Posts Tagged With: nature

Switzerland: Water, Water Everywhere!

Water fountain in Bern

Water fountain in Bern

Don’t try this any place else in the world,

but in Switzerland you can drink the water flowing from those fancy, artsy, grand and beautiful fountains that are usually found in many squares or areas where people congregate.

Unless there’s a sign that says not for drinking, the water is safe to drink.

Its source is usually the Swiss Alps – the source of much of the expensive bottled water around the world – or some other pristine body of water, which Switzerland has plenty of.

And certainly it’s probably of better quality than that bottled water you just bought from a store. (Unless, of course, you bought it in Switzerland, in which case you are likely drinking the same water flowing from one of those fountains, except you just paid good money for it).

So there’s no sense in buying water when you come to Switzerland. Just carry your empty water bottle and fill up at will. It’s free and it’s very good.


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The River Surfers Of München

The EisbachGerman for “ice brook” –  lazily snakes its way through one of the largest city parks in the world. The English Garden, as the park is known, draws locals and visitors by the thousands each day. In Munich, one of Germany’s best cities for just about everything, the park gets used in every season. It is a source of pride, much like New York City’s Central Park, except much larger. In summer, the English Garden is where everybody in Munich goes at some time or another. Every kind of activity imaginable happens there, including nude sunbathing near the Eisbach. But at the mouth of this artificial stream, one activity has been drawing more and more tourists, forcing the local government to end its prohibition: surfing.

On any given day in summer, dozens of surfers can be found at the mouth of the Eisbach, where just under a bridge a water-pumping system produces very strong waves perfect for surfing. For more than 40 years, surfers have been flocking to the spot to put their balancing skills to the test, to the chagrin of local officials who had threatened to destroy the waves, leading residents to protest and start a “save the waves” campaign. It wasn’t until 2010 – after noticing that the surfers were a big draw for tourism, that officials removed the ban on surfing, even if the ban was never really enforced. From the bridge and from the banks of the Eisbach, tourists can be seen snapping photographs while the surfers ham it up.

I’m not a surfer and I didn’t know anything about this river surfing in Munich until I got to the city and locals told me about it. They said if there’s one thing you should do in Munich, is head for the park and see the showboating surfer dudes and dudettes. I went and I was not disappointed. I even shot some video (above). The photos are also pretty cool, if I may say so myself. 🙂

Anyway, Munich bustles with activity when summer comes. So much to the city beyond what goes on in and around Marienplatz. Just ask a local – connect with one – and you will find yourself at a free outdoor concert on “the beach”. Or eating curried German sausages where the locals eat. And seeing the city in a way you normally would not see. So go on and check out the surfers if you get to Munich during the warm weather months. Cowabunga! (sorry, I had to say it 🙂

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This town gets very little to no respect. It’s the city that most Poles will tell you holds nothing special. It’s not even worth a visit some will go so far to say, and the naysayers includes residents.

I came to Bydgoszcz by way of  Tleń, a small village where my friends Anna and Michal. own and operate a guesthouse. Tleń, with only 260 inhabitants, is 36 miles – or 58 kilometers – north of Bydgoszcz.  I had been holding fast in Gdansk when I got a call from Michal to invite me to Tleń, with its rivers and lakes in the Tochula Forest, Poland’s vast wooded area.

If you love nature and being outdoors, you will love  Tleń and its surrounding areas. At every turn there are lakes, rivers, meadows with ducks and swans and all sorts of other wildlife. This is rural country, to be sure, where you come to unwind.

On their way to shop for supplies in the big town, Bydgoszcz, I joined Michal and Anna. It would be a chance for me to see what all were telling me was not worth seeing. It would also be an opportunity to reconnect with another friend, Kamil, a history teacher who lives in Bydgoszcz. As soon as we arrived in Bydgoszcz, Kamil and I took off to do some sightseeing while Anna and Michal shopped and took care of other business. True, when I first arrived in Bydgoszcz, nothing immediately impressed me, but walking around the old town, a few things did.

There was the river that runs through the city, the manicured green spaces to enjoy an afternoon, the public art and cultural centers, and of course the bounty of churches that date back centuries. St. Martin & St. Nicholas Cathedral’s interior is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. The city’s oldest. St. Martin & St. Nicholas was built in the 15th Century in the so-called Vistulan Gothic style, with every inch of wall and ceiling painted in bright shades of red, purple and pink. I love the interior of this church!

Bydgoszcz is a great launch pad for the surrounding cities and villages and countryside, all reached by car or bus within minutes. Or come for the shopping. Right near the old markets, there are some great modern shopping malls.

Inside the colorful St. Martin & St. Nicholas Cathedral

Inside the colorful St. Martin & St. Nicholas Cathedral

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