A small adventure in Switzerland

saas switzerland

Switzerland is hands down the most beautiful country I have ever been in. It doesn’t even look real and it doesn’t feel real because it is just too pretty. I am extremely jealous of every person that lives near the alps because I could just stare at them all day and be content.

Also, the air has a very fresh mountain smell. I was never in the city, just small villages so Zurich and other places are probably much different than the towns/villages I have been in. I grew up near the ocean so I am used to the smell of the sea but not this type of air, it was real mountain air and I loved it.

Now I wasn’t actually on vacation, I was working for the family I AuPaired for. I never had any days off in Switzerland but my hours weren’t too long, 8am-11am, then 2pm-5/6pm. We were there for about a week and if I had the chance, I would move there. I know I said that about Munich, but I would also move to Switzerland…maybe it will happen one day. Who knows.

switzerland

The houses in Saas, Switzerland look like gingerbread houses dotted along the hills. They were brown and had decorative shutters with green, white and red designs painted on them. A lot of houses also had plants hanging from the windows, they just looked so cute and so well put together. Also, the Saas train station I went to had cows next to it with bells on. I felt like I was on a movie set.

I had one funny experience in Switzerland I must share. My best friend, the 4-year-old I looked after, was out skiing with her family and accidentally went to the bathroom (#2) in her ski suit. I was with the mother and the baby at the chalet so the dad called to see if we could come get her. We took the train and went up the gondola and arrived.

When we got there, my friend seemed a bit embarrassed by her accident so I tried to cheer her up by telling her this happens to everyone at some point in their lives. Accidents can happen! The mother then told me to get the gondola back down the mountain, then catch the train which comes once an hour back to the chalet. I knew this was not going to happen. I 100% knew it. I asked the mother what should I do if (when) I missed the train and she assured me I wouldn’t. The train was coming in exactly 20 mins and that is how long the gondola ride was so I figured we would catch the bus or something. It was my problem it seemed because the mother just didn’t think the gondola took that long and in hindsight I should have been more insistent.

gondola switzerland

Myself and my little friend got on the gondola and began our descent. The whole ride smelled like someone had let a big one rip, I opened the window but it didn’t make much of a difference. She began to lighten up about 10 mins into the ride and seemed to get excited that she had some time with just me and her because usually I had to share my time with her sister and her brother. My friend stood up and started talking about all the trees and good she was getting at skiing. I agreed.

Sure enough, as we were about 2 mins away from landing, I saw the train pull in the station and then out. Awesome. Now to navigate the all-German bus route to the station that I didn’t know the name of and I had only to rely on the memory and language skills of a four-year-old.

train station says

This is how it went:

I didn’t want to let my friend know that I had no idea where to go so I just said our plans changed and now we were going to take the bus, she seemed unfazed by this. I went to the bus station sign to figure out which number to take and of course it didn’t say which stop was in the place where we were staying so I casually told her I was going to ask someone a question about it. We went over to a random person (nobody was working at the station at the time) and I asked if he spoke English or French and he said no so then I proceeded to speak to him in my very broken German. This went about as well as you would expect. After a minute of confusing back and forth I asked my little friend if she could ask the nice man in German which station is in Saas (I think there were more than one but luckily I remembered the road name where we were staying). Also, which direction is that again?

So we find out our route after taking to about 3 people and then we wait and our bus comes about 15 mins later. We get on and all goes well from there, I spoke with a very nice older woman who said she would let me know when to get off which was very sweet of her. My little friend seemed to be enjoying this change of scenery and started singing to herself as she looked out the window and then asked me hushed questions about the people around us. How old is that man? Why does he look so serious?

saas station switzerland

Our time came to get off the bus as the older woman came over to let me know. We thanked her and got off and then the bus drove away. I looked around and recognized nothing. Absolutely nothing. Unlike the train station, which was about a 3 minute walk from the chalet, the bus was apparently not. I didn’t want my friend to know I didn’t know where we were so I just pretended that I can control of things and we were just going to take a little stroll. Mind you, it has been about 40 minutes since I picked her up on the ski hill and she has been sitting in her own excrement for at least that long and the temperature when you are down in the valley is much higher than up on the alps. Poor thing. Lucky for us, she was a good sport and seemed to be way over it now.

I looked around and noticed that the hill we were on dipped down a bit so I figured it would be best to go there, as I remembered that the train station was at the very bottom of the hill so we should pass right by the chalet if we go down. We cross the road and start walking for about 5 minutes and come to a little setup/shrine to Jesus and my little friend wants to kneel down and pray. I allow her to do this and also kneel down with her. She crossed my forehead and hers and we get up and go about our way. We continue on our way and then my little friend then sees some sheep and asks me if we can go pet them, I say yes because why not. She prances over, still in her ski suit and ski boots and we go over to the sheep and talk about how cute they are but how they might not make the best pets.

chalet switzerland

 

At this time, I am thinking we really should have been back by now so I shooed her along and we started walking again. As we were walking she said to me that she was warm and tired and asked me if I could carry her. I looked at her and she did look pretty warm and sleepy, so I got her to zip down her suit to her waist and then I held my breath and hoisted her up on my back (the smell….). I was just praying we were going the right way. Within 5 minutes of walking and my back hurting we finally reached a road sign I recognized. I was never so happy. We kept walking for a bit then she got off my back and walked the rest of the way with me.

