(5) Almost got lost on my way to Munich


(5) Almost got lost on my way to Munich

Me to my friend Urs: One thing that I really wanna do; is attending a football game in Europe. El-Clasico will be the optimum, but I will not decline other available options if any.
Urs: How about a match in Munich?
Me: Well, Germany is not currently on my list of countries that I am looking forward to visit. You know how the language is a barrier to me -given that I have been living in a german speaking city for almost a month, a language that I do not speak or understand at all and have had it.
Urs: Everyone in Germany speaks English, people are extremely nice & helpful and the city is awesome.
Me: Mmmm, so what matches do we have this weekend?
Urs: It is one of Germany’s derbies “Bayern Munchen vs. Stuttgart”. It is going to be a very powerful game as Bayern Munchen has  won over Real Madrid at the semi-finals of the Champions League last week, so all the cheering and the playing will be not to miss.
Me: Bayern Munchen, Oh WOW! Yeaaah, I can imagine how they will be into the game and the cheering will definitely be on fire. Are there any reasonably priced tickets? I guess it’s a little too late. It is Monday & the match is on Saturday.
Urs: I’m a Bayern Munchen member, so I might find good seats reasonably priced, so let me check.
Me: Do you think it’s wise to attend a football game all alone? It wouldn’t be that fun. And might be dangerous for a solo female, you know how fans might get crazy.
Urs: Noooo, it is not dangerous for a solo female at all, you could go without any problems, and if you want I could pass you my future brother-in-law’s number who lives in Munich if any problems occured. I have attended so many matches by myself and enjoyed them so much, so being alone cannot be a barrier, do it, do it.
Me: Oh, how nice of you, but that’s really not necessary, thank you. Mmmm, I will think about it & let you know.
Urs: Well, currently the tickets are a bit expensive, let me keep checking every now and then and I will keep you posted.

inside the stadium (on the web)

inside the stadium (on the web)

The next day…
The telephone rang.
Me: Morgen Urs.
Urs: I have found a 50 euros ticket, a very good seat. Are you interested?
Me smiling with excitement: I’m coming to your office right away with my credit card.

Booking done, Munich BABY!
The next thing was booking 2 nights at Menninger hostel, followed by booking a train ticket from the station -Bern Bahnhof; Bern-Zurich-Munich (4 hours) then return Munich-Stuttgart-Zurich-Bern (5 hours) via the Swiss railways trains SBB.

Like every weekend, I packed one night before, it was always my tiny backpack that had 2 tops, underwear, socks, a towel, a toothbrush & toothpaste, my iPod and most importantly my Lovely Lonely Planet guide “Europe on a Shoestring”. Headed to the train station right after work, due to my bad luck the 1st connection train from Bern to Zurich went out of order that caused a 45 minutes delay, which meant that I will never catch my connection direct train Zurich-Munich that should have been after 1 hour from my arrival to Zurich. I explained to the train lady my terrible situation, she told me that my only option is to catch another 5 hours train with so many stops and 5 changes, I was staring at her while saying “NOWAY”, she asked me to step immediately off the train in order to catch another one that’s leaving in 2 minutes to Zurich while reassuring me that the railways company will find a way to get me to Munich.
I ran to get my jacket & my tripod that I left where I was seated which was pretty far, then jumped off the train to catch the other one. The train left the station after 15min, I was pretty stressed, wandering around trying to find the train lady, somehow mumbling until a very handsome guy sitting infront of me approached me “what’s wrong?”, I explained to him my unfortunate story, he smiled back at me in a reassuring tone by saying “Don’t worry, everything will be alright, the Swiss railways company SBB will definitely find a way to drive you to Munich in the most convenient way, it’s whether a private car, a jet or another train.”. I was so relieved after what he said, finally someone is talking to me, trying to ease my anxiety, he was so sweet. He started to chat, asking what am I doing in Switzerland, he told me that he lives on the mountains in the German part of Switzerland and that he came to Zurich to attend a conference, he also told me that he’s not a huge fan of Bern, “It’s a business oriented city, not like Zurich that has the best night life, yet very expensive.”, he also asked about the cities that I have visited so far, I said “Bern, Interlaken, Lucern which is my favorite & Zurich that I did not like that much as I’m not a fan of big cities”. The train lady finally showed up for tickets check, I handed my ticket and started to explain my situation, the guy started explaining to her in German, she again told me that there is only one connection to Munich which requires changing trains 5 times, or another train the next day at 6am, but that she’ll write on the ticket my situation so that once I arrive to Zurich SBB will find a way to take me to Munich in the most convenient way.

