Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Swiss, Schweiz, Switzerland, Suisse, Svizzera

A delightful day in Bolzano (Bozen), where we finally found an Italian Internet connection, gave us a starting point for Switzerland! Bozen is a town I could spend some time in. I loved the real life, the real market, and the real people in that city. If only they had better internet set up in Italy.
The anti-terrorist laws in Italy on Internet use are very strict. A copy of your passport is needed to use any public internet. So if you own an internet café you need a copy machine because each customer must present their passport so a copy can be made. All this is rather cumbersome and, of course, nobody wants to be bothered doing it. WiFi is not in use since this would circumvent the law. The fines for letting someone use the internet without you obtaining their passport copy are steep and expensive. Two hours of internet use in Italy, if you can find a café like this, costs 8 Euros. But Italy is fun, lively, real and a great place to visit. In Italy I don’t see the falling apart houses, the grime. I only see life as it is. But we cannot stay here, we must move on.
So we left Italy after some outstanding, difficult riding in the Dolomites. When we left Bolzano we did not use the highway since even the secondary roads were in the valleys and riding secondary roads after all the Alpine passes, seemed a breeze.
I have always wanted to add Lichtenstein to my roster of countries in which I have ridden so we made sure we visited Valdus in the country of Lichtenstein. I had such a romantic notion of this Earldom that the reality of what we experienced there floored me. There is nothing pretty about this county. A hodge-podge of building styles put together without a master plan. Chaos is the best word I can think of. Nothing nice; all just business oriented and may I say it, ugly. Well we visited but were glad to get out of it, fast! We thought it can only get better in Switzerland.
We entered Switzerland from the east after riding on some rather mild roads. Maybe it was Lichtenstein, but this time around I was not impressed with Switzerland either. The buildings were old, dirty and in some cities, full of graffiti. A power washer business would be a good business to have in Eastern Switzerland. Maybe it is hard to keep these old buildings up to snuff. I am not sure; my impression was that the towns we rode through needed help.
There is sticker shock too. Hotel rooms are 140 Swiss Franken a night. One Franken is about one US Dollar. Yes, it includes breakfast but the rooms we stayed in were so-so. The furniture was old, the light fixtures old, the backyard stuffed full of stuff. Yes, next to each house, in every backyard there seems to be stuff. Building material lies around, ladders are leaned against the house, plastic tarps cover something, etc. It does not look pretty.
So how do I tell you about Switzerland? Is it as romantic as in Heidi? NO! Although we did see some of the old ways still preserved. We rode through some towns where cows were driven through the streets to spend their winter in barns after a summer in the high pastures. The cows were decorated in the old Alpine tradition with large bells around their necks and garlands on their heads.
Today, however, the cars drove right past them and the cows and cars did not mix well. The glorious old days of the cows coming down, the celebration of a good year on the high meadows, the feeling of jubilation is gone. The dung left on the roads by all the cows is now a nuisance. You have to be careful were you drive, this stuff is all over. You do not want to slip on this goo with your motorcycle tires.
Gone, too is the sense of beauty, it seems. All is business; all is a striving after money. I did not get that feeling in the French part of Switzerland. Here I felt that wine is still the driving force; there is a joie de vivre and life comes before money. In the east it was the other way around.
Carol and I rode a few major passes, the Flueelapass, Klausenpass and the Sustenpass. Beautiful riding with the usual switchbacks and riding above the tree line. It was cool but not cold. The weather was wonderful and we were extremely lucky that we had no rain. We stopped for lunch and it rained. It starts to rain lightly in this valley but we get into a tunnel and when we pop out the other side, no rain, and beautiful sunshine. We must be protected somehow, isolated from getting wet.
Our feelings start to change now, we only have about 10 days before leaving for Toronto and we are kind of mellow. We ride without a target, just drifting about. Will I visit Switzerland again? Yes, I am sure. Switzerland is a wonderful country in general, the areas we rode through, the Eastern parts I will try to avoid next time around. I am partial to the French Alps and I find them wonderful and a great place to ride in too. Yes, I am sure I will be back here. I just need to stick to selected areas and not assume that all of Suisse is the romantic Heidi Mountain out of movie land. Life and modernity has changed Switzerland I need to change as well.

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