Swapping Homes Anybody?


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Season 4: a Great Success

All good things must come to an end. We had 8 home swaps all together now.
I'm going to miss a lot of good stuff about my home country like bread, ice cream in Italian Gelaterias, beer gardens. Certain dishes even tasted nice out of season - prepared by my aunt for me knowing I would love the white asparagus, which is not available after 21 June. She also had a winter specialty, kale, prepared and frozen for me in a manner only available in the north of Germany.
Like every year I'd like to conclude this season with some general tips for home swapping:
Sign up with a reputable agency which has numerous members in as many countries as possible. There is also an agency for seniors only. This means you're dealing with couples, not families with children. Maybe that will take your angst away about the safety of your home. By the same token they are likely to have smaller homes. Many have downsized. If you fall into that category, that company is ideal for you. I found out that many of them are looking for long-term stays as they have no job obligations and time constraints anymore.
Start to make contact early with prospective exchange partners, especially when you want to go to Europe. Many know a year in advance when their vacation will be and will plan ahead accordingly. Also, many people will look for flights early in the hope of getting cheaper flights.
On the other hand, invitations make come in at the last minute also as happened this year with our Dutch partners. Don't hesitate to be proactive. Contact exchanges that you wold fancy instead of waiting around. Allow me to compare it again to dating on line. You're not committed until you have a contract with them.
Set up an owner's closet, even a separate room with a lock to safeguard your valuables or personal belongings; just for your own peace of mind in case you still have reservations. An umbrella insurance is also a good idea to cover yourself against possible liabilities.
If you have the time, line up two or even more swaps. Once you're overseas, it's easy to move around in Europe with all these cheap air carriers or by train. A flight from London, Dublin or Paris to Berlin for example will only set you back by about $100.

You save a lot of money by home swapping. Especially the costs of rental cars overseas are higher than in the US and can burn a hole in your pockets. Not so if you get an exchange partner who is willing to swap cars with you.
Once you've tried home swapping, you'll want to repeat this great experience. We can't wait to start the selection process for next year. While waiting for our connection flight in Atlanta, a very tempting offer came in from Sweden. With home swapping the world is your oyster! Good luck and happy travels!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Vacationing on a Train Station

Ever heard of a vacation train station? Me neither, but this little town where we were staying has one.
Ideal for families with children, it looks idyllic and fun! Holiday makers stay and sleep on a train in the passenger cars. They are located next to the old train station of F. which houses kitchens and bathrooms. Your family will easily make friends with the other vacationers. Parents can take it easy as it is a safe environment where their kids can run around with others. It reminded me a bit of the old-fashioned horse-drawn wagons in Ireland, but of course, they moved around and this is stationary.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The mighty "Father Rhine"

It's a must to go and see the biggest waterfalls in Europe when you're on Lake Constance. They are located near Schaffhausen in Switzerland. (You need a passport to cross the border as CH is not a member of the EU).
The waterfall is 23 m high and 150m wide.Scientists reckon it's between 14,000-17,000 years old!  You park your car at the top and descend lots of stairs to get magnificent views on several platforms. I was grateful for the lift to take me up again! You can also approach it by boat.What a spectacle! This video can give you a way better impression than all my words. It makes you believe you're actually there yourself.

At the top is a real castle, Schloss Laufen, that's also a restaurant.Switzerland being Switzerland you may expect steep prices. We paid EUR 6,80 for a Bratwurst with a slice of bread. One with a portion of chips would have been EUR 12,80. (The equivalent of $16). Then again the tickets were not costly at EUR 7,50. Parking and toilet use were even for free.
                                                                Schloss Laufen
The mighty Father Rhine as it is often called has its headwaters for the most part in the Swiss canton of Grisons. Its biggest part runs through Germany until it reaches the North Sea in the Netherlands. Rhine Cruises are very popular.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Visiting a Ruin: Hohentwiel

How much fun is it to visit a ruin? Probably not much you think.We saw this one in passing on our way to Switzerland one day near the town of Singen. (More about the Rheinfall  next). It sits on top of a mountain,  a lava cone. After some exploring on the Internet, we found it was worth a trip although some strenuous climbing and walking would be involved.

Once you're up there after about 30 minutes of hiking, your view sweeps over hills and valleys, the Bodensee, into Switzerland (Thurgau) and the mountain range of Swiss Alpine.
Through the centuries it was a noble residence, first mentioned in a document dated 914, later it inspired, served as a defense fortress for the dukes of Swabenia until Napoleon ordered it to be destroyed.
View of another across the valley that is just like it
 There is one tower that is best preserved and looks strange with its satellite receivers.
but not preserved in the same way.
The garrison usually housed around 80 soldiers who had families.Sometimes up to 250 people. In times of war or danger, 1000 people would find refuge up there.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Another Gem on the Lake

After a fricking cold weekend (52 F) the sun tried very hard to get through the clouds and we went on another little trip- but with a brollie! The traffic around the lake is heavy most of the time and today was no different. So instead of going to Bregenz in Austria we stopped in Langenargen; a gem we had overlooked so far. It's located between Friedrichshafen and Lindau, two major bustling towns  which we had visited on a previous trip.
It has the typical picturesque old part of town, a museum, plus a little yacht harbor and  a castle of course.
The first mention of Langenargen in a document was in 970. In Roman times there were two watch towers on a little island in the lake just off the mainland. Overall, it is typical for many towns around Lake Constance but not as busy and smaller. Or it had to do with the fact that in most parts of Germany the summer holidays are over now and there are less tourists around.