Once we arrived, I said goodbye to the handsome guy, while he wished me good luck and a pleasant stay in Switzerland. I stepped immediately out of the train, looking for SBB office to get things in order, but their reaction was totally below my expectations, the lady was acting boldly, she was very cold, told me that my options are taking that damn 5 hours train with 5 changes, or spend the night at Zurich then leave to Munich at 6am the next morning, so I replied:
“Why should I pay for a night in Zurich while it’s the company’s fault? And a train with 5 changes!!! This is torturous. Also if I take the 5 hours train I will arrive very late, so there won’t be any public transportations, I will have to take a taxi to the hostel.”
She handed an SBB card along with a ticket that has the platforms of my 5 changes, while telling me “keep your receipts, SBB will pay for everything, I’m sorry I really can’t help you, it’s whether you move very fast to catch the train which is leaving in 5 minutes, or as I told you spend the night in Zurich and catch the early morning train.”
“But I am very tired, I planned to sleep all along the trip, but since the train requires 5 changes, I will have to be awake during the whole trip”.
While so stunned she replied “sleeping on the train, that’s not allowed”.
“No I don’t mean spending the night on the train because I am homeless, I mean sleeping during the trip” in the back of my head wanting to tell her you jerk. I looked at the ticket and said angrily “this ticket indicates only two platforms, how about the rest?”.
She replied “I’m sorry, that’s the available information for now, they will be announcing the platforms inside the train”.
“But the announcement will be in German, and I don’t speak any German”.
“Then you could ask the SBB guy on the train.”
I was shocked, in disbelief, unable to think, speak or react, anxiety was killing me, my options are not practical, if I take that train I might hop on a wrong train during the 5 changes specially that one of the train changes -to Bregenz- should happen in a one minute time, or spend an expensive night at Zurich that might not be refunded by SBB -after this humiliating situation I do not trust them- take the early morning train at 6am, which means a sleepless night, also exhaustion will prevent me from having fun in Munich, and who knows maybe the train will be out of service again and I’ll miss the football game, which to me is not an option. All I started to do is running towards the platform in order to catch the train, hoping that things will go my way.
Once I stepped inside the train I couldn’t stop myself from crying hysterically, I was scared, frustrated, filled with anxiety, with lots of what if questions inside my head. Although I was DEAD tired, I couldn’t lie my head down or get any sleep, I was too scared to miss one of the connections, and get lost somewhere on my way to Munich. I changed one train after the other,  until I almost missed my connection to Bregenz -the one minute train change & the second last change before getting on the direct train to Munich, once I stepped my feet inside this train, it moved immediately, I was petrified, asking and re-asking if I’m on the right connection, the train was filled with teenagers, all dressed up, ready to spend an exotic weekend, I was envying them for being relaxed and happy, while my destination was completely unknown.

When the train stopped, I stepped out of it, a very nice girl named Caroline, whom I asked on the way if I was on the right connection to Bregenz, came and spoke to me, asking “why do you seem so anxious, are you Okay?”, I told her my whole story, she was totally understanding and told me that it has happened to her before, and that we could stick together as she’s heading to Munich as well to meet with her school friends that she hasn’t met in so many years. I was so thankful to find her, having her around made me feel comfy, and that I don’t care if I get lost as long as I’m with someone, and that someone is Swiss, who speaks a little German as she’s originally from the french part of Switzerland. We were on the Swiss-Austrian-German borders, facing Lake Constance, I still remember that once we arrived to Bregenz my mobile sent me a welcome sms; once as if I am in Austria, another as if I am in Germany & a third one as if I am in Switzerland -how I love that feeling, being in 3 countries at a time, wouhouuu. We had around 30 minutes to catch our next train, so we walked together down the station -as Caroline wanted to have coffee-, to find lots of parties overlooking the lake, they were more like beach parties as the land was covered in sand, people were barefoot, chairs had a beachy feeling. We stayed at a very nice cafe/restaurant on the lake, I did not order anything as the menu didn’t seem appealing to me, while Caroline ordered coffee. Then we headed to catch our last connection to Munich. The train was really good, we were seated alone in a compartment coach, I badly needed to sleep but we kept chatting all along our 3 hours journey. We mainly talked about Egypt’s GREAT Revolution & the Arab Spring, her daydream of going to Africa, her engagement party and wedding that should be arranged soon, our different perspectives of marriage and relationships, my love and passion for travel, etc.

