Bern Münster (Cathedral), Switzerland

Bern Münster
Münsterplatz 1, Bern, Switzerland
https://www.bernermuenster.ch/en/berner-muenster/infos-kontakt/

After several days of indulging in mulled wine, cheese, and potato rosti, I figured we were due to do something slightly more labour intensive than raising a plastic cup to our mouths. Over a 10am beer and pretzel, I asked husband what he thought of climbing to the top of the cathedral’s bell tower. He looked down at morning tea and agreed.

We arrived around midday to find the gates just being opened, and made our way in – it may be a place of worship, but it gets a lot of international visitors, so you’ll still enter and exit via the small gift shop. It costs CHF 5.00 (around AUD $7.00) for a ticket to climb the 100 metre bell tower, and there’s only one staircase to take you up and down. One staircase made up of 312 steps.

Word of warning: it is small and dark, and as I mentioned, there is only one way up and down, so if you’re on the claustrophobic side, please be careful! But if you can push yourself up, you’ll be rewarded with some really spectacular views over the UNESCO World Heritage city.

I also really loved the carvings up on the bell tower itself – they’re one of those things that look like such small, insignificant details from the ground, but up close they’re some seriously impressive pieces of art.

On the way down, you’ll pass the actual bell of the bell tower. It’s an absolute behemoth, and when it rang on our way down (we were almost at the bottom), the whole tower vibrated. Consider your timing on the climb – I’m not sure how pleasant it would be standing right next to that bell when it rings…

If your legs aren’t completely jelly after 624 steps, you can make your way into the cathedral, too. It’s small, but beautiful – the stain glass windows and ornate ceiling are worth the visit alone. There’s no entry fee, it’s just asked that you’re quiet and respectful, as it is still a functioning church with parishioners.

Because Bern’s historical centre is so small, climbing the bell tower really does give you the best view over it. And the good news is that when you’re done climbing, you’re in Switzerland, so a big pot of cheese fondue won’t be far away to replenish your energy stores. Everyone wins!

The Leaning Tower of Pisa – actually, it’s just the bell tower

So, my mum and dad are flying off to Europe today! I’m so, so excited for them – they are the hardest working, kindest, most generous people I’ll ever know. All of the time and energy goes into looking after us girls, into looking after their parents, into making other peoples’ lives better and easier. We may clash sometimes, especially mum and I (as mothers and daughters so often do), but I have nothing but love and respect for them both, and couldn’t be happier that they are FINALLY taking this trip they’ve been talking about for so long! In honour of this trip, I’m throwing it back to 2013 and my second visit to Pisa…

6.36Little known fact: the Leaning Tower of Pisa was never meant to be the main attraction in Pisa, even before it developed its current gangster lean (and it seriously is leaning – having walked up it twice, the spiral staircase you climb to the top seriously screws with your head – you literally lean against the inner and outer walls as you climb, the lean is that severe). The headliner was actually meant to be the piazza and cathedral, below, il Duomo di Pisa. The Leaning Tower is actually “just” the cathedral’s bell tower. Or at least it was until it started leaning on it’s crappy 1173 built foundation, making it a bigger draw card than the cathedral and piazza themselves…

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While we’re at it, I’m gonna do a few more travel throwbacks this week, so I’ll see you tomorrow in Thailand 🙂

The Hanging Church in Cairo

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I’ve been spending a bit of time reminiscing over my trip to Egypt lately; two years ago, and it’s still so vivid in my mind. I know a few other people who’ve visited Egypt, more or less to tick off the big tourist draw cards. Great, seen the Sphinx. Pyramids? Tick. Felucca on the Nile? Yup. I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad thing, or that I wasn’t looking forward to these things as well, but honestly, they’re not the things that stand out in my memory, or the main reasons I wanted to go there. I’ve written a bit before about my reasons for wanting to visit Egypt, but basically I’ve been studying the country’s history and mythology since I was a kid (literally, primary school). I find it all fascinating. And while I was looking forward to the pyramids, Luxor Temple, Abu Simbel, I was really looking forward to the discoveries I hadn’t already read about. The Hanging Church was one of those things.

This place was fascinating on so many levels. It was hidden in plain sight, appearing seemingly out of nowhere. It was built above one of the gates of the old Roman Babylon Fortress, and is actually a Coptic church. It’s a stunning site, with the most beautifully intricate geometric patterns carved into the large wooden doors and windows, like this one..

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The inside of the church was just as beautiful as the surrounding structures. Unlike the temples we’d visited so far, this was a church that was actually in use, which made a big difference. There were quite a few worshipers praying at the time we visited, which made for quite a spiritual and solemn experience. It felt real, not just a place set up for tourists with people trying to sell you postcards and tacky souvenirs. It was a humbling way to see the reality of so many Egyptians, to “hear” the silence and to see their history. This was an experience I hoped so much to have in Egypt, and I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to have seen this church. If you Cairo, make sure you ask your tour guide or hotel concierge about getting there!

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