each with drinkable water and capped with statues that depict various victories. Most of them involve bears fighting other animals, since the bear is the symbol of the Canton of Bern. My favorite had an ogre eating babies while a contingent of bear knights surrounded the base of the column.
Unfortunately, I woke up rather late today because I’d set my alarm for 10:00 but neglected to notice that it was set to PM rather than AM. So we didn’t get in as much as we would have liked. But tomorrow, she is taking me to a frog museum and other fun stuff, and then we are seeing The Dark Knight Rises. One drawback about Switzerland; it is very expensive. The Swiss Franc is roughly on par with the US dollar, but a movie ticket is 15 francs. >_< I have already decided to forego my usual foreign McDonalds venture (all for the sake of science, I promise!) because earlier this evening, I saw that a meal of 9 McNuggets costs about 13 francs. Which is cray. And based on my extensive research, I think it’s safe to say that with the exception of Serbia, all McDonalds tastes the same.