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Report 2015: Alpine Adventures and Other Travels in the Rhone, Rhin and Rhön

By wendy lynn from California USA, Summer 2012

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Page 3 of 21: Swiss Alps: Lavertezzo

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Julia jumping off a rock in Lavertezzo, Switzerland

Wendy wakes up early again -- 4:30am -- although everyone else is doing better with their jet lag. Wendy wakes everyone else up at 6:30 because she's so hungry. Our last breakfast in Munich.

It's another good breakfast, and this morning they have added a very good blue cheese to the breakfast spread. Alex drops two of his croissants and then eats them anyway, before we can stop him. He probably ate five or six in total. We settle our bill and are out the door by 9am. Two nights of the top suite at the Acanthus cost us €434 total which is about $570.

Julia feels a little queasy as we leave Munich. She's had a low fever since the night we left SF. Soon after we leave the hotel, Julia gets sick at a rest stop but then feels better. After this, no one has any health problems for the rest of the trip. Of course, Joe has his broken toe to contend with...

We're heading for the Ticino (Italian speaking) area of the Swiss Alps. The weather is a bit gray and it's drizzling on and off. We hit some traffic here and there, but altogether it's not bad. The Nav system really helps but takes some of the adventure out. Ultimately, it saves us so much time and stress, that we are thrilled to have had it. And over the course of the entire trip, we have a lot of laughs at the expense of our British accented Nav lady.

As we leave Germany and cross into Austria, we miss an opportunity to buy the Swiss "vignette" car sticker at the border. In order to drive in Switzerland on the freeway, you have to purchase a "vignette" for €40. If you get caught without one, it's a big fine. We soon cross into Switzerland and still can't see any vignette ticket booth at the toll plaza.

We finally see a sign for Heidiland rest stop where we take a break, get Swiss Francs and purchase our vignette at the gas station. Cool pay bathroom where the kids have a special tunnel allowing them to get in free. We get back into the car, listening to music from CDs Joe made since we never figure out how to make the iPod work with the Mercedes.

We start to see the Alps -- dramatic -- and we begin to encounter tunnels more regularly. The rain continues. It's a good day to have a four hour drive -- the rain is no big deal in the Mercedes, and it's good for Julia to rest in the car.

The Nav gives a few strange instructions such as immediate U-turns -- while on the freeway! Joe suspects the Nav temporarily loses track of us in the long tunnels. We are directed to take another strange detour but it's short and scenic -- a windy road through a small, stone town. Very different from Munich. The area is charming and dramatic. We see amazing waterfalls everywhere. Still, the Nav system's detour seems unneeded and we soon reconnect to the A Motorway we'd previously been instructed to leave.

Joe's toe -- and now knee and back (!) are hurting. But we soon come to Bellinzona, then Locarno and find we are almost at the Verzcasza Valley, our destination. The Nav system and Google Maps had estimated our trip from Munich at four hours but the drive actually took us about 5.5 hours. We arrive at the entrance to the Verzcasza Valley at 2:30pm.

The weather has cleared and the valley seems promising. Entering the valley, a narrow one lane road cuts through. Lavertezzo is just a few miles further! We catch glimpses of a beautiful, turquoise river on our left, running the length of the valley. We pass through tunnels of sheer granite. Everywhere are quaint houses of stone. Even the roofs are stone! Everything besides the green hills and blue river is the granite color of the Alps. Lovely.

As we begin to drive through the Verzasca Valley, we see that we are entering a more rustic and pristine area. It's absolutely striking and gorgeous. The mountains rise up dramatically on either side of the road and the stone structures are something we've never encountered on such a large scale before. There's nothing wooden in this valley ... it's all stone.

We find Osteria Vittoria, our hotel, with no problem since there's only one road (one lane) through the valley. Our room isn't ready for 30 minutes, so we look for lunch. We discover that, as we suspected, Switzerland is much more expensive than Munich, even in these rural areas. Small and simple lunch entrees are 25CHF (about $25). For a family of five, that makes a light lunch a $150 affair once you factor in drinks.

We wander five minutes down the road to the next small hotel -- the same expensive menu. We wouldn't mind spending the money, but not for such simple food. But we soon find a small souvenir shop selling salami and cheese sandwiches for 5CHF each. We order five (get four), and order chips and drinks and take the path to the river to eat picnic style.

The valley is simply breathtaking. There is a wild, natural quality. Unspoiled. A sense of permanence and strength. Turquoise water flows over and around giant boulders of granite that seem laid in giant horizontal, angled slabs. Areas of fast water but moderate flow overall. Signs everywhere in all languages warm of the danger -- the current, the slippery rocks and hypothermia from the cold water. The mountains rise up steeply on both sides of the valley. Quite simply the most beautiful place we'd ever seen. Ever.

The day is warm and slightly muggy and the river calls. Directly ahead is an elegant, double arched Roman style bridge -- the Ponte dei Salti -- made of stone of course. We've heard that a few people occasionally jump off the bridge, but it seems unlikely. It's too high, too many rocks below and it's hard to believe the river is deep enough or that anyone would be brave enough to jump.

We walk down to the river where people are sunbathing on the giant boulders. The walk takes us five minutes and Joe, Alex and Julia do find the courage to jump 20 feet into the water from a giant boulder. The water is freezing. The sky starts to gray again, so we pack up and hope our room is ready. Just in time as it starts to rain.

Osteria Vittoria is very nice. We have the top floor -- a chalet style apartment with one bedroom, a nice kitchen area with a table and a sitting area. The usual arguments among the kids regarding bed assignments, although there is plenty of space. Parents get the bedroom, Julia takes the pull out sofa and the two little kids take the double bed in the alcove off the kitchen area. We regret not having stopped at a grocery store in Locarno to pick up food and drinks. We didn't know we'd have a kitchen.

Despite the rain, we set out at 4pm for Sognogno, a cool, stone town at the very end of the valley. It takes us only 20 minutes or so to drive there from Lavertezzo. It's quite empty, probably because of the rain. We order two pizzas (smallish by American standards), one spaghetti and a few drinks. It's 100CHF (about $100 USD). Yikes. But the food is fairly good and we're happy.

We head for home. It's the first night we've needed jackets. The room is slightly too cold with the windows open. It's our third night in Europe and it's nice to snuggle in a soft European comforter. The rain continues through the night with more than an occasional thunder clap. Still, we feel cozy and happy.

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