Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Road Trip Through Germany, Switzerland, Italy and France 2009, Part 1

So about the trip we are some recollections to go along with the photos...
We started out travelling to Gisi's home town of Ehingen, a Schwäbian town about 3 hours from here in Freiburg. It is on the left bank of the Donau river, which further east becomes the Danube. She had to arrange for the local florist gardener to maintain her parents grave, go see her banker at the Sparkässe, and see her car dealer to see if he would be interested in selling her Barchetta. We also visited the Cemetary to say goodbye for now. After completeing these tasks, we set out for the Bodensee, to the town of Unteruhldingen on the main body of the lake. It is a busy resort area in the summer and quite a beautiful lake. We stayed at an older hotel, the Seerose, just across the street from the lakeshore. We were in walking distance of the marina and lake front park, and there are plenty of hotels and restaurants nearby. It was very relaxing, and after a local seafood dinner, we watched the sunset over the lake. We could see the Swiss Alps in the distance to the south, and were excited knowing we were going to be in the midst of them in the coming days. The folowing day we rented bikes and first rode to the famous church at Birnau, and then to the town of Meersburg. It was a gorgeous morning and we really enjoyed the ride in the bright sunshine. Later that day we went to Steißlingen to visit with some of Gisi's relatives. First we went to see Tante Irmgard who is in her 70's, and is Gisi's aunt. She was really lovely, we had coffee and cakes at her house. She was very happy that we were married, and I think she liked me. Of course, most of the older folks don't speak English, so I have to trust Gisi's interpratation ;-). After an emotional farewell, we went to see her godmother, also Gisi, and her family. They wanted to take us out to dinner to celebrate our marriage. We went to a lovely Italian resturant on the shore of the lake and had a great time and dinner. In addition to Gisi and her husband Franz, we were joined by another cousin Berthold, and godmother Gisi's son Ralf, along with his daughter and step daughter. It was really great to meet Gisi's family and everyone was to nice..they seemed really happy to see Gisi and were excited for her new plans. Of course we invited them to come visit New York, and I hope they do. Not many of them have been to the states, so it would be fun and I would love to give them a tour of our home town.

The next morning we started out for Lake Como...about a 4 hour drive. We took some time longer as we were in no rush and the journey itself was so beautiful and part of the reason we chose our route. The plan was to drive through some of the highest Alp regions in Switzerland, Italy and France. It's a fairly easy route, and it took us through so many spectacular the drive was really part of the fun. Especially with the great weather and the top down! Just perfect.
We started out along the lake, a chilly morning. Soon we were in Bavaria for a short while, around Lindau. We were then in Austria, again for a short while. We stopped in Bregenz for a break and a snack. We got back on the Autobahn and were quickly in Switzerland. Now we started to really see the Alps ahead. After a while we took an exit to see the town of Vaduz in Lichtenstein. Well it was right there, so I had to go see it! We didn't really stay long, took a few pictures and got back on the road. Our next stop was Heidiland, in Switzerland. We stopped here to buy some lunch supplies in anticipation of getting up on the San Bernadino Pass, a good rest point to take in the beauty of the high peaks. Ok, so thats four countries we were in, and it wasn't quite noon yet.
We drove on in the foothills and valleys of the Swiss Alps, noticing it was quite industrial, and not very pretty. That soon changed as we got up higher in altitude and approached the Entrance to the San Bernadino tunnell, a quicker way to get to Italy, as opposed to climbing over the pass. We were going over the pass. The route from there on was a small two lane road, not very wide, and really steep with many switchback turns..and awesome views. There was hardly any other traffic which really made it enjoyable and we were able to enjoy the road at our own pace. Mostly we encountered motercycles, that is a big thing here. Bikers every weekend set out to cross mountain passes, just for the thrill of the ride.
We made it to San Bernadino about 1pm, so we stopped and had lunch in the sunshine and clear air, at about 7000ft above sea level. We hung out for about an hour, walked around a bit, checked out the sights...then for the ride downhill...towards Lugano, and eventually Lake Como. It was a long descent, but going down is always faster. We passed through some gorgeous valleys and the afternoon light looked so pretty on the mountainside. As we got towards Lugano, traffic increased and we could see we were heading back into populated areas, suburbs and towns. It wouldn't be long before we were in Como. So although we were still in Switzerland, it was very Italian sounding..the names of the towns (Bellinzona, Cadenazzo) and such. We've been to several areas in Switzerland and it amazes me how different they are. In the western part, next to is French speaking..north, east and central are German speaking, or at least a dialect of German. And at the Italian border areas (Ticino) in the south, an Italian dialect is spoken. It is a really beautiful country, and it's been so much fun visiting the different parts of it. But is tends to be very expensive (except for gasoline, go figure)..restaurants are exorbitant in my experiance. And they don't use the Euro. So we end up with Swiss Francs in our pocket. But now we are quickly approaching the Italian border. Next stop..Lago di Como. See the photos here.

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