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So much chocolate, so much happiness!

Hi guys,

So this weekend I kind of split off from my three housemates who were going to Munich so that I could explore a little bit of Switzerland. I ended up going to see Berne, Fribourg, Neuchâtel and Gruyère all in just two days. That is the great thing about having a eurail pass, unlimited travel on the trains!

Saturday I arrived really early in Berne around 7:40 am, just as they were setting up their outdoor market in the main square. Berne truly surprised me by how beautiful it was. Granted, right as I got there it started to rain and I didn’t have an umbrella. It wasn’t that bad though and actually suited the city well. It was also the perfect place to be in the rain since most of the streets had structures so that the sidewalk was covered by the building hanging above it.

The one thing I really wanted to see in Berne was the bear pit. The city itself gets its name from bears and they have this enclosure at the edge of town where they have been keeping bears since early in the city’s history. On the way to the edge of town I just happened to pass Einstein’s house where he lived while he worked at a patent office in Berne.

The old town is surrounded on three sides by a river and you can pass over this bridge to the bear pits. I was really surprised to see just how active the bears were. They were crawling around and it seemed as if they were posing for us. It was good that I came early though when there were no tourists awake since as the day progressed I came back and found the bears just laying around.

I actually finished walking around the entire town withing five hours and still had another hour before my train to Fribourg so I headed back to the bear pits around noon and found a path that went up to a rose garden on top of the hill facing the town. I’m not much of a flower person but this was actually pretty impressive for a town garden, plus the view on the city was fantastic.

I took the train to Fribourg and spent a few hours there, though I have to say that I was not that impressed with the town. The supsension bridges were impressive but there wasn’t much to do. I went for a hike around the village and into the hills. Thank goodness I finally checked a map somewhere because I realized after walking half an hour along a major road into the mountains that I was in fact not on the path I had though I was on to the old town but in fact walking along the freeway into the mountains. Luckily I found a mountain pass that went directly down to the town through the forest, so it was worth it in the end.

I hadn’t initially planned on going to Neuchâtel but I still had plenty of time after leaving Fribourg so I figured why not. There wasn’t any incredibly huge amount to do here either but the lake was really pretty. I got back to Geneva not too late so I was able to walk around there a little bit before coming back home.

Okay, so Sunday was freaking awesome! There was a group of CERN summer students planning to go to Gruyère, yes the place that makes that cheese, to visit a chocolate factory. Of course I couldn’t pass up this opportunity, plus I wanted to meet some of the summer students. There were about nine of us that ended up going. We were a pretty diverse group from France, Russia, Mexico, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Cyprus and the UK. We also met up with some Bulgarians along the way just to add in a little more fun. We took the train to Broc where the Nestlé and Caillers factories were.

Before the tour even started we got to go through a tasting experience where they were trying out their new line of chocolate. We " had" to sit down with a box of five of their new chocolates, then try each one and rate them so that they could tell us our " chocolate personality." I don’t even remember what I was, it didn’t matter, they were all so good! Then we went on the tour which the guy explained at the beginning was split into three parts. The first was a set 20 minute historical walk through for chocolate, then the other phases were planned at our own pace and consisted of a tour of the factory line and then finally a room full of chocolate where we could eat as much as we wanted as long as we stayed there. So of course we rushed through to the final room to eat as much chocolate as we could, which surprisingly enough is not as much as you’d expect.

The room was miraculous with over 20 different platters of chocolate. The first few just contained one kind of barred chocolate so you would slowly try a piece of each one.

Then you got to the last five or six which were just huge platters of assorted chocolates. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, some with nuts, caramel, fruit, etc. When the trays emptied they just brought out more. It was magical!

I had planned on buying tons of chocolate but by the time I left this room I was sick of it and never wanted to see chocolate again… until the next day. So I got to eat tons of chocolate and didn’t even have to buy any more, success!!!

After leaving the chocolate factory we decided that we should also see the cheese factory. We walked through the hills to get to the next town for the train into Gruyère. We were definitely in the stereotypical Swiss countryside with the rolling hills and dairy cows everywhere. They even had the bells.

The cheese factory was nice, though not as good as the chocolate factory. We still got samples which was awesome. We ended the day by going up to the medieval village to look out over the land. Here’s the majority of my group. I have to say, even though the chocolate was a life changing experience in itself, the best part of the day was being able to meet all of these physicists from around the world that were around my age. That’s one of the reasons why I came to CERN, to get the international experience.

We stopped to have a good dinner of rösti and raclette at an inn in the village. Then we realized that we had ten minutes before the last train left and we still hadn’t paid the bill. We rushed inside to pay and then ran all the way down the hill (which was a cobblestone path so I was pretty sure we were all going to die). We made it just in time and all made it back to Geneva. We got in around midnight and then I still had to drive back to our house so I expected to arrive long after my housemates, especially since their train was supposed to arrive around 11 pm. I was surprised to find nobody home and after an hour of waiting started to worry a little bit. That didn’t last too long since I have now had three or four experiences where my housemates get lost and disappear in the middle of the night for hours. We usually make bets on when we’ll see them and I almost won once when I bet that we’d never see one of them again.They always seem to make it back and surely enough they did. Besides, this time I didn’t have anyone to bet with for when I see them.

Valère Lambert