730AM start. Woke up and had breakfast before we parted way with Samantha. There are tons of mosquitoes and they for some reason only bit myself and my fellow Canadians. Enroute to Switzerland – Lucerne then Lauterbrunnen. Multiple stops along the way to Switzerland.
Facts about Switzerland:
The swiss had a great army but they decided to retire from the european war.
These men are great as security guards for the pope (they cannot bow but salut).
Michaelangelo designed the swiss soldiers uniform which they still wear.
The tunnels are s shaped so if a missile were to be shot, it would hit the sides. They have tons of tactical reinforcements such as tunnels that can hold over 10000 people and able to set off a detonator to block off the city.
Switzerland is neutral. However, within 72 hours, they can mustard up a large army to defend their country if they want.
Any men from 18-30 must join the army unless they are unfit to but must pay a tax until they are 30.
If they join the EU, there would be no democracy.
There are 4 official languages – German, French, Italian and Rumantsch.
Famous products – milk chocolate – Mr Lindt then Johann Toblerone – nougat and shaped in a triangle to represent mountains.
Swiss army knives -can purchase white only in Switzerland, black for Europe and red for international.
Swiss watches – swatch
Swiss bank accounts – you just need 500 swiss franks to open it from any part of the world – you can remain anonymous as it is only numbers. So the jewish could protect their money during the time of the nazis.
Traditional foods- fondue – cheese, chocolate. If you drop your cheese or bread in the fondue, you kiss the person left of you.
We stopped in Luzern (Lucerne) and went on the worlds most photographed bridge -Kapellbrücke (Chapel Bridge). We arrived on a national holiday so all the stores were closed but luckily we were able to go into Harry’s to look and purchase watches, swiss army knives etc. Another store that was open was Bachmann which was fully stocked with loads of chocolate, food and drinks and even macarons. We stopped by the Lion monument – it is a lion with lashes and a spear on its side holding up a shield that is carved into the cliffside in the shape of a pig. This carving holds great significance as it represents royalty and loyalty for the soldiers.
It was unbearably hot in Venice while it is the complete opposite after travelling 7-9 hours to get to Switzerland where it is the beginning of spring weather and chilly. We hopped off the bus in shorts and t-shirts and we we’re getting looks like we were crazy. The city is very pretty with mountain views all over the place. The air is crisp. We drove for another 1/2-hour to our final destination in Lauterbrunnen (a small little town with gorgeous scenic views getting into town) We are staying at Camping Jungfrau where it’s 3 to a room and bunk beds. Our window was open when we arrived and it opens 2 different ways so I made sure we closed that properly however the hallways were definitely warmer at this point. Contiki reps made us dinner – burgers and fries.
The leg of the trip is one of the longer drives. The morning air is great in Austria.
Facts about Italy:
Italy is that boot shape country.
60 million population. 300000 sq km.
2000 years ago, all roads did lead to Rome.
Italian government – 1946 became a republic but have had at least 50 changes of government. Corrupt politicians including the current one who was caught with an underage prostitute at his own sex party.
Mafia was a big problem but there still is some mafia control around italy.
Vatican City is considered to be its own country when Mussolini gave them independence.
Quality over quantity for fashion.
Lots of pizza, pasta, wine.
Venice is made up of 114 islands.
Venice has a pop of 300,000.
There are no local Italians on the island.
Venice is suppose to be the future of what cities should be as there are no cars.
2 Venetian merchants stole the body of St Mark and hid it under pork (authorities were jewish so didn’t check the basket) and built the cathedral – St Marks Basilica.
The biggest problem to today for Venice – its sinking! It drops a foot per century. Floods up to 200 days a year.
We went through a tunnel and then crossed the Italian border where we drove through the mountains – the view was so calm an serene. Our first leg of the bus ride was 3 hours long and once we got off, you could definitely tell we were somewhere warm. The weather for the day was high of 29 degrees.
I think the great thing about this kind of tour is that you get to meet people from all walks of life and even some that’s life paths are similar to yours. The other girl who joined us in Amsterdam, Laura is from Australia and also our age. She graduated from uni for Journalism and has also struggled to find work in her field. She’s done multiple internships like myself (but probably more) and it has taken her a while to find her placing but when she returns home will start on her journalism career path. Laura and Alanna had been travelling before joining us from places like Milan, Croatia and London.
We stayed at a camp site – Camping Fusina, literally a camper trail park but at least we had our own bathrooms in them. Venice was incredibly hot and humid – I was sweating like I had played a full game of volleyball or something but realistically just standing there doing nothing. Our trailer was hotter than it was outside. After a little down time, we hopped on a motoscaffo (ferry/boat) that was about 45 minutes long to get to the island. Thanks to one of our group members Luis, I was able to leave a text message for my friend Samantha whom we would be meeting in the square once we docked. When we arrived, we walked into Marks Basilica square and the amounts of tourist was insane however the beauty of the buildings overpowered that. We left the group and searching through the tables on the boardwalk, we eyed our friend and snuck up behind her. Samantha is one of our friends from high school and we hadn’t seen her since graduation. She lives in Italy playing volleyball. Our first stop was for gelato – a definite must while in Italy. Crystle and Klarice opted for lemon and I got melon.
We ventured quite some time over canals and the light was beautiful as the sun started to set. We went to the Rialto and saw the Peggy Guggenheim museum (outside only because it closed 45 minutes before we got there). We ate at Trattoria e Pizzeria where we got the tourista special and I got the gnocchi with 4 cheeses. It was so creamy but also heavy because it is all potatoes and cheese. When we finished dinner, the couple beside us overheard our conversation and we ended up talking with them for quite some time. They were an older couple from Boston who work for the Boston Globe and were coming to the end of their 12 day trip of Italy. To end the night, Samantha and myself topped off with another gelato – I chose peach. We got back to the square and met up with our Contiki group and said what we thought would be our goodbyes to Samantha. We then walked as a group to the boat to head back to the campsite. When we returned, I received a text from Samantha. Apparently in Italy, the trains can go on strike at last minute notice so she ended up taking a bus to our location at the campsite and she ended up staying the night with us until the 1 day strike was over and she can head home.
Venezia, Venice was beautiful with its canals, cobblestone streets, old buildings and narrow streets that lead you to open but bare courtyards. Its a cute place to visit but I still think Munich or Austria are my favourite thus far for cities.