A Travel Shopping Education In Bern, Switzerland
During a trip to Switzerland, the fine folks at Swiss Tourism were telling me what to expect when I went to the capitol city of Bern, and one of the things they pointed out that were popular among tourists were the arcades.
“Cool!,” I thought. I was a solo traveler at this point and I envisioned spending a couple of fun hours playing Astroids and Pac-Man (I prefer the old classics), doing a few of those race car simulator games, perhaps even finding a partner for a few games of air hockey.
But when I walked up and down the empty streets of Bern – it was mid-afternoon in late winter and the weather was very pleasant, by the way – I could not find any arcades. Central Bern is not a big place so it doesn’t take long to go from one end to the other on foot, but I could see no darned arcades.
I was right where I was supposed to be but all I could see was long row of arched architecture over the sidewalk on both sides of a street. It was like one big concrete awning. I looked under them and all I saw were a bunch of shops.
But not a single arcade.
Eventually it occurred to me that all those shops were the arcades. And I wondered what all the fuss was about; after all, I’ve never understood the fascination of shopping when traveling.
Sure, you may find some local artifacts but mostly I’ve found shopping to be all the same high-end chain stores whether I’m in Europe, Australia or the USA. A Louis Vuitton bag is the same in New York as it is in London, Paris or Sydney, right?
Later in the day, I did discover something cool about the Bern arcades. Early in the evening, wooden trap doors in the sidewalk opened up – not unlike some American houses have to get into the basement – and revealed cute little restaurants.
Later that night, I even discovered a rocking nightclub that’s a big part of Bern’s nightlife.
I had been to Europe before – gallivanting around the Greek Islands, stumbling through Amsterdam, drinking beers in Germany (but none of those Pilsners which take 10 minutes to pour), drinking wine at cafes in Paris – but had never thought of an arcade as being anything other than a place to play games.
That’s an American’s definition of an arcade.
And never in a million years would I imagine I would be drinking, dancing and partying in one. I’m not a big fan of shopping when traveling but when arcades become nightclubs, then it’s easy to like the European version of them.