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  • Angela Louie and Allan de la Plante

Into the Swiss Alps

When we arrived in Switzerland, everything changed. Firstly it seemed that almost all the people we dealt with were multi-lingual. I guess being bordered by many countries helps. Secondly, driving was completely managed. When the speed limit says 110 km/hr, they don’t mean 160 like they might in Italy and France. People tended to drive at or even a little below the speed limit. And while there were switchbacks up the mountains, there were surprisingly few of them considering how far up the mountain you were travelling. And the lanes were all the proper width to fit a car. I actually felt relatively safe even though we could still fall 1000m to our deaths.

Thirdly, everything was clean, well maintained and efficient. There were many more modern buildings and older buildings were clean and in good repair. The streets and walkways were well cared for and maintained. Our first hotel, Ibis Budget, in Lugano was in a large building with a few names on it. We walked into the lobby. It was beautiful. Wow, the Swiss really know how to welcome you. We walked up to the reception desk. “Sorry, wrong hotel. You have to go to the one around the corner.” We walked into the lobby around the corner. It was not as nice as the first one but also quite nice. “Sorry, you have to go to the one next door.” We walked into the lobby next door and it was like a rental car counter. It even said Budget on the wall. The lower budget rooms were on the industrial side of the tracks, nearer the elevators and with handwritten room numbers. But as an occupational therapist, I was tickled to see that our hotel room was small and still totally functional.

The scenery really started to change on our way to Wengen. Mountains started to appear and we were going up them. They looked just like they did in pictures, mountains all around with valleys, meadows and little alpine houses sprinkled in. Motorcycles were big here (as opposed to the scooters in Italy) but I was struck by how many cyclists were also making the climb up the mountain. Inspiring!

We drove as far as Lauterbrunnen then had to take the train the rest of the way to Wengen, a pedestrian town.

Going farther up the mountain brought more picturesque views of the alpine mountains, meadows, houses and cows. I thought I saw Heidi hiding down there somewhere.​

We wanted to try the local cuisine so Allan and I had a pound of potatoes each, a pound of Swiss cheese, 1/2 a jar of pickles and called it dinner. Where else but Switzerland would you find Raclette? The cheese is melted under a heat lamp and you scrape it off onto your potatoes and eat it with a variety of pickles. Actually quite tasty.

I couldn’t believe how bright and vivid the colours were, especially the green of the grass and the teal of the lakes. But our next adventure was even more breathtaking.

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