Well we have spent about 36 hours in Locarno. I have to say this little trip has amazed me. You have to keep Switzerland’s size in your mind. If Switzerland were a US state it would be the 12 largest state by population. It would be the 42nd largest state by square miles. Switzerland is basically the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. So pretty small. In about 3.5 hours you can basically drive across Switzerland from North – South or East – West. Julie commented yesterday, that it seemed strange that we could drive across Switzerland faster than we could drive from our house in Wisconsin to her parent’s house in NW Indiana (and that is with slower speed limits).
The Gotthard Tunnel was impressive. 17 kilometers underneath the Alps. I am hoping to make the drive during the summer, so we can take the pass and see the Alps instead of driving underneath. Anyway, on one side of the tunnel the grass was green and everything was lush. The temperature was about 5 degrees. On the other side, everything was brown, and the temperature was 16. We had driven into a completely different environment. Both of us expected things to be even more green here. We knew the climate was different so we expected it to be more spring like. In some ways it is. There are a lot more flowers in bloom here, but none of the trees have leaves, yet, and the grass is brown. I think the grass was the biggest surprise. The grass near Zürich stays green all year long, and that is with temperatures being near freezing for two months. I have not looked at rain fall, but I am guessing we get a lot more rain up north than they get here. Even the mountains look different. On the north side of the Alps the snow is still most of the way down into the valleys. Here the snow is only at the top 1/2 of the highest peaks.
Going to a grocery store brought back a little PTSD. I remembered how out of place I felt going into a grocery store the first week I was in Zürich. I felt the same way Wednesday. We had to resort to buying products based on the picture instead of bering able to read the labels. The products sold are even different. Some of the brands are the same, but brands we have grown to rely, are not for sale here. Even the spices for some of the same products are different. For one thing there are not BBQ potato chips here. They are paprika chips. At home these chips taste nothing like a BBQ chip. However, there is some flavor; so if I buy chips that is what I get. I bought the same brand on Wednesday; yet when I tasted one I thought I was eating a Lays BBQ chip. I want to buy a case and bring them back to Zürich with me!
Another difference, and maybe it is simply because we are a tourist here, but English does not seem to be spoken as much. Interactions in a store, or simply asking for directions have been harder here than up north. Looking for the entrance to the grocery store was a challenge. We had to approach three different people to find the entrance. (Due to COVID the two main entrances were blocked off, and we couldn’t find the third one.) The first two people we approached said they spoke no German and no English. Finally the third person spoke “a little” English. (That is in quotes because we have learned that when someone says they speak a little, they speak better than we do.) I think why that surprises me, is that this area is even more tourist focused than the rest of Switzerland. This area advertises even in Switzerland for tourism. It could be something as simple that if we were really Swiss we would know some of the basic interactions in Italian, and we do not. Julie has decided to fix this for us. She says she is going to learn some Italian. That leaves me to concentrate on German, and for the one French family we know,(Greetings Xavier and Christelle) I am going to try and learn some French as well!
Construction looks different here as well. Well, one thing is the same. 1/2 of this city seems to be under construction which is similar to every place we have visited. :). However, the construction has a more Mediterranean look and feel. I haven’t spent much time in Italy. A few days in Rome, and few days in Milan, but the feel you get here is more Italian than Swiss. Swiss people reading that please do not be offended.
I have to get going now. We are going to be heading up the mountains for some hiking today. I promised I would get a post up this week, and I wanted to keep my word. I hope you enjoy the pictures.