Category Archives: Switzerland

Travels in Italy, Como to Bologna

Lake Como 1

The previous day we had walked east around the lake so today we walked west.  We thought that we might take a boat trip later but even as early as ten o’clock a long queue was beginning to form at the booking office so we decided to leave that until later.  We are not very fond of queues.

So we walked past the boats and the ferry terminal and set out towards the expensive side of the lake where the nineteenth century palaces and villas all enjoy wonderful views across the water.  What a place this must have been before all of the daily tourists arrived.  This was a walk past fabulous houses and gardens, private jetties and boat houses, a place where the European rich would gather for their holidays and show off their wealth.

Gianni Versace lived in Como and so did the singer Madonna and the actor George Clooney, also Julia Roberts, David Beckham, Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones.  It is that sort of place, glamorous and filthy rich.  I am completely unable to explain what we were doing there!

Como Villa 2

As we walked we came across a diversion around possibly the best villa of all on the lake, all fenced off and swarming with security guards, the sort of people who want you to look at them in a funny way so that they have an excuse to punch you in the face.  This was all because this was a party weekend to celebrate the engagement of Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal who are two of the richest people in all of India, probably the world, and the expense here was obscene.

Why Como I wondered, probably because they were too embarrassed to have such a lavish event in their own country in front of the hundreds of thousands of really poor people.

As it turned out these mega-rich people had taken over the whole town for the entire weekend and much of it was off-limits to people like us.  We couldn’t visit the gardens that are normally open to the public, we couldn’t walk down some of the roads in the town because they were cordoned off and worst of all we couldn’t go into the Cathedral because these two Hindus were having an engagement celebration in a Roman Catholic Church and stopping other people going inside.  Filthy rich, dirty money, no manners.  I’m not jealous!

So we kept walking until there was no reason to walk any further and we turned back and walked back the way the same way.  I asked a security guard what was going on and that is how I learned about Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal and got the black eye!

We hoped that the queue for the boat might have magically got shorter but it hadn’t, it was even longer now and as we sat at a pavement bar and had a leisurely coffee it occurred to us that we didn’t really need to go for a boat ride anyway.  We had walked both east and west and as the lake is less than a mile across we were unlikely to see anything different anyway, so we saved the cost of a boat ride and had a beer instead.

Como Cathedral

I liked Como, I had never thought about going to the Italian Lakes before, I always thought that they were for old people, but I am an old person now myself so it seemed the right time to go there.  I didn’t really need three days there I have to say, maybe a day trip out of Milan would have been enough, it is nice but it is not very exciting.

Later we found the inevitable statue of Garibaldi…

Garibaldi Como

We had walked ten miles today along the lakeside.  We dined at the same restaurant, went to bed, had breakfast and left.

This was not a good day on the trains I have to say.  We got on a train to Milan which turned out not to be going to our destination station so we got off half way to change only to find that the train that we wanted had been cancelled so we had to get back on a train to Milan which also wasn’t going to our destination station.  This involved a change  and an irritating delay.  We planned to be in Bologna by early afternoon but now the clock was ticking.

And then things went disastrously wrong and travel plans started to completely unravel.  I bought some tickets for the fast train to Bologna but then got on the slow train to Bologna by mistake.  By a cruel twist of fate two trains were leaving Milan at exactly the same time to Bologna, the fast train was going to Naples, stopping at Bologna but we didn’t understand that so we ignored it and got on a train going only to Bologna.

Sadly it wasn’t only going to Bologna.  The fast train took just an hour, the slow train took nearly three.  The train crawled along like a long distance runner with a pulled muscle, it stopped at every tiny station and remote halt along the way and would occasionally stop in the middle of absolutely nowhere.  As we were wondering why, the modern fast train would suddenly thunder past at the speed of light with a loud whooomp that made our carriage rock with the aftershock and then after a minute or so our old arthritic train would creak back into life, roll backwards for a while and then crawl slowly forward.

The only thing that made me feel better about the whole thing was that another couple a few seats away had made exactly the same mistake.  Finally we limped into Bologna about four hours behind schedule and ignoring the line of expectant taxis walked the mile or so to our accommodation on the edge of the historical centre.

800px-Bologna_sanluca_02

Advertisements

Some things that make Switzerland Famous

I suppose you have to admire the Swiss.  Here, after all, is a county that is small. mountainous, has virtually no natural resources and yet has managed to become the richest nation on earth” – Bill Bryson, ‘Neither here, Nor there’

In April 2007 we visited Alpine Switzerland and driving through the meadows and hills on our way to Liechtenstein we stopped at a delightful little place for lunch.

It was a perfectly lovely setting and we sat in the sun and enjoyed our food but the best was yet to come because when we decided to use the washrooms before resuming our journey we were amused to find what simply has to be the best loo in the world with a mechanical cleaning process that included a 360º scrubbing and automatic disinfection of the toilet seat.

