Switzerland


Lake Lazern

Lake Lazern

We set out this morning (7/31/13) to explore Switzerland. We had checked out the internet for recommendations, but really just wanted to take a scenic drive through the countryside (not spending three hours stuck in a traffic jam.) To this end, we headed down to Luzern as a starting point. We had no idea what it had to offer, other than pretty lakes.

After about a two hour drive (mostly highway, but still in view of the scenery), we arrived. We found parking in the Frei Parking, only to discover that Frei does not mean free as in “costing no money” but free as in “available.” Depending on how long you stayed, you could rack up a 28 Franc bill. We opted for between an hour (3 Francs) and two (5 Franks.)

Parking secured, we walked across the street, stopped in the hotel to get a map, and headed out to the lake. This is truly a beautiful area. Lake Luzern (Lucerne is an alternate spelling) is quite serene with swans swimming along it and sailboats on its placid waters. We walked along the lake and found the Bachmann bakery stand. We bought a chocolate roll and a hazelnut roll. WOW! After almost three weeks of wheat sandwich bread, this fluffy, melt in your mouth variety was incredible. (We bought 4 more to take with us on our way back.)

Past the bakery, we headed into the old city to see the beautiful architecture. We contemplated seeing a lunch show, but opted to keep going. One of the neat sites in Luzern is the Chapel Bridge (German: Kapellbr├╝cke). This bridge is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe and the oldest truss bridge in the world, dating back to 1333.

Chapel Bridge (Luzern)

Chapel Bridge (Luzern)

Unfortunately, part of this great treasure was destroyed in 1993 when the bridge caught fire. It lost all but 30 of the original 158 (147 before the fire) internal paintings which were done in the 17th century. Thankfully, it has been beautifully restored and is an amazing sight to behold. We concluded our journey through the old town by stopping at Bachmann’s chocolatiers.

Then, we had wanted to take a scenic route through mountain towns, but headed out the wrong way (GPS miscommunications…), so took another highway drive to the breathtaking Lake Urnersee. We stopped at a pull out by the exit for Morschach to enjoy our lunch and the beautiful landscape. One of the things mom and I both love is just enjoying the beauty of nature, and this spot had beauty in all forms.

Lake Urnersee

Lake Urnersee

Finally, it was time to turn back for home. Once again, we planned to drive along the lakes, and once again, the roads took us away via highways and guard rails, so mom didn’t get the drive she wanted. (Though, she did comment that perhaps the sleepy little villages had changed in the 45 years since she was here before.) It still was a beautiful drive, and I’m glad to explore a bit of Switzerland. It definitely makes me like it better than sitting for almost three hours to get through the tunnel did. Wherever you are, there is amazing beauty and peaceful tranquility. It reminds me of something Rick Steves said in his description of the Black Forest. He mentioned that doctors in Germany would prescribe vacation trips to the spas to maintain your health. I think we all might enjoy life a bit better if we take time to enjoy the beauty along the way.
Our haul of chocolate

Our haul of chocolate

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Swiss Traffic jam (viewed from the gas station)

Swiss Traffic jam (viewed from the gas station)

We recently (7/27/13) left Italy to head over to Germany. The drive is about 7 hours, so we planned to leave early, go by way of Switzerland, enjoy the many photo opportunities the alps had to offer, and make it to our next destination by early evening. Alas, the best laid plans…

We made it into Switzerland with no problem, and enjoyed driving through Italy away from the city. Crossing the border was fairly easy, though you do have to purchase a 40 Euro sticker to drive in Switzerland. I think it’s good for a year since this one had a 13 on it (and we didn’t have to say how long we intended to stay like we did in Austria) So, we affixed our sticker and headed on our way. For a while, it was the beautiful scenery we expected (though as I was driving, and there were no pull outs, I got no pictures.) Then, we got to the San Gottardo tunnel (which I think sounds like retarded for a reason). It was a nightmare. It quite literally took almost three hours to get to go through. While it is long (16,942 meters), the line to drive through it was a major traffic jam, completely stopped with people peeing on the side of the road. Apparently, this is normal for summer. So, instead of enjoying a picnic lunch overlooking beautiful Swiss scenery, we ate our lunch in the car with the windows open.

View from the balcony of our German flat

View from the balcony of our German flat

Finally, we made it to Germany (this border we just drove right through) and found our lodgings. Since this is short, I decided to include some tips I’ve learned for driving in Germany and Austria (in no particular order.)

1. Stay in the right lane unless you’re passing–then, watch out.
2. Bus stops are marked by a green H in a yellow circle surrounded by a green circle.
3. Eingang/Einfahrt = Enter Ausgang/Ausfahrt = Exit
4. The white arrow in the blue circle tells you which area of the road to drive on.
This is especially helpful at medians, roundabouts, and other places you might be
confused.
5. Lights turn yellow both before and after they turn green.
6. Yellow lines are only used in construction or to indicate the fast pass lines.

Alas, no shoulders

Alas, no shoulders

7. White lines close together show some degree of separation (either an exit or traffic
going both ways. If the broken white line looks like the States’, it’s a one way.
8. A black forward slash or 3 lines of a forward slash indicate end of or leaving (This
one is sometimes red too.) For example, you’ll have a speed limit sign (black
numbers in a white circle with a red circle around it). Then, a bit down the road,
you’ll see the same number with 3 forward slash lines. This means that speed limit
no longer applies (watch out!)
9. Blue lined parking is paid parking (or the credit card line in a toll booth), while
white lined parking is business or residential. You usually have to use paid
parking unless you are going in the business.
10. Be aware that very few roads have a shoulder. Often times, houses will mark the
end of the lane. Additionally, cars may park halfway in the street, taking up part
of an already miniscule 2 lane road. Small towns aren’t fun for driving…

Tips in Italy: Be fully aware of everything–especially motorcycles, which do not drive in the lane like they do in America, but often between two cars going in opposite directions on a tiny road.