Switzerland - Stechelberg

Missed cars and missed flights, but farmhouses, flowers, fondue and snow capped mountains. .

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I’d never heard of Stechelberg. Or Lauterbrunnen or Interlaken. I don’t even now how Bekky heard about them, but that’s where we were headed after Lucerne. Mind you, I didn’t know the Capital of Switzerland was Bern, I thought it was Zurich, so there you go. Geography was never my strong point.
The original plan was to hire a car and drive the Furka Pass on the way there. We were flexible on that, depending on timing. We were having such a lovely time in Lucerne we were willing to sacrifice a drive around hairpin bends on the wrong side of the road to look at some building that the road loops around.

We packed up our stuff and stored it at the hotel and had a lovely few hours meandering around lucerne and doing some shopping. We bought groceries for our stay in the mountains and headed over to pick up the hire car, only to discover they closed at 3pm and it was 4 by the time we got there. Oh dear. Slight dilemma. We can’t make phone calls as we only have data. The Hire car mob obviously haven’t cottoned onto What’sApp so we can’t contact them. I send them an email and eventually received a reply to come back on Monday morning. That’s not very helpful. A quick google search reveals there are no other hire car places in Lucerne open. We gather up our shopping and head to a helpful information centre at the Train Station. An hour later we have booked a car through the same mob but pick up from Zurich airport. The opposite direction to where we’re headed but we’ve run out of options. The lady on the phone for the car hire mob was quoting me 600euro for a manual car. The original booking was for 500 euro for an auto and extra driver and other extras. Bekky is in the background doing research and the app for the same company says we can hire a car for 300euro? I ask the lady to price match and she says she can’t. (Same company, go figure). She also says she can’t transfer my booking, I have to rebook and then I can apply to have my old booking refunded. Arrrgh. So I have to download the app because the old booking will have to match the new booking. There’s a moment of panic when I think I have to confirm the booking via the email but that one email address I used won’t send from my phone, only my laptop, which is back at the hotel. Anyway, we finally get the car booked, plus 2 trains to get to Zurich airport. We catch a bus back to the hotel to get our bags, then another bus back to the train station with all our bags plus the groceries we had expected to load straight into the hire car, and then off we go ta few hours out of our way o hire a car and drive on the wrong side of the road around hair pin bends at night time to get to the alps. Are we having fun yet?

I message my partner who is flying from Berlin to tell him we have a slight mishap but we’re sorting it out but there’s a chance we will be late picking them up from the train station in Interlaken. We were supposed to have arrived early afternoon and settled into our accomm and then gone out exploring before picking them up at 9pm.

After a while he replies, “Bigger mishap here. Missed our flight”

Oh, the joys of travel!

We survived driving on the wrong side of the road again and the spaghetti bends and turned up at 10pm to try and find our farmhouse. Not an easy task. You can’t park at the farm. You can drive around ridiculously narrow roads to get a bit closer to drop your bags off. But it’s still a goat track so we just took in overnight essentials. Then back down the ridiculous road to park in a remote car park. Then we had to walk back up a different goat track in the dark.

I ask Bekky if we should be concerned about bears or deer (it was seriously remote wilderness we were walking in) but she had spotted a massive slug on the track so was more concerned about death by slug attack.
I was huffing and puffing and grumbling under my breath as we negotiated the steep, uneven path, already planning on looking for more accessible accommodation the next day. And then we woke up in the morning and from our bedroom window we could see snow capped mountains. All was forgiven.

We picked our wayward comrades up in the evening and we all fell head over heels in love with Switzerlands amazing beauty.
I probably should split this post into two or three smaller ones and there’s lots more I could tell you about, but I’m tired. I’ve just arrived in London and if I hang onto the idea of getting things perfect then I’ll never get around to posting anything.

Switzerland is stunning. Overwhelmingly stunning. Breathtakingly beautiful. Words and photos are simply inadequate to describe it.
(If you click on the pictures you can see them bigger and scroll through them)

Switzerland - Lucerne

Venice to Milan by train. (Stay overnight)

Milan to Art Garfunkel (Arth-Goldau) by train.

Art Garfunkel to Fluelen by Train.

Fluelen to Lucern by Ferry.

Despite the multitude of opportunities for things to go wrong, the whole trip went so smoothly we were suspicious. We arrived in Milan late and had to collect keys to our accomm. I couldn’t remember what I’d booked but we had to check in before 8pm in a travel office. After the passport and city tax exchange and key collection we headed around a corner and up a street to see where we were sleeping the night. We rounded the next bend and saw a gloomy looking multi story building and my hopes were plummeting. It was next to a fancy hotel and I was already berating myself for being such a cheapskate and not booking something nice. We both expected there to be no lift and we’d have to lug our suitcases up 6 flights of stairs and end up in a dingy room. We were both tired and bracing ourselves for the worst. It was only for one night but I had made the mental note that those were the nights you needed to spend a bit more to make life a bit easier and comfortable.

Well, we were very pleasantly surprised. There was a lift, albeit seriously tiny, and the room was not only spacious, clean, light and delightful but it had a kettle, snacks and tea bags! Not fragrant ones, just good ol’ black tea. An ongoing theme so far has been no kettle or jug, no teabags (even in the supermarkets), no toasters and no egg flippers(?). Don’t they eat fried eggs? We wouldn’t be doing any cooking here as we had an early train to catch the next day but the ability to make a cup of tea was just blissikins.
I can’t tell you anything else about Milan but Oh. My. God. Switzerland was breathtaking.

