Posts Tagged ‘CouchSurfing’

Uruguay: the city, the countryside and the coast

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

After taking the boat to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, I got on the bus to the capital Montevideo. I offered some cookies to a Uruguayan man next to me, which turned out to be a good way to start a conversation. Besides that I wasn’t feeling it. I had been moving around a lot the past week, and though I’d seen some beautiful places and met some cool people, I guess I’d been too much of a rush. I started wondering what I was doing here…
So it was nice to have someone (my CouchSurfing host) waiting for me at the bus terminal in Montevideo. We were supposed to go to a CS barbecue that night, but after tons of phone calls, instead we got into a friend’s car to head over to his place. When we were about to park, suddenly something bumped into the passenger’s seat. It was a motorcyclist that we’d cut off. Kind of a scary moment, but it everything was OK, save a few scratches on the car. After some talking and jamming we eventually ended up at an Uruguayan birthday party. So it wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind for the night, but surely it was another new experience!

at an Uruguayan birthday party, with my CS host on the left

The next day I visited the Church of the Nazarene here. (more…)

Cruising through Argentina, into Chile and back

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Just before I left Buenos Aires, I had an interesting experience. While entering a Subte (subway) station, someone sprayed something on my backpack and bum, and just a bit later a guy offered to help me clean it up. This may not sound that strange, but if you’ve been to South America you may know that this is a common trick to rob someone (while one guy gets your attention while he helps you clean it up, another guy takes your bags and runs). But I kept my cool and stayed focused, and nothing happened. Except that now I had shampoo on my bum.
Nonetheless it gave Buenos Aires a somewhat bitter aftertaste.

It took me 21 hours to get to Bariloche, it was interesting to see the landscape change while on the road. From steppe (this is what most of central Argentina seems to look like)…

this is what most of central Argentina looks like

…with some mountains and lakes added…

coming closer to the Andes

…to higher mountains and bigger lakes, and finally some trees…

(more…)

Buenos Aires

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

After traveling for about 22 hours I arrived in the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires. The trip had been fine. Funny thing was when I changed planes in Sao Paulo, and I didn’t have a boarding pass yet for my connecting flight. When I asked about it at the gate, one of the stewards just walked in: “Edwin? Here I have your boarding pass”.
The first day I wasn’t so sure about why I was here. It was cool and all but I felt I wasn’t as excited as I should be. Then, as I was on the subway, I started thinking: hey man, you’re in freakin’ Buenos Aires, an amazing city, you have a great place to stay with a kind CouchSurfing host, the weather is nice (about 25 C and sunny), and you can just get out there and explore! Once I realized that I got pretty excited, but in fact it took me a day to adjust to the idea. The last few days I’ve been really enjoying it here.

IMG_0099.JPG church of Nuestra Señora de Pilar

view over Puerto Madero from the Costanera Sur ecological reserve

Buenos Aires is a huge city with about 12 million inhabitants in its greater metropolitan area. (more…)

New England & New York, pt. 2

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Five years after I made a short trip to New England and New York, it just so happened I went there again this fall. First of all, because the first NazNet Conference took place in New Hampshire. I decided to attend, along with my dad, and since I would be “in the neighborhood” of New York City, I considered that a great opportunity to visit my favorite city in the world (besides Dordrecht) again. Two friends decided to come to New York around that time as well. I love it when a plan comes together.

It was an excellent trip. Met some great people, saw the beautiful countryside of New England and was overwhelmed again by the metropolis and melting pot that is New York City. I was lucky enough to find a CouchSurfing host there, who lived in Brooklyn. It added a lot of value to the trip.
Pictures are at http://picasaweb.google.com/edsuit/NewEnglandNewYorkCity2010. Perhaps I’ll get around to writing about this trip some more. Perhaps not.

Also I’m plotting a scheme for 2011.. it’s going to be big. But more on that later.

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New Hampshire in the fall / NazNet Conference


in Flushing, NY, with friends and CouchSurfing host

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Central Park

summer vibes

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

I’ve been back home for over a month now, and it feels like my trips to South America and Florida were ages ago. It wasn’t that hard to get used to being back; I started working a couple of days after I got home from Florida, and before I knew it, I was back in the daily routine.

