You would not believe the price of Internet cafes the past week, the time I used to type much of this post could buy me five gyros in Greece.
So last time I updated this was two countries ago, since then I’ve used another currency and another two languages.
Venice was very easy to fall in love with, just stepping out of the station and seeing that the street was liquid was enough. For two days I basically just walked the streets, window-shopped (so many jewelry stores) and ate an amazing meal as a treat from my adoring sister. Sprizze (pink) champagne, seafood and tiramisu – yummo. The only thing I didn’t really adore was St Mark’s Square – was a bit of an anticlimax – dirty and full of pidgeons, I liked the piazza in Siena much more. I really just enjoyed getting lost in the dozens of little streets and canals – just don’t ask two Japanese tourists I met later on. I tried to be confident and declared that Venice was ‘daikirai’, which unfortunately translates to ‘I hated it’, rather than what I was aiming for, ‘daikirei’, meaning ‘very pretty’. I had to carry on as though I hated the city.
I then caught the train up to Zurich, passing through the gorgeous Swiss countryside on the way. You could tell as soon as you went over the border – all of a sudden snow-capped mountains replaced olive groves and dazzling lakes were found in place of suburbia. I was captivated by it all, I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off my face.
Zurich is the cleanest city in the world, even beating Monaco. Everyone looked like they belonged in a Diet Coke ad – pictures of fitness but they all wore frowns. I don’t think I saw a single person smile in the city. German also sounds gross – all throaty, like cats coughing up a furball. I can’t get used to it, and the fact that you really have no idea which language is going to come out of a person’s mouth – will it be German, French, English or Italian? The residents seemed to be able to speak all four.
After a cruise on Lake Zurich I took a stroll down the Bahnhof, the street with the highest real estate prices in the world, lined with banks and designer boutiques, and filled with men in suits – a bit like the painting ‘Collins Street at 5pm’ but in the middle of the day. Apparently underneath the street is vault after vault of gold and diamonds, often illegally obtained. I really don’t get the Swiss – they seem to be so liberal and open-minded, but the country only awarded the vote to women in the late 1970s and joined the UN just a couple of years ago.
Before heading to Geneva I made a stop in Bern to meet a friend I’d met in Greece, and to check out Kelsey’s home town. And what do you know, as soon as I stepped out of the station Kelsey’s twin walked in front of me. I was so excited, but when I got out my camera… well, you can guess the rest. My batteries failed for the first time in three months.
My friend Jasmine was an au pair (a nanny) fifteen minutes outside of Bern. I expected this to be suburbia, but it was Heidi country, the town had a population of two hundred and didn’t even have a post office. (However, it had a well-equipped train station – this was Switzerland, remember.) I was treated to a meal (on the large balcony overlooking snow-capped mountains) of ‘raclette’, a traditional Swiss dish of what else but cheese. The family was fascinated with Australia – most of the kids’ questions had to do with spiders, sharks and crocodiles, however.
After the cleanliness of Zurich and Bern, I was surprised to see that Geneva was pretty rough around the edges. The city’s prime seemed to be about thirty years ago, and the UN building, which I had been hanging out to see, was pretty disappointing. The inside was like the Alice Hoy Building at uni (ie, hasn’t been touched for a few generations), however it was exciting going through security and getting my photo taken – the only security more excessive than at the soccer in Rome.
The tour of the UN was the worst tour I have ever been on. Most of the group didn’t speak English so they spoke to each other in outdoor voices the entire time, drowning out the eight-year old that was showing us around. The guide hardly spoke English herself, and seemed to have little idea of what the organisation actually did (how apt). When asked what was being held in the conference rooms she kept pointing out, we were told ‘conferences’. She even told us that Germany was a permanent member of the Security Council, and no one corrected her. We got taken through an exhibition on road safety, of which Australia’s I’m relieved to say looked professional. The US’ was sponsored by Chrysler.
Without any addition to my knowledge of international politics (except that counties donate a lot of art, although I couldn’t tell you what any of it was called, it was just pointed to) I headed to the Red Cross Museum, which was excellent, and instead broadened my knowledge of significant armed conflicts. I was in there for three hours, and then checked out a temporary photography exhibition housed in the same building. I’m really starting to get to like photography.
I’ve just arrived in Cologne, and it seems much more like home than anywhere since the UK. The street I’m staying on even reminds me of Chapel Street. It’s just this language thing that’s got me really confused.