The Grand Eurotrip of 2017

The Grand Eurotrip of 2017. Part 1: Northern Italy and Switzerland

About 24 hours after the holders of biometric Ukrainian passports were granted a visa-free regime with EU countries, we were at the airport ready to board our flight with AirSerbia from Larnaca to Milan. Oh yes, and it was 2 in the morning.

Unfortunately, the new visa-free law sounded so unusual for Cypriots (since they are mainly familiar with Russian or EU passports) that they were having a difficult time understanding— we almost had to return home in tears.

Needless to say, it was a very nervous airport check-in.

However, after about a half hour of anxiously standing at the check-in counter and listening to a series of calls made by airport staff, the three of us — me, my husband, and my mom — were finally free to depart Cyprus. We were off to one of my favorite places in the world, Lake Como in Italy.

My nervousness proceeded as we awaited getting our entry visa stamps in Milan. I was worried about the potential issue of being an ‘early adopter’ of the visa-free regime, and them, again, not understanding. I prepared well for this possibility and brought all of the possible documents, from printed airline tickets to ATM receipts.

Luckily for us, the nightmare of our Larnaca check-in did not repeat itself! In Milan, we were only asked about the purpose of our trip and if we had a return ticket. Ahh, more reasons to love Italy!

Vercana, Italy

From time to time, I have months where I am able to earn most of my monthly salary in just a few days. Generally, this happens when I am able to translate a couple of hotel website copies; this is my favorite type of translation project. Although they require a lot of work, I can translate them quite fast— I love them so much that I, ten times out of ten, will sacrifice my sleep in order to complete the job successfully.

To my surprise, however, just a few minutes after landing in Milan, I was given 3 of these large projects. . . I quickly realized that I would be spending all 4 days at my mother’s house, trying to find a balance between spending quality time with my family, enjoying the breathtaking sceneries of Northern Italy, and, of course, working.  

Luckily for me and my strong work ethic, my ‘freelancer’s destiny’ wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. I was highly motivated (for good reason) and able to work very quickly from the start.

During one of our four days at the beautiful Lake Como, we even managed to score a road trip from Vercana (where we were staying) to St.Moritz (the birthplace of Alpine winter tourism) and Chur in Switzerland.

Swiss road trip to St. Moritz and Chur

If you remember, during our Grand Eurotrip v.1 in 2016, we spent several nights in Lugano and were even (seriously) considering spending time on a panoramic train in Switzerland. Since I am unsure whether or not we will ride a panoramic train anytime soon (considering it takes at least 2-3 weeks), we decided to do the next best thing— take a small road trip from Vercana to St.Moritz, Chur, and back.

Once again, my admiration of Switzerland has deepened.

Before reaching St. Moritz, we spent some time at the incredibly pristine Silsersee lake. What does a lake in Switzerland look like? Heaven. No motor boats, no rubbish, only crystal clear water and refreshing mountain air. It looks exactly like a desktop wallpaper.

Lake-Silversee-in-Switzerland

At one point, I was even thinking, “being here is like seeing Earth from space— Earthy gray, calm blue, lush green colors. . . and nothing else.” 

St. Moritz, Switzerland

Soon after, we reached St. Moritz.

St. Moritz is a perfect example of Swiss luxury: streets packed with top brand boutiques, a cornucopia of elite hotels, and an absolutely stunning view of the famous lake.

For several years now, we have been translating invitations to Snow Polo World Cup, which takes place in St. Moritz. So, visiting this magical place, at least once, has been on my bucket list. It’s officially been checked off, hooray! The city was so picture-perfect in June; however, I would still love and return here during the winter high season (and perhaps see the Snow Polo World Cup)!

Chur, Switzerland

After our short visit to St. Moritz, we headed Chur.

If you have ever wondered whether or not those fairytale-like photos of Swiss mountain villages are real, let me assure you, they are— and they are just as picturesque and charming as the pictures. During the entire car ride, I was bummed that we were so short on time. As well, I had to try not to bother my 70-year old step-father/driver with continuous requests to stop and take pictures (I have already decided to ‘fix’ this problem by returning soon with a car of our own). One of our most unusual stops was on top of a mountain pass where we were able to amazingly touch snow in the sunny month of June!

snow-in-june-in-switzerland.JPG

Chur? It looked quite nice. Unfortunately, due to time restrictions, we were unable to experience the famous view of the city. However, we were able to walk around a bit, get some work done in a cafeteria (Manor store had a freelance-friendly work place on the top floor), and even visit the local Manor food store.

Switzerland no longer shocks me with high prices. Remember my dream of owning a mountain house in Switzerland? It seems as though I am growing quite accustomed to the Swiss way of life.

Our Journey to Saints Constantine and Helena, Bulgaria

Okay, let’s come back to reality.

After several more nights in Vercana, our next stop was the resort town of Saints Constantine and Helena in Bulgaria, where my mother-in-law was staying.

As usual, we had a super early morning flight. For that, we left Vercana the night before to save ourselves enough time.

Our great decision to take an evening train from Vercana (instead of an early morning train) was pure luck! You see, Italian workers oftentimes go on strike. Generally, this leads to a total collapse of a transportation system. Well, they went on strike this night, and their strike was coupled with a heavy rain—  one that just so happened to ruin part of the railway. So, for us, this meant that our first train would depart an hour late. We had no way to catch the next train; our only choice of action was to, at the last minute, change our tickets and go on that first train straight into Milan (instead of Bergamo). Luckily enough, from there, we were able to catch the last bus from Milan back to Bergamo and get some sleep before our flight.

For our one-night stay in Bergamo, we chose B&B La Corte (not far from the airport). La Corte is a family-owned guesthouse with generous hosts that drive you to and from the airport at any time. There, you will find simple-styled rooms, a shared (but nice) bathroom, and a large — albeit messy — hall that serves as reception, a dining room, and a living room.

The few hours we spent at La Corte cost just under 50 EUR (for the two of us). However, we had to pay 5 EUR to transfer each way, so it cost us 60 EUR in total. This all turned out to be quite expensive, considering the level of service provided and a number of hours we spent there.

All in all, it may be a good option for a last-minute booking, but next time I will try and find a better place. We were just happy that we had no chance of missing our flight to Bulgaria!

Stay tuned for our experience of visiting the Land of Roses!

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