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Published: August 10th 2019
Just returned from an incredible trip to Switzerland and Italy. Trip that seemed impossible due to doing it at short notice and that too first time with kids and in peak summer! Anyways went ahead with hardly 2 weeks planning. First booking hotels that were available and then deciding on the itinerary. EU rail pass came in handy to provide some flexibility and not enforcing a firm schedule. Once hotels and tickets booked, a rough itinerary after finding distances between the cities, what to cover, who might like what, expected weather etc. etc. - an algorithm that even AI analytics can’t help with ! Oh did I mention, coincidently Kavita and I celebrated our 10th anniversary during this visit!
Bern was the base location in Switzerland and all day trips undertaken from there. Bern itself is a beautiful city with colorful fountains all over the city center.
Loved the river Aare in which one can float down the river. Unfortunately we were not able to as we kept the city visit on the last day and that day it was raining… it brought down the temperatures and made the trip to Italy cooler (more on that later)
Chateau de Chillon by the lake Geneva
Speaking of water, I can’t not mention about lakes in Switzerland. Such massive lakes that seem like backwaters of an ocean. Lake Thun (on which we did a fantastic cruise late afternoon), Brienz, Lucerne, Geneva, Como, Lugano, the list goes on…
Did the usual touristly places – Interlaken, Lucerne, Engelberg, Mount Titlis. There was snow at the top but we were expecting more snow and it to be much colder there. Anyways we were happy that it didn’t rain during our days of visit there as post that it did rain …
A kind of offbeat visit was to Montreux, which is in the French speaking area. Lake Geneva is unbelievably large and beautiful. We spent time at the beautiful looking palace, Chateau de Chillon. It rained that that day and made us nostalgic about Khandala/monsoons in India. The vineyards around Lausanne are also breathtakingly beautiful
The peak moment of the Switzerland visit was a panoramic train ride (called Bernina express) from Chur in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy. Backdrop of surreal mountains and lakes every few meters… The scenery changing from alpine in Switzerland to Mediterranean in Italy
That day we travelled for 15 hours
Mandatory monkeying around Pisa
on train starting at 5 in the morning and changing 5 trains – Bern – Zurich – Chur – Tirano – Milan – Florence. Getting kids to sleep at 7pm on the previous night was as challenging as a rocker launch !
Not just the landscape but even the people seem to change from Switzerland to Italy. From seemingly cold/aloof people to warm/loud people, with full of character.Italy seemed more like India with the weather, houses and people. But is extremely visitor friendly. Directions are in English and people willing to help.
Florence was our next stop. Mostly we spent time walking around the famous Dome, trying the local pastas and gelati (ice creams). And Kavita trying to find a tattoo place to get inked as a remembrance of this trip but didn’t find luck L
Next day was a visit to Pisa and from there on to the last pit stop – Rome. Kids enjoyed the visit as much as a visit to Eiffel tower and spending time around the same. While I was busy adjusting selfie stick to get all kind of pictures with the tower !
A high point of the short visit
The Colosseum !
to Florence was running behind a celebrity footballer as many people were running around him. I and Vihaan too rushed to him and he was gracious to allow an exclusive picture with him. The footballer is Kevin Price Boeting and he seems to have just moved to Florence club.
Rome with such a history was bound to be special. The Colosseum looks awesome from outside. The Palatino Hill and Roman Forum take you to a different world and leave you marveling on the geniuses who built such monuments.
The fountains (Trevi and Novana especially) are again fantastic pieces of workmanship !
Never imagined we would drink water from roadside taps. Did that all over Rome and enjoyed the cold water quenching our thirst. Taste was in fact better than bottled water. The taps really helped survive the hot long days spent there walking all around Rome. (We took 3 day Metro pass but hardly used any as places are nearby, Rome is best enjoyed walking)
Another high moment in Rome was when we visited the Vatican city. St Peter’s Basilica and the area around it are architectural wonders. We went first thing in the morning to
Piazza Novana in Rome
climb up the dome and enjoyed it even though there were more than 500 steps to climb. The Basilica itself is beautiful with all the paintings. We came back to the Basilica late in the night to view the lighted view of the same. Again breathtaking !
The Vatican museum is not as large as Louvre in Paris (thank god for that!) but has some good collection of sculptures from ancient and medieval times. The kids enjoyed a view of an opened up Egyptian mummy. The Sistine Chapel has paintings on the ceiling that look so real, it seems like watching a movie.
Left Italy with the feeling that there is so much more to see there – Venice, Naples, Pompei, coastal towns, the vineyards etc. We returned on an overnight 13 hour train journey from Rome to Munich, which was also an experience to cherish. Cops at 2:30 am in the morning with torch lights banging on the cabin to see passengers passports… who says EU is without passport checks !
Overall a trip in which so many things fell in place to make it a pretty smooth one. A good mix of sight seeing as
St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City
well as taking it slowly… seems like the universe conspired to make this a once in a lifetime memorable experience !
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