Thursday June 19th
Dear Family & Friends,
It is amazing what a difference 125 miles can make..
Last Tuesday we rode a train from Lake Como, Italy, to Lucerne Switzerland.. The difference it so dramatic you wonder how humans could be so different yet live so close together.
Lucerne is a large city right on a lake. It is a beautiful city in an entirely different way than the cities in Italy. The Italian cities have more passion and design flare and are dirtier and more human. Lucerne and Switzerland in general are almost compulsively neat and clean, immaculate!
There is hardly any graffiti, the roads are so well maintained they are like billiard tables. The lake by Lucerne has NO plastic or trash around it and is so crystal clear it almost doesn’t look real. One local told us that the lake is so clean even the fish can’t survive, as there is nothing to eat!
The architecture is like in Disneyland. You expect to see a prince and princess walking around. The design is beautiful but so much more sterile than Italy. The city is neat and clean, you see no homeless people or beggars and it is very organized.
It is also the most expensive city I have ever been to!! It makes New York, London, San Fransisco, and Los Angeles look like bargain basement! There is also a lot of wealth on display. Fancy stores, fancy cars, and beautiful homes. Also, lots of Harley Davidsons. Americana is very popular here. We’ve seen quite a few classic cars and motorcycles and even a few classic Corvettes. In town there is a a restaurant named The California Cafe and it is the Swiss version of 1950s America.
There is a lot we could learn from the Swiss. Some interesting facts. I will try to point them out without being political:
-I did a bit of research and Switzerland has the highest income per capita in the world and it shows…
-Switzerland has one of the highest gun ownerships per person in the world yet almost no gun violence. A couple of misconceptions about the Swiss and guns- Yes they have a high percentage of gun ownership but it is not required. Also to own a gun you must take gun training and be licensed. Seems to work here. Also the Swiss militia are allowed to take their guns home when off duty but it is NOT required.
-Like I said they have a very high income level yet pay lower taxes than we do, yet they have world class infrastructure, health care, and education. Of course they spend very little on defense since they haven’t fought a war since 1510. By the way they are not a part of NATO and remain a neutral country.
-They have no oil reserves and are very environmentally conscious. All trains and buses are electric – quiet and clean.
-The Swiss society is very homogenous. There is some diversity in Lucerne but I could not tell if they were tourists or people who had moved there. I did talk to a well educated Swiss man and he explained, as many Europeans have told me, that the large influx of Muslims into Europe has not gone well. They feel the cultures are just too different to live together. Again I am not expressing any opinions on this, I am just reporting what has been told to me.
-The Swiss invest heavily in infrastructure and education. They are a very industrious and skilled group of people and a very precise and analytical way of doing things. I would love to be able to hire a Swiss mechanic for my shop.
-They have a popular and efficient health care system that is different than most of Europe, and is in fact very similar to the ACA or Obama Care. The insurance companies must sell a base policy that they make no profit on and everyone is required to buy it. Then if you want more deluxe coverage you pay for it and the insurance companies make their profit there, but at least everyone has basic coverage.
-Minimum wage in Switzerland is $21.50 per hour. Even with the high coast of living here it still buys more than the minimum wage in the USA. I will say minimum wage is a hard comparison since in California minimum wage is too low to live on yet in the poorer southern states you can survive on it. While Switzerland is more homogenous it is still a bit less expensive outside of Lucerne so minimum wage does go further.
– The train system is unbelievable. The cars are clean and modern, run on time and are as smooth and quiet as any way I have traveled before.
-You know how I mentioned that in Italy toilet seats seem to be missing every where? Well in Switzerland NO toilet is missing a seat. There are also detailed instructions posted in the bathrooms how to properly use a toilet. No I am not kidding. To see them, go to my blog.
Now for what we actually did! Of course we spent a fair amount of time just walking around the city. It is beautiful and clean. The food is good but very expensive! One place we went to a hamburger was $25 and fries were extra!
We spent the better part of a day visiting the Swiss Transportation museum. (Do I have a good wife or what?!?!?) This was quite large and interesting. It covers the history the Swiss rail roads, air lines, boats, and cars in general. One interesting feature was a giant wall covered with classic cars on racks. Every 7 minutes an audience gathers and pushed on buttons to vote on which car they wanted to see. Then a robotic system brings the car down, places it on a round table and there is a recording telling all about the car while the round table turns. When done the robot puts the car away. When we were there they did the Red Bull F1 car and a 1966 Corvette. When the Corvette was chosen they played Chuck Berry rock and roll music while the car came down.
