Travelling

My experience with Airbnb

By now everybody (or almost everybody) knows Airbnb. It keeps coming up in discussions about holidays and I keep reading about it in the news. But let’s start from the beginning

Airbnb logo

Airbnb is an american internet based company, which provides people the possibility to rent for short term lodging. It started in 2008 but became more known in the current decade.

Usually, my husband and I were either booking a hotel or travelling with our VW van, so going to campings. But last year we decided to visit Tokyo and we found the prices of hotels far too high, so we decided to check Airbnb. We were amazed!

For a much lower price, we found a really cute apartment only for us, in a really nice area of Tokyo. The girl that offered it was so helpful, to explain to us all the facilities in the house (of course the writing was in japanese, so we needed a bit of a guide) and she was fast to answer our questions, such as if tap water is drinkable, or about the metro tickets and even suggestions. Five stars in hospitality, for an affordable price and a more personal communication than in hotels!

Week 1
My companion during the first week we spent in Reinach

A few months ago my husband got a new job, so we had to find a new house and the one we liked was being renovated, so it would be available a month after his starting day in the new job. Under normal circumstances, paying a hotel for a month would have been far too expensive and we couldn’t have taken that house in the first place. But Airbnb gave us enough flexibility to make the choice we really wanted!

View week 2_EN
The view from our room during the second week of June, with the Goetheanum in the middle

In the four weeks of June, we stayed in four different houses in the wider area of Reinach and Dornach, at the outskirts of Basel in Switzerland. In this case we did not have a whole house for ourselves, but in most cases the offer was for a room with a separate bathroom and the rest of the house shared with the family living in it. Breakfast was included as well. It was an amazing experience!

All four families were friendly! I was staying home most of the day while my husband was going to work and I had the chance to get into talks with the people hosting us! I got to practice my german, met a nice Chinese girl working as an au pair and rocked a small baby to sleep while his mom had to run to get his sister from the nursery! We had a normal kitchen to cook dinner, equipped with everything from plates and cuttlery to oil and spices. We were offered homemade jams for breakfast, tried homemade pizza cooked in a wood oven and I even got a small basil plant as a present from one of them! Even Lukas found a nice rocking chair to spend his week in Dornach!

Lukas

Usually hotel rooms are too depressing to stay for long. But a normal house, where people are living in, feels much more homely! Of course we didn’t miss the normal touristic help either. The weather was nice most weeks (as you can see from my photos) and I had the chance to explore the towns, visit The Goetheanum and had help from the hosts about the sites and the restaurants around or the closest supermarket. Especially the first week, the owners had a registered free ticket for both of us to use the public means of transportation in the wider Baselstadt and Baselland area!

View week 3_EN
The view in the morning from the house during the 3rd week of June
view week 3 nigth_EN
Sunset from the same point

Concerning the costs, we paid in total for the month of June less than what would be the monthly cost of our own apartment for the same month! If we would have to stay in a hotel, except from the problems of having just a room, the cost would have been enormous. The only alternative would have been a cheap and low quality hostel or something…

Airbnb is quite often mentioned in the news I read. In my homeland Greece they are trying to get the people that are not declaring their income from such rentals. And I have read of issues where people try to rent on a long term some lodging in areas that receive tourists and cannot find anything available anymore.

The European Commission issued a press release about a week ago, calling Airbnb to align their terms with the European Union consumer rules. Airbnb is expected to improve their price transparency and state clearly if the lodging is offered by a professional or a private host, since it makes a difference in the consumer protection rules covering the booking. They are also asked to clarify some terms and remove some other that do not comply with the general EU rules.

Two days ago I read that they activated its Open Homes project, so as to provide free accommodation to the victims of the big fires in the outskirts of Athens of last Monday. They are contacting the owners and if the latter agree they offer the accommodation to the victims for free and without service costs.

If I had a property available I would also register it with Airbnb. And I am happy to have this alternative to a hotel or some professional lodging to choose when it comes to accommodation, as it keeps the prices within the budget of a wide range of people and I prefer the personal communication that the individual hosts offer. But as anything else, it also creates some problems. I really hope they are resolved and Airbnb continues to offer its service!

Have you used Airbnb yourself? Did you have a good or a bad experience? What is your opinion?

 

Travelling

Open air musical in Walenstadt

I know I have not been very active on my blog for a while, but we are going through a move, so some of the basic things the blog needs (such as free time and a computer) are not always available.

Nevertheless, we are not arranging our new house all time time and here I am to tell you about how we spent our evening last Saturday: we watched the musical “The Beauty and the Beast” on the Walensee Bühne. It is performed on an open air stage at the Walensee shores in Walenstadt. It is a performance taking place every second summer, but this year it was an exception, as they performed two years in a row.

Whole stage_4
Bella’s father on the left and Bella and the Beast on the right

This year’s performance was the fairytale of The Beauty and the Beast. The musical started around 8 pm and lasted until a bit after 10 pm, so the first part was performed while there was still daylight, and the second when it is getting dark.

The stage was made really nicely! It did not hide the lake or the Churfirsten in the back, and once the daylight faded, it included lights that changed according to the emotions that dominated in the scene. It was definitely conveying the magical world that the story involves!

Whole stage_3
The stage from our seats with the Churfirsten and the lake in the back!

The Beauty and the Beast is a fairytale written originally in 1740 by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. According to the adaptation for the musical, a widower merchant lives in a mansion with his three daughters. Bella is the youngest and the most beautiful of the three, as well as the one with the kindest heart. The other two are vain and shallow. Gustav, the local handsome but stupid guy, is trying to get Bella to marry him, but she refuses. When the merchant’s ship sinks during a storm, they are forced into poverty. He goes on an errand to find out if something was saved, but gets lost in the forest and ends up in a strange palace, where he spends the night. The lord of the palace is the Beast, a prince who was cursed by a fairy because he had an evil heart and cared only about himself.  The merchant tries to explore the palace, something that angers the Beast who attacks him but in the end comes to a deal with him, that he can go home with wealth and presents for his daughters, but has to send one of them back in three days or otherwise return himself. The father arrives back to his house with the presents and his two older daughters are amazed and happy to get the presents. Bella notices that he is not happy and on the third day that he decides to return back to the Beast himself, she finds out about the deal and tell him she will go in his place. She stays in the palace with the Beast and through her kindness and her good mood she changes everything for the best. But she becomes homesick and begs the Beast to let her go back to see her father. The Beast takes pity on her and gives her permission to leave. When she promises that she will return, he tells her not to make promises she can’t keep. She keeps her promise, but when she leaves, the people in her village create a mob lead by Gustav and head towards the palace to attack the hideous Beast. They arrive a bit later than Bella and Gustav gets into a fight with him and shoots him. Bella weaps over the Beast, saying that she loves him and magically he is transformed to a beautiful prince. And they lived happily ever after!

Palace_2
The palace of the Beast

The performance was in german, which is not my strongest language yet. But it is a musical, so it is easy to follow the dialogues and then enjoy the singing parts even if I didn’t understand everything. It is already the second time I watch a Walenstadt musical and I find that it doesn’t tire me as much as I would have expected.

Villagers ready to attack the Beast
The house of Bella and the villagers getting ready to go and attack the palace of the Beast

It was a really nice summer evening spent with my husband and his parents, in beautiful surroundings and with a nice performance! See you in two years Walensee Bühne!