Once we got back, she got a bath and I threw her clothes in the washer while trying my best to not make a grossed out face or breathe through my nose. I don’t think I did a great job but it was finally over. Everyone was happy. We then ate, relaxed, played games and I secretly congratulated myself for being the best AuPair ever.

 

  Continue reading A small adventure in Switzerland

Berlin

Charlie Berlin

Berlin. I was told that it’s the New York of Europe, although I have never been to New York so I can’t say whether I agree or not. What I do know of Berlin from my experience is that it is a busy and lively city and it’s great for artists. It has a lot of history but it has a modern feel to it. Berlin isn’t not too expensive and it is very rich in history so you can really hit a lot of different areas and get a well-rounded trip.

Berlin is cool. People have their own sense of style and they don’t really care what you think of it. I have been also told that people aren’t the most friendly there which I can say I have experienced friendly Berliners and also not so friendly, as it is in a lot of major cities. When a person lives in a big city they don’t really have the time to be friendly with everyone but when you get to know people individually it is much different.

berlin
When I first moved to Germany with my work visa I found that my massive suitcase I took with me had a broken wheel so I had to literally drag it on the ground to the hostel where it made an ear piercing sound like nails on chalkboard. People looked in my direction to see where the offensive noise was coming from then quickly looked away to avoid making me even more uncomfortable (I think).

While job and apartment hunting I got to see a lot of the city on foot. I ate every kind of new food I could get my hands on a sampled my fair share of delicious German beers! It has a very modern city feel to it, even though it is very old as a lot of it was bombed in the war.

One night when I was out with some people I met in my hostel we passed by an art studio party and then just decided we would go inside to see what it was all about. We walked in and everyone looks super…you know hip. Nobody seemed to notice us so we just grabbed some free beer and look at art then moved along to another bat with a metal dragon that breathed fire. I don’t think that would pass fire regulations in Canada haha. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of it but maybe I will go back someday and get some!

berlin

I remember dubstep was pretty big there at the time and there were a ton of really crazy discos (big dance clubs). You can experience this side of it and also do cultural things such as go on a walking tour. I went to the wall and Checkpoint Charlie, they showed old photos of people trying to throw things over the wall that separated them for their loved ones. I had a great tour guide that brought us to the place above the underground bunker where Hitler committed suicide, when we arrived there he said “the area beneath your feet is where history took place and Hitler ended his life. Today it is where locals take their dogs to shit.”

Berlin is a must-see if you are in Germany. A lot was destroyed in the war but it is somewhere you can go and learn about history right where it happened. Continue reading Berlin

Making the decision to move to Europe

As my first travel post I figured it would be best to start with Germany! I moved to Germany in 2010 with a work visa in hopes of attaining a job and a new life in a different country.

This was something I had wanted to do for years, I did a German minor at Memorial University and so I knew a bit of the language (aber mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut) and I wanted to be immersed in a new culture and fend for myself all alone. Fortunately and unfortunately for me that is exactly what I did!

I went through the SWAP (Student Work Abroad Program) and paid a fee to get a work visa. At the time I was working at a retail store to save up money to support myself for a few months while I was in the city to look for work. In January, I arrived in Berlin and stayed at a hostel to start my search!

Finding a job with sub par German wasn’t super easy and finding a roommate that I wanted to live with wasn’t either. I admit, I was a bit picky having had really great roommates before I left. Nevertheless, I was super pumped on the adrenaline of living out my dream in a foreign city and pounding the pavement in search of job opportunities until…..my laptop got stolen less than 2 weeks into my move. It happened one night when I naively slept with my laptop in my bed with me. Usually I locked it up but I had started to become comfortable with my dorm-mates and saw how they left their phones/cameras out so I let my guard down.

When I woke up in the morning to find that my laptop was gone, I felt really lost and alone as I knew finding a job and a place to stay would be much harder and more expensive without a laptop. I had very limited funds and was really stressful imagining all the different scenarios that could set me back even further or make me return home.

I also felt betrayed. In my two weeks there I made a lot of friends with the people in my hostel and I knew which person stole my laptop. He was a guy in his 20s that told me he was from The Netherlands. Funny enough, I picked up on his accent, telling him he did not sound Dutch at all. One of my close friends that lived near me was Dutch and I was around her family long enough to get a bit familiar with the accent and even pick up a few words/sentences and a really cool birthday song!

Anyway, when I woke up and saw that my laptop was gone along with my new friend, it was pretty clear he did it as he wasn’t supposed to be leaving for a few days. I could tell by the reaction of the Spanish girls also in my room that they didn’t do it either, it sounds kind of weird but I think most people are good at picking up on genuine emotion rather than faked. Also, the hostel never took copies of guests passports so there was really nothing I could do.

I did eventually get over it after a bit of crying and frustration. Later on, things didn’t actually turn out too bad for me after all. The people at the hostel felt really bad and were really nice to me while the person in the Berlin SWAP office was not so helpful or sympathetic. He was a nice man but for the amount you pay the company, they don’t really help much when you actually need it. Keep that in mind if you are ever thinking about going through SWAP.

All in all, it was a rocky start to my European trip but there was more to happen which I will write about in my next post! Continue reading Making the decision to move to Europe