29-Dec-2000 -- We were staying in Ringgenberg, between Interlaken and Brienz for
Christmas and New Year. We had come to
ski, but there was not enough snow on the Jungfrau to make a round of
slurppies. We were building a family confluence
of our own: two from San Francisco, one from Colorado, one from Connecticut
and two from Saudi Arabia. Four of us
decided to take a trip to Lugano and spend the night. We didn't even
consider the bonus that there would be a degree
We drove through Brienz and over the pass towards Lucerne, the more
direct mountainous route towards Lugano being already
closed for the season. We hooked up with the N2 just south of Lucerne and
drove down to St. Gotthard Pass. It began
snowing quite vigorously as we went up towards the pass. The road was still
wet and clear when we reached the tunnel.
The Swiss are the greatest diggers in the world. Their philosophy seems to
be "Why go around anything if you can dig
right through it?" The St. Gotthard tunnel is 17 Km long and about quarter
of the way through, we had to turn off
the heater. By midpoint, I was considering the A/C. There is also a rail
tunnel which was completed in 1882.
The Swiss must consider the shelf life to be up on this tunnel because they
are planning a new "base" tunnel at a lower
elevation. This one will be 57 Km long! It will be designed to allow
passenger trains to use the tunnel at speeds up
to 250 Km/hr. We didn't get anywhere near that speed in our Discovery.
On exiting the tunnel, the scenery was breathtaking. New snow, 50-mile
visibility and the Alps. You had to be there.
The Alps don't mess around with any foothill foreplay, they are just THERE,
walls of rock that jump right up from the
valley floor. We got off the N2 at the Lugano Sud exit and began our
decreasing spiral search for the San Marco hotel.
There seemed to be a local ordinance that required all parking places in the
city to be filled at all times. No more
than eight spots are allowed to be available at any instant. Traffic just
circulates until a receptor site becomes
available since the concept of "pulling over" results in half the traffic in
town coming to a complete halt due to the
narrow guage streets. We finally gave up and pulled the Land Rover up on
the sidewalk to look at a map. The town is
only about a mile and a half end-to-end and occupies a flat area at the end
of the lake about equal to four K-Mart parking
lots. All other real estate seems to be glued to a steeply inclined rock
face. An hour later we were within 200 feet
of the hotel and found a parking place. First thing I noticed was that all
the people walking along the corniche and
through the pedestrian shopping areas looked like they had stepped out of a
catalog. If you need a $2400 purse or a
$23,000 wristwatch, I can tell you just where to shop.
The confluence is about 1500 feet out into Lake Lugano South of Gandria.
It was freezing outside and we decided to
make this merely an attempted confluence visit. Next morning, we drove
through Gandria and out the other side. This
was on a cliffhanger road that was another testimonial to the Swiss rock
carvers. It also made a photo of our closest
approach to the confluence impossible to obtain as half of the team had
their heads between their knees. Past Gandria,
we drove to the Italian border before we found a gas station that appeared
to be cantilevered out over the lake. This
was actually wide enough to turn the Discovery around with only three cuts
so we didn't have to reverse all the way
from Italy to Lugano as I had feared.
Back at Gandria, we took a street up towards Mont Bre. We christened the
street Via Dramamine as it resembled the
Burma Road in places but gave some spectacular views of the lakes. This is
where we got the best view of the confluence
in photo #1. The spot is just above the treetops where the sun is
reflecting off the water in the foreground. I will
be back in Switzerland this summer and, time permitting, I want to go back
to Lugano, rent a pedaloe and nail the
confluence once and for all.
#1: Half of the Lugano Away Team, Brian on the left and Kyle. This is from
the waterfront in Lugano proper. The
confluence is just about under that cloud on the right-hand side.
#2: The most fascinating memento of the trip was the Julia Set Vegetable. I
had NEVER seen one of these before, but I
bet that Benoit Mandlebrot and Gaston Julia ate them for breakfast. I think
it is called a Romanesque Cauliflower.
#4 and #5 are panoramic. They show the bay that is just in front of
#6 GIF of the area showing the location of our adventure.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Lugano. For others who might want to
visit I would recommend the following points of
1. The fanciest McDonalds in the world. Right on the Corniche with
breathtaking views of the lakes and hills while you
slurp down your McNuggets.
2. Waypoint N46 00 11.4 E008 57 02.8 This is the Swiss Discount Cannabis
Store in Lugano. Another good reason for a