We finally arrived at 1am in the morning at Hauptbahnhof which is Munich’s main station, I was drained, wanting nothing but a bed to lie my head on. Caroline’s friends greeted me, while trying to read the map that I have, to show me directions to the station, but they couldn’t tell where Meininger Hostel was, luckily somebody overheard us and showed me directions, he told me that it was a 10 minutes walk from the station, I was tired to the extent that I couldn’t ask if I could go by tram, or is it too far from my hostel, or from where to get tickets, I was not ready for any surprises, I didn’t feel safe to take a cab at 1:10am, and I didn’t want any more adventures I just wanted to follow the said directions, arrive at the hostel & have a nice sleep. I walked for over 20 minutes, as I was walking art a very slow pace, every part of my body was aching hard. Everything was closed but the city was not dead, there were lights everywhere, lots of people in the street mostly driving or cycling, or coming out of night clubs, I felt safe so I decided to keep walking, I was impressed to see Sofitel Munchen that seemed very fancy. Finally arrived at the hostel, only to discover that it was 4 tiny stations from the main station, the tram was a minute walk from the hostel -how stupid I was- entered the room while walking on my toes, it was 1:30am, the girls whom I shared the room with were already sleeping, I put my jacket and tripod, climbed to my bed while carrying my backpack, was tired to the extent that I only took off my pants and slept…

And yes this is what should be called a journey from HELL…

After all, all I wished for was attending a football game in a European stadium and being at Allianz Arena is truly to die for 🙂

view of Allianz Arena from outside at night (on the web)

view of Allianz Arena from outside at night (on the web)

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(4) Almost got kidnapped by a Jamaican


(4) Almost got kidnapped by a Jamaican

It was a well deserved vacation after 1 month in Switzerland, while I was barely communicating with people as the Swiss are a bit shy or I would say they don’t easily get along with strangers like me. My best friend who promised me to come visit has finally decided to meet me in Amsterdam, it was a decision jointly taken after I gave her the choice between Amsterdam & Prague. Well, I have to admit that I am talented at persuading people of what I really want to do. In fact, Amsterdam is my favorite European city and since my visit in 2011 I was dreaming about going there again in order to see the tulip fields of Keukenhof in Lisse, which is almost an hour drive from Amsterdam. But I was more into Prague since I have never been there, but after showing Keukenhof photos to my best friend it was really difficult to persuade her to go elsewhere.

on the web

on the web

Due to flights availability and prices, I had to arrive one night before my friend. On the way to my hostel from Schiphol Airport -the BEST airport that I have ever been to- to Centraal Station, I have met with two brits who were asking for help to catch the right train going to the city center, they were pretty cool & funny a PE & a science teacher coming to Amsterdam for the weekend to attend a Bachelor’s Party while spending the night at Dirty Nelly’s hostel.  We chatted on the way, I told them “You know guys, this is my first time in a month to hear people speaking while I am actually able to understand every word spoken”. The PE teacher laughed and replied: “Why?”, “Because I have been in Bern for a month, the capital of Switzerland in which German is widely spoken, around 95% & 5% are french speaking, I do not speak even one word of German, all the menus in restaurants, nearly everything is in German, so it is whether I don’t understand a word, or barely understand the mix of French & English spoken, or use hand signs to find a common understanding, hahaha”, I said. They were very loud, but very entertaining. Trying to find their way to their hostel, I tried to help them using my Rough Guide to Netherlands -that I bought during my trip to Malta back in April 2011-, but Dirty Nelly’s wasn’t mentioned in there. Having a guide book and knowing the way to the city made them believe that I’m a travel geek (TRUE, haha, I cannot move without one of these guide books, they are my true friend and helper). I showed them the way to an information desk inside the train station, wished them a pleasant stay and a wild Bachelor’s party -in the back of my mind “Bachelor party in Amsterdam, at Dirty Nelly’s…mmm, it will definitely be a wild weeked :)”-,  then headed to the hostel where I was staying.
I could never rely on my instincts to lead my way, although I was in Amsterdam a year ago but I couldn’t remember any directions, I recognized every street, every canal that I walked through but not directions. Amsterdam was quite busy that night as they were celebrating their independence day. It took me more than a one hour walk to get to Shelter Jordan Hostel -which is roughly 15 to 20min walk, but I got lost several times- a very nice & clean hostel located in a wonderful classy neighborhood called Jordan, where I checked in back in May 2011. I was sharing a room with 3 other girls.

