Thursday, October 4, 2007

Lugano, Switzerland

Last time we wrote we had arrived in Freiburg, Germany. We stayed there several days, and took a day trip up into the Black Forest through some beautiful little villages. Forest, vineyards, apple orchards, and a wonderful outdoor living museum of Black Forest life for the past 400 years, the Swarzwalder Freilichtmuseum in Gutach. They took a traditional farm and then moved other authentic buildings from elsewhere in the Black Forest, and created a village and several farmsteads of authentic buildings with furnishings, etc. Kind of like our Williamsburg, Virginia, but of life from a period before Williamsburg to almost the present. Several of the houses had been lived in as late as the 1970s, complete with furnishings, etc. It was really interesting, and we spent the whole afternoon there. We also enjoyed a very beautiful, winding and twisting drive through the Black Forest, too. Reminded us much of NE PA, except the hilltops were higher and the valleys deeper, but just as forested and with fields and those special breeds of cows that have one set of legs longer than the other to walk on the hillsides:)
Rather than stay in Germany, we decided to start south toward Rome, to avoid a frantic last minute return to Amsterdam. This way we will begin returning north after Rome next week through Austria and Germany and hopefully enjoy some time in Munich and along the road of castles and the Rhine waterway.
So, we headed from Freiburg down into Switzerland, and drove through Switzerland to where we are now, Lugano, still in Switzerland, but right at the Italian border. Other than the fact that you are physically in Switzerland, and the official money is Swiss Francs, in actuality, you are in Italy and all signs are in Italian, the people speak Italian, etc. Switzerland wasn't willing to adopt the Euro due to requirements that they change their banking laws to confirm to the European Union banking regulations which would disadvantage their secretive bank accounts, so they still use the Swiss franc, although it is kind of like border Mexico in that prices are quoted in Swiss Francs, but every business and waiter has a little calculator and the latest exchange figures, so they all take Euros in payment. That was nice, so that we didn't have to change money into Swiss francs when we wouldn't be here long.
And when I say we drove 'through' Switzerland, we mean that this country of mountains, lakes and TUNNELS. All day we drove in and out of tunnels, which when you look at the mountain in front of you, snow capped and almost straight up, you are very grateful for the Swiss engineers which did such a good job of tunneling under them instead. Don't even want to think of the hairpin turns and dizzying heights you must have had to negotiate the roads before the tunnels. The longest one was 17 kilometers/10.5 miles long! And there were literally dozens of them, although most only a few hundred meters long other than about half a dozen that were several kilometers to ten kilometers long. Plus snow sheds after snow sheds, which they call 'gallerias', which are effectively tunnels along the sides of the mountains, with tops, but with one open side to the downward side, protecting the road from avalanches and being closed by snow in the winters. When you look at the size of the woodpiles everywhere, you KNOW what kind of winter is coming in this part of the world.
While driving through Switzerland, we noticed a funny noise in our right back wheel. It kept getting louder, so today, we located a VW dealer and had it looked at and the disc brake was bad and some other stuff. After a call to the van rental people to get authorization to repair (we had to pay, a little over $500 for the repairs, but they will reimburse us when we get back to Amsterdam), all is fine now, and the little van is ready to go.
Talk about falling into a mud puddle and coming up with roses, however........the garage gave us a new VW Jetta to drive for the day while the van was being fixed and sent us off to sightsee in Lugano, free of charge. We got into Lugano and promptly got lost in a maze of one way streets, mad moped drivers, and Italian drivers that live by leaning on their horns at the first second of a light change if you don't move out smartly enough. We went round and round trying to find the center of town, and a place to park. Traffic was incredible and no parking places could be found. We ended up going down this one way street, and lo and behold, the gods led us to a dead end, at a PARKING GARAGE......we found a place up on the sixth level, figured out how to work the machine that we would pay to get our ticket validated to get out, found out that even the machine would take Euros......we were set! AND the parking garage turned out to be right at the center of town, just where we wanted to be. We walked along the lakeside (Lugano is on Lake Lugano, one of the seveeral in the Italian "Lake District" and all over the downtown, had our first authentic Italian pizza, and a wonderful time. Oh, and ice cream (gelato) and apple tart.... Then we went back to pick up the van in the late afternoon, getting lost several more times in the process of getting back to the garage, in rush hour yet, not to be believed......can't wait for Rome, as Lugano reminded us of Mexico City, with drivers who have a very loose idea of the traffic regulations, and moped drivers hellbent on destruction as they weave in and out of traffic.......but we made it back just fine, and our little home on wheels is feeling much better and his brakes no longer make that ominous noise when applied. All is well.
