Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cinque Terre to Interlachen

The Easter Bunny was able to find us in Italy and the present we received was great weather for our two days in Cinque Terre. Our time was short and we made every effort to explore this famously beautiful spot on the Italian Riviera. Cinque Terre or 5 Towns is a testament to human ingenuity as the local people have cultivated land, literally hanging over the sea, to grow some of the best wine grapes in the world. As a UNESCO World Heritage site the area receives many visitors, some making the 9km walk between the towns as we did and others using the train to venture into each of the 5 towns. Our hike was one of the best we have ever taken. If we were not admiring the postcardesque views of the Mediterranean from a cliff we were enjoying the tiered vineyards that rise straight up the mountainside. The trail is rugged in most parts and we were grateful that our blisters are now callouses and our lung capacity rivals that of Olympians. Even though the hike was fairly strenuous the views you are rewarded with are incomparable to anything we have seen. Lush, green vineyards rise up the mountainside and the ledge where the trail runs hangs precariously over the ultra-clear, aqua green sea below.

The first two legs of the walk are fairly easy and the trail was crowded in parts. Walking through the famed “Amore Alley” was interesting as the tradition is for two lovers to place a lock with their initials onto a fence looking over the sea, thus ensuring their love will never be broken. We decided an entrepreneur with a bolt cutter could have a steady stream of business as we witnessed a disenchanted “ex” trying to pry a lock off the fence. Having no lock and being pretty sure a marriage certificate stamped with blood (remember the fight) covered us for a few years we moved on.

A stroll through each of the towns helped disperse the crowds as people ducked into souvenir, wine or snack shops. Of course, we stopped into a Gelato shop to replenish our electrolytes. The next 3 legs got the lungs burning and the sweat pouring down. It was in the 4th town of Vernazza that we made “the purchase.” Throughout our stay in Italy we had enjoyed a glass or bottle of red wine with every meal, except breakfast, and were set on taking a few bottles home to enjoy on special occasions. Well, we found a “mom and pop” operation that welcomed us and our credit card warmly. A lengthy discussion and sample of the local wines led to “the purchase” of 12 bottles that will meet us home in about two weeks.

The day ended with an incredible dinner that included award winning stuffed mussels for Joe and pesto pasta for Deb, wine as well. Cinque Terrre was a great way to end our stay in Italy and the hike rewarded is with great pictures, laughs, wine, sore legs and most importantly, unforgettable memories.


A day long train ride from Cinque Terre got us to Interlachen, Switzerland and the heart of the Swiss Alps. We had just one and half days, but squeezed in a fair amount in the that time. Set between 2 lakes, hence the name, the city is cleanest of clean (pretty sure they comb the fringes of the grass) and the people are damn friendly. We wandered the town after arriving in the afternoon, stopping for coffee and watching the numerous adrenaline junkies jump out of airplanes and off the sides of hills only to land in the huge green field in the middle of town. Our dinner of fine wine, bread, cheese and Swiss chocolate at the lakeside will always be remembered. The full day we had was dedicated to tackling the 567 meter Harder Klum mountain. It was the hardest hike we have taken on this trip and our thighs will not soon let us forget it. The views from the top were awesome as the whole valley is spread before you like a miniature model. The fresh mountain air and a delicious picnic lunch was a fine way to celebrate our summit. Walking through town in the afternoon we were stocked up on and sampled the fine Swiss chocolate made locally. If you visit us in Chicago, you might just be privy to our stash if any remains by the time we get home. Our only regret from Switzerland is that we did not have more time there. Alas, we will just have to travel back again for some skiing and maybe even a skydive! We are on the way to Munich, Germany right now. Speeding through the Swiss countryside on a fast train is fine by us as our legs are in much need of a days rest.

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