Really See The Gotthard Pass: Take The Bus

A Bus Ride on the Gotthard PassOne of many breathtaking views on the Gotthard Pass

YES, I REALLY DID TAKE THIS PHOTO while being tossed around the back of a bus on our way to Lugano, Switzerland. Using my polarizing filter helped a lot to reduce window glare. And I certainly was grateful for the clean windows. Leave it to the Swiss. They consistently have the cleanest (and most efficient) public transport in all of Europe, IMHO.

The only real challenge to great shots the whole way was the threat of rain (and we did get some light rain). As a result, this turned out to be one of my favorite photos.

We weren’t very far out from Andermatt when the road suddenly took another hairpin turn. At the same time, this photo op magically appeared in my viewfinder as my shoulder careened into something solid to balance and stabilize the camera (and my body).

It really did seem a bit like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride with all it’s twists and turns. Though I must say the similarity ends there as Switzerland’s natural beauty defies the imagination.

Gotthard Pass is no exception.

I hope you get to experience it yourself someday. Rain or shine, take the bus!

–Lisa Lirones


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Hotel Morgarten On Lake Ägerisee

The View From Our Hotel On Lake Agerisee In Morgarten, SwitzerlandThe view was idyllic from our hotel,
located on Lake Agerisee in historic Morgarten, Switzerland…

TALK ABOUT A VIEW! I opened up the window facing the lake and this is what I took in. And get this: this was how this place looks on a rainy day!

What a great little hotel (and pretty exclusive) considering it has only 6 rooms to rent. The room we stayed in at Hotel Morgarten was impeccably clean, modern, affordable and comfortable – and above all – private.

The restaurant was incredible, too. We got to know the chef there and he not only cooked a superbly delicious meal (I get hungry just thinking about it), he also gave us the very best suggestions of where to eat once we arrived in Florence.

BTW, they also have a bowling alley for their guests. I kid you not.

Luckily for us, the weather cleared up beautifully before sunset so we enjoyed a wonderful hike around the northern part of the lake. Look forward to posting one of those photos soon…

–Lisa Lirones

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Lugano: Salami!

Hanging Salamis Above an Open Air Storefront in Lugano

THE SWISS ITALIANS hold no candles to Italy in terms of fine food. Everything we tasted was absolutely delicious.

Rather, native Swiss Italians emulate and complement their epicurean neighbors. In fact, if you look closely, these gigantic salamis were imported from Milano, no less!

–Lisa Lirones

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A Historic Covered Bridge On The Swiss-German Border


Covered Bridge at Rheinau on the Rhine River

Leaving the village of Rheinau, Switzerland heading towards the river,
we came across a picturesque covered bridge dating back centuries.

Walking across it we found ourselves in Germany. 

DIRECTLY ACROSS from our hotel was the covered bridge shown above.

This bridge links the peaceful, historic village of  Rheinau, Switzerland in the district of Andelfingen, canton of Zürich with Altenburg, Germany in the municipality of Jestetten, Baden-Wurttemberg state.

Called the Rheinaubrücke, it was built on the medieval route linking Klettgau and Thurgau and it’s been in use for 200 years. The earliest known record of a bridge here goes back to the year 1324. The bridge shown above was built between 1804 and 1806 by a man named Blasius Baldschwiler who hailed from Laufenburg. He left several notable structures that are still in use to this day.

This is a covered, timbered-truss bridge with three sections. It has two double pillars and stone abutments. The total length is about 80 meters with each section spanning about 21 metres. It has a height of 3.05 metres with a width of 4.3 metres and is entirely enclosed – barring tiny light slits. The roof is gabled with beaver’s tail tiles. The structure of this historic bridge is reinforced with steel elements.

A sandstone statue of St. John of Nepomuk, the patron saint of bridges, stood on the Swiss side until 1872, when it met an unfortunate turn of event: It was thrown into the river during a raucous festival. Luckily, the torso of the statue was retrieved in 1955 during the construction of the power station upriver. Since 1961, a bronze sculpture of St. Nepomuk by Emilio Stanzani has stood in its place.

