Switzerland, a Beautiful Country and Utopian Society Proven By it’s Numerous Rows of Chocolate Bars in the Grocery Stores
We were up early to have breakfast at Hotel Punta Mesco. Again, the hotel was your central casting version of a seaside hotel. Lots of white and blue with nautical and local decor. The white tiles in the room provided cooling throughout our visit although it was hot outside. A bird would visit our outdoor balcony daily apparently looking for food. I think it intentionally ruffled its feathers so we would feel sorry for him and feed him. Tourists can be such suckers. But then again, we are travelers!
We met outside with our luggage and headed to the train station to get back to Dirk’s Magic Bus in Levanto where day 16 awaited. We had time for one more cappucino in the train station and said so long to the wonderful Cinque Terre.
We went up the same winding road that had brought us down to Levanto and were soon on the highway. We passed Italy’s Lake District. The highway ran right by Lake Como and time flew by as we intermittently kissed the lake shore. We had a 7 hour drive to Hotel Stechelberg in Switzerland. That meant there was a potential for 3 cappucino stops. Woo hoo!
As we climbed the weather became more bearable. Europe was in the middle of a heat wave with unusually warm weather. We crossed the border into Switzerland and then we stopped at a highway stop called Marche for lunch. Marche was an Autogrill on steroids. Dimitri and Dirk told us that local families eat here when they celebrate birthdays or go out for a Sunday dinner. Veronica and I made a salad. We did have a little sticker shock at the checkout. The cost of living in Switzerland and the Swiss Franc is a bit higher, well a lot higher, nearly double what we were paying with Euros. Nonetheless, the food was good and the atmosphere was very nice.
We continued our climb into the Swiss Alps and before long we were seeing snow. We stopped for a break on a mountain pass covered with snow. What a contrast to the Italian coastal heat we were experiencing just a few hours before. Nonetheless, the cooler weather was welcome although we were suddenly under dressed. The scenery was spectacular.
We continued through the Alps with stunning scenery around every corner. Dimitri advised us how much the free day in the Swiss Alps and pointed out the nearest ATM where we could obtain some Swiss Francs. We stopped in at a modern mall in Interlaken and went to the ATM to get the funds needed for the next day. We didn’t want to get too much currency as we would be going back to Euros in France. Veronica and I stopped by the local super market which was spotless and everything was packaged nicely. Veronica was curious to see what local life might be like in Switzerland so we just wandered around and people watched. Eventually we found oursleves in the chocolate bar ailse which was full of yards of chocolate. We grabbed a few bars and some other snacks and headed to the checkout and then back to the bus.
Lords of the Flies
We then headed straight to Hotel Stechelberg located at the end of a valley with walls climbing 1000 feet on either side of us. The hotel had shared baths and was comfortable. However, we had other guests, or in this case pests, to deal with at the dining table. Apparently some of the summer residents include many flies and while there are fly swatters located near the tables, it was a bit annoying. But again, as we were coached by Dimitri to go with the flow and we went with the flow and just added this to the experience. The greater whole is that the location was beautiful and the surrounding scenery offset the minor inconvenience. We went for a short hike after check in.
We joined the group for a fondu demonstration which included dipping bread into the cheesy mixture. It was quite nice. We then joined the group again for a nice dinner before watching a spectacular sunset. Then we were off to bed to rest up for our full day in the Alps. Dimitri had planned for us to take the Gondola
A Day in the Alps, Gondolas, Trains, and Hikes, Oh My!
I had read about the Alps in both the tour description and Rick Steves’ Best of Eurpope Guidebook and understood it would be beautiful. However, the actual beauty and experience strongly exceeded how I had imagined it. Our first stop was Schilthorn and Piz Gloria which was made famous by the 1969 Bond Film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. We hopped on a gondola not far from Hotel Stechelberg for the 30 minute journey from the valley floor to the Piz Gloria overlook. The gondola ride was spectacular as we climbed to the peak. Piz Gloria features spectacular 360 degree panoramic views along with Bondworld exhibit. The views are the better part of the attraction.
The Hills Are Alive
After the great trip up to the Schilthorn we made our to Manlicchen via gondola, railway and the best hike ever. The hike was mainly down hill through some rugged terrain but mostly wide trails. The two hour hike was one of the best hikes I have ever been on. This exposure to the Alps was great. The are is definitely on our list of places to visit again and spend more time. Banner picture on this website was taken on this hike. Along with the following pictures. Again, after several days of Art and Churches it was great to be out in mother nature. On the way back, we stopped at the Trummelbach Falls which is essentially a hidden waterfall which corkscrews through the granite mountain. It was very interesting and beautiful. Trummelbach was not far from the hotel so we decided to stay for a drink and then walk back to the hotel for dinner. The walk was well worth it and a great way to cap off a wonderful day in the Alps.