Fortunately, on the 15th I got myself another small break; I attended the 4-day Dour festival in the south of Belgium. It’s quite a big festival, with mostly underground music; anything from hardcore to ska to indie to electronic music. I went with Otto, Josse and… Tim! Who had surprised everyone by coming back a month earlier than he’d told us.

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Sitting by our tents singing songs

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“at a Frans Bauer show”

Fun festival! I hadn’t really thought about the fact that it was in French-speaking part of Belgium though. So every now and then I had to dig back into my highschool-acquired knowledge of French.. quite some time ago, but along the way it started coming back a bit. Sometimes however, when I wanted to say something in French, all that came out was Spanish.. haha. I saw some great bands like Isis and The Red Chord, though on the second day I didn’t see much because of a hospital adventure (this time it wasn’t me). And on Saturday, day 3, I already went back home, because I didn’t want to miss the Big Rivers festival in Dordrecht AND two Couchsurfing friends from Spain who would be there. They also stayed with me two years ago during Big Rivers, and liked it so much they wanted to come back.

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Desorden Publico playing at the “big church” stage

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with my CS friends from Spain

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crowd at Scheffersplein

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overview of Statenplein, while The Animals were playing

It turned out to be a good decision; it was fun to see my friends again, and the festival was just amazing. It’s become possibly my favorite festival over the years.. there is something about being able to see some great bands (anything from ska to blues to rock) on many different stages all throughout the old town of your city, accompanied by so many familiar faces. The festival was a bit smaller than last year, due the economical crisis, but still they managed to deliver a great line-up. Some of my favorites were Boo Boo Davis, The Upsessions, The Blackbirds (Beatles coverband from Hungary), The Toasters and Shiner Twins.

Besides that I’m trying to make something out of the summer, despite that I have to work. Ah, how I miss going to school and having a 8-week summer break.. haha. But it has worked pretty well so far. Of course there are the weekly concerts in the Wantijpark, always a fun place to hang out. Had a couple of barbecues with friends, visited some relatives, played a lot of music and biked to Rotterdam, where I visited some secondhand record stores and then took the Waterbus back.
I also had another Couchsurfer (from Austria/Italy) over earlier this week, and on Tuesday we set up our very own CS meeting, with about 15 people from Dordrecht, Rotterdam and Italy. It took place in one of the Irish pubs in Rotterdam. Great place, and they had this singer performing there, just with his acoustic guitar, playing Johnny Cash, Billy Joel, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, The Kinks.. all in his own kind of Irish folk style. He was amazing. What a night.

While browsing around in the Plaatboef in Rotterdam, I found this little vinyl gem:

The other night I was listening to it on my headphones and noticed how fine the production was. The compositions may not be as good as Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (though close), but it has an amazing sound I haven’t heard before on a jazz record. It’s just perfect.

CS meeting

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Getting home at 2.30 am on a Thursday night (so technically Friday) is not something I do regularly. In fact, I wonder if I’ve ever come home that late on a working day. It wasn’t my intention either, I was thinking maybe 10-11ish, but I failed miserably.

Last Thursday the first Dordrecht CouchSurfing meeting took place. We’d been plotting one for a long time, but finally we made it happen. That evening I wasn’t feeling too great and I was even thinking about skipping it. But I figured it would probably make me feel better, after working at home all day by myself.

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The idea is just have a fun night out with local CouchSurfers, or people who are ‘surfing’ the town, and anyone who wants to join. In Rotterdam for example, they have a meeting every week, with about 40 people.
Cafe Merz was the place to be, so I went there with Tim. Two other guys that I knew a little a bit where there, and besides that, 9 other people who I’d never met before. Had some great conversations with some of them, about music, traveling, languages.. it keeps amazing me how CS brings like-minded people together. I decided to hang around until the end and then Tim and I convinced ourselves to pay a visit to a shawarma/falafel place, for old times sake.

img_3691One of the organizers had this idea to bring a bunch of buttons he’d made especially for the meeting. Kind of hard to read, but it says: “1st Dordrecht CS-meeting: I WAS THERE”.

