After the festas and back to back nights with friends in Viterbo the apartment suddenly became quiet and Jess and I found ourselves in a funk. So we did the one thing that always cured our travel sickness blues. We packed the bags and headed to a new place: the bright white alps of Switzerland.
Before arriving in Switzerland we enjoyed a one night stopover in Milano. The visit to Milano was for two reasons and two reasons alone: the Duomo and the San Siro. The Duomo stands as one of the grandest and most unforgettable gothic cathedrals in all of Europe. It's immensely detailed exterior hides a simple but imposing medieval interior with elaborately decorated stained glass windows. It easily sits in my "top churches" list from the European leg of our trip. As for the San Siro, well I'm somewhat of a casual AC Milan fan so it was important to me to see the famous stadium in the concrete flesh. Our hotel was advertised as being right next to the San Siro. Yeah, try a 3km walk down endlessly massive streets in disgusting humidity. We got there in the end and celebrated our achievement by taking a few quick snaps before bracing ourselves for the long walk back to the hotel.
The next day we boarded a train for Zurich and made friends with a lovely American couple from Boston named Walter and Linda. Walter and Linda were on their way to Switzerland before heading back home to the States and we found ourselves chatting about all manner of things. Before we knew it, the 4 hour train ride was over and we exchanged emails in the hope of seeing them again once we made our way through the USA in November.
The sights from the window of our train ride to Zurich suggested we'd be in for some typical scenes of Swiss mountains and pointed roofs. But Zurich was a different story. It was really just another big cosmopolitan city with the same shops that we had seen a dozen times before on our trip - first world problems ey? - only this time the prices were ten times more expensive than we had ever encountered. In fact, Switzerland on the whole was crazy expensive. To give you an idea, a train ride to a nearby town - the equivalent of riding from Flinders St Station in Melbourne to Craigieburn - was over 60 Francs (AUD $70) for the two of us. With each meal or train ticket, I was feeling a sharp pain in the hip pocket.
Despite the high prices we managed to see and do a few cool things in Zurich. We enjoyed some picturesque walks through the city and along Lake Zurich, and we made a day trip out to the nearby town of Zug (that was the 70 Franc ride I mentioned earlier). Zug is a quaint little Swiss town with cosy coffee shops and places to eat. It also has a state of the art mini golf course at which Jess and I continued our "PGA Holiday Tour". We're trying to make it a habit of playing mini golf courses when and where we find them on this trip. So far, Jess has won the "Maltese Open" at Popeye Village in Mellieha, and I claimed the honours at the "Swiss Masters" at Zug.
From Zurich we made our way to Gunten, a tiny town nestled on the banks of Lake Thun at the halfway point on the road from Thun to Interlaken. Pointy roofs, snow-capped mountains and a cold breeze that could freeze the t*** off a brass monkey. This was more like it! After checking into our cute little log cabin, we went for a walk up in the nearby mountains and across the Sigriswil-Aeschlen suspension bridge. The bridge is basically a thin steel bridge that links the top of two humongous mountains. Does it wobble with the wind? Is the Pope catholic? I'd be lying if I said we made it across to the other side with clean jocks.
The next day we made a trip out to Thun to take tonnes of snaps of a truly photogenic city. Along the way we visited Thun Castle and strolled through the local markets whilst trying out all sorts of metwursts and cheeses. We even had a random Polish guy approach and ask for a photo with me because he thought I looked like Marlon Brando. Don't ask me, I'm still trying to work that one out! On the way back to the cabin we squeezed in a visit to the St Beatus caves. The caves are located some 850m inside the heart of a mountain and are full of stalactites, stalagmites and rushing waterfalls just below your feet.
Our final day in Switzerland was spent at Interlaken. As it was a Sunday there was little to do and most of the shops were closed. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we made our way up to the top of a nearby mountain, the Niederhorn, instead. From the top of the Niederhon we took in the amazing views and spent the afternoon above the clouds, watching paragliders take off into the wind. It just goes to show that, even in the world's most expensive place, the best things in life are free.
Our stopover in Switzerland turned out to be just what we needed to recharge our batteries and get us excited for our return to Italy. Our second leg of travel though Italy would be made all the more exciting due to the fact that my parents would be joining us. After 5 months away from home, we were looking forward to some quality time with the family.
Next stop: Firenze