Hello  Swiss-American folks in Salinas Valley, I went to Ticino in Switzerland in your honor. I got here yesterday traveling from Liechtenstein, where I spent two days. Prior to that I was in a small town near Winterthur, Switzerland for two days. I’m leaving tomorrow for Zurich, where I’ll be for three days and then to Frankfurt for my month in Germany.

I knew if I were to see Ticino, now would be the time, so I just went for it.

I have found the people friendly and with easy smiles and happy to give a comment or two.

The downside is that I am on the end of the second day, and it has rained here both days and nights, and I have found the country extremely expensive.  More on that later.

Today, the goal was to take the train to Bellinzona where there are three castles to tour and a lovely city to explore.

inside the train going back to Locarno

The train passed the towns of Riazzino, Cadenzaao, Saint Antonino and Giubiasco.

I arrived in fog, rain and chilly air, with the first order of business would be to find the tourist office and then get directions on how to tour the castles. Yesterday I did some inquiry by telephone and was told that not all castles were open, but in some I could see the outside and the museums would be open.

Note to the world: even with minimal employee training, please teach your employees where the tourist information office is in your town.

With trial and error, I found the tourist office, while I was dripping wet,  and the nice lady  gave me many brochures about Ticino area and the castles, and she also opened up a plastic cape for me to wear while outside.

So I was given directions to the first castle, after several questions, and found the ‘lift’ that took me to the front of the building. The heavy front door, in itself reminded me of a fortress. The lobby was inside with a very nice lady ready to sell me a ticket to the museum; the castle itself was closed.

I declined the museum, because the price would be 9 francs, which meant $11 in U.S. money. I found that an outrageous price for a museum,  but that wasn’t the last of the surprise on how much things cost.

The lady there told me how to get to another castle, where I could go inside, but where the museum would be closed. Well, that sounded okay, but once I got outside the rain came down in sheets, and I was tired by then, of walking, so I regrouped inside a cafeteria. I got a cheese cake type of dessert with cafe latte. Boy do they know how to make that: it’s almost like soup, it’s so thick with coffee and milk. Yum.

Bellinzona street scene

Then I left to find the castle, but the rain discouraged me from trying to find the street to take to the castle. I asked myself how necessary it was for me to find the castle. I have seen many castles throughout my traveling life, and therefore, just talked myself out of it. I couldn’t take photos anyway, as when I took the camera out of the plastic bag, it immediately got wet, and the camera already has steam trapped inside the lens and I didn’t want to make it worse.

So, it was lunch time, and going inside a restaurant would be a ‘cultural experience’ as well as viewing a castle, and there was one handy and it looked busy.

Inside there were many tables of two people, some round tables with business-men, and long tables with families, or shared by several people. There was a ‘buzz’ sound in the room of people talking.

I ordered a risotto made with red wine, and a bottle of sparkling water. It never arrived, and people who came in later, were already leaving. A man came over to me and asked what I had ordered. It seems the kitchen somehow either forgot or just didn’t get the message. Anyway, it finally appeared, and I didn’t mind waiting, for after all, it was a cultural experience.

Then it arrived, a rice, soup-like ingredient in a bowl over red wine. Interesting. Then I asked the waitress for coffee latte, and that arrived, followed by a dessert that was free since I had waited so long.

It was a spaghetti-type brown noodle over a white crunchy sweet, divinity-tasting candy, and covered with whipped cream. Interesting again.

Then I got the bill: the dessert and coffee were not on the bill, but here’s what a bowl of rice and sparkling water cost: are you ready?  Twenty-seven Swiss francs! That is equivalent to twenty-nine U.S. dollars.

Switzerland is a beautiful country, but coming here was a decision that blew my budget way out of bounds.

I will be making up for it throughout the next few weeks, beginning by staying in a hostel in Zurich tomorrow.

The villages viewed from the train window made me wish to see those areas up close, some houses had vineyards attached. But a car would be necessary to get close to a smaller village.

So, the Ticino experience had pleasant moments, but the rain and expense thwarted the plan, however, I did get to understand where my friends from Salinas Valley came from.

a local newspaper

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