Oh, and the funniest thing.. I was talking to this couple who just moved to Dordrecht, they just signed up for CouchSurfing. And I ask them where they’re from originally. The woman says that for her it’s kind of a long story, she’s lived all over Europe.. in Denmark, Czech Republic.. then another guy asks: where in the Czech Republic?
She: “Oh in Plzen, Tachov.. ” (a small town)
Me: “Hey, I’ve been there.”
She: “Really? Oh and also Milíře” (an even smaller town; just a couple of houses)
Me: “I’ve been there as well!”
She: “What? You serious?”
I explain I was there with a group of friends in the summer of 2005, staying at the house of the guys’ father.
She: “That wouldn’t have happened to be Wanja?”
Me: “Yeah, Wanja..”
She: “That’s my brother!”
So we had been staying there, with her brother and her dad, at a house where she’s lived. Is that bizarre or what!
Also, not as bizarre, but still cool, another guy I met once saw a Pride Runs Deep show. And yet another guy I think I’ve seen at my church the other week..
Things like that make me want to burst into “It’s a small world after all”.

Switzerland & Sziget 2007: looking back

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Well it’s already been almost two weeks since I got back, and now I’ve finally finished my writings. A selection of my pictures (and some movie clips) have been up for a while at http://picasaweb.google.com/edsuit/SwitzerlandSzigetFestival2007


Lucerne


up in the Alps (Jungfrau region)


Sziget festival

As you may have guessed, it was once again, amazing. Some random remarks:
– Switzerland is an awesome country. Of course, nature-wise it’s amazing, no doubt about that. But it also has some nice cities, and nice people. It’s also very interesting how it has German, French and Italian speaking parts (Romansch doesn’t really count), which all have a very different feel to them. Still they all have a Swiss identity.
It’s an excellent country to explore by public transportation. It’s not that big, so you can get to whatever next place you want to go to fast. Sometimes I wonder if there are any other countries where I would have liked to live if I didn’t live here. There aren’t a lot of ’em, but Switzerland can be added to the list. I felt kind of at home there.
– it didn’t feel as much as a ‘big thing’ as my trip to Scandinavia last year. I guess because it wasn’t a first time thing, and maybe because it lasted about a week shorter as well. It also felt more natural. Travelling by train combined with staying with people from CS and HC is definitely my thing.
– met some great people again, although I only stayed at three different places. For a while I was afraid that I wouldn’t find any hosts, but once again, CS and HC did not let me down.
– it was a great idea to finish my trip in Budapest and meet up with my friends there. It was something I could look forward to during the trip.
– music that mattered:
All Star United – s/t
Beastie Boys – Ill Communication
Beastie Boys – The Mix-up
The Ladybug Transistor – Can’t Wait Another Day
Django Reinhardt – The Discovery of Jazz
Elliot Smith – Either/or
Social Distortion – Sex, Love and Rock’n’roll

