Everybody looks like George Clooney

After a lovely Easter Vigil with the Old Catholic congregation in Freiburg, then an early sunrise service on the hills overlooking the city, and topped off with five baptisms on Easter morning – I was ready for a holiday.

A small camping site on the end of Lake Como (the opposite end to Clooney’s villa) was our home base for a few days of relaxation and exploring.  In a relatively short time we had driven through Switzerland and entered Italy via the Gotthard tunnel.  You know you’ve arrived in Italy as all of a sudden every driver behind you feels like they are in the trunk of your car and all the men look like George Clooney.

With some unseasonably cool weather pouring south over the alps, we had no use for our swimwear that we brought with us having expected warm wind from the Sahara to be blowing its way north.  No matter.  We found lots to do and explore.  An old church pilgrimage site over looking the lake, lakeside villages with loads of history, and fantastic coffee about every 100 metres.  Italy has to be the place for breaking ones coffee fast over Lent.

Fully caffeinated and feeling a little more Italian, we drove to Milan for a day to see the some sights, but mostly we watched people strolling around the boulevards looking like they had just walked out of a fashion magazine.

Eventually it was time to return home to Germany.  Knowing that the very lengthy tunnel passage through the Alps would, on a Saturday, be jam pack with traffic we opted for the scenic over the alps route.  Unfortunately, the sign to indicate that the mountain pass we had chosen was closed was at the very bottom of the road (which we didn’t see) and the next notice sign was at the top.  It was, despite the frustration, an amazing drive which reminded me of so many car chase scenes in a James Bond film.  Hairpin turns, sheer drops, amazing snow capped peaks, and short one-way icicle filled tunnels made sure that you had both hands on the wheel.

Having to turn back and descend the mountain to find another available pass forced us to see more of the worlds famous skiing and alpine resorts. If anything, it was better than sitting in a two and a half hour traffic jam in the tunnel.  We stopped for a coffee and snack at a small mountain top restaurant to be reminded that we had left Italy, and were now in Switzerland as the espresso coffee shot up in price to 4 Euros!

The holiday ended with us picking up the dog from the kennel.  Sadly, the dog was not able to join us despite us finding a dog friendly campground.  All the required inoculations for the dog made it so that he was not allowed out of the country.  Or, as we were told by the veterinarian – you could likely take him out of Germany, but coming back (if you get caught) would be very costly with a forced 6 week quarantine period.  Even with the dog having his Euro dog passport (yes, there is such a thing!) the new rules require a 3 week waiting period after a rabies booster injection.

All in all, we returned from the holiday relaxed and refreshed.

A tale of two trips – to Basel

This week I have made two trips to the beautiful city of Basel.  One trip was for pleasure, the other was a work related event (which was also pleasant).  Monday morning saw the departure of two of very good friends.  With the Euro-airport so nearby it is the arrival and departure place of many folks who come for short visits.  IMG_20160712_095414

On Monday the girls and I were able to drop friends off at the airport, and then spend a few hours walking around Basel.  Each time I visit Basel I see more and more – becoming familiar with the sights and sounds of a busy city.  On this short visit we were able to quickly get to places of interest now that we have got our bearings.  We went to part of the University, the Botanical Gardens, the RathausRathaus and one of the old city gates – the Spalentor.  This looping tour took us though narrow side streets and even into a tourist trap store selling trinkets at a high cost.  The girls decided that they had, over a few visits, walked most of Basel, and would now like to have a city crest to pin to their walking sticks at home as a trophy, or sign of accomplishment.  When we entered the shop in search of the small shields and another woman with a young girl were leaving, we overheard the shop clerks saying, “that makes three English speakers today!”  The girls and I found the crests we were looking for (for a small fortune in CHF!) and began talking to the staff in all the languages we knew of.  After speaking, German, English and French the women behind the counter finally asked were we were from so they could add us to their private game of ‘count the tourist’.

The following day, I returned to Basel for a meeting with friends and colleagues in the Anglican Church in Basel for our educational meeting.  These meetings are of really value, as it can be a lonely job being the only Anglican minister in town.  Not only is there some fellowship and prayer together, but we also take turns presenting and discussing various topics for educational purposes.  This particular gathering was to hear about the Christology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as there had recently been a global symposium on the life and work of Bonhoeffer.  It was good to stretch our brains and think critically about the impact of what was then a very young Bonhoeffer and his contribution to theological thought.  With our topic and surrounding discussions I could help thinking about my own lecture that I am to give at the University of Freiburg regarding the celebration of the Reformation and the links with the Church of England and wider Anglican Communion.   I hope I can match the quality of study given by my esteemed colleague that joined us in Basel.

Over the two different days of visiting one of the things that impressed me most was hearing how much my eldest daughter had learned about Basel from her school classes.  The bridges, and surrounding geography were recalled in detail and it was like having our own private tour guide.  There is, of course, always more to explore in Basel, and in Freiburg…but that is for another day and another journey.