After a short stop in Vercana, Switzerland met us with rain… and quite expected culture shock.
Why was it expected?
Well, once I in absentia fell in love with the country of mountains and lakes. During my rapidly growing admiration, I realized that I wanted to own a mountain house in Ticino and a St. Bernard, despite the fact that I am terrified of both heights and dogs (yes, it was a powerful kind of love).
Since then, I have periodically read blogs and articles about Switzerland and have secretly admired its people. I must admit, the admiration has surely been justified.
If, after only an hour of exploring this country, I was asked to briefly answer the question, “What is Switzerland like?”
Without hesitation, I would respond, “It is a country of jogging and biking in the rain, umbrellas with bottles to collect water, luxuriant green nature, incredibly low clouds, and an amazing atmosphere of peace and tranquility; Switzerland is like a different planet.”
Where we stayed:
We stayed at the Hotel Locanda Castagnola in Castagnola, not far from the central part of Lugano. This hotel deserves a 9 out of 10.
Firstly, we were allowed early check-in without prior warning and without additional charges. Secondly, the breakfast was amazingly tasty — yes, perhaps it was a little monotonous; however, a fresh cup of orange juice and freshly prepared authentic espresso are not very easy to come by.
I would have given the hotel a 10 out of 10 review, if not for the slightly cold room and the view to the construction… but these are just impermanent trifles.
Out of the 3 full days that we spent in Lugano, we had to devote a part to work. For this, I was happy deep down that we decided to spend 3 days instead of 2 in Switzerland. Considering the weather and size of the city, we were actually able to do and see all that we wanted to.
Here is what we managed to do:
1.) We walked around the city
It was in Switzerland where I first faced a variety of phenomena that were completely unusual for someone like me, who grew up in a post-Soviet country. Of course, I cannot yet boast of the lack of free pages in my passport; however, it was the first time that I experienced:
- Bus schedules that include minutes such as 2, 11, 58, and other non-round numbers.
- A continuous update on the displays with the exact number of minutes left before the arrival of the next bus at the bus stations.
- Another continuous update on the number of parking spaces left in a parking lot before the entrance.
- People willingly leaving their umbrellas outside the entrance of stores.
- The option to either order a full or a half-portion dish at a restaurant (getting one full portion for two people is even better).
- After about 6PM, the city ‘dies out’ (it is more alive at midnight in Kiev that in Lugano after 6PM).
- While exchanging money, you can get free ice cream!
2.) We got acquainted with the local restaurants (and were a bit shocked by the prices)
During one of the evenings, we went to Ristorante Pizzeria Soave 10. As with the case of Enoteca Barberini in Rome, we ended up here just by passing by. For 90+ francs, our dinner consisted of a salad, two main courses, and a couple glasses of wine; even though I am not ready to call myself a lover of polenta, the food was quite adequate. For comparison, a similar dinner would cost us 40-50 euros in Cyprus.
However, our dinner at Ristorante Parq was much more enjoyed and memorable. It was a great place for a romantic evening; it kind of reminded me of the places we would learn about from translating promotional offers for loyalty program members.
There was nothing about this place that I did not like. The crab salad and the fish tartar were prepared exquisitely. As well, the smoked duck fillet with sea salt on a hot-stone platter was a real delight and a new discovery for me. Among everything else, the cheesecake and creme brulee brought a true aesthetic pleasure. With a bottle of Prosecco, the dinner cost the two of us combined 170+ francs. Taking into account the wonderful experience, delectable cuisine, and the anticipatory service of the waiters, the price was not an unpleasant surprise to us.
3.) We visited the local mall
There are 2 immediately notable things about the malls in Switzerland:
- There was always a huge selection of different chocolate (including the popular Toblerone) at the entrance to supermarkets. This, of course, I quite enjoyed.
- The prices of most products were per 100 grams. I liked this, for I would automatically ask for 200-300 grams instead of 1-2 kilograms; it seems to be quite a competent way to save a bit of money
The Swiss part of our trip was completed with a Coffee Corretto (oh, I wish they had warned us about the amount of alcohol contained in the drink!), a walk through the shopping districts in the city center, and with a solid understanding that it was no surprise that I loved Switzerland — its people know the real art of living; which after your first visit to Switzerland, you may realize how far from that living you are. Anyways, we will ponder more about this in the next part of our grand trip: Prague and Karlovy Vary.