One of the interesting things about Europe, in general, is how blasé everyone around has become to the history surrounding them. This struck me to a lesser degree in Venice, but, coming to Verona, it hit me pretty hard. We passed the Verona Arena, an amphitheater that has been around for 2,000 years, but, you know… no biggie.
After Venice, the remainder of Verona wasn’t quite as impressive in comparison, but I think we all appreciated a slower-paced city after a long previous day. We stopped by Juliet’s balcony, where we were lucky enough to catch someone reciting Juliet’s balcony speech. I snooped around some of the letters tacked to the wall and was disappointed not to find any in English. There were a lot of couples names written on the wall and many love locks.
We didn’t stay long in the city since we had to get on the road to Switzerland, but I did make time to get another cappuccino before we left Italy for good. And I should emphasize how good the cappuccinos were all over Italy, even in the rest stop cafes. I’d take a cappuccino from a gas station in Italy over a cappuccino from a Starbucks in the US any day.
On the trip from Verona to Lucerne, we stopped at a rest stop that had a currency exchange inside of it, so that everyone who hadn’t already gotten Swiss francs could get money for our activities in Switzerland. I already had france, but after being shocked at how expensive Switzerland is after spending over 20 francs just to get a snack and drink at the rest stop, I thought I’d better pad my original amount by a lot.
Once in Switzerland, we got a brief glimpse of Lake Como during the bus ride.
When I think of Switzerland, the things that come immediately to mind are chocolate, cheese, and watches. We definitely found more than our fair share of all of those things while in Lucerne, but I was happy to see there was much more to the country.
The first stop when we entered the city was the Lion Wall, which was an impressive soldier’s memorial. It always feels strange getting photos smiling in front of memorials, since a commemoration of the loss of lives, but since I was a tourist I figured I get a pass.
While we were at the Lion Wall, a few people spotted a free bathroom and were super-excited, after a week of having to pay for restrooms, to get to go for free. It was then I started to appreciate the paid bathrooms… you could literally smell the intense funk wafting out of these bathrooms from a few hundred yards away. Some people really had to go and braved it, but I wasn’t one of them. Just a warning to steer clear of those restrooms if you visit.
The Chapel Bridge was next on the sightseeing list and it was something I’d never heard of before. It’s a longer bridge than it appears in photos and it was filled with artwork on the inside.
After the bridge was determined as our meeting point later on in the evening, we all split up into smaller groups to go explore the city. As per usual, the people I walked around with were going in search for food. As was pretty common for these packed tour days, we had eaten breakfast around 6 am and now that it was nearing 1 pm, we were starving! We were getting nervous because every restaurant we stopped at said they were full or had a long wait, and we didn’t have very long to eat before we needed to meet back up with the rest of the tour group. The last cafe we saw in the grouping of buildings we were walking by said they would be full once people with reservations came in, but we were able to convince them to let us in if we could be out in 45 minutes.
We thought this restaurant just consisted of a small, dark bar area with a few tables, but the hostess led us up to a flight of stairs, where we passed a bread bar (!!!!!) on our way out to a balcony that looked over a wide swath of the city. It was absolutely amazing! And it got better when our server told us to help ourselves to that bread bar we passed, and suggested a charcuterie plate since we were under a time constraint.
The setting felt kind of magical. We’re sitting on this quaint balcony overlooking the river with beautiful European architecture in the background, eating the most delicious bread I’ve ever tasted in my entire life, all on a random weekday afternoon.
At this point, I love that stumbling into random restaurants in Europe have been 100% positive experiences. I feel that we’re all quickly becoming Europhiles (or Eurofoodies?), and I’m starting to worry that I’ll no longer be able to tolerate American fare when I get home. European food is seriously on an entirely different level of freshness and flavor in comparison to food in the US.
Hotel Hirschen was our hotel for the night, and we headed there early in the evening to have time for dinner there. There was an optional dinner at the hotel that I didn’t take advantage of, and instead walked down to a local cafe with some others who opted out of the dinner and got a schnitzel.
Post-schnitzel, a group of us headed to the nearby lake just to hang out and chat. We were very obviously in Switzerland, surrounded by water and mountains, and similar to our night in Innsbruck, just in time to see the sun set behind the mountain range that we were facing.
Once we started getting eaten alive by bugs, we moved on to find a bar further in the main part of the town. What we found was a small restaurant named Rossli. Unlike the touristy areas of Lucerne where every person in a service role spoke English, here it was only German. We were lucky that ‘beer’ is the same pronunciation in either language, so we got some kind of random beer and spent some time hanging out and breathing in an uncomfortable amount of secondhand smoke before heading back to the room for the night.
Did I mention that Hotel Hirschen is located right next to a church… a church that has bells that ring EVERY SINGLE HOUR. Before dinner, I thought it was fantastic that my room had a small balcony facing a church, but after a long day of sightseeing, waking up every hour those bells tolled was not my idea of a good night. Other people didn’t have any problem sleeping through it, but if you’re a light sleeper, it’s something to be aware of. Bring some earplugs or something!