The next morning I packed, had breakfast; Muesli with yogurt, a banana and a cappuccino, taken some photos of the breakfast area that has been renovated & decorated nicely, then started to hit the road to meet with my friend, as we were supposed to meet at the hostel where we were staying -better not to mention the name as it wasn’t a very pleasant experience- located right next to Heineken Experience. When I saw her right across the street I screamed out loudly & hugged her “OH MY GOOOOOD, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU MADE IT, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT I’M GOING TO SPEAK MY NATIVE LANGUAGE FOR 5 DAYS, I MISSED YOUUUU.” We were joined by another friend of my best friend’s and we really had lots of fun; we went to Vondelpark where we had hot dog sandwiches with curry sauce, to Heineken Experience where we took pictures at every corner, recorded videos, to Jordan where I showed them Anne Franck house from outside as well as the church right next to it & the hostel where I stayed the night before, to Leidseplein with the wide range of restaurants, Holland Casino & cycling tours office of Joy Ride tours by which I had an AWESOME Countryside bike tour back in 2011, to Rembrandtplein where we had the most amazing breakfast at St. James’s Gate Restaurant & enjoyed buying colored paintings, not to mention the pleasure of walking around this area, to Museumplein where we had the famous photo of  jumping with Rijkmuseum & I Amsterdam sign in the background & eaten breakfast at one of the small cafes lying there, to Dam Square where hundreds on souvenir shops lie, took a hop on hop off boat, had Vlaamse Frieten from the AMAZING Chipsy King. Our second day (May 5th, 2012) coincided with the Liberation Day called in Dutch Bevrijdingsdag, so concerts, people singing and dancing everywhere. We spent a full day at Keukenhof, Zaanse Schans (oldest windmills in Holland), Volendam (a harbor and a fishers town with amazing fish restaurants), Marken (a tiny village, with a mix of countryside, boats & tiny traditional houses). It was an intense trip, extremely enjoyable.

by Me

By Me

By Me

On May 8th, it was time to go back to Bern, my friends dropped me off at Centraal Station to catch the train to Schiphol Airport, took the flight, arrived at Basel Airport to take the train to Bern which is one hour -Bern only has a tiny airport and barely had flights that’s why I always traveled from Basel or Geneva. The train was around 15min late, It was already 12:10 a.m. and I was really exhausted, looking forward to being at home. The train was half empty, so I was lucky to be seated comfortably on two chairs, I tried to get some sleep but in vain, so I just relaxed stared at the window, until a guy started talking to me, I answered in return he was like: “What are you doing in Switzerland?, How long have you been here?, Where are you from?”, I responded and asked “how about you?” in return, until he finally told me: “I’m from Jamaica. Sooo, you’re a lawyer, that’s interesting! You are definitely looking for me.”, I replied naively looking into his unconscious reddish eyes: “What the hell are you talking about?”, he replied sarcastically: “Because I’m a criminal.”. In the back of my mind I was screaming “God help me, what should I do now!!!”.
The train finally stopped, I got out while saying out loudly: “Somebody saves me from this asshole.”, nobody moved or showed any sympathy, they just walked out of the train as if I do not exist at all!!! -If I was in Egypt, people would have been him up & taken him directly to the police station. The guy was waiting for me outside the train, so I decided to get on the train again to look for someone from the railways company, until I found one, I told him my story so he asked me if I want to report it to the police, but I decided not to as I was scared that the guy would find me in the future as Bern is sooo small, I also wanted to go home immediately & the last thing I wanted is going to the Police Station while I’m a girl all alone in a foreign country. I just asked him to take me to the taxi station to make sure that I am safe and sound. I took the taxi back home, looked behind to make sure that the guy wasn’t following me, arrived around 1am exhausted, looking forward to tell my colleagues at work about this unfortunate story, yet funny.

