Bern Münster (Cathedral), Switzerland

Bern Münster
Münsterplatz 1, Bern, Switzerland

After several days of indulging in mulled wine, cheese, and potato rosti, I figured we were due to do something slightly more labour intensive than raising a plastic cup to our mouths. Over a 10am beer and pretzel, I asked husband what he thought of climbing to the top of the cathedral’s bell tower. He looked down at morning tea and agreed.

We arrived around midday to find the gates just being opened, and made our way in – it may be a place of worship, but it gets a lot of international visitors, so you’ll still enter and exit via the small gift shop. It costs CHF 5.00 (around AUD $7.00) for a ticket to climb the 100 metre bell tower, and there’s only one staircase to take you up and down. One staircase made up of 312 steps.

Word of warning: it is small and dark, and as I mentioned, there is only one way up and down, so if you’re on the claustrophobic side, please be careful! But if you can push yourself up, you’ll be rewarded with some really spectacular views over the UNESCO World Heritage city.

I also really loved the carvings up on the bell tower itself – they’re one of those things that look like such small, insignificant details from the ground, but up close they’re some seriously impressive pieces of art.

On the way down, you’ll pass the actual bell of the bell tower. It’s an absolute behemoth, and when it rang on our way down (we were almost at the bottom), the whole tower vibrated. Consider your timing on the climb – I’m not sure how pleasant it would be standing right next to that bell when it rings…

If your legs aren’t completely jelly after 624 steps, you can make your way into the cathedral, too. It’s small, but beautiful – the stain glass windows and ornate ceiling are worth the visit alone. There’s no entry fee, it’s just asked that you’re quiet and respectful, as it is still a functioning church with parishioners.

Because Bern’s historical centre is so small, climbing the bell tower really does give you the best view over it. And the good news is that when you’re done climbing, you’re in Switzerland, so a big pot of cheese fondue won’t be far away to replenish your energy stores. Everyone wins!

The Leaning Tower of Pisa – actually, it’s just the bell tower…

So, my mum and dad are flying off to Europe today! I’m so, so excited for them – they are the hardest working, kindest, most generous people I’ll ever know. All of the time and energy goes into looking after us girls, into looking after their parents, into making other peoples’ lives better and easier. We may clash sometimes, especially mum and I (as mothers and daughters so often do), but I have nothing but love and respect for them both, and couldn’t be happier that they are FINALLY taking this trip they’ve been talking about for so long! In honour of this trip, I’m throwing it back to 2013 and my second visit to Pisa…

6.36Little known fact: the Leaning Tower of Pisa was never meant to be the main attraction in Pisa, even before it developed its current gangster lean (and it seriously is leaning – having walked up it twice, the spiral staircase you climb to the top seriously screws with your head – you literally lean against the inner and outer walls as you climb, the lean is that severe). The headliner was actually meant to be the piazza and cathedral, below, il Duomo di Pisa. The Leaning Tower is actually “just” the cathedral’s bell tower. Or at least it was until it started leaning on it’s crappy 1173 built foundation, making it a bigger draw card than the cathedral and piazza themselves…



While we’re at it, I’m gonna do a few more travel throwbacks this week, so I’ll see you tomorrow in Thailand 🙂

Through my eyes: The Vatican City

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

I was lucky enough to visit the Vatican City for the first time in December 2002, with my family. We were even more fortunate to know a priest within the Vatican, a friend of my grandfather, who granted us early and special access to parts of the holy city not normally granted to visitors, including a very special and personal tour of the catacombs beneath, and front row seats in an audience with Pope John Paul II. My second visit was last year with my husband.

Although I was raised as a Catholic, going to church every Sunday with my family, it’s not something I identify with strongly anymore – I’m not really sure what I do and don’t believe it at this point in my life, I’m the first to admit it confuses the hell out of me! But that said, I have a great respect for any religion, because I’ve seen how religion can give hope to the hopeless, to inspire ghosts to keep on living, how it can bring out the pure goodness in some, lighting to way for others. ALL religions can have this power, and for that reason, they should be respected, whether or not we agree with their principles.


The Vatican City is an incredible place, for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. On a design level, the architecture and the artistry are really something else – they truly are phenomenal. The colours are so vivid, the gold sparkling, the spaces enormous and cavernous, dwarfing all of us inside. The view from the top of the cupola is absolutely breath-taking (and not just from the climb). And physical impressiveness aside, I think that regardless of your belief system, most people would agree with feeling a real calm in their souls in this place… It’s quite hard to describe, but it’s almost like it’s all just so impressive, your heart and mind and soul just become quiet for a little while, taking it all in….


Photograph © Jess Carey 2014


Photograph © Jess Carey 2014


Photograph © Jess Carey 2014


Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014


Photograph © Jess Carey 2014