Joe in Switzerland

Swiss Trip October 1998, First Impressions

Stayed at my wife's uncle Veri's place, an old three story row house in Haslen, about an hour's drive from Zurich. Since housing is very expensive in Switzerland, each floor generally houses a family. But Veri bought the whole house and converted it to a single family for use by him and his wife, Lena. We rented a car at the Zurich Airport and stayed with Veri for about two weeks.

Each floor has a wood/coal stove and only the second floor was heated (about 85 degrees). We occupied the third floor; two cold rooms about 60 degrees. I had a hard time going to sleep since every time I turned over I got out of the covers and woke up again to drag the covers back on to myself. The bathroom was on the first floor, three flights of stairs down. There were two bathroom next to one another and a shower room. The shower room was also very cold. But I got used to living like that after a while. It reminded me of the way we lived in West Virginia many years ago.
Gas costs about $1.75 per gallon. Most gas stations are automatic with no attendants with the slot machines taking only Swiss Francs and Swiss credit cards. It took denominations of twenty and forty Francs. I lost my twenty-Franc bill in the slot machine when it took my money and gave me no gas. They give you no change if you happen to insert too much in the slot. Very few stations have attendants. Luckily the one I used did have one but only in the daytime. I stopped the next day and the young lady refunded my money. Twenty Swiss Francs is about $15 in Dollars.

The roads are narrow, congested and almost everyone tail gates if you maintain the speed limit. There are few policemen to patrol the roads as they rely on cameras at strategic locations. They take your picture with your speed and send you a huge bill. That's why there are so many tailgaters. The Locals know where the cameras are so they drive like maniacs everywhere that lacks a camera. The tourist is at a disadvantage and is prone to be caught by the camera if he speeds.

The weather was about 50 to 60 degrees and very damp. It rained most of the second week. It was snowing on top of the mountains (Braunwald) and when we went up there it looked like Vermont in a blizzard. But in comparison, the mountains are extremely high and they surround the villages. The mountains are formed in three layers starting at the bottom with grass, followed by rock and then on top, with pure white snow.
Unlike Vermont, people are allowed to build houses and vacation places on top of the mountains. But Switzerland is beginning to show the results of over population. Most of the heating is with wood which is plentiful, easily obtainable but very polluting. The military has been cutting and stacking wood there ever since a hurricane swept through and downed much of the forest.

Many of the young people understand English so there is no problem getting around. There are four languages spoken there, Swiss German, French, Italian and some kind of throwback to Latin. We were in the Swiss German part and later drove to the Italian part, a real treacherous drive over narrow winding roads and through a seven-mile tunnel, the St. Gotthard. It took about four hours each way.

Most of the secondary road system is about thirty years behind the times. Everything in the grocery store costs about twice that in the US. None of the stores we shopped at give us paper or plastic bags for the groceries. You have to bring your own. The shopping carts are coin operated, two Francs, but the money is returned when you return it to the place where they park the rest of them. They can't be wheeled outside.

The car rental is about the same as in the US. A good dinner will cost about $100, but bargains can be found in the small villages. They have a few McDonalds there. One of the reasons that prices are so high is the fact that the government has a huge socialistic program whereby almost everyone gets a dole. Seems like this is the reason for their infrastructure being so far behind times.
But if you enjoy beautiful scenery, Switzerland is the place to visit. The people are very friendly and everyone greets everyone else. Larraine's relatives were all very pleasant and when we visited them, most went out of their way to furnish us with a tasty Swiss meal. Chocolate is plentiful and very sinful. Cows with bells roam around everywhere and furnish the milk for the chocolate.

The US airlines (Delta) are the pits, crammed and unfriendly, but the Swiss Airlines are the opposite. They are roomy and the food is out of this world. They pamper the hell out of you and go out of their way to please you.

Our Hosts: Lena and Veri Resi

Joe and Larraine In Switzerland

Larraine with her two Swiss Uncles

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