Switzerland Travel Journal
> How it all began...
When I was about 10 years old I read The Black Brothers by Lisa Tetzner and found it one of my favorite books. The story takes place around the Swiss-Italian border and mainly the thrilling end takes place around and on Lake Lugano. As soon as I finished reading the book it was clear to me that I wanted to see this region with my own eyes someday. I never thought of it ever since and untill now it never happened.
> The Plan
It was early 2006 when we decided to go camping during our Withsunday-holidays. We never camped before, but we thought it would be a funny way of spending the holidays. Where we wanted to go? Well, we should see, some place warm and sunny! The big advantage of camping...
One week before departure we checked many places on weather.com, but we didn't find a place that had really nice forecasts. Suddenly Peter came up with Switzerland, where the forecasts for the southern Tessin, or Ticino, were sunny and warm. That's when the whole idea of Lago di Lugano came back. We decided to go to the Lago Maggiore at first (more central in Tessin) and from there we would see if we'd spend one day or maybe a few in the Lake Lugano region.
> Journey to Switzerland
Unfortunately the Gotthard-tunnel is closing for all traffic again, after a short opening of 90 minutes on the day of our departure, because of rockslides. Traffic is being diverted to the San Bernardino Pass, which adds many extra kilometers and at least 2 hours to our journey. Still we start our second day positive. We spend the night in a Formula 1 hotel in Mannheim and leave early to catch up with our time-schedule. But after a drive of two hours we encounter the traffic jam that's already reported on the radio for some time now: a ghost driver collided with a truck here. We expect to continue our journey soon, because the accident already happend a while ago. This turns out the other way, we can still see the whole show of helicopter, police, hearse, towtruck and cleaningteam passing by and it takes two more hours before we're back on our way. We keep up the good mood, after all it is our holiday and the campsite will probably still be there, but we find another traffic jam in Zürich (where you have to cross the busy city centre) and on the radio we even hear about more traffic on the San Bernardino because of an accident in the tunnel. Right on time we find an alternative road through the mountains and over the Lukmanierpass.
> Lago Maggiore Day 1
And that's how we arrive at the campsite that we found on the internet only late in the afternoon. At the door we find a "besetzt"(occupied)-sign. We are glad to hear that the neighbours still have one free place left, and a little later than expected we can start building our tent. We can only stay for 3 nights on this place, after the week-end they are closing this part of the campsite. Whatever, we'll see what to do when the time is there. For now we're on a perfect place and we spend the rest of the evening relaxing in and around our tent.
> Lago Maggiore Day 2
The next morning we definately want to see something of the environments and try our new walking shoes. First we drive to Val Verzasca and after visiting some of the little villages we drive all the way to Sonogno, the most distant village in the valley, to start walking back by following the river Verzasca. After a couple of hours walking and a lunch on those enormous rocks in the middle of the river our new shoes start to feel a little less great and the first blisters start to appear. We decide not to walk the full trail (we are just halfway), but take the bus back up, until... we discover that we left the wallet in the car. There is no other option than turning around and start walking back. We move much slower than on the way here, but the wonderful landscape makes up for it.
Once we are back in the car we don't feel very tired anymore and we go to Bellinzona, a city near Locarno, with three beautiful castles. From the Castelgrandewe've got a great view onto the other two fortresses and the wide surroundings. We climb the tower, just before closure and enjoy the view. Now it's really time for a visit at the supermarket where we immediately are impressed by the prices here. No, this is not a bad hidden-camera joke. Some things really cost three times as much as at home. Our self-cooked meal doesn't taste less though and somewhat tired we go into our tent early.
> Lago Maggiore Day 3
After Val Verzasca yesterday Valle Maggia is next to be visited. Through Ponte Brolla and desolated Cevio we drive higher into the mountains to Bosco Gurin, the highest and only German-speaking village of Ticino. The air is very clean, just like the water from the river that we even drink here. It's very quiet and we have lunch at the riverbank. We also visit Mogno and Fusio, the last two villages in the valley, but opposite of most tourists we are not impressed by the San Giovanni Battista church that was built here by Mario Botta (oooh aaah). The mountainious surroundings are more impressive to us.
> Lago di Lugano day 1
Today it's time to move, as our part of the campsite will be closed this afternoon and since last night we're the only people who are still camping on this place: what a quiet area this is now. We think that it doesn't make sense to rebuild our tent on another place of this same campsite, so we throw all our stuff in the back of our car and we drive to Lake Lugano. There are no campsites in Lugano itself, but in the near village of Agno, where you can also find the Lugano airport (we suddenly get the feeling why) appear to be a few. After some research on a distance from the airport we find out that there is no other option than to check out the campsites in Agno. In this check-out time we see not a single aircraft landing or taking-off, so we decide to give it a chance. In no time (25 minutes, a new record) our tent is completely furnished and after a quick lunch we go find the railway-station. We only have to walk for a few minutes and the next train takes us to Lugano in 15 minutes, where we stroll through the nice, old city center. We definately like the alleys with the stands filled with all kinds of food and the Piazza della Riforma is also one of our favourites with its colorful gables and busy terraces. We follow the promenade to the "Olive-path", a great foot-path on the shore of the lake to Gandria. In the end it takes us more than one hour to get there and our feet tell us that it might be a good idea to take the bus back instead of walking, after our visit to this picturesque little fishermen's village. When we're back in Lugano we enjoy the sunny view over the lake-side for some time, of course we do this with our feet up.
