Day 24: Mama Mia, is this Italy? - Heidi Ho - CycleBlaze

July 4, 2012

Day 24: Mama Mia, is this Italy?

"People in this part of Switzerland feel very fortunate to be Swiss, and not to be Italian, because of the economic and political situation," said the woman in the tourist information office at the castle.

It was early morning and I was the only one there, so I picked her brain about this part of the country, which feels decidedly Italian.

"It's not Italy," she went on, "except that if you crossed the border to Italy, you would not be able to distinguish the two sides, except that one side uses Euros and one Swiss franks."

It made me think about luck. How one person is born in Lagona, Switzerland and one is born in Como, Italy. Both towns of similar size and culture, right down the road from one another, but, I assume, with varying degrees of opportunity and problems. It seemed a bit like America. One baby is born in Nogales, Mexico, and one in Nogales, NEW Mexico. They may live a mile from each other, just over the fence, but their daily lives would probably be profoundly different, simply because of a line on a map.

"We are very proud to be Swiss," the woman added after a moment of thought. "But we are proud of our Italian heritage. We are strongly Italian here," she said, her face lighting up with pride.

I let her go on about all of the interesting places to see. She misunderstood about the length of my stay, describing all of the places to see in a week. I didn't have the heart to say, "no, I think you misunderstood, I only have one day and just need information on the bike route from Bellinzona to Larcona." But it wasn't a chore, to listen for a minute or two, to someone who clearly enjoys her job, and is proud to explain of the wonders of the area to an interested American cyclist.

After thanking her for her time, I wandered about the castle. It is an impressive site, the Bellinzona castle. It is really one of three, stacked in a row at varying heights, built to protect the town and trade routes from marauders and ne'er-do-wellers back in the day, when those things needed doing.

The castle at Bellinzona
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Also the castle at Bellinzona
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...and again, same castle
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Overlooking the city...
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Fun at the castle :-)
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In the town of Bellinzona
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From the castle, looking at the other 2 castles in the town, each at a different elevation up the side of the hill
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One more of the town, from the castle
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Today I also humiliated myself with language. That's nothing new, of course, I'm inept at French, or at least I feel that way. But Italian brought me to a whole new level of ineptness. At times, without thinking, I reverted to Spanish. That would be fine, the languages share the same roots, but I don't speak Spanish either. All I know are the few words I picked up from living in California. So, I really don't know WHAT I was saying?

I never thought I would miss France for the language.

Anyway, I toured Bellinzona and beyond, had a lunch of pasta and Italian ice cream, not schnitzel and strudel, and rode, toured, looked around.

The town of Larcona
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Interesting how the vegetation is more tropical here, with banana and palm trees
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The bike path from Bellinzona to Larcona
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Lunch!
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In the late afternoon, the heavens promptly opened and rain poured down, again. Probably just a late afternoon mountain storm, but I was in no mood to ride in it, and I was still behind schedule. I boarded the bus for the San Bernadino pass.

And it was there I met Anne-Lisa from Switzerland. Anne-Lisa, whose accent is just like my grandmothers, is one of those people you connect with instantly. Quick to smile with friendly face, she became my tour guide for the trip, telling me the history of the area, and about things I would never know on my own.

"In this Canton they speak Italian, German, and Romansh," she said as we rolled along.

Anne-Lisa spent a lot of time in the states, and we both agreed that the mountain range in this area is different, and more like the Sierra Nevada range in Californian, and not like the areas I toured last week, in the high Alps, which are nothing like anything in the states.

Then the bus driver added what he knew. "That church," he said, pointing high above to a chapel alone on a hill, "has the oldest pipe organ in Europe." Interesting!

I had a delightful trip up the mountain and gave Anne-Lisa the address for this journal. I hope you're reading! Thanks for being a great tour guide!

On the other side the rain, mostly, stopped and I pedaled into the early evening, to Ander, a cute as a button kind of town on the German side of the world.

Now I am back to being inept in German.

Over the top of the pass it became German again
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Interesting. Check out the solar panels.
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Yes, the water is that shade of blue/green. I didn't photo shop it.
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In the town of Ander
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Today's ride: 91 km (57 miles)
Total: 2,356 km (1,463 miles)

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