Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Swiss Miss - Bern

Everywhere we've traveled Jacob has asked, "Do you think you could live here?" Mostly, this exercise has just made me realize how much I appreciate Portland but I really like Switzerland. Bern is a fantastic city and yesterday I think we walked most of it. It was our first full day with my dad and Martha and we played with giant chess boards on the street, drank beer and saw bears, bought Vaughn a real Swiss Army knife with his name engraved on it and generally just took in the beauty of the river and the surrounding architecture.

My dad and Martha are staying at a hotel a few miles from where we are couch surfing to avoid paying the inhospitable Bern hotel rates. We're staying with a man named Beat (pronounced Bay-aht), a seasoned couch surfer who has hosted over 60 guests. Last night we all cooked dinner at Beat's place and spent a lovely evening talking about languages (Beat speaks three and is learning Farsi) and Switzerland.

I will leave you with an interesting tidbit gleaned from a visit to Bern's Natural History Museum which was perhaps the most Dada-eque experience I've ever had. Where else can you see a taxidermied elephant seal in a display case with a set of wedding clothes or a couple of mannequin heads kissing above a plastic pile of poo with flies near a plastic pig laying on its side with a video of a giant worm being projected onto its abdomen? The displays with stuffed creatures from the African Savanna were given an extra touch of whimsy through the addition of small, garish human figurines that had been placed in the displays in ways to make it appear as though mini-humans were interacting with the animals (i.e. naked man flashing gazelles, men lowering companion into crocodile mouth by way of fishing pole, obese man with inner tube bathing alongside hippo, etc.). While fascinating, I must confess it did appear to be the final indignity bestowed upon these poor creatures. In addition to all these educational wonders, there was also the stuffed body of Barry, one of the most famous St. Bernards ever involved in alpine rescue work. Apparently, St. Bernards are no longer used in rescue work because the modern breed is a bloated and distorted version of his earlier forbearers. And that, my friends is just one of the ways we create unnatural history.

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