Location: Italy, Switzerland, Austria, France, Germany.
I’m going to post what I have written during these 9 days… Warning: long post.
Day 1 : Lugano – Como – Milan – Aosta
El Caravaggio International Airport in Bergamo really isn’t such a special place in the arrivals terminal. The special thing awaited in the parking lot. A Mercedes bus. Heading for Lugano, 1 h. 30 min. Highway-wise, these Italians…
Later: Lugano….looks a bit like Capri. Took a stroll through Parc Civico and then headed for the boarding point for the Lugano ferry that takes one on a trip down the lake, as far as you want to go. Splendid view of the valley. The Via di Nassa is full of luxury shops, like Louis Vuitton and the like. At one end, there is the church of Santa Maria delle Angelli, very small and old. Heading for Como.
Later: Como is a beautiful little town, looks like Brugge a bit. Small, but with a huge dome in the center. Went inside and it was quite stunning. A bit dark, increased ISO to 800 to make it look at least acceptable. Heading for Milan.
Later: This “Milano Doumo” reminded me a lot of Sagrada Familia and the Westminster Abbey. The same gothic style. Shot with ISO 1600, looks like daylight inside. Went through the Vittorio Emmanuele II Gallery. Heading for Aosta, to sleep.
Day 2: Tasch – Zermatt
The view is spectacular, from the Valle d’Aosta upwards toward the mountains that surround it. 150 km in length, the city of Aosta is the capital of the region and befriends our own Sinaia. After a very typical breakfast, with no particular cuisine, at 9 a.m. we are set to depart for Tasch. There is internet in the lobby and the Romanian attendee gave me the password. Today I must buy postcards for everybody. Crossing the border between Italy and Switzerland through the Grand Saint Bernard tunnel, 6 km in length. And yes, it is named after the dog breed.
Later: Arrived in Tasch 3 hours after departure. There is a proper train station, where you board a train for Zermatt. It is a city where no motor vehicles are allowed and it’s a 10 minute ride by train. Zermatt is a tourist resort concentrated on the left and right of the main road, packed with both luxury and souvenir shops. At some point, we were trying to find the most expensive watch on sale, but lost count of the numbers. :)) For 70 euro, you can go up until Klein-Matterhorn, from where you have a better view of the huge Matterhorn peak, which is the source of inspiration for the Tomblerone package. It looked pretty impressive even from 1616 m, the Zermatt altitude, so we didn’t go up. ABBA music day on the bus and I ran out of battery on the iPod.
Day 3: Chamonix – Geneva
Leaving Aosta. Heading for France, for Chamonix, through the Mont Blanc tunnel. It has 11,6 km, open since 1965. Ruined by fire in 1999, reopened in 2002. The average speed is 50 km/h, the entrance altitude is somewhere around 1200-1300 m and cars have to maintain at least 150 m distance in between, due to security issues.
Later: Chamonix is coquette. I imagine it being a proud French woman in her thirties or fourties, wearing a traditional costume and with two pony tails. Except the climb up until 3000 m, there’s nothing else to do, but to shop and eat. Went to Lacoste and Columbia and bought some stuff that were on sale. A glacier up on the mountain is visible from every spot in the city.
Later: Didn’t like Geneva too much. Too many watches and souvenir shops. Beside watches, cows, coo-coo clocks and small knives, there isn’t much to buy. Oh, and chocolate, but the risk of melting was too high. Took a 90 min. stroll with the guide, saw the threatre, a big clock made out of flowers (I do believe the one that was in Cismigiu was bigger), the huge Colonne d’Eau of 145 m high, the Mausoleum, the place where Princess Cissy was assassinated and her own statue not far off. She was pretty thin, I think the guide said 50 cm in waist.
The bus then took us to ONU Headquarters where we had 10 min. for pictures. There was a protest in the square there, with people yelling something about Iran. We are heading for Bex, near Lausanne, for a 4-star hotel.
Day 4: Bern – Lausanne
Capital of Switzerland since 1848, situated on the river Arn. 11 fountains are spread across the city. The symbol of Bern is a bear.
Later: Definitely liked Bern more than Geneve. Smaller, cleaner (if that’s possible), more space to move around, not very crowded. Walked on foot through the main streets. Lots of flowers everywhere. These Swiss must be getting along very well with the Dutch. Also saw the house where Albert Einstein lived. He was a teacher in Zurich, but lived in Bern. Near the end of our walk, there was this Bear Pit, where a couple of bears live in a mini-reservation of their own. Ceausescu apparently donated some bears once… Heading for Lausanne, center of the International Olympic Comittee.
Later: The most beautiful gothic cathedral in Switzerland, Notre Dame. Nice architecture and colored glass. The square with the City Hall had a huge Swiss flag across the piazza. Unfortunately, rain started to fall and we left for Montreux, the area with the warmest climate in the Alps.
Later: There was a Jazz Festival going on in the city. :D Sting is supposed to perform, as well as Arcade Fire, Deep Purple, Liza Minelli and Ricky Martin (he performed the day before). In honor of this festival they put up a kind of bazaar near the lake. Saw the statue of Freddie Mercury, who came here once upon a time in search of fresh air. A shop nearby sold most of his records. Besides him, Byron, Shelley, Hemingway, Stravinsky, JJ Rousseau, Dostoevsky, Chaplin, Tolstoi and Graham Greene also visited Montreaux. Heading for Chillon Castle.
