My adventures in Europe (Week 4 – Italy and Switzerland)

Day 22 – Lake Maggiore

It was another early start today so I could make the most of my time at the lake and sti!l have plenty of time to pack and leave the apartment clean and tidy before leaving in the morning. The sun once again shone brightly so hopefully I managed to capture some good photographs during my visit. Unfortunately for some reason I felt a bit wobbly and disoriented today so I didn’t think it would be a good idea to attempt the chairlift and Alpyland toboggan coaster down the side of the alps, as much as I’d have loved to. I did still manage to take a boat trip to the Borromean Islands from Stresa though which, although not much to see or do on any of them, provided beautiful views, particularly in the sunshine.

It was all quite touristy today, but I have come to realise that actually sometimes it is just so much easier to have everything set up for ease and convenience of visitors, so I went with the flow of the crowds and sat back to admire the scenery. It was still gorgeous, but somehow I think I preferred the views on Lake Como from the previous day. Perhaps the way I was feeling didn’t help, but nonetheless it was still a lovely morning island hopping. On arriving back in Stresa, I chose a comfortable bench with a view and devoured my picnic, but sadly didn’t feel like exploring much as I was quite dizzy by this point, so decided to make my way back to Milan.

The journey back I was lovely as the train runs along the side of the lake and I was able to once again admire the stunning views. On arrival back at the flat, I had a quick snack and soon crashed out on my bed for a few hours to try and combat the dizziness I was feeling. I think perhaps it was partly due to tiredness as I did feel slightly better after a short nap and some rest. Dinner was another nice easy affair of using up the leftovers so I have less food to take with me on the train tomorrow and the rest of the evening was spent packing and preparing for the journey to Switzerland tomorrow… Can’t believe I am almost at my final destination already! Where the heck has this month gone?

Day 23 – Hunibach, Switzerland

Today was my penultimate long distance travel day as I crossed the border from Italy into Switzerland for the final part of my journey. I slept really well and didn’t get up until just before 7 which was a lie in compared to the two previous days! After ensuring that everything was packed and ready to go, I made my way via the metro to Milan central station. I arrived with plenty of time to spare and boarded the train. The journey took just under 3 hours and was pleasant enough, although a bit stuffy on the train as it was a warm day and there were no windows to open or air conditioning it seemed. This was compensated for though once again by beautiful scenery which helped the time to go a bit quicker.

I arrived in Thun about 2:15 and was greeted warmly by Sonja and her eldest daughter Soley who both showed me how to make my way around. I get the feeling I will be a lot more independent this week, rather than integrating into the family’s routines, but will see how things go. The house is very nice and a two minute walk down the road, there is a lake with spectacular views and gorgeous snow capped mountains which was lovely rentals a stroll along in the glorious sunshine this afternoon, a much welcome exercise after being cramped on the train. I have a feeling I could be spending a lot of time there this week! Some other good news is I have another four legged friend in which to confide, who is also a black Labrador and also called Samba, which makes it nice and easy to remember!

Day 24 -Thun, Switzerland

My host family had to attend a work meeting in Zurich today so I was left to my own devices and told to spend the day exploring as it was my first full day here. So after doing a few small cleaning jobs, I got my rucksack ready and headed along the lake into Thun. The view wasn’t quite as beautiful today as fog hid the tops of the mountains and it was a bit overcast, but it was still a pleasant walk nonetheless.

On arrival in the town, I headed for the Post Office to purchase a Swiss sim card for the week as I would be charged an extortionate tariff if I were to use my normal one here and also a Swiss plug… I can’t believe each country has different types of sockets… It’s crazy! The man in the shop was very kind and helpful. I think I he felt a bit sorry for me as I was pretty desperate by this point to be able to communicate with people back home. Necessities done, I wandered into the main town and had a nose around. Thin is pretty much a town of two halves, divided by the river. One side is full of characterful buildings and quaint cobbled passageways, whilst the other is modern and designed purely for shoppers convenience and money making. I had a good look around both as I had plenty of time and like to work out how to get around places in which I am staying.

Exploring done, I headed back to Hunibach along the lake and chose a perfectly positioned bench to perch upon and eat my lunch. The afternoon was spent going through the leaflets which I had picked up from the tourist information in town and chilling around the house waiting for the family to return. It was nice to just relax and not a do a lot as the last few days have ben pretty hectic travel wise and I was feeling pretty drained to be honest. Around 7pm the family returned and decided that we would go out for dinner which was very nice. I was very childish and craving something comforting so am afraid I opted for a very non Swiss dinner of chicken nuggets and chips, but I did enjoy every single mouthful! There’s still plenty of time for me to get a taste of the local cuisine!

Day 25 – Workaway

For some reason I didn’t sleep overly well last night so it was a very early start to the day for me. I think I have started getting anxious about flying home already, more specifically the airport as I just find them such stressful places, but never mind. After a quick breakfast and shower, I was given instructions on what tasks to complete today and headed out into the garden to brake up the leaves and do a bit of weeding. It was a lovely sunny day, although still a bit fresh at 8:30 in the morning! With plenty to do, the time passed relatively quickly and soon it was time for a break and nourishment in the form of spaghetti and vegetables, which although basic was filling and warming after being outside all morning.

