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Friday, September 13, 2013

Impressions of Switzerland, Part 4 - A Walk Through Zurich with Jeanie

One of my friends and supporters from California was traveling in Europe and came to visit me in Switzerland. I always enjoy taking visitors through the old part of Zurich. My friend only had half a day to spend in the city, so I took her to some of my favorite spots. Since she read my novels that take place in part in Switzerland, she enjoyed seeing some of the places that inspired me.

Jeanie arrived by train from a visit to Montreux in the French part of the country and I picked her up at the train station in Zurich.

We took off from there and walked up the Bahnhofstrasse, the famous shopping street with the fancy clothing stores and jewelry shops.

At this jewelry and watch store at the Bahnhofstrasse, each full hour is marked by music and a parade of turning figures

Another interesting feature along the Bahnhofstrasse is the monument of one of Switzerland's and Europe's famous humanists, children advocates, and educators of the 18th/19th century, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, who greets children and adults from his pedestal.

Halfway through the Bahnhofstrasse, we turn to the left and walk up the Rennweg, a street leading to the old part. It's closed to most car traffic.

Walking past one of the traditional coffee/tea/chocolate shops, frequented by the "older" and more sophisticated crowd.

And guess what? Here is the trendy competition. Oh, yes, Starbucks is all over the place.

One of my favorite spots is the Lindenhof (it got its name from all the linden trees), a park high above the city, from where you have wonderful view of the old part of the city, the River Limmat, a few cathedrals, and the lake.


Want to play a game of chess?

My friend loves the park, too!

Zurich got its share of literary and artist greats, some homegrown as well as the many artists and writers in exile during World War One and Two.

A trip on a river boat is fun, but on this day, it was a little too cool for it.

Photo by Roland zh
We walked along the River Limmat to the Fraumünster church (transl. Women's Minster), a cathedral famous for its stain glass windows created by Marc Chagall.

Photo by Roland zh
While walking and watching, we worked up an appetite. There are many choices from the simple sausage stands to more elegant establishments.
Lunch with my "old" class mates from business college
However, this time, my friend and I had other plans:
Inspired by the shop window of Teuscher, one of the excellent chocolate shops, we decided to splurge a little and walk toward the lake and the Bellevue plaza where I knew of a really hip coffee shop. Here you feel as if you had been transported into a different era, perhaps early twentieth century Vienna?


Yummy Latte Macchiato

After all this walking and splurging, it was time to think of driving home, which we did on the train.
I hope you had fun accompanying us on our walk through Zurich! More next time. Ciao!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Impressions of Switzerland, Part 3: Ticino

It is the time of véraison in the Ticino, the southern canton of Switzerland, when the wine grapes are ripening and changing color from green to blue and purple. Lots of small and large vineyards line the valleys and hug the hills. In the smaller ones, vintners are still working the vines by hand. In the larger ones the topping (trimming off the excessive foliage) is done with machines. The goal is to give the grapes as much sun and air and strength so they can ripen to perfection.

These vines will be ready in a few years

In warmer climates, the grapes are grown lower on the vines so that they are somewhat protected from too much sun and don't dry out. In colder climates, however, they are grown away from the ground to shield them from the frost rising from the ground up.
Beside grapes, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables grown here and sold at the traditional outdoor markets. Here is one in Bellinzona, the capital of the canton Ticino. It is not only a place to buy produce and other groceries but a gathering point for the locals and tourists alike, where they meet for a chat, a cup of espresso, a glass of wine, or, perhaps a grappa.

And here is my niece Eveline, who became the source of the character Lena in my Family Portrait series. She grows and cultivates roses and is a permanent feature at these outdoor markets. Not an easy life and much of her income depends on the weather gods. But she loves her work and let me tell you, these roses are the most beautiful I have ever seen. And their scent is incredible!
My friends and I took a lot of walks, since the weather was gorgeous and the temperature just right and we needed to walk off the calories from the delicious food! Here are some scenes from along the river Ticino.

On one of our outings, we drove to Olivone in the Blenio Valley and walked along the beginning of the Sentiero Lucomagno, the path that leads to the Lucomagno Pass or Lukmanierpass (in German). Olivone is a beautiful village, which I used in my novel as the hometown of Andreas (Love of a Stonemason). These photos show Olivone and the surrounding landscape.
Monte Sosto, a mountain which also plays a role in Love of a Stonemason


And, as usual, a good meal is the perfect way to end a walk.

Osso buco (veal shank) with mashed potatoes and veggies--my favorite
Another outing took us to the border between the canton Graubünden in the German part and the canton Ticino. Roveredo and its surroundings bring back fond memories of my visits to my sister and brother-in-law in Castaneda in the Calanca Valley. Both of them passed on but the memories remain.

My friends love nothing better than driving over a mountain pass and there are many around this area, aside from Saint Gotthard. Here we are at the top of San Bernardino at 2066 m (6778 ft.). It's quite cool up here. Of course, that's not us on the bikes. We "old fogies" came by car.

Another clear but cold mountain lake

These kind of Zen-inspired sculptures seem to be the trend everywhere
I hope you're enjoying my journey through Switzerland. See you next time.