Switzerland & Sziget 2007: day 6

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Sunday, 12 August
Had breakfast with Kathrin and then said goodbye. Once again it had been a great CS experience. She and her sister had been very nice and hospitable to me and they were just cool in general.
I walked to the train station, in the sun, with only some thin “morning clouds” in the sky, and Interlaken looked really great on this quiet Sunday morning, located in between the mountains. Today I would be travelling to Sion, via Montreux, so entering the French speaking part of Switzerland again. I took the slow, scenic route from Interlaken to Montreux through the mountains, with regional trains. A beautiful route, with not a lot of peopl, music, sunshine and open windows.
When I got to Montreux, the architecture, the scenery, the weather and of course the language made me feel like I’d arrived in France. The city looked beautiful in this weather, by lake Geneva, which was also nice to see again. The call the coastline between Montreux and Lausanne the Swiss Riveira, now I could see why. I took the train to Sion, where things got even more ‘French’, because of all the vineyards they had there. A guy from Hospitality Club had said he could show me around town, I could have dinner at his parents’ house, and then spend the night at a friend’s place. Sounded good enough to me. I had no idea what he would look like, but I’d given him a short description of myself. At the station I saw someone who I figured would be him, and I was right. Usually I’ve got some kind of feeling about it when I see someone, and so far it has always proven to be correct. The guy introduced himself as Joris, with a heavy French accent, but his English was pretty good. He had a car with him and drove me to a couple of places around town; a bar up the mountains with a great view over the city / vallery, a lake where we had a drink with a friend of his and Sion’s old town center. His friend had just come back from Amsterdam and some other places, and when I asked if he liked it, he bluntly answered: no! That’s probably the first time I’ve heard a foreigner say that about Amsterdam, haha. He wasn’t very good at English, but with the help of Joris, and my small understanding of French, we managed to have a decent conversation.
In the evening, Joris took me to his parents’ place, where he also lived at the moment, and we had dinner. His dad was a professional cook, so it was definitely the best dinner I’d had so far. I was wondering why I couldn’t stay here for the night; his brother was gone so they had a spare room, and his parents seemed very hospitable. But I had another place to stay, so it didn’t matter.
After dinner we went ‘downtown’ (Sion is not that big). That night there was some sort of light show planned, sounded good to me. At a bar we met up with another friend of Joris, the one that I would be staying with. I didn’t catch his name, and I still don’t know it.. haha. The show started at the city hall, lights in the pavement led us (and some other people) from one place to the next one, and at each place they’d nicely lit up one or several buildings. This went on until we got up the hill of the Tourbillon castle. Sion is located in a valley, but there are two seperate, steep hills in the middle of town, and each one has a castle on it. From the hill we could see both of the castles, and there was the climax of the show, with music, a narrator telling a story (in French, probably about the history of the castles and Sion), and spectacular lighting on the buildings that changed with the music. It was a cool experience, although not 10-million-euro cool (that’s the amount of money that had been made available to create the show, so I heard). Afterwards we went to Joris’ friend’s place, and hung out there for a while before going to bed. I said goodbye to Joris, I wouldn’t see him anymore because I was planning to leave early the next morning. He’d been a great ‘host’, with some interesting stories. He had travelled South and Central America, and besides his study he worked for the UN, trying to raise money for a development project in the Amazone.
The apartment was pretty big. The guy’s parents had lived there, but they’d moved to Lausanne and hadn’t sold it yet, so he could live there for a while.
I got a room for myself, with a ‘fully equiped’ mattress, so that was great.