The reason Baldschwiler built this one is that the original structure went up in flames in 1799, most likely as part of the War of the Second Coalition under the Helvetic Republic – a short-lived and early attempt to put a central authority over Switzerland.

The War of the Second Coalition was part of the French Revolutionary Wars – so how in the world was this connected to Swiss history? Well, it seems that there was a constitutional arrangement forcefully imposed by the French military. The Helvetic Republic existed as a state for only five years but failed to achieve widespread popular support among its citizens. (No wonder as to why.)

Even more interesting is that you can take a path from this bridge along the Rhine, on the Swiss side, and hike all the way to Dachsen and beyond to the world-famous Rhine Falls (Rheinfall in German) – the largest plain waterfall in Europe.

Looking forward to posting my photo from there…

– Lisa Lirones


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Schaffhausen: A 16th Century Fountain

"William Tell" Fountain – TellerbrunnenWilliam Tell is steeped in the history of Switzerland. 
Here we see him honored at a fountain in Old Town Schaffhausen.

I SHOT AN INTERESTING FOUNTAIN while visiting Schaffhausen’s Old Town.

Built in 1522, the statue of this fountain, shown here, boasts to be none other than legendary marksman folkhero of Switzerland, William Tell. This is, however, a genuinely equivocal attribution – should one every care to trace this statue to its origins. Some think it may very well have started out as a local hunter or a crossbow-bearing “lansquenet” (from the German Landsknecht, “servant of the land or country,” which was applied to a mercenary soldier. It’s also the name of a card game.).

The Tellerbrunnen, which translates roughly “Tell Fountain” (or the Schuhmacherbrunnen, “Shoemaker Wells,” as it is sometimes called) was renovated in 1982 and the column and statue were replaced with these colorful copies. The original, from 1522, moved to a museum for safekeeping.

The building behind is the Zieglerburg (literally translated: “Ziegler Castle”) – a grand Rococo building from the mid-18th century.

As an aside, the octogan-shaped trough this statue and it’s column rest above is most likely a little younger. It is engraved with the date 1632.

This is just one of the many gems Schaffhausen has to offer. I look forward to visiting in more depth next time we are in northern Switzerland. (The shopping and dining here is great, too!)

– Lisa Lirones

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The Flowers: Boot Vase At Rheinau

LDesignerArtist PhotographyA boot serves as a vase (atop an unseen mailbox, no less)
in a home garden in Rheinau, Switzerland

AN EARLY EVENING STROLL revealed this gem of a photo during our stay in Rheinau, Switzerland on the River Rhine.

This example of the quintessential ingenuity of Swiss Garden Decoration, with a sprite taking up residency at the top, somehow reminded me of an old children’s nursery rhyme: The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe. (But in this case, it looks like our sprite is “taking no prisoners” – as who could possibly share the spotlight and do her justice?)

– Lisa Lirones

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Breathtaking: Gemsstock Peak

Flying high at 9,200 feet on a sunny summer day…

THIS SUMMER WAS one of the best in my entire life (which just keeps getting better and better).

Spending a month in Europe didn’t hurt.

We stopped over in Andermatt for a day and went up the lift to Gemsstock Peak. Well, actually, it was two lifts. You get on one, get off of it and then re-board on the next one – All The Way To The Top.

Once there, you have to climb the stairs to the top platform, as long as Mr. Vertigo doesn’t make your head reel. That’s because the stairs that lead outside and up to the main platform are see-through – so you get to look right straight d-o-w-n. Between that and air that’s so thin you wonder where the oxygen went, this is certainly not for the faint-of-heart. (And if one is scared of heights, just toss in the towel!)

I well recall the wind flattening my hair to my head and whipping through my clothes with a spine-tingling chill as I tried desperately to hold the Canon still enough to capture this breathtaking shot of the Alps and beyond.

– Lisa Lirones

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