I traveled with a friend from India to the city of Fribourg today. Fribourg is located in the neighboring canton of Fribourg (imagine that.) The city is on the language border, so to the east, the language is Swiss-German instead of French. There are four official languages in Switzerland. The main language is German. It is spoken in a large portion of Switzerland that is called Suisse-Allemand (Swiss-Germany). Suisse-Romand is the French speaking portion. French is the second largest language. Third is Italian, which is really only dominant in one canton, Tessin. The fourth and significantly less common language is Romansh. Romansh is really only spoken in one small canton, Grisons. For the most part citizens of Switzerland learn their regional language first, followed by German and French. If German or French are your native language, you learn English before you learn Italian. So, the people of Tessin and Grisons usually know four languages, and the Suisse-Allemand and Suisse-Romands usually know three. It's not as important that they learn Italian, because the Suisse-Italiens know both French and German, and likely English. Many people pick up Italian though. Wow, that all probably made no sense.
So, back to my original story, I went to Fribourg. Fribourg is very old. The city recently celebrated it's 850th year. There's a lot of medieval architecture. I visited several 13th and 14th century buildings. The most impressive was the St. Nicolas Cathedral. Construction of the cathedral began in the late 1200s. It was very beautiful, but also kind of tacky. Each individual piece of art or architecture was beautiful, but the whole composition was a little too much. My favorite part was the tower though. We walked up 368 stairs to the top and the view was breathtaking. It was really terrific.
My travel advice for visiting a European city:
Start at the cathedral, especially if you don't have a map. They often have free maps at cathedrals, and most large cathedrals have a tower that you can pay a dollar or two to visit. It is definitely worth the money. Take your free map up with you and use it do decide where you are going to go in the city. Looking at the entire city this way will give you a better idea of the distances, and what you want to see. Maps can sometimes be deceiving, and I've found that things are generally closer together than I think. Looking at the map and the city at the same time is very helpful.
After we visited the cathedral, we walked down by the river. It was a gorgeous day and a lot of fun to take pictures there. It was very relaxing to go from city to nature so easily, and the sound of the water was calming. While we were walking, we ran across a couple herds of sheep. At one point, I was petting one and it started licking my hand. Then it bit me. Yeah crazy, but pretty funny. I was bitten by a Swiss sheep.
After all our walking around we decided to relax at an outdoor cafe. I had some cocoa and a croissant. It was really pleasant. When it started to get dark and cool off, we headed to the train station to return back to Lausanne. It was a fun and relaxing trip.
When I got hope, I had a very fun phone call. My cousin got married that afternoon, and I was a bit sad that I couldn't be there. My dad called me from the reception though, and my family took turns passing the phone around. I think I talked to about 15 people. It was great, almost like I was there with them. Communication nowadays is terrific. It's so easy to move far away because communication is so easy. With email, IM, Skype, blogs, etc., I sometimes forget that there is an ocean and several countries between me and all the people I love.