First off, let me apologize that my blogs are going to be heavy on man commentary. Most of my readers know I’m single and when you travel alone it’s kind of high time to put yourself out there for adventure/dating. So, pardon all the wink-wink-nudge-nudge content but you’re just gonna have to deal or stop reading. #sorrynotsorry
I arrived in Basel after a short flight from Barcelona to find a grey cute germanic town that I honestly didn’t have much desire to explore. Nonetheless, I decided to find a place for lunch so I could take my pack off, relax, and write my Barcelona post. While taking the bus to the train station I kept my eyes peeled for spots while simultaneously trying not to stare at the handsome guy next to me. He was an older Swiss version of Andrew Hozier-Bern – swoon! We arrived at the train station and I walked back to a place I had spotted – Tacoteca. First I checked out the Marktplatt but it was not as promising. So, my first meal was Mexican in Switzerland…well, Basel is on the border of Germany, France, and Switzerland but technically I was in Switzerland. The south of the border cuisine seemed fitting in an ironic way.
After eating a relatively good, albeit not authentic, Mexican meal – I met a nice American ex-pat living in the area. He told me his name but I can’t remember it. We had a long talk about living abroad and he gave me some tips and hints about Switzerland including warning me of the awful prices and exchange rate for Americans. He also gave me a pep talk regarding prospecting European work via international companies – he also guessed my age at 25 or 26…winning! While we were discussing family, taxes, etc. he tells me that his son is an undergraduate in Germany and the tuition is…free.
The next morning I woke up with a start, in the midst of a dream I had forgotten where I was and rolled over as if I had more bed to utilize. Instead, I ended up with a chair corner jabbed into my clavicle. It was unpleasant and I can still feel it. Later in the day, I realize that I could never live in Switzerland, especially the German side. It was a yawn fest and EVERYONE smokes. It’s gross. I explored Bern in a matter of hours on Tuesday, it was a beautiful city but there is not much to it. Parliament – check; Barengraben – check; Zytglogge – check; Old Town – check; Rosengarten – check. Since the exchange is abominable I didn’t shop at all and only bought lunch, otherwise ate food from the grocery store (Coop) I had stored at my host’s apartment.
Rather than complain like some ungrateful bastard, I should say that I am so lucky to have friends that are willing to help me find free places to stay. Michal is a friend of a friend’s mother and he allowed me to stay in his apartment alone while he was in Poland taking care of his parents. Since he was unable to be home to host me, I didn’t have access to the mountains and skiing but I’m extremely thankful for his generosity.
I packed certain base layers and socks assuming I would be able to ski or do some winter activity while I was here in the Alps but now they are dead weight. Ugh, totally bummed especially since that’s the only exciting thing happening around here during this time of year. When Daniel, Michal’s son, met me at the train station to show me the apartment and give me the key he told me that a store staying open until 8:30pm is late for Bern. Yeah, I stayed in the apartment binge watching Netflix (thank God, it works in Switzerland) at night…exciting. Also, Tinder tourism in this area is pointless. Not enough attractive men – one on a bus is not enough.
On the up side, I was able to do some laundry in the community washer then line dried (yep, they don’t have dryers) and now I smell like a flowery European. I was also mistaken for a French woman a couple times, no one had a clue I was American until I opened my mouth. The two dominant languages in Switzerland are German and French so most people saw me as probably a French speaker…maybe I should finally commit to learning it. I do feel like I connect with that culture and the men seem to like me.
Down side, my Spanish hair dryer doesn’t work in the Swiss electrical sockets. A girl just wants nice hair, is that too much to ask?! Luckily, I needed to wear a hat the entire time since the temp was around freezing the entire time and it was lightly snowing which was nice. Now I’m headed to Geneva to do a bit more touristing until I head to Nyon to bunk with another friend of a friend – Joanna until my flight to Italy!
Geneva was much more my speed: urban, amazing shopping, lots of interesting people, and things to do. I was able to see the site where my favorite movie was filmed – Trois Coleurs: Rouge. It was such a thrill to walk Valentin’s steps considering I had thought of it so many times when watching the film. Within easy walking distance was the Grand Theatre, Old Geneva, and the Lake. I often forget how close together everything in Europe is so I end up buying a one-day transit pass but only use it once because I can walk the rest.
One cultural observation from Switzerland: trust. It seems as though the Swiss (or at least the Bernese) don’t worry much about crime and/or dishonesty. The transit let’s you on without checking your ticket, the neighbors leave their bikes and baby carriages in the stairwell. Unfortunately, they aren’t exactly warm people but they are honest and forthright. This sort of explains Michal offering up his apartment despite the fact that he has never met me. Staying with Joanna was interesting since she is a French/American expat – she grew up in France but lived a large part of adulthood in the U.S. until the economy tanked then moved with her hubbie to Switzerland. Her unique perspective was really fascinating to listen to especially since she was quite the exuberant talker.
I can’t say I connected well with the Swiss culture but I guess that is probably for the best since, according to Joanna, Americans aren’t exactly welcomed with open arms in Switzerland. Something to do with our banking laws…
A huge THANK YOU to Michal, Daniel, and Joanna for providing me free places to stay during a time when the Swiss Franc was destroying the American dollar. I am forever grateful!