Ber(rrrrr)n: a tale of cold toes and ice cream

I’m headed to Syracuse, NY for a few days.  That might seem like a strange choice for a native Texan, especially during a cold snap in February.  It’s for work.

The trip is going to be pretty great, actually, since I could seriously use some training in this still-new-ish job.  I’m expecting to learn a lot.  I’m also expecting some cold feet, which brings to mind the story of Bern.  Ah, Bern.

photo by albertaclipper

There were four of us girls who traveled together on a fairly regular basis during our semester abroad, and our first big weekend train trip was to Bern, Switzerland.  It’s a cool city–capital of the country, lots of history, and a good train ride from where we were living at the time.  We were excited about seeing a more German part of the country, and we were really just thrilled to be traveling anywhere in Europe on a random weekend.

The thing that I didn’t prepare for adequately was the weather.  I hadn’t been in a place where the wind chill got down to single digits in a while, so my mistake could be chalked up to ignorance.  Lugano, where we lived, was a warm spot in the typical Alps climate.  There are palm trees there–palm trees on the side of the Alps.  So I packed my heavy winter coat, a hat, a scarf, and some gloves.  I wore the one pair of shoes that I wore almost every day of that semester, and I didn’t think about it at all.  Why wouldn’t I wear them?

Those shoes happened to have sliver thin soles, and therein lay the problem.  I went out into the city the next day with my friends, and my feet started soaking up icy cold from the cobblestone streets and sidewalks.  I still didn’t think about that too much.  I can handle being cold.

Then my feet started hurting a little bit.  Then I couldn’t feel my toes anymore.  After about 20 minutes of not feeling my toes, I thought I could feel them again–this time rubbing up against my feet.  The disturbing thing about that is that it felt like the toes weren’t attached to the feet anymore.  The toes had become separate little ice cubes that were rubbing annoyingly against my cold feet.

By the time we sat down inside an old cathedral to warm up for a few minutes (which is impressive, if you know how cold those old stone buildings usually stay), I was pretty sure that I had actually lost several toes.  I didn’t panic, because the fact that they were frozen seemed like it would help with the pain issue.

Thankfully, I did return to America several months later with all ten toes.  It was kind of a funny moment though, and it did prepare me well for this business trip.  I’m taking warm wool socks to go with my slightly thicker-soled shoes.  I’m also pretty certain that a week of database/software training won’t involve hours on end of trudging through cobblestone streets.  That’s kind of a shame, but it would be challenging to learn about computery stuff while walking through gorgeous streets.

Oh, the ice cream part of the story is that while my feet were freezing and breaking into small pieces in Bern, we bought some ice cream to go with our dinner.  We carried said ice cream around town in a shopping bag for a couple of hours.  Now, in Texas or Virginia or most places, that would have ended with soggy, sad ice cream.  Not in Bern.  The perfect thing about Bern is that you can carry ice cream for as long as you want, and it stays completely frozen.  Mmm.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Maggie says:

    One of my favorite memories of Switzerland (also that your toes, in fact, had not been frozen off). This was also the trip of the accidental bar visit, wasn’t it? Oh, and amazing down comforters. And a casino without entrances. And I probably could keep going, but I will stop there :-). Thanks for the brief respite from Monday!

    1. Definitely the accidental bar trip. “We can’t even go out right!” And the amazing down comforters. And the casino that had no entrance. There must have been some secret underground entrance a few blocks away or something. Silly Swiss architects.

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