Nürnberg is a small city in Germany with very bad flight connections, and so your recent visit there was by train. The ride there, although through pleasant countryside, was in rattly old train carriages and took six hours. You've definitely become a public transport snob after getting comfortable with Switzerland's infrastructure; this is probably the only country where the term public transport snob is even comprehendible... Regardless of the travel time, you went there to attend a Schweissgerechtes Konstruktion course - apparently called a sweat-friendly design course according to Google Translate. The word for welding is literally sweat in German, coming from hot welding factories in the 1940's when low-temperature gas torches were used to slowly melt metals together, which made everyone sweat buckets.
The two-day seminar was in a hotel near a big park, which was riddled with running trails. The course attendees raved at how nice the park was - they'd obviously never been outside Germany in their lives. Although it was very green, to you it was a few ugly ponds, some ducks and lots of dogs. During the course the hotel served exquisite munchables which were the highlight of the trip, since the course itself wasn't so impressive. The focus was on welding being a cheap alternative good design, in that welding was for fixing things rather than a core design element. Welding for fatigue-loaded constructions (high quality) was brushed over as too expensive and rarely used, which is the *only* welding you use in your designs. Even if the welding standards were originally developed for rail applications, and are now used in other industry, apparently HY and HV welds are uncommon. For making garden sheds, sure a cheap fillet weld will hold. For making anything which moves or shakes, you need something better. Appart from being able to calculate the strength of a single-sided fillet weld on a bracket, you didn't learn very much.
You had a look about the town and saw some churches, wandered through the park and saw a squirrel being chased by a crow, and enjoyed a fancy asparagus salad with prawns and a glass of rosé for dinner. It was a nice break from work.
The next long weekend in the series of mid-year long weekends was spent in Magic Wood, bouldering. Magic Wood is a small area of riverside forrest in the hills south of Chur, near the Italian border, and the largest natural bouldering area in the country. It's made of massive boulders which have tumbled down from the ridge. Magic Wood is a maze or moss-covered overgrowth, tree entanglements and chalk powder. It really seems magical somehow; if Candy Mountain existed, it'd be hidden somewhere in Magic Wood.
There was a very basic campsite near the first bridge over the river, which consisted of a wood-chip covered area for tents, a water fountain and two portable toilets. The amenities had not been renewed in some time, and so there was a long stick provided to make some space when you needed to go. If you wanted a wash yourself you could jump into the pristine, shimmering, beautiful river behind the camp. All went well until you stood naked at the riverside and tried getting in; it must have been 5°.
Most climbs there were way harder than you could ever attempt. Saturday morning was spent working on one single problem by the river, and by lunchtime everyone's hands and shoulders were too buggered for another attempt. As a percentage there weren't many easy problems, but still enough in number to keep everyone busy. There were a few last clusters of snow strewn about the wood, but all rocks were freezing and painful to climb. It was cold enough to keep a jumper on while climbing, and each evening as the sun went down you packed on the layers, huddled under stolen airline blankets (conveniently fire-proof), and drank hot camping-stove tea.
One of the four days was spent hiking along the Viamala Ravine: a long, narrow gorge up to 300m deep/high. It one of the places bus-loads of tourists hoarded to and from - some only visiting the souvenir shop - to the general irritation of hikers (well, at least you). You ventured down into the ravine for a 5 chf entry fee and marveled at it's marvelousness.... got over it, and kept hiking towards Thusis. The hike snaked along the ever ascending ravine walls, boasting some great valley views and pretty dandelion blanketed fields. The hike ended unceremoniously under a motorway overpass bridge. There was icecream for the bus ride back.
The Sunday adventure was to the Val di Lei Dam at the Swiss-Italian border. The drive there was up a windy mountain road with bits missing (construction work) and through a long single-lane tunnel. The day was cold and damp, so the adventure was a walk over the dam to the Italian restaurant for lunch and back. The dam itself belongs to Switzerland, but the lake and its surroundings are part of Italy. The restaurant was luckily open and accepted Francs, so you had a five course mountain meal containing lots of cheese and ending with home made schnaps. On the walk back you ventured inside an abandoned cable-car station. Abandoned buildings are somehow really fun to explore - this one had the added bonus of getting you out of the rain. There wasn't much left of the place, not even stairs. The back of the building had deep pits where the cable weights were hung. Mic didn't notice the railings were missing at first, which was scary in hindsight.
You met the obligatory long-weekend traffic jam sooner than expected along the road; an accident caused a two hour standstill, which you circumnavigated around using non-autobahn local roads... along with everyone else.