Friday, May 13, 2016

Bob+Sun+Pretty Towns=Great Photos

A view towards the lake
After the Easter Break, I welcomed my husband back to Switzerland. He will be with me until the end of the year. He is an ideal travel partner for many reasons: he takes care of household chores so that I have more free time; he researches potential destinations for us; and he takes beautiful photographs, although he makes me pose constantly.
Part of the fortifications of Murten
Even though the weather forecast predicted unsettled conditions, we decided on Bob's first Saturday in the country to travel to Murten/Morat,24 minutes away by train. Its name, as is common in the parts of Switzerland close to the divide between the two cultures, is given in two languages, German and French. For the rest of this blog post, I will only refer to it by its German name since that is the language spoken by the great majority of its population.
Another view of the ramparts
Luckily for us, the thunderstorms that we feared stayed away until late in the day, giving us the time and the opportunity to capture this gorgeous town in photos. It is a small place with a population of only 6 000, but it has a long history. Once a fortress, it still retains much of its medieval character. I was particularly impressed by the 800 year old wall which encircles the town. It is the best preserved rampart in Switzerland.
Bob, camera-ready, on the ramparts
Looking over the rooftops from the town wall. I love the chimneys.
From its heights, we were afforded magnificent views of the tiled rooftops of the town, the castle, and the eponymous lake in the distance. Looking in the opposite direction, we could peak into backyards of the locals, where spring flowers had begun to bloom.
The view towards the castle from the ramparts.
A private garden next to the wall
It did not take long to explore Murten, but every step was a pleasure. We first headed towards the lake, stopping to visit the Catholic church along the way. It is a relatively modern building by European standards, but I enjoyed its setting and the fountain in front of it.
The Catholic Church
Lake Murten
Just outside the walls, we stopped at the Bubenberg statue in front of the local primary school. Next we entered under the Berntor (the Bern Gate), and turned right. From a platform above the lake, we could have descended to a walkway along the water, but instead, we chose to explore the narrow streets of the town and to climb up to the ramparts.
The butter yellow school
Lunch at The Chesery
At lunch time, we stopped at a charming little restaurant recommended by Louise. The tables were surrounded by collectibles, so my antique-loving husband was in heaven.
Posing in front of the Rathaus
The main street with the Berntor in the distance
On our stroll, we made time to shop along the gorgeous main street, and to pose in front of the Rathaus, before arriving at the Castle. Like the one in Neuchâtel, it is still in use as an administration centre.
The castle courtyard.
The castle from the exterior
As we made our way back to the train station, we found a pathway beside the wall that allowed us to enjoy this delightful town from yet another angle. On this lovely day, the tourist train was out, but this early in the season, there were few passengers aboard.
Blossoms next to the wall.

A typical European tourist train.
We spent about four hours in Murten, including some time shopping for groceries. It was delightful Saturday.
Thun: castle, church, alpine water and covered bridges.
Three days later, on a Tuesday (when I teach only in the morning), we were off on another excursion, this time to Thun, 79 minutes away. Much bigger than Murten, with a population of 44 000 or so, it is no less beautiful. In fact, on this glorious day, it was breathtakingly so. The main source of its appeal lies in its stunning setting, very close to the Alps with Thun Lake and the Aare River sparkling on this day under bright sunshine and blue skies.
The Jungfrau glacier looms over Lake Thun
The view of the Alps from the upper portion of the town
You will notice a theme in our photos; most of our day was spent by the water, first by the river and later by the lake. The Aare splits in two as it courses through the town, so there is lots of water to see and several bridges to cross.
One of Thun's covered bridges

This way to the centre of town
The wooden bridges in the town are reminiscent of those in Lucerne; the first one we crossed had gears running inside, and the water churned on the other side. This part of our walking tour led us by several cafés and restaurants, until we decided to cross another bridge and take a narrow passage to the main square in the oldest part of the town.
The castle looks down on the main square.

The very quiet main sqaure
Obere Hauptgasse
From there, we headed to the Obere Hauptgasse, a shopping street where most of the stores are on the "upper level". Stones stairs allow strollers to descend to the lower shops. This was a unique set-up, maximizing the space available and working with the natural incline of the land.
Descending the arcaded stairs
At the top of the town.
Soon enough, we arrived at a staircase under a wooden canopy leading to the highest level of the town where its two iconic buildings stand, and where visitors can get the best views of the mountains.
The bell tower of the Stadkirche
Tulips on the church grounds.
We first visited the Stadkirche with its bell tower that dominates the skyline of the town. Next, we headed for the castle, which now houses a museum. We have many, many photos of this part of our day because everything was so pleasing to the eye: the snow-capped mountains on the horizon, the sun washed walls and towers of the church and castle, and the colourful spring flowers and blossoms on the trees all inspired us to keep shooting. It was such a perfect day!
Looking back towards the church
Looking ahead to the castle

The interior courtyard of the castle

The castle turrets
Eventually, we descended towards the town, to again walk alongside the river. The setting called for a photo together, and we were fortunate to find someone willing to do just that. We have yet to master the selfie, although we have tried them occasionally.
Descending toward the town
Happily in Thun
Near the second wooden bridge, we stopped to watch the swans, and to look back again at the Thun skyline. Here, the flowers were spectacular and added spectacular contrast and texture to Bob's photos.
A postcard shot.
One last view toward the church
The final part of our stroll took us across the second covered bridge and along a walkway that passed by a couple of islands. With the most of the town behind us, we felt like we had entered "cottage country", with boats and green spaces and people lying in the sun.
Hard to believe we are in a town here.

Flat boats on the Aare
Of course, this was nothing like Ontario, because there are no Alps there as a backdrop. This was Thun, a stunning town in Switzerland, and I loved every second there.
Tour boats on the Aare
The final portion of our walk took us by tourist boats that had not yet started their season. They were peacefully anchored against the shore. Not far away was the train station where, happy with our day, we entered to return home.

Although I have entitled this blog post "Bob+Sun+Pretty Towns=Great Photos", some of these shots are mine too. You can tell the difference by the colour of the blues. On my camera, there is a greater aqua tint, while on Bob's, the colours are truer, in my opinion. The two similar photos above show the difference. Can you see it?

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