We had two days (one night) in Lucerne before hiring a car and heading over to Interlaken to pick up my partner and his son, and stay in a Stechelberg farmhouse for 3 nights. Well, our seemless journey into Switzerland did not continue. But before I get to that story, here’s some photos of Lucerne, which we enjoyed very much. Apart from being bloody expensive, as you’d expect as everything is expensive in Switzerland, it was not unlike Melbourne. Maybe just a bit more upmarket.
The cheapest room was not cheap and it was a tiny but adequate room in an Ibis hotel. It did come with free bus tickets, working wifi and friendly staff so all in all it was a win. We walked, we shopped, we took photos.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. First impressions, firstly from the train window and then from the 3 hour ferry ride on Lake Lucern: it’s like straight out of a picture book. Apart from a couple of houses we spotted along the way that had shutters made of hazard stripes. Not sure what that was about. But otherwise, rolling hills, soaring mountains, amazing blue water, snow capped mountains, cute houses… just a surreal sense of other worldly beauty.
The funny thing about travelling is that some places look so much better in photos than they do in real life and you can feel a bit disappointed. One or two postcard image places and not much else going on. Switzerland however, is the opposite. You just can’t capture the beauty in a photo. It has to be experienced.

Bekky was in charge of the destinations in Switzerland. She chose Lucern based on a photo she had as a screensaver of the Chapel Bridge. It didn’t look like the moody black and white photo she was referencing when we got there to find it bathed in the late afternoon sunshine and adorned with flowers (I thought the flowers were fake, they were so perfect, but I soon discovered that Switzerland is pretty big on flowers).

The covered bridge was built in 1333 and leads to the Old Town.

How many photos can you take of just one bridge? Turns out quite a lot if you’re there at different times of day and can get to different angles.

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I went for an early-ish morning walk while Bekky had a sleep in and discovered a market set up on both sides of the lake and it was one of the nicest markets I’ve ever been to. Lots of cheese, small goods, fruit and veg and lots of lovely flower stalls. No junk, no touristy stuff. No hustle bustle or hard sell spruikng. Just a lovely market to do your shopping at on a Saturday morning.

Really, cheese and flowers was enough to make me happy.

Venice - Burano

Oh, hello again. I got a bit sidetracked in Italy and forgot to get back to you with Burano pics. Burano is a small island in Venice.

The mozzies interfered with our original plans to spend a leisurely afternoon in Burano. Well, that and realising it would take us close to two hours to get there from where we were staying in Guidecca.

We weren’t prepared for the mozzie attack and the intense buzzing kept us tossing and turning and swatting the night before. So we started the day already tired when we set out to explore Venice, with the intention of a short siesta after lunch and then heading to Burano for the afternoon.

Well, you know how these things go. After lunch turned into mid afternoon, we didn’t realise how long it would take. It was hot, we were tired. We didn’t go. It was all too hard.

We only had two nights in Venice, neither of us expected to like it as much as we did or we would have stayed for an extra day or two. We were leaving for Switzerland the next day and I really, really wanted to see Burano. It was touch and go for a while as to wether we could make it happen. We packed up and checked out of our AirBnb, checked our luggage into the train station (we weren’t expecting a queue a mile long! It’s the unexpected things that throw your plans out). We grabbed a quick coffee and made our way around the Venice canals via water bus and eventually got ourselves to Burano. Luckily I could change our train to a later booking but it still meant we were on Burano for only a bit over an hour and it was the middle of the day.

I was super thrilled and would have loved to wander around all afternoon. Actually, I think I’d look into staying on Burano if I were to go back. We guzzled a Margherita Pizza and tussled with some German tourists over the shade umbrella and tried to ignore people smoking while you’re eating and then we did a super quick walk around Burano, furiously snapping photos at every turn. It really is a photographers delight.
If you’re heading to Venice make sure you factor in a visit to Burano. With global warming it might be under water sooner rather than later, so see it while you can. It’s easy enough to get to as long as you allow enough time. The same Water Bus ticket gets you there and back. Apart from the explosion of colour, it even has it’s own Leaning Bell Tower. It’s also known for lace making but I was too busy chasing the pretty colours to stop and look at the lace in the limited time we had.

Next up - Switzerland

Below are a few favourite photos from Burano

Venice

Venice is …

Souvenirs, tourists and gondolas.

Sunsets, Mosquitoes and water buses.

and 886 photos
narrowed down to 100 favourites
then culled to 71
another cull to 38
and a brutal cull to 23

And if I looked at them again I’d choose a different 23.

And I’m going to split those into Venice and Burano.

So here’s an overview of Venice.

I liked Venice much more than I thought I would.

Lake Bled

How many photos can you take of a lake with a church in the middle of it?
We hired a car for the day from Enterprise (which was surprisingly easy and economical) to get from Looby to Lake Bled. In hindsight, it probably would've been more fun to catch a bus and hire an e-bike to get around the lake. We hired a car because whenever we’re on trains or buses we see these amazing locations we want to stop at and take photos. Of course, because we had a car we didn’t see any amazing locations we wanted to stop at. We took some back roads and stopped at a small town with a pretty church, but we were really just trying to justify hiring the car. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t.
PS. It’s taken forever to get these photos loaded as wifi has been absolute shit everywhere we’ve been.

Ljubljana (Loo-b-yana. Don't quote me on that). Slovenia

Update: I’ve been reliably informed it’s Looblyana.
I have a little crush on Ljubjana. A curious cross between Canberra and Lisbon. Church bells and quiet streets. Quaint, welcoming, clean, not crowded.

Bekky and I went out for breakfast and went for a quick walk. We didn’t get back to the AirBnB apartment until the afternoon. A surprisingly delightful town.

A bonus for me - Photography Exhibition: LUCIEN HERVÉ: GEOMETRY OF LIGHT