This was really impressive but I was a little concerned about health and safety risks associated with it beginning in advance of the occupier leaving the seat, which could have been especially painful for a man if he was to get his valuables caught up in the procedure.

Switzerland it has to be said is not the most exciting country in the World so this started us thinking and we tried to agree on five things that make it famous.  We were going to do ten but this seemed absurdly ambitious!

Our final choice might have included cowbells, yodelling, fondue sets or emmental cheese, maybe Roger Federer or Ursula Andress but in the end we agreed upon, in reverse order…

5. Swiss watches of course – that was rather obvious.  I have never owned a Swiss watch and never will because I really fail to see the point of spending hundreds or even thousands of pounds on a wrist watch when a simple Casio will do the same job for just a few pence.  I once bought one in a petrol station for £1.99 and it lasted for several years.

4. Cuckoo clocks, because even though they are strictly speaking from Germany the Swiss were important for the ‘chalet’ style that they introduced at the end of nineteenth century and is the sort of cuckoo clock where it is common to have a  music box somewhere in the mechanism with tunes like ‘Edelweiss’ and ‘The Happy Wanderer’.

I once had a problem with a cuckoo clock in Germany – Trouble With a Cuckoo Clock

World's Biggest Cuckoo Clock Triberg Black Forest

3. Breakfast cereal Muesli, which was introduced around 1900 by the Swiss doctor and nutritionist Maximilian Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital in Zurich.  I imagine that this solved the problem of bed-blocking!

I am not a big fan of Muesli, I always think it looks like something that I should put out on the bird feeding table…

Muesli

2.   Toblerone, the Swiss chocolate bar found in every airport duty-free shop that was invented by Theodore Tobler in 1908 in his factory in Bern with a design supposed to represent the Matterhorn Mountain in the Swiss Alps.

I confess that I rather like Toblerone but then I am rather fond of almonds.

Toblerone

but most of all we had to agree upon on…

1. The Swiss Army knife.

Various models of Swiss Army knives exist, with different tool combinations for specific tasks. The most common tools featured are, in addition to the main blade, a smaller second blade, tweezers, toothpick, corkscrew, can opener, corkscrew, slotted screwdriver, flat-head screwdriver, phillips-head screwdriver, nail file, scissors, saw, file, hook, magnifying glass, ballpoint pen, fish scaler, hex wrench w/bits, pliers and key chain. Recent technological features include USB flash drives, digital clock, digital altimeter, LED light, laser pointer, and MP3 player.

That is a startling collection of potential weapons in one utensil but I can’t help thinking that it was a good job Switzerland didn’t go to war with Germany in 1939 because I can’t imagine Hitler’s crack Panzer division being turned back by an army wielding nail files and toothpicks.

Manufacturers today  supply over fifty thousand a year to the Swiss Army which works out at a new knife for every soldier just about every three years or so.

Have I missed anything?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

Friedrichshafen to Romanshorn Ferry

Ferry Between Germany and Switzerland…

At the ferry booking office  a helpful and patient lady assisted us with our enquiries on how to make the trip across to Switzerland.

She advised us not to book today in advance in case the weather took a turn for the worse and was bad tomorrow and we worried that she knew something that we didn’t, but we took her advice and noted the times of the crossings for later in the day because we had a mind to make a foot crossing later if we ran out of things to do in Friedrichshafen, the prospect of which seemed most likely.

Read the full story…

Freshly Pressed

gutenbergpress

WordPress seem to go to a lot of trouble to convince users that ‘Freshly Pressed’ is fair, impartial and based on critical selection.

Consider this then from a blog page I chanced upon…

“It has been interesting to look back over 2012 to see which posts were the most popular. Bagni di Lucca and Beyond has been Freshly Pressed twice this year, which has been great fun. Thank you WordPress for choosing.”

It is a nice blog but it isn’t brilliant (sorry).

I say no more…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

Schauinslandbahn, Black Forest, Germany

After negotiating the snow and drove down the difficult road to the village of Horben and then decided to go back up again but by a different form of transport because from here it was possible to reach the summit on the Schauinslandbahn, which at just over three and half kilometres is the longest cable car ride in Germany.  The return ticket cost €11.50 but it was well worth it because as we climbed through an avenue of snow covered conifers there were great views to the north-west all along the Rhine valley and into neighbouring France.

Read the full story…

Germany, A Walk in the Black Forest

Click to preview book

Liechtenstein, Austria and Germany

Vaduz Liechtenstein

We stopped the car in Vaduz and walked aimlessly along the main road, looked at a church and tried to convince ourselves it was interesting, and then the new Parliament building that was being constructed and then we left.   We crossed back into Switzerland and progressed towards Austria, which we entered through a busy border control crossing but were not asked to produce our passports this time.

Read the full story…