The good part about these stories; they are the memorable fun part of any trip ;)…Enjoy your travels, your experiences, and cherish every moment with JOOOOOY…

Lessons learned:
1. Never speak to strangers if they look suspicious or have red eyes -drunk or drugs.
2. Never take a late night train when you are a solo female traveler -from this day on all the trains I caught where morning or evening trains, even if I had to spend one extra night somewhere, it’s better to be cautious than sorry.
3. Avoid late night trains because you will have to take a cab instead of public transportations -that’s for better money allocation.

(3) Bumped into a tree while Zip-lining


(3) Bumped into a tree while Zip-lining (13.05.2012)

It’s Saturday, I am not feeling well, and not feeling like going out. It’s time to google something interesting to do on Sunday, http://www.myswitzerland.com answers it all.

After finding so many choices, Gantrisch Nature Park it is; where I can go hiking, photographing & ZIP-LINING(wouhouuuu), it’s something that I have wanted to do since my trip to South Africa in 2008.

What Zip-lining is about 🙂

Sunday in the early morning I went to the station -Bern Banhof- to figure out a train to take me there, showed them at the ticket office the suggested route by the website that turned out to be a 1 hour drive; a train followed by a bus. It took me another 20-30 minutes hike to figure out where the Seilpark -Zip lining Park- is after I was dropped off in a deserted area, that looked awesome, but just in the middle of nowhere. The hike was so beautiful, horse stables, vegetations, houses on cliffs, a bar restaurant right next to the Seilpark entrance, so let the fun begin 🙂
The ranger who was explaining safety measures barely spoke English, but I could more or less understand what she was trying to say.

Me before Zip-lining (unfortunately I was all alone on that day and nobody took a photo of me while zip lining 😦

It was soooo scary to slide on ropes, even when I was close to the ground, it really felt weird. But it was sooo cool, there were 7 routes to follow from the easiest to the hardest, I started by taking the hardest as it looked really tempting, couldn’t manage to move from one place to another, so I was advised to start by the easiest route, finished one route followed by the other, I was having a super time I just felt like Tarzan, until I was at the end of the 3rd route that required a 20 meters high Zip-line, I was hesitating too much as I kind of have a fear of heights and this one looked pretty scary to the extent that I missed my turn to let a 9 years old boy and his mum do the jump before me, until I decided to say a prayer, leave it to God & jumped. It was soooo fast to the extent that my hand that was holding the rope in order to be able to control my speed slipped off so I couldn’t slow down or stop myself from sliding. “Oh my God, the tree is so near, it’s whether I bump into the tree and get hit on the face or I twist my body a little to get it in my shoulder”, I thought to myself.
In few seconds I severely bumped my right shoulder into the tree, tried to stop myself to stand on the platform, but with no success, as a result I have slided on the rope again in the opposite direction, until I reached the middle of the rope & couldn’t move no more, I started to help myself to go to the platform by climbing on the rope with both hands & both legs, but it was really difficult. Started to feel helpless, praying, hoping that the rangers would notice the shitty situation that I am put in, seeing people watching me but my ego stopped me from asking for help, suddenly I heard a voice telling me: “I am coming to save you, hold onto my legs”, the ranger said, I could barely hold her legs from the pain that I was having in my arms & legs, it is very difficult to climb on a rope while being against gravity & lifting my whole body on my arms & legs. Then a guy was pulling both of us till we could both stand on the platform. My whole body was shaking, I started to cry out of agony, out of “I CAN’T BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED” feeling, couldn’t feel my body or even stand on my feet & my shoulder hurt terribly, was unable to imagine that this horrible experience really happened to me. The ranger tried to ease my pain by telling me “relax you’re fine, please don’t cry”, she helped me to go down the tree which was 20 metres high, we arrived safely on the ground while my body continued to shake. I decided to sit a little bit, then hiked for half an hour until I decided to go up again & started to zip line to face my fear of zip lining, hehehe :). But I didn’t have the guts to do that 20m zip line again, but I will definitely do it again when I have friends with me cheering “Do it. Do it.”

