There’s something very cool about being able to turn tour guide for your friends after you’ve moved somewhere new- if you’ve moved or are staying somewhere different enough it can be such a hike to get out and see you that it becomes more of a holiday and less of a friendly visit. Of course this can be a pain when your friends have to dole out a lot of money just to get to visit you; and that’s the point where I feel like the pressure is on, regardless of whether that be friends, boyfriend/girlfriend or parents, I still feel obliged to do something. All the same, I get a good kick out of feeling like I have somewhere to show people, it really doesn’t have to be somewhere exotic either, I know my little town isn’t.
As a rule of thumb I always have a wet-weather plan (Hi, I live in Northern Europe). My logic says that if it’s sunny you will always find something to do and be pleasantly surprised- this usually involves ad hoc sun bathing- and, to be honest, if it’s raining and you’re with your friend or significant other then you probably aren’t going to struggle being tucked in a warm house with a movie etc. But just in case, I always try and have something indoors at the ready. This time my indoor-day was very changeable, it even got sunny at some points. We headed on an almost sickeningly quaint local railway line- two carriages, adorable stations the size of some peoples’ sheds, serving villages with houses the size of some countries’ palaces- and we visited a local thermal Bath I’d been recommended by a colleague. Bad Windsheim has very little apart from ‘wellness’, it looks at first glance like it entirely comprises of places for the sick to reside but when you get to the spa (after getting over the initial shock of being the only people under 60 in a spa on a work day) it’s really rather relaxing and not too heal-y. We visited all the different pools, indoor and outdoor, the salt bath, which was a bizarre and stingy experience (do NOT shave your legs/arms/anything beforehand) but fantastically surreal, and the steam rooms too. We drew the line at going in the ‘fabric free’ sauna, because we’re Prude-ish, I mean, British. Actually the best thing about a budget spa day, if you can find one, is that if they have outdoor options too I really enjoy being in the water in the rain; hey, you’re already wet.
I also try to remember that this person is here to see me too. So if I like somewhere, chances are they will like it too and I will like showing it to them regardless. Sadly all my favourite beer gardens were ruled out because my friend is not a fan of beer but I still took her to two of my favourite locations. My beautiful Bamberg was a bit shrouded in cloud, so it wasn’t sparkling in all its glory but it’s still very different to anywhere we’d been together in the UK before so we had a great time. It’s always nice if you’re doing a location-repeat for yourself to try and explore something a little different too. A museum or gallery you haven’t been in yet, a street you haven’t ventured along before; I always find this worth it, even if I don’t find anything specific I like knowing a place a little better, adding to my overall map and feel of it. I did two ‘getting to know my area’ days; the second in Nuremberg was a great success, glorious sunshine, actual sunbathing on an idyllic little island in the middle of the river that is frequented by students regardless of the weather. If you see nowhere new, it can still be refreshing to see ‘your city’ through new eyes, it breathes the life back into it that the daily grind tends to wear down.
On the complete flipside, another great way to enjoy a friend visiting you is by treating it like a holiday for yourself too and going somewhere completely new, but still vaguely in the area. At the point I have to say I made that awful mistake of heaping pressure on myself to make this day amazing, coupling that with the fact I didn’t know the area we were going to, it was more stressful than it needed to be. Tip: chill, it’ll be fine, over and out. So we set off to the border of Austria to sneak in a proper touristy day- none of this ‘alternative Germany’ malarkey, nope- we went down to one of the most visited castles in Europe, known often as The Disney Castle (or the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang castle), but known affectionately to those who know it as Schloss Neuschwanstein. Experiencing this at the end of the stay made me really feel like I’d done something with my friend, like we’d been on holiday together and got new memories together from that; it doubled the bubbly feeling I got from the week and made any stress I’d created for myself so worth it.
Top Tour-guiding Tip:
– Don’t underestimate the price of your local area. Think hard when helping your friend to budget, you may well not realise how much you spend in a week or how much extra your ‘special trip’ might cost. I had really ‘forgotten’ how expensive Bavaria is to live in, because I’ve become so used to it.