Our evening in Lucerne was very enjoyable. We had a little debate at first whether to drag our suitcases around or take the 20 minute bus ride to the hotel. We decided on the hotel, by way of the ATM and the post office. (Apologies, by the way, for the blank postcards from Switzerland, for the folks who got them. More on this later.) I bought stamps and more postcards. I do not, by the way, want to admit how much I’ve spent on postage. International mail is not cheap! 🙂
The Hotel Felmis is in the suburb of Horw, and it was probably the nicest hotel we’ve stayed in so far. The beds were comfy, with a very fluffy comforter for each of us, and the shower was sizeable. The water pressure was good for the cold water…not so much for hot water. The room was also blissfully large compared to the “just enough room for you and the bed” room we had in Paris (which was still a fairly nice and large room for Paris!). Breakfast was included with the room, which was a nice treat.
After dropping our bags off, we headed back into town to sightsee and have dinner. We saw the famous bridges in Lucerne and walked around the “old town” area a bit while window shopping. There were a TON of swans in the water. Apparently, swans are Swiss? Our choices for Swiss-type dining were German-inspired or Italian-inspired. We settled on Italian…pizza and, later, gelato. Both were delicious. For the gelato, I got chocolate chip flavor, that had lots of rich and dark chips in it. DH got tiramisu flavor. We also stopped by a grocery store to pick up some snacks for the train ride. With our purchase, we got three free bottles of juice. Granini is having a contest to determine its new 2012 flavor, so they were giving away .5L bottles of the three options. There’s a website to vote on your favorite. The three flavors were orange-lime (my favorite), pineapple-lemon (also very good), and cherry-banana (DH’s favorite). By the time we got back to the hotel, it was pretty late. We put on the TV while we did our evening preparations, and we ended up watching Dirty Dancing in German. We were both tired and had an early morning, so I decided to put off writing postcards until we were on the train. But, this train was a very fast ride from Lucerne to Arth Goldau. At Arth Goldau, I asked a train manager if there was a postbox nearby, and, after some language barrier issues, he said not to worry, that he’d just mail them for me as the postbox was a good 5 minutes away, and he took my pile of cards and other envelopes (we had some vouchers to mail to get refunds for the delayed train). I was like, whew, that’s a load off my mind, as I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t have time to mail them before we left Switzerland, and the postage was Swiss. But, I didn’t think about at the time that I had never actually written the postcards! And, just to add to my guilt, we had a two hour layover in Bellinzona, so I would have had plenty of time to both mail them and write them there.
The train ride was as picturesque as promised, and the train was relatively empty, so we were able to switch from one side of the train to the other based on which side had the best views. In Bellinzona, we walked down toward the town plaza and had a quick lunch of pizza (that’s the main fast food in the area, it seems) and some of the chips we’d bought in Lucerne. We also finished off a 1L bottle of Coke Zero I had bought in Paris before we left. The town was having a fruit festival of some kind, and the apple growers’ group was out handing out apples for free, so we each had an apple as well. We took pictures of the town walls and the sculpture garden, and DH used up the last of our Swiss francs on another slice of pizza before we left.
This next train, from Bellinzona to Milan, was an adventure in itself. It was very crowded, and there was luggage all through the aisles (because the luggage storage areas were full). We slowly worked our way to our seats, and people were sitting in them. We explained that we had those seats, and they moved. This was new for us. While many of the trains had no assigned seating, this was the first time that we’d had assigned seating but yet seen people seat-hopping. We wondered why they would do that…but we were soon to learn! Our train encountered a delay of about 25 minutes, and as such, we were going to miss our connection in Milan. A nearby passenger assured us that it was no big deal, happens all the time, and that we’d just need to go to the train office and get our ticket transferred to the next train. So, we did, but the train office person was not terribly helpful. He did stamp our tickets and tell us to get on the next train, but he didn’t give us a new seat assignment nor explain what we were supposed to do. So, this is how we learned why the other train had people sitting on each other’s laps and crowding the aisles. They oversell trains. By a lot. If you end up in a situation like ours, or you are using the EuroRail pass, or you buy a ticket at the last minute, you have no assigned seat…which means you go on the hunt for people getting up so you can sit down for awhile. Or, you find a good spot on the floor and camp out, which is what I ended up doing after DH had no luck finding us a spot while I stood guard with the luggage. Midway through the ride to Venice, we were able to sit in some empty seats for a little while, and then we were relegated to the floor again briefly before the next stop (Padua) freed up a good number of seats. We chatted with a guy who works for Accenture (who is apparently the largest employer in Italy) until he got off at Mestre. Then, we relaxed and watched the scenery on our way to Venice. One group of girls that seemed to be traveling in a group got stuck in the alcove between trains for the whole time. The bad part about that area is that it’s also where the restrooms are, so it was particularly stinky. We offered to make room for them, but they waved no. I saw them hold their noses after anyone went to the bathroom.
So that was our Swiss adventure. Switzerland is definitely divided in culture. There’s a French area, a German area, and an Italian area. They’re pretty much defined by the mountain barriers, which makes sense when you think about it. There are a million cows and cow things in Switzerland. I would have gone broke buying things for Moo, so I settled for buying some extra cow postcards for her.