(2) Crossed the highway while carrying my bike


(2) Crossed the highway while carrying my bike (17/04/2012)

Me: “Sorry guys for being late, I know I have already missed the first half of Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munchen match, but believe it or not, I have cycled on the highway, had to stop at some point & to cross it while carrying my bike.”
My friends in disbelief: “WHAT?”
Me: “I’ll tell you the story…

It was after working hours that I have decided to take my bike to experience cycling “safely” in the streets of Bern, Switzerland which is something that I am not used to do in my home country as we do not have “cycling lanes”.
Got the bike that I borrowed out of the garage, ready to experience some Swiss cycling, which made me feel fresh and awesome. Kept cycling on & on while the fresh air was blowing my hair, smelling freedom & enjoying the speed, until I found a sign in German -that I don’t speak- Aus something with a picture of a bike, so I said to myself this should mean “safe for bikes” or a “cycling route”, and decided to continue cycling. It felt a bit weird as no one was cycling on this road except me, there is no lane for bikes just a few dashes in dark orange instead of yellow, but who cares maybe at this time people are not into cycling, and that cycling lanes do not exist on every road or can have different colors, I went on only to be stopped by a driver who approached to tell me “you cannot cycle on this road, it is too dangerous”, I asked in surprise “why?”, she said “it’s a Highway”!!!!.

In the back of my mind: “Oh my GOD, What should I do now? how to return back?” that’s the question.
There was no sidewalk, so going out of the road had to be figured out differently. I was freaked out, not knowing what to do. There wasn’t but vegetations on ramps on both sides of the road, so I had to walk on these ramps in the opposite direction of the road while pushing the bike, then at some point there wasn’t anymore vegetations on the side that I am walking on, so crossing the highway was the only option. The only thing that made me hesitate before crossing is to get caught by the police or by sane people, it was going to be scandalous to find my photo on the newspapers subtitled by “An Egyptian freak, crossing the Bernese highway while carrying her bike”. I wasn’t scared of getting hit by a car, because when you live in Egypt for too long you learn to cross any road any time without any concerns.
In order to cross it I made sure that no humans were on sight, no one would ever notice what I did, then I finally decided to carry the bike, quickly crossed the highway, walked a bit on the ramp of vegetations on the other side of the road, finally reached the safe road, continued cycling till I arrived home. Once I was safely back home I cracked up in laughter, not believing what happened on my first cycling trial.”
It’s always like that, in the middle of the situation we get anxious, freaked out, maybe cry but once it’s over we crack up in laughter & keep telling everyone “Did I tell you that I crossed the highway while carrying my bike? Did I tell you that I bumped into a tree while zip lining? Hey, don’t tell my parents that I…to be continued

Lessons Learned:
1. Never drive a car/bike/even a scooter if you cannot read the signs written in a foreign language.

2. NEVER do what I did, but if you are put in the situation act as quickly and bravely as I did. Be smart, don’t panic and everything will work just fine.

3. Never try a new activity when there is a football game that should start shortly afterwards, you never know how late you could be due to your foolish acts -I missed approximately the first half of the Champions League Semi-finals between Bayern Munchen & Real Madrid.

4. If you wanna learn how to cross the streets without having a panic attack, spend a couple of days in Cairo, Egypt.

(1) Swam at the 16C Aare River


(1) Swam at the 16C Aare River (17.06.2012)

It was finally friday, a sunny stunning friday, everyone is in the parks enjoying the sun that rarely shines in Switzerland, I left work around 5pm, decided to take a long tour with my bike. I always have this passion of jumping on a bus/tram without having or knowing a known destination, of riding my bike on a road that I have never rode on or to just walk in a certain direction to discover a new area (for safety reasons i always do this during the day).
So I rode the bike on several new roads till I reached an amazing place, it’s in the woods i would say, an incredibly beautiful hiking area with people chilling, turning on music, bbq-ing, lovers holding hands, some others cycling just like me then I found the Aare river on my right hand side people dressed in swimsuits getting tanned or jumping in the river while my heart jumped out of my chest. I was dyiiiiing to jump in the river as well, months before I arrive to Berne I googled a loooot about Berne and Switzerland in general, i thought that Berne is the least fun Swiss city where you can’t really do anything only to find a BBC video about the amazing Aare river swim, pretty awesooome and definitely on my bucket list.
After cycling for approximately two or two and a half hours I decided to take a break by sitting by the river while surrounded by 4 huge swimming pools overlooking the Federal -seat of the Swiss Federal Council-, so many people enjoying the sun or a refreshing swim, while having a snack, reading a book, listening to music or chatting with friends. Didn’t have my swimsuit so I decided to come the next day and have a swim.


