Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Lake Como and the Path to the Sighignola- The Balcony of Italy

My train leaves from Zermatt, Switzerland and navigates its way through the Alps to somewhere near the border. My connection leaves late, offering immediate proof I must have crossed over to the Italian side.
Lake Como
I arrive at Lago Como quite late after my second connection in Milan leaves tardier than the first. Missing the last bus, my AirBnb host very graciously offers to pick me up.
a large villa on Lake Como used for high profile gatherings/ events
a large villa on Lake Como used for high profile gatherings/ events
My hosts chickens- fresh eggs each morning
My host's chickens- fresh eggs each morning
Host's proud country home from the outside
It's a mystery how I ended up here, a function of price and AirBnb estimating distance by how the crow flies, which is, frankly, much closer than the forty-five minute drive through the windy hills to to the tiny town of Pellio D'Intelvi.

I set out the following morning having been woken by of all things a goose honking through the night.






I quickly arrive in the town's center, highlighted by an artificial turf soccer field and a single cafe, wifi not provided.
I enter inside- locals gathered around the bar, shoveling out 2 euro coins for cappuccinos in the morning, and beer and wine in the evening. The ubiquitous slot machines sit in the corner, their flashing lights attempting to attract suckers like a bug zapper does moths.
Within a couple hundred meters of leaving the cafe, I'm back on the empty, windy road; walking it is a perilous proposition. Italian motorists, who are about as cautious as the ocean is dry, peel around the many blind curves as though they were on a racetrack. When I hear the revved out engine of a car approaching, I race up the embankment for some measure of safety.
hills on the Italian countryside
hills on the Italian countryside
frequent Italian balcony/ windowsill decoration- flowers
frequent Italian balcony/ windowsill decoration- flowers
I pass a golf course, a ball flies at me through the trees flying by me by no more than a meter. Once again, the random number generator of the Universe just misses.
I pick up the small white ball, and attempt to dribble it like a basketball for entertainment purposes. After a couple kilometers I lose her as she takes a bad bounce and rolls down the steep hillside.
a cemetery in the Italian countryside
a cemetery in the Italian countryside
video: the countryside of the Lake Como area

I'm content to make my way slowly up the 10 km it takes to get up the hill. The birds chirp, and the insects buzz, and there's little to do here but relax and appreciate my surroundings; plus every few minutes seeking protection up the embankment.
I walk well over 10km, before arriving at my destination is the Sighignola, known in English as "The Balcony of Italy," which overlooks the Swiss border town named after Lake Lugano which it sits on. On a clear day one can see the high peaks of the Swiss Alps, including the Matterhorn. Unfortunately for me, today was quite overcast.
Literally overlooking the Swiss border on the Italian side. Just below me- Swizterland
Literally overlooking the Swiss border on the Italian side. Just below me- Swizterland

VideoThe Balcony of Italy, overlooking Lake Lugano and Switzerland

The city of Lugano, on Lake Lugano
The city of Lugano, on Lake Lugano 
I gaze at the view over Lago Lugano and beyond for half an hour, before returning and starting my walk back to town. It starts to pour, big droplets. I seek refuge in a rustic restaurant, which specializes in locally harvested wild boar. 
I depart an hour later as the rain abates momentarily, soon returning accompanied by rolling thunder as a companion. 
VideoTHundER on a lonely Italian countryside road
Italian countryside- quite peaceful. High above the lake
Italian countryside- quite peaceful. High in the hills

I make it back to town, the day passing me by about as quickly as the 23km I traverse. I'm not sure what I could look back on and say I "accomplished," but in the Italian countryside, it really doesn't seem to be a requirement to have enjoyed the day immensely.
As the sun begins to set late in the summer evening


