As I may have mentioned, I love packing systems. I love closets and organization and the idea of traveling efficiently, lightly, and with style.
The parameters for this trip were- look good, without having much luggage. Not favoring technical clothing (the smell of synthetic fabrics irritates me) -our version of efficient packing is built around cottons, cashmeres, silks, and wools. And regular clothes, not backpacker clothing. (Granted, we’re staying in hotels, not couch-surfing, so towels and sleeping bags are not a requirement. However, it’s great to be able to get off a train in a new city and not have to find a hotel immediately because one is so weighed down by luggage….)
In order to find a happy medium between the efficiency of backpacking and the look of business travel, we both got 34 liter black jansport backpacks and I removed the logo labels.
Now on to summarize the places we’ve been, so far, in a sentence each:
ZURICH: so, we flew here because it was the cheapest ticket to Europe, not realizing how expensive the city was- I thought it might be like Manhattan, but it was another level entirely: $7 for a basic coffee, $300 for a small hotel room with a private bath, $200 for two 2nd class tickets to leave the country; however- I have never seen a country that seemed so well run- everything extraordinarily clean and efficient; both the cars and the pedestrians behaving in perfect unison, and everyone fluently trilingual.
(there, one run on sentence!)
I, right away, feel stupid as I only speak one language fluently and can’t seem to figure out how to work doors or faucets.
TRAIN OVER THE ALPS: it was only by chance we took this route, but it was “life-changing”- warm and snow covered little fairly tale villages, along a twisting train route over the starkest scenery I’ve ever experienced- and I wonder now at how the Swiss have cultivated this small country- despite its somewhat inhospitable mountains- and have turned it all into a garden.
TIRANO, ITALY: right away, the atmosphere changes- despite being only a mile over the Swiss border, and essentially a dead-end of the Italian rail system (because, as Daniel the Italian-American points out, unlike their Swiss neighbors, the Italians didn’t build complicated rail systems through their Alps, preferring the valleys) – Tirano is a tiny town, where everyone is extraordinarily friendly, and the bartender speaks with us in French as she doesn’t know English (not that we know French, but we can understand it better than Italian.)
And there are so many church bells!
LECCO, ITALY (near Lake Como): as in Tirano, we find that all of Italy is about one third the price of Switzerland, and half the price of Portland- coffee for $2, gelato for $2.50 and nice hotel rooms for $110, though I do see a ghost in the hotel room one night.
GENOVA: much like the Alps, the architecture of Genova seems life-altering- and a little scary, as we get lost in the labyrinth trying to find a “lavandaria automatica”- seemingly only someplace used by the prostitutes at every alley way- I get intimidated, decide we speak a little too American to hang out at the 3 washer lavandaria for two hours, and it finally feels like a European trip: we wash our clothes in the hotel sink.
Also: first time traveling without cellular! Wifi only.