Switzerland & Sziget 2007: day 5

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Saturday, 11 August
Got up at 8.30 and left for the Jungfrau Region. This is an area in the Alps, south of Interlaken, and it’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful parts of Switzerland. I had all day to spend there and I figured this was probably going to be the best part of my trip. I took a bus to Wilderswil and then a train to Grindelwald, one of the main towns in the region. Lots of tourists there, but a good place to start exploring the area. On the way to Grindelwald things were starting to look like the Switzerland that everybody knows, especially with the high mountains with snow covered tops. Lucerne and the Golden Pass route had been beautiful, but this was something else.
The location of Grindelwald was awesome already, in a valley between Alpine mountains. Makes one feel really small. First thing I did was take an 1.5 hour walk to the Oberer-Grindelwald Gletscher (glacier). It was a nice and quiet route, a bit tough. Near the glacier they’d built a steep, wooden stairs with 890 steps, so you could get close to the glacier. Got some good views along the way. If I would have been there a couple of years earlier, I could have touched the glacier at the top, but nowadays it has shrunk so that can only see a small part of it in the distance. They had built a suspended bridge over a small canyon, it was pretty cool. So all in all it was worth it.
When I got down, my legs were shaking, I hadn’t rested since I left Grindelwald. But now there was some time for that, because I had to wait for the bus that would take me back to the town. Back in Grindelwald I walked down to Grindelwald Grund, a lower part of town, as the name suggests. There I took a cable car up to Männlichen, at 2200+ meters high. Kathrin had recommended it as a good place to start hiking. So I walked from there to Kleine Scheidegg, a small settlement with a train station. I got beautiful views over Grindelwald in the valley and over other mountains. There was some snow up here, and lots of cows with bells around their necks. So all the time while walking you heard those bells, and I just thought it was hilarious; the cows with their expressionless faces, making that noise. Along the way I also ran into a small herd of goats, which were walking the trail in opposite direction, without someone to herd them or anything. It took about 1.5 hour to do the trail and it was probably the most beautiful one I’ve ever done. It was just one awesome view after another. By the way, the weather was pretty good. It was somewhat clouded, but I got quite a bit of sun.
From Kleine Scheidegg you can take a train up to Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe, at about 3500m. I thought about taking it, but it cost 104 CHF and it looked kinda clouded up there, so I didn’t go for it. Instead I took a (cogwheel) train to Lauterbrunnen. This guy in traditional Swiss clothing, carrying an Alphorn (in 2 pieces) got on the train, and in Lauterbrunnen he set his horn up and started playing. Pretty awesome, haha!
Late afternoon I got back to Kathrin’s place and hung out there for a while. Now I still didn’t have a reservation for a train to Budapest. First I’d wanted to go via Feldkirch in Austria, and then cross the whole country, but there was some construction work going on there, so that wasn’t possible. So I’d booked a seat on the night train from München, but since the system in The Netherlands was broken, I hadn’t been able to collect it, so I didn’t have anything. Kathrin told me there was also a direct train from Zürich, and since worked for the main Swiss rail company, she’d been able to make a reservation for me that day. Another ‘problem’ taken care of!
That night, she had to work at the Tell-Freilichtspiele. Every summer from June through September in Interlaken, a group of (mostly local) volunteers performs the story of the Swiss ‘historical hero’ Wilhelm Tell. Kathrin sometimes volunteered there by showing people their seats, and she could take people along for free, so she asked me to come along. Sounded pretty cool to me, so I went for it. They had built a ‘live set’ with real houses on a hill, just for the show, it wasn’t used for anything else. For the visitors they had a big, covered seating area and Kathrin said it was filled for about 2/3 most of the time. Pretty impressive when you realize that they’ve been performing the same piece (with minor modifications) for almost a 100 years, about 20 times per summer. The play started with cows and goats coming down from ‘the mountains’ into ‘the village’, with people greeting them. I liked that a lot, since I’d seen those animals myself, up in the mountains earlier that day. The play went on and it was really good. During the first half, Kathrin had to translate a bunch of things for me, but after that I could understand most of it (it was in ‘regular’ German, not Swiss German). All the actors did a really good job. It’s just a hobby for them, none of them have been to acting school or anything.
Back at the house I had some good talks with Kathrin about jobs, church (turns out she and her sister were Christians as well) and just life in general, it was nice.

Switzerland & Sziget 2007: day 2 – 4

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Wednesday, 8 August (part 2)
At 8 pm I took the train to Lucerne. At some place not too far from there, the train made a pretty long stop, and then they announced that the train would no go further, because part of the tracks were flooded. Yay… But pretty soon a bus came that took me and the other passengers to the next station, Rotkriez, from where we could take the train to Lucerne. From there it was another short train ride to Littau, where Stephanie, my host for tonight, lived. But she had messaged me that I could better take a cab and she would pay for it. I didn’t want her to do that, but I took a cab anyway and paid for it myself, because I just wanted to get there quick. The radio was on and they were naming all these places that were troubled with the floods, including Littau and Grindelwald, a place I was planning to visit later on. So for a while I was thinking about just leaving Switzerland and go to Italy or something. The cab couldn’t take me all the way, because a road was closed, so I walked to last part to the Littau train station. There, Stephanie and two of her friends picked me up and I finally got to the house. The house was quite old and the style was very similar to old houses in the former DDR (my aunt and uncle, who have moved there, used to live in the same type of house), so it looked pretty familiar. I hung out with Stephanie’s friends for a while, because she had to take care of some things. They were staying over, because it was kinda hard for them to get home in these circumstances. Pretty soon we went to bed; I didn’t mind, because I could use a good night’s sleep. I got my own room with a king size air bed with pillows and blankets and everything. Nice.