In the evening, when we're just having some tea we hear and see (!) a first aircraft landing. Right over the neighbour campsite we see this huge machine flying to the runway. Okay, so that's how it sounds when the engines go backwards at full-speed. In case we don't exactly understand how it all works we get another chance, only 5 minutes later. And another one 10 minutes later. About 6 airplanes are landing before we go to bed to sleep.
> Lago di Lugano Day 2
The next morning we wake up early. Not with fresh croissants and some orange juice, but with the deafening sound of an airplane taking off. And about three more of them. After those take-offs it's nice and quiet again on the campsite and we decide the noise is not too bad after all, but still a bit of a shame at this beautiful scenery with a splendid view over the Lake Lugano.
Today we'd like to visit the market in Luino, a town at the Lago Maggiore (about 20 kilometers from here) and just a bit over the Italian border. That's why we decide to cross the border immediately, when we're 3 kilometres on our way, at least we're on the right side now. Soon we have to turn back, as the road to Luino has been closed because of construction works. So we cross the border to Switzerland again and drive in the direction of Luino, where we have to enter the EU again at 5 kilometres before the village. The market is huge, we've never seen a market like this. The only thing is that it's such a tourist-minded market, the real vegetable market where the inhabitants buy their food is only a very small part of the real, big tourist market. We buy some delicious cakes at a bakery store and we finally can use some Euros to pay again. What a great thing that we use the same money in most European countries now, it would be interesting to try introducing the Euro in Switzerland.
At noon we leave Luino to visit the picturesque village of Morcote, at the Lago di Lugano again. The high elevated church Madonna del Sasso is really worth a visit, but especially beautiful is the near cemetery. We take a lot of pictures here.
We follow the lake by a high elevated road to Ciona and have some excellent views over the lake. From Ciona we walk the rest of the way up to the top of San Salvatore, a 900 metre mountain, from where you have a fantastic view over the entire lake. Especially when the weather is clear you have a breathtaking sight from the panoramic roof of the chapel!
> Lago Maggiore Day 4
When we finished breakfast we slowly start packing our tent and other belongings and head for Lago Maggiore again, where we still have many things left to check out. Now there is room enough at the campsite where we first wanted to stay: Tamaro. They even offer a free taxi-boat to Locarno and the same afternoon we use this service to visit this city. We stroll through the old city and eat some cakes for a change. In the evening we go back to campeggio Tamaro and light the BBQ.
> Lago Maggiore Day 5
We'd love to see something of the cute mountain villages one more time and we drive all the way up to Bosco Sacro. The road is hardly wide enough for one car going up and not at all for people coming down too. Luckily there aren't any people coming down and the reward of our trip up is great again: an impressive view over the lake and the surrounding mountains. We also see some of those cute little houses with schist roofs again and many flowers in the surrounding meadows.
When we're down again we stroll through the nice, Italian-like little village of Ronco, before we move on to Centovalli. Intragna is the prettiest village in the one hundred valleys and we take a closer look before having lunch at a lake that we find on our way. After lunch we drive to the remote villages Borgnone and Lionza, which is a great experience. We have a superb view on the mountain slopes on the other side of the valley and the little villages situated over there. It's a shame when the day is over and we have to return to our campsite. Here we start packing some of our belongings, as we decided to drive back to the north a day earlier. The Gotthard-highway is still closed for all traffic and we expect a long journey. Because we now have an extra day on the road we want to go via the Lukmanierpass again, which was an impressive experience the first time.
> Lago Maggiore Day 6
Slowly we start packing all our belongings and after one more game of Ceasar and Cleopatra we think it's time to leave. First we drive to Olivone, the most important town of the Valle di Blenio, the valley of the sun. Now we go higher and higher and we stop some times to take picturs or to enjoy the view. At an Alpine pasture, close to an elevated mountain river we make some soup and we prepare for the real journey. Now it's only a little bit further to the Lukmanierpass and when we crossed it we head for Basel and the southern German border. We spend the night in Mannheim again, now in an Etap-hotel right next to the Formule 1 (which was full when we arrived). This is the end of another great trip and the next morning it takes only 5 more hours to get home where we can sleep in our own bed again.
> More Info
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