Later: An ex-prison, the castle is magnificent. They say it’s one of the most famous spots in Switzerland. Didn’t go inside, though.
Day 5: Interlacken
Heavy rain/storm last night. About Interlacken… Its name comes from its location: between two lakes. There’s a railway going up to the Jungfrau mountain. You can also see from below the Aletsch glacier, the biggest in Europe. In the middle of the city, there’s a Japanese Garden. The Jungfrau is visible from a certain spot, where para-gliders land. Spent 7 h and a half in the city… Caught by rain twice.
Day 6: Lucerne – Zurich – Schaffhausen
The longest distance to cover today. Lucerne is the cultural capital of central Switzerland. The characteristics of the city are the beautifully painted houses and the most beautiful bridge over a river I ever saw. You can also see the first baroc church in Switzerland.
Later: Indeed. No doubt about it. The most beautiful place in this trip. The first thing that we saw was the statue of a lion, carved in stone, done in the honor of the soldiers that protected Ludovic the 16th and Marie Antoinette in the assault of the Tuilleries. Mark Twain said that it’s the saddest piece of stone. You come to Lucerne happy and you leave sad. There is a hotel, painted on the outside walls; not only houses are decorated in this way. Saw a lot of swans, diving with their upper part of the body into the water to get food. Took part in a wedding rehearsal, just for a couple of minutes. :P Heading for Zurich, financial center, with the third biggest stock market in the world, after New York and Tokyo.
Later: Saw the Fraumunster Cathedral, the Banhofstrasse. James Joyce is buried here. There are 1600 banks present in the city. Heading for Schaffhausen.
Later: SUUUUUUGOOOOIIIII!!! (Wonderful in Japanese). Haven’t seen so big a waterfall in my life. The speed of water falling reaches 1000l/s. You can climb up through some stone corridors that take you right on top of the rock that stands in the way of the current. Didn’t dare to go there. Besides, the camera wasn’t working very well due to the excessive light. Instead, I just enjoyed the show that the Rhin was offering. Heading for Austria, to get some sleep.
Day 7: Linderhof and Neuschwainstein Castles.
A 4-star hotel in a small town called Gotzis that finally has scrambled eggs for breakfast. Managed to get 1 hour of internet, for free cause I’m cool and I have pretty eyes. :D Heading for Lindhof, one of the four royal castles built by Ludovic the 2nd of Bavaria.
Later: Small, yet royal. Don’t know for sure, but the king didn’t spend too much time in this castle. No photos were allowed, so I shot mainly outdoors. Ludovic was on the throne since he was 19 and ended up being declared insane by the ministers. Big rooms, fit for a king, heavily decorated with gold, silver, white and black marble and even a huge 0,5 tons chandelier made of Bohemia crystal. Surrounding the castle are gardens, small fountains and statues. Went into an artificial cave, built by the king to resemble the Blue Cave in the Capri Island. Heading for Neuschwainstein.
Later: 170 days spent the king in this castle. We arrived there in the middle of a very ugly storm, with wind and everything. I would describe the castle as a fairytale. It is the source of inspiration for the Disney castle that shows up before the beginning of their movies. Exactly before we entered, a lightning struck the energy source, and the castle was poorly illuminated as a consequence. We ran for the entrance. The castle was left unfinished, because the king died, so the only finished rooms are his own quarters. There was no throne, obviously. The music hall was sound proofed but the king died 1 week after its completion so he couldn’t keep any concert there. In the study, there was an early version of a telephone. The castle is accessible by foot (30 min. walk), by bus (10 min. climb and another 10 min. walk) or by carriage. Again, only photos outdoors.
Day 8: Vaduz – St.Moritz – Milan
No border between Switzerland and Liechtenstein. This country occupies first place when it comes to fiber optics. The royal castle is still the residence of the Prince, therefore can’t be visited. The capital is easily crossed by a 20 min. walk, comprised of the church, the headquarters of Government (5 members), the Parliament (25 members) and the Arts Museum. There was a photo exhibition. Heading for St.Moritz.
Later: The bob sleigh was invented in this city, in 1891. Here you can find the oldest ski school in the world. We crossed a pass, at 2200 m, where the view was like in a postcard. The lake had a beautiful blue color. Quite chilly up there. There was a small shop selling Swiss meat and cheese. The road until the resort looks like the Transfagarasan. Walked around the lake in St. Moritz.
Later: The Swiss guys at the border were ok, but the Italians asked to check our hand luggage for goods that were over 300 euro. :|
Later: When the TV of the room in Milan turned on, a message was displayed saying something like welcome Dan Niculescu. Imagine. Not to mention the free wi-fi, password protected, but free nevertheless. Very nice people at the reception. Best hotel ever. Would visit Milan again if I’d stayed at Ramada every time.
Crossing the border 11 times. Close to 480 photos. Almost 4 hours writing this post. There you have it.