Time to leave Germany behind and hello Switzerland
We have really enjoyed our five days in Germany. There were a couple of things that really surprised us. One was the number of motorbikes of various types that we saw used. Perhaps this was just because we were in the Black Forest and the roads encouraged holidaymakers and the long week-end drivers. It was not unusual to meet large groups of bikers or for cafes and hotels to have signs out say bikers were welcome. The other thing we noticed was the availability of cigarettes via slot machines. Nowhere did we see any "quit smoking" signs and in fact saw one cigarette dispensing machine in the front garden of a private home in Lörrach. Lörrach is very close to the borders of Germany, France and Switzerland. Again there were no border controls to stop at however there was evidence of where the border was and police were in attendance. We continued our "no motorway" driving even though it annoyed Peter to go around numerous roundabouts and villages. It is so much more interesting and we didn't have a huge mileage to go to get to Bern. We lunched at one of the villages and enjoyed walking through the narrow streets for a while. Soon we were in Bern and we easily made our way to meet up with Nina. Nina lived with us in Melbourne during her six month exchange in 2007. She is now completing her masters in theology at Bern University. We last saw Nina in 2008 when we visited Switzerland. Nina had was able to explain her career plans to us (as we were totally confused) and then took us to visit the Reformed Church in Belp where she is currently assigned. The church has some beautiful old paintings on the internal walls - these were painted over many years ago and are in the process of being revealed again. Nina has already preached her first sermon in this church and it was interesting to us to have her explain the work she will do within the church to provide services to the community covering a wide range of activities. Nina will complete an internship for fourteen months based at a church nearer the French speaking section of Switzerland and will be ordained in the Bern Minster (the steeple of which can be seen from Simon's apartment) in 2017. What a special occasion that will be. By the time we returned to Bern Simon, Nina's boyfriend, was home and we met him and then enjoyed a BBQ dinner together on the balcony of Simon's apartment. It was a lovely evening and so good to get to know a little about Nina and Simon's life in Bern. We asked Simon why the lawns around the apartment building were not cut - he explained that the Bernese people like to see the flowers (we would call them weeds) and feel the grass under their feet. Seems a good excuse not to mow the lawns and I am sure Peter will use that at some stage. We stayed overnight in Simon's apartment and Nina joined us again for breakfast the next morning. It was so good of her as we had visited during university exam time and she had an exam that morning. While Nina completed her exam we walked across the huge bridge to the old town and wandered the streets and the farmers market that was on. A short catch up with Nina again and it was time to say good-bye. Hopefully it won't be seven years before we see her again. A special thank you to Simon for allowing us to stay in his apartment. We loved catching up. Again we took the side road, this time going from Bern to Grindelwald. For part of the road it follows the edges of a lake so we stopped for a late lunch and enjoyed the atmosphere. Soon we were climbing the narrow road, familiar to us from previous visits, to the village of Grindelwald which is much higher up towards the Swiss Alps. Here we will visit with Nicole, again a lovely young lady who was hosted with us in New Zealand for twelve months back in 1999. How privileged we are to meet up again with these girls and their families.