After departing Monterosso, Cinque Terre, we drive past Genoa and Milan and cross the border into Switzerland at Lugano. There are lots of winding roads, tunnels, and mountain passes along the way. We take the Gotthard Tunnel, the third longest tunnel in the world, and cross over the Sustenpass, where we have a quick rest stop. After descending a steep, winding road, we are finally in the valley at Interlaken where we make a short stop mainly so everyone can withdraw some Swiss Francs (CF) from the ATMs and banks. One Canadian Dollar equals 0.85 CF, or about CD$1.20 to buy a Swiss Franc.
We drive along the Lauterbrunnen Valley to the town of Stechelberg, and then further to the end of the road to our hotel, Hotel Stechelberg. I draw a single room with a sink in it. The toilet and shower are in the hall (one for men and one for women) and shared by 6 others. So this is the most basic accommodation on the tour. I would judge it to be equivalent to a hostel. There is a group dinner provided at the hotel for both nights, since the nearest restaurant is some distance away. Otto, the owner (and chef) of the hotel starts us off this evening with a demonstration of how to make authentic Swiss cheese fondue, and then we follow that up with dinner.
After making some coffee, and having some bread and marmalade as a late breakfast, I join Harry for a shopping trip to a local, open air market: fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, as well as household sundries. Harry stocks up on everything, and I buy some oranges which are tree ripened and still have some leaves attached to them. They are super sweet and juicy!
After the shopping trip I walk to the National Archaeological Museum, which is only 15 minutes’ walk away. As with museums in Italy, it is endless. Hundreds of stelae, statues, and other artifacts from ancient times are beautifully displayed. Admission is €6, and they close at 3pm today.
I skip lunch, but pick up some date and sesame cake at a bakery on the way back to the apartment. I make some coffee and have a piece of cake for a snack before I lay down for an hour. I think I’m a bit lonely after being part of a group for the last two weeks!
Harry pointed out Strefi Hill on our shopping trip this morning, which is a small hill just a short distance away from the apartment. I hike up to the top and am rewarded with good views of the Acropolis and the whole city. I take a few photos, then look for restaurants on the way down, and find some which are open. I have dinner at Ayah, 43 Methunis: green salad (lettuce, tomatoes, olives, capers, cheese on top), with a penne & cheese entreé – a bargain at €8.90. It is very good food, and is much quieter than the Albanian place last night. I’ll be back.
Lots of customers smoke in restaurants here, which is hard to get used to after our non-smoking laws in Canada. Libya is also a smokers’ haven, but Italy restricts smoking in many restaurants.