Another excellent week has drawn to a close! We’ve spent a lot of time with friends from home, work, and hiking and have enjoyed both scorching weather and the relative coolness of the last few days.
19/7 Monday Paul had to go to work, it being Monday and all, and Craig and I spent a lovely day with Kirsty and Maia. We did a bit of work in the morning then headed out to explore Geneva a little. It’s a beautiful, compact city and we enjoyed climbing the tower of St Peter’s Cathedral and looking out over it.
20/7 Tuesday It was sad to have to say goodbye to Paul, Kirsty and Maia, but at the same time it was nice to continue the adventure. We caught a train to Biel/Bienne in Switzerland to have lunch with two of my ex-students from Auckland, Barbara and Michael. It was great to see them again, this time on their home turf.
After lunch we went to Barbara’s place in Thun to drop off our stuff, then went to the river in Bern for a swim. Well, I say a swim but it was more like a float downstream in the fast current – you have to walk for a kilometre or two, jump in, and get swept down the river really quickly. There are special landing stations for getting out, you have to grab the pole and swing yourself around – it was fantastic.
It was the birthday of one of Barbara’s friends, so we went to her house for a party. Everyone was really good about speaking English with us – our attempts at Swiss German weren’t very successful!
21/7 Wednesday In the morning, Barbara took us on a tour of Thun, which is a really pretty town. We saw the castle, had a picnic by the river, and visited an old church with awesome paintings on its walls. In the afternoon we met up with Michael and went to Barbara’s hometown of Speiz, which is on the shores of a lake. We did a loop through the forest to its picturesque castle, and down through the vines to the lake, where we ate ice-cream and waited for the rainstorm to pass over.
In the evening, we headed to Barbara’s boyfriend’s place for a barbecue. It was nice and relaxed, and we tried out a drink recipe we’d learned in Rosario – lemon ice-cream and sparkling wine. Yummm. Plus, I got to speak Spanish with Fabian’s sister. Awesome.
22/7 Thursday More goodbyes – Michael headed south and we headed northeast to Berlin. It wasn’t what we’d planned to do, but with Eurail passes we can choose where we go. The train journey was long and comfortable – we have first-class tickets since we’re over 26, and we managed to get a compartment to ourselves for most of the trip. Since there was a power supply in the compartment, we managed to get a fair bit of offline work and study done. Awesome.
We stayed in a nice hostel that was somewhat spoiled by the drunk idiots who ran up and down the corridor most of the night, knocking on doors.
23/7 Friday We got up a little late, and managed to get some work done before heading out into the city. We’d decided to walk to the Hauptbahnhof to leave our bags in the lockers there, and although the walk was long, it was really pretty.
After leaving our bags, we had our first experience of currywurst und pommes, then walked along Unter den Linden looking at architecture and dropping into interesting-looking churches.
We’d been invited to stay with Claudia, who we met in 2007 on the West Highland Way. We stayed with her and her friend Holger at Holger’s parents’ place in Sauerland at the end of that year, but had pretty much lost contact since then, and it was really great to catch up again. She had to head out for the evening, so we ate kebabs in a local eatery then chatted with her until quite late.
24/7 Saturday We spent the morning working then headed out to meet Momo (an ex-student of Craig’s) for a coffee. Afterwards, he showed us around the city a bit, we visited the Parliament and saw a section of the Berlin Wall.
In the evening, Claudia took me to her intercambio with Antonio, a Peruvian guy who’s living here. It’s supposed to be half Spanish, half German, but since I don’t speak German almost the whole evening was spent speaking Spanish – great for me and Claudia, but I think Antonio lost out a bit.
For dinner, which we had at the rather South American time of 10.30, we visited Claudia’s favourite Thai restaurant.
25/7 Sunday A nice relaxed day. We slept in then visited the Mauerpark fleamarkets with Claudia and her aunt, who is visiting from Frankfurt. It was interesting to see the last stretch of the Berlin Wall that is still standing, and to see the space which used to be the dead zone between East and West Berlin. Now, it’s a pleasant park.
We had enormous kebabs for lunch and then Claudia and I went to a tango event near the Ostbahnhof. The dance space was awesome, in an old building overlooking the river.