Monday, October 12, 2009

Let's go to Switzerland!!!!

Dodomorroso- the last train stop in Italy

Alps as we are leaving Brig. This is the Rhone valley

Swiss currency (CH francs--- CH is short for Confederatio Helevetica-the official name for Switzerland) Note 10 franc note which in person is a brighter orange. Do you know whose face is on it? Teri didn't so she must be a stupid American. See story below
Bern from above

Bern street in the lower town near the river. We were staying in the higher town but took a funicular to go down.

Public gardens in Bern. Even though Bern is in northern Switzerland, the climate is mild. We saw palm trees and citrus trees along with leaves that give fall colors

public buildings in Bern, the country's capital

Teri in front of fountain. The Swiss are masters at growing geraniums. Sometimes they would be trailing 6 feet down from a tiny window box.

A bar

Downtown Brig where we transferred to the train that carried us over the Jung Frau (Alps) The town is in the Rhone valley, which has a bike path along it that goes for miles. Presumably we could see the Matterhorn from Brig

Building in Bern right before it rained

Cute statue in old town

We were looking at the map Saturday night and noticed how close Switzerland was. I always wanted to take a train over the Alps and that's what we did. Stresa was so calming and pretty. We finally figured out our way through the warren of narrow lanes, had lots of good food, our room was out of a HGTV makeover with its Milanese style, I would have been happy to stay put but there is so much of the world to explore. We went to a food fair Sunday morning tasting and buying all sorts of local foods. The Italians can cook! I hadn't planned on Switzerland, we had no guide books or map or any info other than if we got to a town named Brig, we could go anywhere. Oh my German is really , really bad. I can speak Italian a very little. I did find a hotel in Bern that didn't look too bad that we found within minutes. The ride over the Alps was spectacular! Snow capped mountains at every turn. We shared a compartment with a Swiss couple from Lausanne, the French part of Switz. so we had a good talk I had been in Lausanne once and had ordered fondue and had wine with it. When I then ordered some beer, they refused to give it to me. They said I could only drink wine with fondue. Now back in the US, if it's on the menu and you have the bucks, you can get anything you want with no comment about how stupid your choice is. The couple explained that drinking beer with cheese would make us sick, a common belief there. Americans live dangerously . We even put beer in our cheese soup.

The ride there was very long as we missed our connection in Brig (only 2 hours back on the CisAlpino fast train) Also, Swiss trains cost a lot more than Italian ones. Teri wanted to get food in Brig but oh, we needed Swiss francs, which certainly don't go far there. Bern certainly is different from Italian cities but very beautiful with its timbered houses. It also is very expensive and not knowing German that well made things difficult but people still went out of their way to help us. One funny moment: as Teri paid for her wine at an Aperto 24 store (like a 7-11), she asked the clerk who was on the 10 franc bill (very colorful money compared to the euros which is a lot more colorful than ours). He was appalled that she didn't know it was Le Courbosier, the greatest architect of all times. She said of course, I know of him, I just didn't know what he looked like and besides, isn't he French? This started another outburst about famous Swiss who silly Americans think are French. She then said we'd see the Paul Klee museum the next day and isn't he Swiss? Yes but his art is no good, our know it all clerk said. We did alot of walking last night and this morning. Bern is surrounded by mountains and is very hilly itself. No running yet on this trip.We took a funicular down to the lowest level. I used an interesting WC. It had its own little booth. You had to pull down to get the toilet seat, which was suspended over a big bowl. Once you got off the seat, everything would flush. You had to wash your hands while you were seated. The seat would rise up to the top once you got off. In the Dutch airport, an airport person berated a single woman for using the family bathroom. Wonder how she knew the woman was English speaking?

Teri in Bern

Bern Statute

As pretty as Bern was, we are happy to be back to the more familiar language, cheaper trains and the over all friendlier people. We made a friend on the train who recommended her friend's B and B in Bonassola on the Italian Riviera. We'll spend one night there eating dinner with her tomorrow. It is allegedly a spectular place and the woman only accepts friends of friends. Right now we are in Milano near the Duomo. Every day is a new adventure. The only reservations we have are for a agriturismo near Lucca. I had made several inquiries by email in English. No replies but once I used my Italian, all sorts of replies-all in Italian. What a magical language! I should get a good discount for how well I wrote those letters using tenses not learned in Italian 110. I am having a fantastic time and Teri and I get along so well. Very good company and is very willing to just go where ever on a whim.
Oh for lunch, I had my favorite dessert-vermicelle. I used to have it at a long gone Hungarian restaurant in the Upper East Side. What it was was riced chestnut puree the shape of little worms (vermicelle even though it is a German-Swiss dessert) with whipped cream over some flasky pastry. I had some more nutrious food too-zweibenkuchen (onion cheese tart).  Our breakfast place  (Timbits) had "Babyccino" on the menu for kids-milk foam with raspberry syrup. Gotta start them young.
We had fondue, raclette and air-dried meat (wasn't clear if it were cooked first) at a Swiss restaurant at night. It cost an arm and a leg (currency here).


Sara Williams said...

It sounds as though you are having a fab trip. I had some Swiss friends once but havent got to visit yet

Michela Baratta said...

Hi Sue,
I've just finished to read your great post and my attention has been caught by Bonassola, near 5 Terre.

I'm an Italian living in the U.S since last January. My husband and I used to spend every week-end in Bonassola. It's a gem! Don't miss it if you have a chance to go there. Have a great dinner at Perballe Restaurant.

Is the B&B owner a German woman? If so, I know her quite well.

Enjoy your trip

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

Cara Michela

It must be the same woman who is Swiss-German according to my new friend Daniela. Grazie for the restaurant tip. I will tell Esther Hello from you. Di dov'รจ sei?


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