Brrrrrrrrrr-lin

When I tell the Europeans that I’m Canadian, their first response is: “Oh, so you must be used to this cold then. This must be nothing.”

My response? “Actually, I’m a Vancouverite…we’re wimps.” I have been freezing my butt off in Berlin for the last two days and simultaneously loving it and wondering if my toes are still there.

My last days in Geneva were balmy compared to Berlin. We wandered around the Old Town area, saw the Jet D’eau (the tallest water fountain in the world), checked out the crypts under the cathedral, looked at a lot of watches that we couldn’t afford…that sort of thing.

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One of the areas I quite liked was Carouges, an older, artsy neighbourhood of Geneva. We also went to go see the UN building, which had this enormous chair with a broken leg sitting right outside. I kind of wondered what would happen if a giant attempted to sit on it. Overall, it was a great and enormously international city.

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I’ve found Berlin to feel very different. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that Berlin feels that it’s brimming over the edge with memories. I actually have liked it a lot, despite the fact that there is snow everywhere and I can barely feel my fingers at the end of the day. On our first day, we went on a tour that touched upon most of Berlin’s biggest monuments and areas. It was actually really interesting, and I think I understood a lot more out of the city’s history than if I had simply wandered around on my own.

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We also discovered an amazing chocolate place that we’ve now been to twice – it used to be the chocolatier for the royal family. Today was full of Christmas market shopping. I am probably lucky that I only have one backpack, because if I didn’t have a space constraint I would’ve bought an extraordinary amount of stuff. Instead, I had to cry inside and walk away (and buy myself things that can fit in my stomach, instead…)

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We also went to go see the government building, which was pretty cool. You got to walk up this dome at the top, and I’m sure if it hadn’t been covered in snow it would’ve been a great view. Instead, I got to study the icicles pretty closely and guess at what half the city looked like. It was still worth it though.

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I’m pretty tired now, but one more week before I go home! Tomorrow is a bit more of Berlin, and then off to Copenhagen, where I’m hoping for a few degrees higher in temperature. (I’m funny, aren’t I?)

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Marshmallowifying

It seems that every time I take a trip, I lose track of time in the last month and my poor blog suffers for it. I really want to do a post on what I was up to in Italy for the last while, but I’m also really excited about where I am right now, so I think Italy will have to wait for a few days – perhaps I’ll do it when I’m sitting in an airport.

Friday was my last day in Italy, and while it was bittersweet, yesterday I set off with a friend for Geneva, Switzerland! It took us almost the entire day to travel from Prato to Geneva due to some train complications, but we made it here in the end. It is very distinctly winter here – I felt like I had passed into some mystical winter wonderland when our train went through a tunnel and emerged in the midst of hugely majestic, snowy mountains. It was absolutely magical. No other words for it.

Today we went on a cheese and chocolate tour that passed through Bulle and Gruyères, two towns about an hour or two from Geneva. It may have been the best money I’ve ever spent in my entire life. Geneva is surrounded by mountains and water, so we got to drive through and see these beautiful towering peaks all around us. I didn’t realize how close Geneva is to France – it’s only half an hour drive in some parts to the Swiss/French border.

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Our first stop was the Nestle/Cailler chocolate factory in Bulle, where my friend and I nearly made ourselves sick with the amount of chocolate we ate. This morning, I would’ve sworn on my Macbook that I could never get sick of chocolate…and then I ate the equivalent of five bars of chocolate in about five minutes. The tour was very cool though, they had an explanation of chocolate that moved you through these crazy decorated rooms, you were able to taste the cocoa beans and see how they made the chocolate, and then taste all the chocolate you could hold in your stomach.

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After that, we headed to Gruyères, which is one of the most picturesque places I have ever been. We had a delicious cheese fondue lunch, which was also possibly the most cheese I’ve ever had in my life at one time.

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The views from Gruyères were breathtaking.

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After we got back to Geneva, we went to check out the parade for L’Escalade, a festival they hold in early December to commemorate an attack they repelled. There was a large parade with people in medieval dress holding fire and whatnot – it was pretty cool. There were sheep and everything! Unfortunately it was so busy I had a hard time getting a good picture, and then we got extremely lost coming back to our hostel and spent over an hour wandering around Geneva in the dark. It’s pretty cold here, hence the marshmallowifying I’m doing to myself – I wore six layers today. It was quite impressive, I doubled my size. I’m pretty sure if I fell over there’s no possible way to do damage to my upper part as it was so wrapped in sweaters and jackets. The things I do to stay warm.