Thursday, 9 August
Woke up and it was raining still. I checked the weather forecasts, and it seemed like it was going to get better, so I decided to just stick to my plan (and not leave Switzerland), except that I would probably just stay in today, or check Lucerne out for a bit.
I had some brunch with Stephanie. She actually used to live in Dordrecht; for about 6 months in 2006 she worked there as an au pair. Talk about coincidence? She was also a vegetarian, liked good music, she knew a lot of famous people and a christian. So we had enough to talk about.
Early in the afternoon it stopped raining and I headed to Lucerne. Once there, I decided to take a boat trip across Lake Luzern. It was pretty nice, and I got some good views. In Vitznau I got off and walked up the mountain a bit to get some more views. Took the boat back to Lucerne and walked around town a bit. Nice place, pretty old buildings. So in the end I’d actually been able to do what I wanted to, cool!
At 5.30 I got back to Littau, where I spent the rest of the evening. I read for some time, talked to Stephanie while she was making bread (for me to take along!), watched Goodbye Lenin! (great movie, even better in the setting of this house) and ate pizza. Then another girl who lived there, Angela, joined us for a while and I was pursued to play some Beatles songs on the guitar. It was a fun and relaxed night.

Friday, 10 August
I woke up with a clear blue sky, wow! Had breakfast with Stephanie and then said goodbye. She’d been one of the best hosts ever, and besides that it had also been fun hanging out. I took the train to Lucerne, where I got on the Golden Pass panoramic train to Meiringen. I don’t really know why they call it ‘panoramic’, because it wasn’t in any way more panoramic than the regular trains on that line, but whatever. I guess it was more about the route than the train itself. And the route was definitely ‘golden’. Although it had gotten a bit cloudy, the weather was still great, with quite a lot of sun.
I wanted to go to Meiringen, because from there you can get to the Trift Brücke (bridge), the highest pedestrian bridge in the world, over the melting water of the Trift Glacier. At the train station I asked how to get there, but the man in the booth said it was too late to go there today. I figured I’d go see for myself. First I had to take a small ‘special’ train and then a postal service bus. Switzerland’s bus network is mostly run by the postal service. Back in the day, people started riding along with postal service cars, because they were going to all these hard-to-get-to places anyway. More people started doing this, they got bigger buses, etc. And to this day, the bus drivers sometimes deliver mail and groceries to houses in secluded area’s. Once at the cable car station, the lady there also told me that it was getting pretty late to go up (by now it was 12.15). To get to the bridge, you had to take the cable car, and then walk for 1.5 hours. And back of course. The last cable car would go back at 4. I guess I could have pulled it off, but it didn’t seem like a great idea. I realized I’d just made a miscalculation. Oh well, it’d still been a nice ride to get here.
I turned to LP to see what else there was to do around here. At 6.15 pm I’d have to be in Interlaken, so I still had about 5 hours to kill. I took a train to Brienz, which was supposed to be located pretty nicely by a lake (Lake Brienz). It was a nice place indeed, and I just sat there eating, writing and listening to music for a while. The sky had pretty much clouded up by now, and by the time I left there it was raining a tiny bit. I got on the train to Thun. I passed Interlaken on the way, but I went on because I still had some time left, and Thun was supposed to be a worth seeing, as well as the route that led to it. I got some good views over Lake Thun and various towns along the coast. Once in Thun I took the first train back, because I actually didn’t feel much like checking the town out.
Tonight I would meet up with Kathrin, my host for Interlaken, at the Interlaken West train station, only a couple of minutes after she’d off from work. So I figured she worked there. I got there early and I saw a girl selling train tickets who looked a lot like the picture I’d seen, so I figured that would be her. Went to a supermarket (finally) and then met Kathrin. Turns out she’d already seen me as well. We drove to her house, which was actually in Matten, a small town attached to Interlaken. She lived in an apartment with her sister (Kimberly), which was located in the same house her dad and granddad lived in, but they all lived in separate parts. It looked typically Swiss, with pretty much everything made of wood.
Spent the evening hanging out there, eating dinner, taking a drive around town, and checking some things online. I’d received a message from someone in Sion who could fix a place to stay for me, so that was taken care of. Went to bed pretty early.