Wrap up: Switzerland
On our way to Yan’s grandmother’s house, we were a bit packed in the car but the fresh air was great after the scolding heat of Romania. We passed a few prostitues on the way but they magically disappeared when we reached Switzerland. We then went up, up, up the mountain a winding road very reminiscent of the Transfagarasan but I enjoyed it a lot more with safe driving. It was night, so I didn’t get to see much the first night in, but I knew you could hardly get more mountain than that!
Setting the scene
I had already been to Switzerland in my trip around Europe but I had been in the big cities. And, while they were very nice and the lakes were splendid, it didn’t really feel any different than any other country. This time around it was something completely different. Let me set the scene. Yan’s grandmother lives in Mugena, a very small village in the mountains in the southern end of Switzerland, near Lugano. She lives in a house with an exterior of big rocks and an interior of wood. The streets are paved or trails and you go from village to village hiking (it’s faster than taking the main road). On the way, every green spot is “fenced” with 2 wires to keep the cows in. You don’t always see them, but you always hear them because their bells are tingling away all day. Those cows are mostly curious and friendly and will take any opportunity to lick you in case you’re food. The water in the streams is cold even on the hottest days because it comes down from the mountain and there are many fountains along the roads in case the cows get thirsty on their way from one stop to the next. The air is fresh and the people are very friendly! I think I knew half the village by the time we left. The post is also in charge of the bus system and will get you into town for your shopping because appart from one restaurant/hotel and a post office, there isn’t much but houses around.
Setting the context
The week I was there was Yan’s grandmother’s 90th birthday which we celebrated with the village and his family from england. His aunt and his cousin came and we spent most of our time with him and his girlfriend from Australia who had beautiful ginger hair! I was also,very sadly, quite sick almost the whole way through. Looking back, I think it might be that I wasn’t used to mountain water, but I battled a cold and a very nasty case of where’s the nearest bathroom please. So we didn’t get as much done as we might have in other circumstances, but we did get some rest which was very welcome.
The local activities
On the days I didn’t have the courage to go very far from the house, we hiked around the town to see some cows and went to a reservoir of water for fire extinguishing helicopters where the whole village goes to swim like their own private pool. Although I have to confess I didn’t have the courage to jump in. Please remember it is mountain water and very cold! We enjoyed the sun and the nice weather.
We also had a party in the town council for Yan’s grandmother and I believe the whole village was there, or close to. We all sat in the big room, enjoying very delicious food prepared by various townsfolk. A few beers later and they started singing and we called it a night.
We went eating quite a few times at the grotto, a restaurant in the nearest village with traditional food. We enjoyed a few beers and also a few competitions of the Olympics as well a some delicious food.
On Switzerland’s national holiday, we went for a ride on the lake Lugano with Yan’s uncle and cousins to enjoy the sun. At night, we went back to admire the fireworks from the lake. We were definitely not the only ones. It was lucky Yan’s uncle knew what he was doing because the water was full of boats, small and big!
One of the better days, we went to Mount Lema with Yan’s cousin and his girlfriend. We took the cabin up to the top and walked around a bit. We were hoping to have a great view but we chose a cloudy day and even though we waited a few hours, the sight never cleared enough to see Italy. Still, we enjoyed the fresh air and the beautiful sight of the close by surroundings.
Another day, we adventured down to the city with the bus and all the way to Melide with the train to see Swiss Miniatur, a replica of the most famous buildings of Switzerland in miniature. Although very interesting, it was a bad day health wise and we didn’t stay very long. It was really fascinating to see all the small buildings, miniature mountains and ski stations and boats. It even had a train that kids could ride all around the place.
Bridge, and Dam
One of my favorite days was going to the Verzasca Dam, the dam used to shoot the opening sequence of Goldeneye. The dam itself wasn’t that impressive considering our previous visit of such a dam in Romania, but then we hiked a bit around, trying to find a way up the mountain. And when we finally gave that up, we drove the car out to Ponte dei salti, a remarquable two arched bridge made of bricks with magnificent rock formations underneath and clear blue water where a ton of people where bathing. People were even jumping from the bridge in the water which I would not have done. We had lunch at a local restaurant, enjoying the wonderful day and then dipped our feet in the river. When the money for the parking spot ran out, we got back in the car and kept driving in the villages just to admire the country. Although I got a bit queazy because of car sickness, I still remember fondly of that beautiful day.
And that wraps up our stay in Switzerland. It was a lot more about family, good times and nice sights than active exploration but sometimes it’s better this way, especially when you have an upset stomach. I really wish I would have been a more lively guest but I enjoyed the people, the food, the chocolate and the landscape as much as anyone in my condition could and I wish I can go back someday!