Some vignettes from Camping La Piodella, here in Lugano..... something funny happened to Nancy this morning. You know, the campgrounds are almost totally Europeans, no Americans and few Brits or Australians, so you get used to nobody speaking in English, and much of the time you have to muddle through with broken phrases and charades to communicate. France was the worst, but still, people speaking English are few and far between. Anyway, this morning she was on my way into the bathroom when she encountered a handsome young man about twenty-five years old walking into the women's bathroom. She must have looked at him with a question on my face, or he was unsure of whether or not he was in the right place, because the following 'conversation' took place.....
Nancy: questioning look
Him: Here?
Nancy: No.
Him: Where?
Nancy: Otro lado (somehow you know that a foreign language is expected, and your brain only knows Spanish, so Spanish comes out.
Him: questioning look....blank look....obviously didn't understand Spanish
Nancy: large sweeping motion....charades.....showing that the men's room was on the other side of the building.
Him: o.k., thanks
We go on our separate ways....she go in the bathroom and then it hits her..... HE WAS SPEAKING IN ENGLISH!!!! She laughed so hard, anyone else in the bathroom must have thought she was nuts. It is just so unusual to have anyone speak English to you that your brain just didn't register it and went into its' usual pattern of using a few words and charades to communicate. It was so funny.
There are a lot of kids in this campground. It's right on the lake, and apparently this week is traditionally the autumn vacation period for German families, so the campground is crowded with German families, and lots and lots of little kids. Watching them has been so much fun. The van is kind of like a duck blind in that you can sit in it relatively unobserved and watch them. This morning, Tom was sitting drinking his tea and watching this little girl, about five years old, who was riding a little scooter up and down the road outside (kids are definitely allowed to do stuff that U.S. parents would shudder at, riding bikes at age five, unsupervised, climbing to the top of the jungle gym when they're about two or three....just like kids did in the old days before 'parent paranoia' took over in the U.S., and we've only seen one kid with a broken arm, and only one overweight kid so far in Europe, and she was only a little bit pudgy, so they must be doing something right) any rate, she had her mouth open, and was chewing gum and her chewing gum fell out. She stopped, very gravely looked around to make sure nobody was watching, leaned down and picked it up off the road, licked it carefully and then popped it back into her mouth! It was so funny. It was tempting to let her know that she was observed, but it seemed heartless, so we didn't....just had fun thinking about it.
As you can see, we find enjoyment in some strange We do note that these last few days, we've had a few lingering thoughts about our little home on wheels back in the States....our comfortable Queen sized bed (this one is 45 inches wide and has a 'torture' bar that you have to position your hips above or below in order to sleep), and our comfortable recliner chairs.......a tiny touch of homesickness for home comforts.....but it passes in a few minutes and we go on to further adventures. That's when we think of the cafes and afternoon tea and coffee stops, the many magical sites and of course, the food
We head from here down the western coast of Italy to the villages of the Cinque Terre, perched on the hillsides overlooking the Mediterranean, then on to Rome, magical Rome.
Happy trails from tom and nancy


Anonymous said...

It's going to be ending of mine day, but before end I am reading this great article to improve my experience.

Take a look at my website cheap golf accessories gifts

Anonymous said...

Excellent way of describing, and good article to get facts about my presentation topic, which i am
going to deliver in school.

Feel free to visit my web page - golf bag cart or stand

Anonymous said...

I got this web page from my buddy who told me concerning this web page and now this time I
am visiting this web page and reading very informative content here.

Also visit my weblog: golf digest magazine deals

Anonymous said...

It's genuinely very difficult in this full of activity life to listen news on TV, thus I simply use the web for that reason, and obtain the most recent news.

Review my weblog ... signed golf flags for sale

Anonymous said...

best electronic cigarette, smokeless cigarettes, e cigarette, electronic cigarettes, e cigarette health, ecigarette