This afternoon was free time for me so I spent it catching up on laundry and writing my blog… Exciting stuff indeed! I also had a little nap to make up for my lack of sleep last night and nipped out to the local co-op to get some snacks to keep me going… I have noticed that it is not the done thing in Europe to snack in between meals, but then I guess their dinners do last longer with the way they eat! I think I am just a human hoover as I can’t seen to stop eating or thinking about food! I have realised that I could never move abroad in Europe, except maybe to Ireland… They just don’t eat enough pies!

Day 26 – Interlaken

It was another beautiful sunny day today where the mountains and lake glistened in full view. I am starting to realise that this work away experience is going to be very different to my last one, but then I guess that comes down to the differences in people and the way they live their lives. It seems here that I should work until lunchtime and then have the afternoons free to do what I like. Fortunately most places I have seen so far in Switzerland are quite small and can easily be visited within half a day and still have a sense of having been and soaked up the atmosphere.

This afternoon after a busy morning weeding in the garden, I caught the bus to Interlaken which took about 40 minutes, but the views were spectacular as the windy mountain road runs along the side of lake Thun. It almost made it seem worth the 14 francs paid for a one way ticket! I have also come to realise that Switzerland is even more expensive than I had anticipated, but fortunately I am feeling like a relaxed week is in order and don’t feel particularly like charging off to lots of different places. It is pretty beautiful where I am staying which helps a lot… Think it would be hard to beat the views that are two minutes walk from the house.

Interlaken itself was a lot smaller than I had expected, although still very picturesque and well set up for tourists with lots of souvenir shops selling typical Swiss products, all horrendously prices of course, though I did manage to figure out that if you go into the chocolate shops, most of them give out free samples! They were very nice… I even enjoyed a champagne truffle! (They usually get left in the box at home.) Sampling done and feeling decidedly weary, I headed back on the bus, once again marvelling at the picture perfect scenery and being a typical tourist, holding my mobile to the window so that I could capture some nice photos to share with you. This seems a good point to end today’s entry, so here are some of my snaps!

Day 27 – Bern

My host family were working in their offices today, so I was pretty much left to my own devices, with a couple of jobs to complete at some point, nothing too strenuous, just more weeding and cleaning of the floor downstairs. I worked for a few hours (although admittedly perhaps not as hard as I would have, had my hosts been here) and decided to have an early lunch so that I could spend a decent amount of time in Bern this afternoon.

The journey was a pleasant and fairly quick train ride, passing once again through some lovely scenery and soon I arrived in the chaos and hubbub of the country’s capital. I had totally underestimated how busy it would be, even on a weekday afternoon, but to my relief the main city centre was fairly small and not too tricky for me to navigate. I wandered around a couple of the enormous department stores selling literally everything you could think of and then headed off in search of more peaceful surroundings in the form of the river.

After a couple of wrong turns and walks over bridges so high that they made my legs feel wobbly to look over the side, I made it down to the path which runs alongside the river and follows it in the direction of Bern’s famous bear park… It’s literally a small enclosure on the side of a hill which houses a few bears but they were cute to watch as they frolicked about and enjoyed some food. It was very relaxing and I could have spent a lot more time there watching them , but with more exploring to do and limited time, I decided to continue my journey into the next part of town and see what else was on offer.

There are several museums in Bern and historic buildings but I’m not really into that sort of thing so was happy enough just to soak up the vibe of the place. As dusk began to fall, I headed back towards the station, passing several souvenir shops and street food stalls which smelt amazing and ventured back to Thun. Enjoying another scenic stroll along the river, I made it back a few minutes before my hosts returned from work and promptly took a little snooze before dinner preparations began.

Day 28 – Workaway /The Kindness of Strangers

After a busy couple of days sightseeing in the afternoon after a morning’s gardening, I decided that today would be a nice relaxed affair in which I could complete my tasks in the morning as usual, then head down to the lake after lunch for a bit of sunbathing, contemplation and possibly a cheeky snooze too! The last thing I expected to happen to me today was to sit and talk to a random stranger for over an hour about my life, the universe and deep philosophical questions, but that is exactly what I did!

I was sat on a bench by the lake, staring into the water and obviously looking completely lost in thought and perhaps lost because the next thing I knew, a man came over to me and started speaking in Swiss -German which I obviously didn’t understand. After apologising for my ignorance as a British person, he came and perched on the bench next to me and asked what I was thinking about. The next thing I know, I am spilling my entire life story out to him and discussing matters far beyond my normal cognitive capacity!

We chatted for about an hour which is far longer than I have chatted to someone for continuously for some time! He was easy to chat to and had lived a very adventurous existence involving a lot of travel and interesting jobs. He also had some intriguing views on certain political matters… Far too many to write about on this blog! It’s strange because I had only been thinking a few minutes before he came over that I haven’t really been very sociable this trip or made an effort to find new friends. I don’t really believe in coincidences, but the timing was all very surreal. Perhaps someone somewhere is trying to tell me something?l

Eventually we said goodbye and I learnt that his name was Jerry in English, (It sounded much better in Spanish but I don’t have a clue how to say it type that!) His parting advice to me was to follow my heart, be myself and make my own decisions regardless of what other people may think. He even quoted one of my favourite sayings by Oscar Wilde… ‘Be yourself, everyone else is taken’ (something like that anyway – my memory once again fails me!) I haven’t yet figured out why I met him at this particular point in life, but I am very grateful for having been able to have such deep discussions with a random stranger who didn’t judge me and who I’ll more than likely never see again. It has made me think though that perhaps the next time I see someone alone, perhaps I should attempt to talk to them. It could just brighten their day as he did for me.

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