SwitzerlandPosted: April 19, 2011
The Swiss guard at the border was suitably stern and officious. His pristine navy blue uniform and impeccable hairstyle lent gravity to the fact we had entered Switzerland and there will be no funny business here!!! If he felt bemused at this Australian grinning at him, driving a German vehicle and speaking fluent Italian, he was certainly not going to show it.
But nothing can dampen my spirits. I am in Switzerland! Since my childhood I have wanted to visit where Heidi lived. To breathe the air that bought the rosiness back into Clara’s pale cheeks. To see the Alps, pat the goats and imagine drinking their warm milk with my best friend Peter and Grandfather. I have to pinch myself. To be in “Heidi Land” or “Heidi Ville” or “Heidi Dorf”, as it can all be called here, is more of a thrill than I expected and I felt quite emotional. You see I really wanted to be Heidi. If I play the game of saying who would I be if I could be anyone in history – who I would be? ……………. Heidi!
Switzerland is “postcard picture perfect”, even the animals are photogenic. And grass!!!! I am more like my horse Beauty than I realized. I had not noticed how much I’ve missed grass. We now have vibrant, green, grass pasture land beside, ahead and behind us. It’s nurturing to my eye and my heart……………. and it all looks freshly mown for our arrival! Even the edges look trimmed.
We have two friends to visit in Switzerland and it makes our time here comfortable and special. Esther we met on the Camino de Santiago de Compostella. An afternoon and a dinner together in Spain, formed a firm friendship for both Tony and I. She is a delightful, young Swiss lady and was a wonderful hostess. Showing us proudly around Zug, a visit to the Gallery where she will have an exhibition later this year of her “Camino” inspired artwork, we were then invited into her home.
The following day she held our hand negotiating the Swiss train system, took us to the city of Luzern, ordered us Fondue for lunch (yes, the Swiss still love it!), a lake cruise and took us to see a spectacular 360 degree painting completed by a participant of the Prussian French war of the late 19th century.
Our second friend, Luciano, is part of the Maniago crew! He now lives in Switzerland but his parents were born in Maniago. Luciano was born in Holland and now holds a Swiss and an Italian passport. He is retired and a mad keen fisherman who speaks at least 5 languages. His zest for life, cooking skills and generosity ensured we enjoyed this little bit of Italy in Switzerland. He treated us as honored guests and insisted on cooking, very deliciously, every meal. He took us to Bern to meet his daughter and her husband. They live in a jaw dropping, stunning 7 room apartment in the middle of the city, with a garden and balcony overlooking the Aare river and the famous Bear enclosure of Bern.
In his heart he is both Swiss and Italian as, he says, he can express himself equally as well in either country. Language, such a strong post on which to hang your hat. I think of the Italian boys in the Sudtirol and after 3 Italian generations still have German as a mother language. Germanic is what they speak, Germanic is what they continue to be.
Luciano took us for what might have been a brisk 15 minute walk. But no, there was a small world of wonder there. Like a proud father, he quietly told us about “his local fishing lake.” Many hours have been spent upon it, learning its personality and nuances. He bade us notice the levels of the surrounding terrain, one area is slowly rising as another slowly sinks. Another mystery, a pile of rocks lies on the lake floor. Nobody knows where they came from as there are no rocks within many kilometers. He drew our attention to the nesting white swan on a small island in the middle, getting ready to lead her bright yellow hatch-lings for their first swim; the swarms of small fish in the channels, hopefully not swimming into drains where there is not sufficient oxygen for them to breathe and grow. He explained that this lake has very high levels of plankton. Good for the baby fish and in some lights, even visible to the human eye. He pointed out the approach of the waterlilly flowers, a flotilla of red, yellow and white ready to burst onto the scene. We stopped to pick up the wooden “chips” beside a fallen tree. The tell tale evidence of the destructive teeth of two otters that had only recently inhabited the lake from no body knows where. He explained the ongoing ecology of the lake and the actions those who use and love it take to protect it and their little timber fishing boats. It was such a lovely journey around a much loved lake…………………
I think there is very little to worry about about Switzerland. It’s so clean and tidy a criminal would be obviously out of place …………. crime could not pay! Economically it’s a very strong country. Built on the back of a banking industry, houses are “picture perfect” and well maintained. There must be a building regulation that keeps 90% of Swiss homes in the architecture of the Alpine Chalet. There are stacks of new, prestige cars. An abundance of stylish, public, architecturally designed, brand new buildings riddled with stainless steel, titanium copper, and there is still enough in the public purse to create public art. Painted buildings and sculptures pop up everywhere. One city, Fribourg, has a map listing 42 public art sculptures. This town is smaller than Ballarat.
It’s expensive here………….. even the locals will tell you that. After getting used to 1 euro 50 for a cuppachino, its a shock to hike to 4 Swiss francs. All we did was cross a border!
But without a doubt, Switzerland is STUNNING! I expected beautiful Alps in Switzerland as well as green rolling fields. I have not been disappointed. What I did not expect is the beauty and the prevalence of the lakes. In between visits with friends, we have enjoyed a “Swiss Lake Tour” beginning at the infamous St Moritz, continuing to the lake at Zug and a boat cruise at Luzern. Camping lakeside at Spiez and Murton, an educational visit to Lucianos “baby” lake in Subingen, and to finish the picturesque lake set in the valley of Seealpsee.
They have all been superb, usually large bodies of water, populated in a gorgeous way. Sweet little, classy villages, fantastic walking paths, unbelievable public facilities, ie even a hand painted toilet block with a heart shape cut into the door.
It’s so different to Italy. The land here, as a rule is not cultivated as is every spare inch in Italy. One area in Switzerland is called “the vegetable basket of Switzerland!” There is a bike path for tourists to ride for 30 or 50 kms, just to observe the 60 varieties of vegetables growing. In Italy its actually difficult to not see vegetables growing.
I try not to mention it to my Italian husband who has a bias to Italy, but I’m a little in love with Switzerland. It may be because of the luscious, long, warm, sunny spring days we have had since being here, or perhaps it’s the idea of living life as if in a children’s illustrated story book.
Switzerland: Pretty as a picture. Neat as a pin.