July 31, 2012

An Afternoon in Valle Verzasca

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:38 pm by newsurroundings

Yesterday was Erin’s last day here before heading back to school in Georgia.  We wanted to get in one last little excursion before she left.  I had heard about the Valle Verzasca right here in Ticino with a very pretty double-arched stone bridge over the River Verzasca.  I found the name of the town on the internet and we put it in our GPS and off we went to Lavertezzo.  When we arrived, the bridge was right there in front of us and we just happened to get there as someone was pulling out of the only parking spot around.  Talk about luck!  The bridge was really pretty and it was a hot day so lots of people were sunbathing on the rocks and playing in the water.  In some places where the water was deep enough, it was even possible to swim.  There were a few brave souls who jumped from high rocks and from the bridge, although that seemed really dangerous to me.

We walked around on the rocks for a while and then found a restaurant where we could sit outside and enjoy the view.  The houses and buildings here were different from ones I’ve seen in other areas of Switzerland.  They were all made of stone and even had stone roofs.  There were pretty flower boxes like we’ve seen everywhere- the flowers really thrive here.  I like it when the flowers are happy and don’t look like they’re thirsty all the time, like mine always did at home in North Carolina and Georgia.

Our meal was very good, but very long.  We have finally realized that if you order a starter, that will seriously delay the entree.  I had minestrone soup and a salad, which were actually both starters, and they brought those to me and then brought Erin and Bryan’s meals about 20 minutes later.  If I had waited to eat with them, I would have had cold soup.

After lunch, we walked across the bridge and took a short hike through the woods.  The trail was called the Sentiero l’Arte, so I expected to see some art work along the path, but I don’t think we walked far enough.  After coming home and reading more about it, I’d like to go back and walk the whole trail next time (4 1/2 kilometers).  I’m sure we’ll be back, as it’s only 45 minutes from Lugano and is a great place to spend a summer afternoon.

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July 29, 2012

Getting Away From It All In Guarda

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:24 pm by newsurroundings

“Gruezie!” was the greeting we received when we arrived in Guarda, in the Lower Engadine valley in Eastern Switzerland.  Not Bonjour, Gutentag, or even Bongiorno.  In this area of Switzerland, the people speak Romansch, the 4th language of Switzerland.  Less than 1 percent of the Swiss speak it.

We spent the weekend in Guarda, Switzerland in the Lower Engadine Valley  and fell in love with this little fairytale village and its beautiful scenery.  The architecture is very unique, with the 17th century buildings decorated with sgraffiti (etchings in wet plaster) and painted facades.  July is high tourist season in Switzerland and I was looking for a place where we could go and not run into crowds of people or have to pay the high prices that this season brings.  This was the perfect place.  It is not easily accessible via public transportation- bad for tourists, good for us.  It was just a 3 hour drive from Lugano and that included 18 kilometers on a car-carrying train through a mountain.  We weren’t expecting to have to take the train and were not quite sure what to do at first, but there were instructions in English and it was actually kind of fun.  Driving in Switzerland is really a pleasure if the timing is right and you don’t run into lots of traffic.  It can be dangerous though, as it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road when surrounded by such magnificent scenery.

Guarda is very small- only two hotels in the village and a few places to eat.  There’s no real shopping, although there was one nice art shop owned by a husband and wife who are both artists.  The town was so quiet that we almost had trouble sleeping at night.  It was not crowded at all and most of the people we saw were either serious hikers or bikers.  There were hiking trails in every direction and all you had to do was walk out of the hotel and just start off in any direction.  The signs show the directions to different towns and how long each walk should take, so you can choose based on how long you want to walk.  Several of the people we saw looked like they were probably going from one town to the next because they were carrying full backpacks.  The hotel would transfer your luggage to your next hotel for a small charge if you asked.  I think if I was going to hike that distance, that would be how I would do it.  Carrying a heavy load just doesn’t seem like fun to me.

We walked for hours, sometimes in the open and other times deep in the forest.  We followed the sound of bells in the distance and found a few cows wandering around.  The cows all wear bells around their necks to keep track of them.  The funniest sight was when we walked back into town and passed a house where two little goats came out of the house and ran onto the deck.  Just a couple of kids playing, I guess.

We went on several hikes and it was so beautiful that we were oohing and aahing the whole way and taking pictures every few feet.

So pretty, even with the low clouds.

Sgraffiti and paintings decorate the buildings.

Beautiful views in every direction.

So lush.

The beautiful Inn River that runs through the Engadine Valley.