Swiss Miss

First, we must address yesterday (which I was too tired to do last night). Yesterday was a full travel day. I started on a 7:45 train to Bologna to pick up Gus. He started on a 6:30 bus from Piobicco. Once we got to Bologna, we had a high-speed train to Milan and no tickets beyond that. Plus we had a hotel reservation in Luzern, Switzerland. I had tried to buy the tickets from Bologna to Luzern, but the Swiss site was returning an error. I called customer service, and they said I could buy the tickets in Milan. I asked if I could buy them in the ticket office at the train station, and she said yes. Oh, those wily Swiss. We got to Milan, and I tried to buy the tickets from the ticket office, which you have to wait in a long line for, and we only had an hour before the train that we wanted. With 10 minutes to spare, I got to the front of the line, and the ticket agent says I cannot buy them there. They can’t sell tickets crossing the border (come on Switzerland and get in the EU, it would make my life so much easier), which would not have been a problem if the Swiss site had worked. I would already have them and wouldn’t have a train leaving from one of the largest train stations in Europe in 10 minutes. Well, where can I buy them? At the tobacconist, as in a shop that sells cigarettes and gum. Umm, excuse me? They are authorized to judge your fitness to cross the border? I bought the tickets, which had no details–not the train company, not the time, not the track. Nothing. And the tobacconist certainly didn’t know where said train might depart. Gus and I ran for the only train we knew was heading to Switzerland and got on it. I don’t know if we had valid tickets for that train or not. It would take us as far as Lugano. (Train #3 for me). In Lugano, we could buy tickets for Luzern. When we got off, I went to the machine to buy the tickets. My only option was a train with a change in Gotthard (Train #4). Except there was no such train listed on the timetable. And of course, I had to find an ATM to get Swiss Francs, which was surprisingly hard to find in a country known for its banking. Again, Gus and I got on a train headed toward Luzern. I do not think we had tickets for that particular train, but we had tickets for a train. I kept an eye on Google maps and judged the closest place to get off and get on one headed to Luzern (Train #5). I never thought I’d compliment the efficiency of Italian trains, but in 5 weeks and all of the trains/busses I had taken, not one was late, and they all had nice screens listing the stops and the times of each with connections in each stop. No such luck on Swiss trains. Luckily, I speak German and could understand the announcements and have a reasonable conversation with the train personnel. I think it’s all an elaborate ploy to keep people from coming to Switzerland. And there are plenty of tourists here. I just hope they don’t discover the mountains a few hours south in Italy. We finally made it to our hotel, had a wonderful fondue dinner, and explored the charming town of Luzern.

Okay, on to today. Since today was going to be our nicest weather-wise, we decided to go to the top of Mt. Pilatus and then take a cruise on Lake Luzern. The top of the mountain was breathtaking, and I pushed past some issues I have with heights and climbed a stairway on the outside of a sheer cliff for the ultimate views. The cruise around the lake was particularly relaxing. The water is so clear, and the guide said it was safe to drink–it is so clean. We opted not to. Tonight we walked outside of the city center into a residential neighborhood for local Swiss food. We had the classics–schnitzel and Grossi’s (grandmother’s) meatloaf. Both were outstanding. Tomorrow we are going to tackle some other sites in town–Wagner had a house here, the medieval walls, and some churches. It was great to share the mountain experience with Gus, who had missed out on all of the Italian excursions to the top.

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