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Again Breathing Easily in Bern


I got up at 8:00 and again found Mani already gone. He works as an elementary school teacher. The reason I hadn’t seen him yesterday was that he worked at Lichtspiel after school. There was a note asking if I would like dinner at 6:00. Yes, that sure suited me. I made coffee in the Italian coffee maker, one of those brutal looking metal ones that have an upper and lower chamber that screws together after water is put in the bottom and ground coffee in the middle. Then it is placed on a burner where the water in the bottom ends up as coffee in the top chamber. The best thing about the system is the coffee is very hot when poured into a cup. There is no toaster in Mani’s kitchen. I had bread with butter instead. I have never seen a loaf of sliced bread in this kitchen. The bread is always what in America would be called “artisan” bread. Small dense loaves often with nuts. Very tasty with butter.


After finishing the coffee and bread and butter I worked on my post for the blog. It would consist of the previous four days and would get back up to date. Knowing I would have just over an hour to work on line to add the links and art I wanted it to be ready to copy and paste when I got to Starbucks. By eleven o’clock I was ready. Looking out the window I saw the streets were wet with rain but that no rain was falling and the pedestrians were walking without hats or umbrellas. I decided to go out wearing the sport coat but not the overcoat. That proved a good decision as the sun had come out and the day was warming up. I bought a Trib at a news stand. It was nice to have not read any online news for a couple of days and again be in a more natural rhythm of news in the morning paper than the 24 hour news cycle that the world wide web has made possible.


At Starbucks the drip coffee was again not ready. I asked if only Americans requested it . I was told it was just Americans and Japanese. Live and learn. I asked about refills. They were puzzled. In Switzerland the idea of a free or low cost refill on a cup of coffee is still unheard of. I wondered how long that could last. When I was first in England in 1997 the refill was a sinister idea to them. Ten years later, at least in Starbucks, it was common place. I ordered a medium cup. Another difference here, as opposed to the USA, is that when ordering coffee a house mug is the default option with a to go paper cup by request only.


I found a small round table next to an electrical outlet. To make sure I could get everything done in the time allowed I worked off line for more than an hour. I then got on line and right to work. Working as efficiently as possible I still didn’t get it done before the wifi shut down on me. I went looking for the toilet. I discovered a staircase. I took the upstairs option and found another room for people to sit and drink their coffee. With no service bar is was larger than the area below. Wow, I had no idea. Downstairs there were as many people seated outside as inside. The walls of the building were actually floor to ceiling glass doors. On a warm day all those walls would open and the whole main floor would be one with the plaza. There might be a hundred people sitting at this Starbucks this minute drinking coffee in China cups.


The toilets were downstairs with no sign pointing that way. The doors had key pads. I got the code from upstairs. I was surprised to find that the toilet was multi use. The now common American idea of private single use bathrooms in public places had not gotten here. The idea of handicap access was also not considered. It could be those two things came together as a pair in the USA.


I walked to the cyber cafe to finish the post. I hoped to get it done in the 6 minute window. I put my one Franc coin in the slot and then blanked on my gmail password. Damn. That sort of thing is generally situational. It can also be inopportune. We get so comfortable with our use of laptops and their ability to remember what we need. For this simple job I would need different passwords and user names for gmail, my website, and Facebook. I eventually relaxed and remembered the passwords and got to work. I used up the three one Franc coins I had come with and got more. When I got the blog item posted and announced on Facebook I then added a fairly pathetic second Facebook post summing up the blog item in case people didn’t want to slog trough the minutia they’d find there and also complaining about how much trouble writing out and posting all that minutia took. I then walked out of the cyber cafe into bright sunlight and joyfully rejoined the natural world.


I spent an hour or so just walking around. Bern is a very old city and the oldest parts are very pedestrian friendly. I have forgotten to mention that the walk from Mani’s apartment to the Starbucks is nice in itself. In between is the high Lorrain bridge. On the neighborhood side it is guarded by a sandstone statue of a Gazelle. On the city side it is guarded by both a sandstone statue of a seated man and a dog and a seated woman with deer. The man and woman gaze stonily across the road at each other and have done so for nearly a hundred years and will continue to do so until they erode away or are removed in the name of progress. In the middle of thee there is view of the Alps in the distance and a river far below. I have been told that if ever I am in Bern in the summer we will go swimming in the river. It occurred to me that the problems I had posting the reports on the blog were exacerbated by their covering several days each. I was now caught up and could post a daily report that would take much less time. With that epiphany and the load off my mind I took the pleasant walk back across the bridge, stopping to look at the alps, and went back to the flat where I took a nap.


For dinner that night I made another Greek salad with the fixings from the day before. Mani made a very tasty risotto. They clashed culturally but tasted fine together. After dinner we talked late into the evening over red wine about the state of education and the problems of the world. That sort of thing is possible in a kitchen with a table and no TV or internet access.