The next day was a very exciting day. In the early morning we took an all day tour. First it started out on a cruise boat where we took a one hour tour of the lake. Then we got off on the other side of the lake and took a cogged trolley up the side of a mountain. This is the steepest cogged trolley in the world at 48 degrees climb. The views were spectacular but you have to like cliffs, sheer drops, and heights. At the very top of the mountain we got off and walked around a bit and had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the valleys below. After lunch we walked several trails to the very top of several peaks around us. By the late afternoon we were fairly exhausted. To get down the mountain there were numerous hiking trails that looked fun but we didn’t have the right shoes for a 7000 foot vertical hike, so we took a cable car down the other side of the mountain with more great views.
At the bottom we walked a few miles back to central Lucerne. By then it was around 5pm but we weren’t completely done yet!
We took a local train a few miles out of town and visited The ACE CAFE Lucerne. A great local hang out for car and motorcycle enthusiasts. They had a cool vintage motorcycle clothing store where Bonnie got me a couple of very great classic motorcycle shirts, and then we sat down for a well deserved drink. A gin and tonic never tasted so good.
By now I was wearing out. We walked back to the train station, caught the train to Lucerne, walked another couple of miles to dinner and then stumbled home.
A great couple of days in an amazing country. Tomorrow we take a train to Belgium to spend a couple of days with friends there.
Please go to my blog today for some beautiful photos and interesting commentary including several videos and a complete set of Swiss instructions on how to use a toilet!
Our last view of Lake Como as the train leaves the station to Switzerland.
A good bye glass of good Italian wine… 🙂
Below is the modern trains you ride in Europe. Above notice who designed them… Pininfarina, the same people that design Ferraris! No wonder they look good. An incredibly smooth and quiet too.
Coming into Lucern the rain goes around the edge of Lake Lucerne.
The hotel where we stayed. Elegant but modest by Swiss standards, and expensive too.
The view of the lake across from our hotel.. Very nice.
We did LOTS of walking in Lucerne. Six to eight miles a day. Up and down the Alps too!
A bit if downtown.
Enjoying a beer at the local Ass Bar…
Cafe California. USA culture is still popular everywhere.
Lots of wealth in Lucerne. Porsches were absolutely common there. Even a fair number of Lamborghinis running around.
An old castle on the hill that has been converted to a hotel.
A nice walk across this 500+ year old bridge. All hand made from wood and still standing. The Swiss know know quality and craftsmanship.
Every plant and flower in Lucerne is absolutely perfect. We had to touch one to believe they were real..
Displays of wealth everywhere.
The local casino… We avoided that place.
Sunset by the lake.. We walked here every night..
The lake is full of Swans. When they eat their asses stick straight up in the air.. I am glad my family doesn’t eat that way… Thanksgiving dinner could get very ugly.
In honor of our visit the Swiss erected this statue of us..
A visit to the Swiss Museum of Transportation…fun, fun, fun! 🙂
This was the drill bit to cut the worlds longest tunnel under a mountain in Switzerland. Over 30 miles in one cut!
First a visit to the trail room. Who doesn’t like trains???
Model trains, my favorite.. I am just a boy who forgot to grow up.
Here is the wall of classic cars on display. By vote one is brought down every ten minutes for viewing and explanation.
Above was a F1 car that the audience chose to learn about. Click on the link below to see the system in action…
The most famous car designed by a Swiss designer.. Any wonder why there weren’t more??
Back to the lake for another long walk.
Time to cool off our hot feet in the crystal clear water of the lake.
A surprising number of classic cars and motorcycles touring around the city. Classic Corvettes were quite popular.
OK You need an explanation of the ASS BAR…. Asse in German means food, and of course Bar means drinks. So the clever owner made a contraction that is bound to get attention… without making an ass of himself.. 😉
The firs MASH motorcycle I have ever seen.. No desire to own one.
This is the view of Lucerne as we left on a boat cruise across the lake. To see a video of it click on the link below…
Boarding the steepest cog drive train in the world. 48 degrees is very steep.
At this point it starts to get really steep!
At the end we are above the tree line.
Really makes you want to yodel.
A beautiful view, both the mountains and my sweetheart.. 🙂
The views are stunning from the top of the Alps. Click on the link below to see a video view of what we saw..
Two choices to get down.. One of the walking paths you see below or the cable car.
A night cap at the ACE.
The Swiss Franc is one to one with the US Dollar so that is a plain, no extra hamburger for $23.50! And this is outside Lucerne.
A very desirable Rickman Matchless in the window.. I want it..
The Swiss seem to obsess about their toilets. Here is the solution to the men that tend to miss the pot.. This toilet is about 3 feet wide. Impossible to miss.
Is this really a problem?? To many people climbing onto the toilet and squatting. I hate when people come over to our house and do that. Maybe I need this sign too?
In case you are at a total loss on how to use a toilet they offer detailed instructions. OF course the one step they forgot to include is dropping your pants. Do you think some needs to know that??
A local Chinese restaurant had this on their doors. Evidently they don’t like the competition from the Thai restaurant down the street.
A Swiss Come Over… they truly are the best at everything!