Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Brissago and Christmas.

Woke up way too early on Christmas eve after a Not Great sleep, but that was good as it turned out my phone time was set to pm and not am. At one point I thought I heard street cleaners, but in actual fact it was the trams swishing up and down the next street.

Got to the central station in plenty of time and then eventually caught the train to take us to Brissago. It was a stunning sunny day in Zurich and unbelievably was predicting 22 degrees. The train of course left right on time and the journey was very confortable with lovely scenery along the way. Only one decent photo though as the others blurred or had window reflections.

The road and rail infrastructure of Switzerland is amazing, but really just a reflection of the wealth of the country. As the train went through and over the Alps you could see the incredible amount of raised highways, tunnels, and covered roads following a similar route. As well as the road and train routes the Swiss Government is now building another tunnel just to move freight.

One train change took us to Locarno, the end of the rail line, and a very affluent town on the edge of Lago Maggiore. From there it was a bus through the other villages on the edge of the lake until Brissago. It was then a wee mini bus up the hill to my hosts house. Below is looking up from the lake edge.

From the road it was then a wee walk along stone pathways, with raised walls alongside that are of medieval origin. I was in heaven. 

Rita and Willem had an aperitivo ready for arrival. We consumed the food and Proseco, then the eldest and the youngest went off to snooze. Though I was tired, I had to go out and explore. Willem took me along some of the old stone pathways, then up through forest paths and eventually on to the road. We walked up a bit, then he turned back but suggested I head to the 800 metre mark where there was and old church. 

I then carried on walking up the zig zagging road up the hill. The view below is at the start of the walk, looking towards Locarno.

And in the other direction Italy.

As I wandered up I came across a giardiniere's property where all the cacti and tall trees are wrapped up for winter. On the train ride I had seen trees tied up, and it is done so they don't break with the weight of the snow. To my eyes they just looked weirdly cool.

After much slow and steady walking I finally got to the church. I have no idea what the incline  was that I was walking, but I was down to only a t shirt as I did the "stroll". The church as built in 1572 according to the sign.

I couldn't get in but managed a shot through a grill.
By this stage I was quite high and with the sun going down and mist the view was constantly changing.

On the right of the bottom picture you can see a white line. This is the border of Switzerland and Italy that is cut in to the forest. I spent a little time sitting in the portico of the church giving thanks that I am so lucky to be in this wonderful place. Eventually the cold set in so I had to start walking again.

The walk down of course took a fraction of the time as going up, except for a wee spot of dither as I tried to find where the path to the house was off the road.

When I got back to the house an afternoon snack was laid out consisting of a traditional Basel nut tart. The snoozers were awake and after an espresso decided it was time for them to walk. Willem and I got into a discussion about grapes which meant he had to bring out the grappa that had been made from the grapes growing in the garden. He also assured me it was a perfect accompaniment to nut tart! What else could I do, I couldn't offen my host.

After the walkers were back we then moved on to their traditional Christmas eve dinner of raclette, and for the second night in a row I ate way, way too much melted cheese and bits that go with it, plus wine, ice cream and more grappa. Along with this the presents were opened.

Christmas day dawned misty and damp. After a breakfast of more cheese Willem decided a wee 3 hour walk was called for, so off we went on a different trail. Interestingly at one point there was a barricade and sign saying "path closed', but surprisingly the Germans broke the rules and climbed over the barrier. The wee slip was easy to negotiate so the walk continued. We walked for 2 hours up to about 800 metres as Willem thought the cafe up there may be open. Rita is 82 and kept pace all the way. This is what the walk was like.

Naturally when we got to the cafe, it was closed so turned around and went back. 

The rest of Christmas day was very quiet. We all retired to our rooms and slept a bit, then I cooked a very simple dinner of roast chicken for them, and it was early to bed at around 9pm.

This morning was the usual breakfast of cheese, and then I packed to leave. I walked down the hill to the bus through gorgeous old stone stairways and paths, but am still waiting for the pictures of that to be sent to me. I then headed off on my journey to Milano, and am now here in a fabulous hostel full of free food....but that is tomorrows story.


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