Monday, September 19, 2016

The Matterhorn + Zermatt- Hiking in the High Alps of Switzerland

Zermatt, Switzerland

Located on the Italian border, (the Matterhorn peak is a shared border with Italy) I arrive in this small town nestled between some of the Europe's tallest peaks. This includes the pyramid, almost bent backwards peak of the Matterhorn which is the area's main attraction. 
Zermatt itself is a ski resort town, and extremely expensive with limited lodgings and high demand due to the natural beauty of the area, and the aforementioned Matterhorn. 
the Matterhorn
the best shot I have the Matterhorn- an unusually clear day it was I tells ya! 
Looking to save, I don't know, a few thousand bucks, I book an AirBnb "just" outside of Zermatt. Yes, technically it is less than 2 miles away, but unfortunately, I didn't take into the mountains. I literally had to carry my gear after a long train ride up an incredibly steep trail. 
But honestly I don't mind. It is so quiet and peaceful up there, a kind of upscale of upscale hostel where I have a private room for $90 a night or so. 
The nature surrounding is magnificent. While not quite as astounding as Barriloche Argentina, with her huge bodies of water, if you enjoy nature, this is an absolutely exquisite place to be. I am only here for two days due to my pricey Swiss Rail Pass expiring and wanting to get to Italy, but in retrospect, I wish I had stayed longer. 
Below you find some photos and videos of this amazing area of the world. 

Video: Why you Absolutely MUST Visit Zermatt, Switzerland

there are a few very small (less than 100 residents) in the mountains around Zermatt

the trail with wildflowers around the 5 Lakes
the trail with wildflowers around the 5 Lakes

Video: hiking the 5 Lakes trail around the Matterhorn
the rugged mountains- would look better in snow I am sure
the Swiss Alps
sitting by the lake on a warm Swiss afternoon
the blue lake (of the 5 lakes)

Video: the Matterhorn from different angle
a beautiful blue flower in the summer
an alpine stream running down the mountain
the glacier around Zermatt
the glacier around Zermatt
a stream leads down the forested mountain to Zermatt
hard to be mad here, it is so beautiful
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it's a sight to behold
a fast moving stream rushes down the mountain slope
a fast moving stream rushes down the mountain slope
many colorful alpine flowers lined the Alps in summer
rugged summer scenery
lots of these mountain streams. Feel free to refill your water bottle
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on the trail to Hotel Trift- another hour + away from desolate lodgings


Hotel Trift- 2+ hours steep hike from Zermatt, the quietest place you'll ever stay
the Swiss flag up by Trift where I say my goodbyes to Switzerland
the Swiss flag up by Trift where I say my goodbyes to Switzerland

Lucerne, Switzerland- the Alps + the peaks of Mount Rigi + Pilatus

Lucerne is an idyllic town in the Swiss Alps, located a little more than 50km from Zurich. As I spent but one night, in a hotel which was formerly a jail (which, while not the most comfortable was both very cheap for Switzerland @ $70 and served as a useful reminder to stay out of trouble) both days I was there I explored the nearby mountains named Pilatus and Rigi which you get to most quickly by boat across Lake Lucerne. 
Below are photos and two videos of the beautiful area. 

a view back on this idyllic Swiss town from Lake Lucerne
a view back on this idyllic Swiss town from Lake Lucerne
the ferry passes by downtown Lucerne
the ferry passes by downtown Lucerne


looking across the lake

videoThe Center of Beautiful Lucerne, Switzerland

downtown Lucerne
downtown Lucerne
mansion/ castle atop the hill
the bridge across the lake in the center of Lucerne
the bridge across the lake in the center of Lucerne
the flower bridge diagonally crossing the lake
the famous flower bridge


a swan keeps me company at the edge of the lake
a swan keeps me company at the edge of the lake
the train station in Lucerne- beautiful building
flowers in Lucerne
flowers in Lucerne



Here are photos (and a video) of the the Swiss mountains around Lucerne. Look how green. The area is incredibly tranquil and quiet, and has a calming effect on the soul as opposed to the hustle and bustle of the big cities of the world.

videoviews of Lake Lucerne and areas around Mount Rigi and Pilatus
flowers at the edge of a mountain ledge
a friend sits next to me on the mountain bench
beautiful alpine flowers in the Alps
beautiful alpine flowers in the Alps
a cow rests atop Mount Rigi
a cow rests atop Mount Rigi
a look down at Lake Lucerne
a look down at Lake Lucerne
atop Mount Rigi!
atop Mount Rigi! Great wooden carved statue :)
you can see the path through the Alps, a long way down
large Swiss flag


On the whole the area is beautiful and well worth seeing for a day or two.