On saturday it took me more than 1 hour to get to that same place called Marzili in Marzilistrasse because I don’t have any sense of directions, and getting lost is part of my daily routine, not exaggerating I suck big time. Rented a locker -I didn’t have enough cash, but in Switzerland it’s not a problem, the ATM is behind the cashiers-, put on my swimsuit, had a quick swim at the pool, touched the Aare water with my feet till it reached my knees, it was 18C literally FREEZIIIING, I thought that I’d never be able to swim at the Aare. I decided to text one of my friends who’s known at work as the “Aare Guru”, he swims in there all year long -even in winter-, a fair swimmer he is, he even has a locker at Marzili with his name, who might encourage me to do the swim. He only got back to me the next morning to tell me that he might go around 5pm, I jumped out of bed all energetic, texted another friend to meet her there as well, went to the supermarket -COOP at Berne Bahnhof- bought Coke & some snacks, it took me around an hour to be at Marzili because guess what? I got lost again :D. Parked my bike, sat on my towel to enjoy the sun and get tanned. Steffi joined me but she couldn’t swim as she had a knee surgery, then Jan joined as well. We started to chit chat, until we finally decided to have a swim, the aare water was 16C, the river was flowing very quickly, it looks very scary but pretty fun and refreshing as well, we walked a bit until we could reach the place where most of the people jump off the stairs which were approximately at the same level of the water. I have been looking forward to this very moment for more than 5 months, but when the moment of truth has arrived I became so numb, it’s dangerous, cold and I can’t do it.

Me: No Jan, this is crazy, i really can’t do it.
Jan: Come on, it’s sooo much fun.
Me: I know, but it’s too freaking cold and the water flow is very quick.
Jan: Don’t worry, I am with you. Put some water on your arms and back to get used to the water and then jump.
Me: It is too cold and I’m so scared.
Jan: Do you know how to swim?
Me: Well, I’m not the best swimmer, but I can help myself not to drown.
Jan: There is nothing dangerous then, and I’ll be there if you needed help.
Me: But someone at work told me that many tourists drown at the Aare. And since I have a real bad luck I might drown as well.
Jan: No you won’t drown, only stupid people drown at the Aare, or people who jump from dangerous places but this one is really safe.
Me: But what if my heart stopped?
Jan: How old are you?
Me: 25
Jan (laughing): Mmmmm, then it won’t stop.
Me: Jaaan, You know that I’m meeting with my mum in 2 days, and I’m going back to Egypt in 2 weeks, I really don’t wanna die before then.
Jan (laughing harder): You won’t die, put on some water and jump or I’ll jump.
Me: Noooo, please don’t, I just need some time.
Jan: Some time? we have been here for more than 15 minutes.
Me: I’m not sure if I can do it.
Jan: Come on, you cannot give up now, if you don’t do it now, you’ll regret it later. You cannot be in Berne and not swim at the Aare River, it’s a must do.
Me: Yes I know and I’ll do it but let this group of people jump first.
Jan: No more waiting, once you step here -pointing on the stairs going downwards- you cannot go back no more.
Me: Oh my Gooood, okay hold my hand, oh ohhh it’s sooo freaking coooold, okay okay I’m gonna jump now…Splaaaaash! Wouhouuuu, it’s awesooome, it’s not cold, it’s insanely cool, I did it, I swam at the Aare.

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I kept the stone that Jan got me from the bottom of the Aare River during our swim.

I jumped again twice; once with Jan and another all alone. But there is only a FIRST time 🙂

Lessons learnt:
1. The Aare River swim is a must do in your life – I really wanna do it in winter as well.

2. If you suck at directions don’t go or try new places at night, because it’s not safe & you might bump into bad/drunk people who will lead you to the wrong direction.

3. Face your fears, to enjoy life to the fullest.