Switzerland and Bern to me will always be- the city of Ruth and Thomas. Two of the kindest people I have encountered till date. Is this Swiss hospitality? I had asked them. “This is humanity…” they replied in unison. It was early evening when we reached our destination Fraunkeppelen- a village close to Bern where this couple stay- and we brought with us the dust of many trails and the (rain) water from the high Alps. Ruth and Thomas welcomed us in- and from the beautiful attic of their villa we looked down onto rolling fields where the famed Swiss cattle grazed lazily. Every once in a while they clanged their bells to announce victory over a pesky fly or a special munch of their favourite green grass. The church bells rang every hour- a deep soft note, while the wind floated-in with voices of young neighbours putting their children to sleep or hushed whispers over dinner tables.
It was a perfect Swiss summer evening- and sitting in the living room, nursing a warm cuppa of tea, I closed my eyes and relaxed- thinking about the long ride, the past days on the road and how a guy (yours truly) from the remote Indian town of Guwahati has the good fortune to experience the world and make sense of new cultures, lands and experiences. It was dinner time and we took over the kitchen. Anu cooked rice, lentils and potatoes- desi Indian style with yours truly as the assistant. That with some exciting Swiss wines from Thomas’ cellar completed our little evening soiree.
We woke up to a lazy Sunday- the tolling of the church bells and the lighter tinkle of the cows interspersed by an occasional ‘Mooo’. Life could not be more perfect. Breakfast over, Thomas and Ruth announced their plans for us- a guided personal tour of Bern! Joining us was Alexandre, a young Chinese currently studying French literature at Bordeaux. So it was a motley crew- two Swiss, two Indians and a Chinese- that set about exploring Bern. Switzerland in general and Bern in particular- is beautiful, with the wide flowing Aare river, its numerous bridges and lakes, the beautiful churches, quaint villages and friendly people- add to it the constant silhouette of the Swiss Alps and you get the picture. It was nearly evening when we returned back- and Ruth rustled up a mean dinner- pasta, salads and desserts. After much deliberation, Thomas proposed the wine- and I must admit Thomas knows his wine.
Dinner over, we had an exciting mission awaiting us: we were going to attend church! But this was no regular Sunday sermon- it was a special ‘once-a-quarter’ event when the choir sings hymns: that was how we heard our very own Thomas lend his baritone on that beautiful Sunday evening.
And as we walked back together from the church- a young Chinese, a Swiss couple and us two Indians- and though we had known each other for barely 24 hours, it was as if we had always been friends. We were at ease, we were happy, and we appreciated each other’s company. We knew we had little time, and we made every minute count. Isn’t this simply perfect? Shouldn’t this be the way we live our lives?
We left for Germany the following morning- and though we spent barely 48 hours together, Switzerland and Bern to me will always be- the city of Ruth and Thomas.