October 10, 2014
We last posted on September 26th. That has been 13 days ago when we were packed and ready to leave Greve for destinations undecided. During the last 13 days, we have been very busy. We have been to Milan, Lake Iseo, Lake Garda, Venice, Lake Como, St. Moritz, Appenzell, Zermatt and this evening we arrived in Geneva, Switzerland. We have been busy, seeing a lot of wonderful places, and enjoying every minute of it. Unfortunately, we have only 22 days left in Europe.
In Milan, we saw the Cathedral of Milan. Not only did we tour the inside of the Cathedral, we went to the top of it so we could see the beautiful view over Milan and to get a better eye for the structure and how this magnifcent place was actually built. It is the third largest cathedral in the world, took six centuries to build, and is the greatest example of Gothic architecture in Italy. As you will remember, Gothic architecture is best known for its pointed arch above the entry door, the ribbed vaulted ceilings and the external flying buttresses for support. The cathedral also has one of the venerated nails from Jesus’s cross.
We also viewed the Last Supper painting by Leonardo Da Vinci in Santa Maria delle Grazie. Da Vinci started the work in 1495 and completed it in 1598. Unfortunately, he tried a new technique of painting on a dry plaster wall, rather than a wet plaster wall, which would have been a true fresco. Da Vinci new technique did not work and has been painted over several times and little remains of the original work of Da Vinci. Nevertheless, the painting is inspiring. It is the second most recognized painting in the world after the Mona Lisa, another Da Vinci. The third most recognized painting is ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo. Rita and I have been fortunate to have been able to see all three of these paintings. We were not allowed to photograph the Last Supper, or anything inside the building where it is viewed. Sorry about that. No pics of it.
Our less religious endeavors in Milan included a visit to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II where Rita took a spin on the bull’s balls for good luck, which is a local custom in Milan. The Galleria is one of the world’s oldest shopping centers. Today it is filled with luxury shops like Prada, Gucci, etc. The bull’s balls are part of the tiled floor at the Galleria and are part of the symbol of the city of Turin, Italy. Local custom is that if you stand on the bull’s balls and spin around, you will have good luck. I hope Rita has good luck, because the bull’s balls certainly did not!! So many people spinning on them have worn them away. Instead, there is just a hole in the tile where the bull’s balls used to be.
From Milan, we drove around Lake Iseo and Lake Garda in Italy on our way to Venice to see if any celebrities were still hanging out in Venice after George Clooney’s wedding. The Lakes were beautiful and surrounded by mountains. Unfortunately, there is some pollution in the air that makes them seem a bit smogged in like Los Angeles is at times.
Venice was lovely even though it rained one day. We did not see any celebrities, but we were not disappointed with the sights in Venice including St. Mark’s Square, the Grand Canal, the Bridge of Sighs, the Doge’s Palace, the battle of the orchestra’s, and the Rialto Bridge.
Since we could not find George in Venice, we decided to visit him at his home at Lake Como. We rented a boat for the afternoon and drove by his “compound” of four homes on Lake Como. They were nice, but not over the top. But, his compound has lovely gardens. He bought his home from Mrs. Heinz (of Ketchup fame), who owns another home on Lake Como, as do the Rockefellers. Unfortunately, George was not at his home.
A short drive from Lake Como over the Italian Alps and into the Swiss Alps is St. Moritz. St. Moritz is a ski resort for the rich and famous of Europe. We were there in October and it was pretty much closed because the summer season was over and the winter season had not started. But, the drive to St. Moritz as through the most beautiful mountains and alongside blue lakes made the visit worthwhile for us.
We spent only one night in St. Moritz and from there we drove North and a little East through Switzerland and even entered the small country of Liechtenstein for part of the drive before we arrived in an area of Switzerland known as Appenzell. Appenzell is farmland nestled into green, rolling hills. It is not just any old green, but the greenest green you will ever see in your life. The cows have bells around their necks and when you stop and get out of your car, all you hear are the cowbells ringing from hillside to hillside. The music of the bells is beautiful to hear. Appenzell is composed of independent Swiss. They did not allow women to vote until 1991. They also defied the Swiss national government by refusing to teach German or Italian in school, but instead teaching English. Their homes are made mostly of wood and all the windows have the most beautiful flower boxes. Most of the homes are painted bright colors. Appenzell looks idyllic to us.
From Appenzell, we drove to Zermatt, Switzerland by way of Lucerne. We only had a couple of hours in Lucerne, but the old city was beautiful. Lucerne is located on the Reuss River, which flows through the city into Lake Lucerne. In the middle of the River and old city, there is a wooden bridge known as the Chapel Bridge, which is the oldest covered bridge in Europe even though a large part of it was destroyed by fire in 1993. The Chapel Bridge is the second most photographed sight in Switzerland after the Matterhorn, which is located in Zermatt. On our drive to Zermatt from Lucerne, Rita drove the Novena della Passo in a blinding fog. It is the second highest pass in Switzerland. Rita could not see a thing, but that was also very good because there were no guardrails. In places the road was only single lane, and, of course, as we climbed to the 8,130 feet to cross over the pass, there was snow. Rita was white knuckled and scared SH*TLESS!!!! We didn’t speak during our entire climb up and down the pass, but rather held our breaths and silently prayed. After an hour of driving, we descended from the pass into sunshine and were greatly relieved.
Zermatt is a ski town in the Swiss Alps that border on Italy. It is a small village of 3500 people. Besides skiing, people go to Zermatt to see and photograph the Matterhorn, one of the most beautiful and recognizable mountains, in the world. We spent three days in Zermatt waiting for the weather surrounding the Matterhorn to clear so that we could take a photograph. But, the wait was well worth it. Once the weather broke, we also rode a train to 10,000 feet above sea level to get a better view of the Matterhorn and 29 of Switzerland’s 35 peaks over 13, 135 feet.
Today we drove from Zermatt to Geneva, Switzerland along Lake Geneva and through Montreux and Lausanne, Switzerland. We are spending a couple of days in Geneva to unwind before we enter France for the final leg of our journey. Stay tuned. We’ll post the rest of the pictures soon, we have to check out now!! Loosing our great wifi connection!
Finally the Pictures from our last blog! Beginning with our drive to Lake Iseo and Lake Garda.