The adventures of Jasper part 7.
09.08.2012 - 22.08.2012
Switzerland (Zurich) - Follow your heart, but don't forget your wallet!
Zurich is expensive! But I guess they don’t call it the most expensive city in the world for nothing! Joel and I managed to spend $120 in our first few hours there on nothing more than a train ride, a small (and I mean so tiny our tummys still grumbled) snack for lunch and a couple groceries for dinner that night. Our return train ticket from our campsite to the city centre alone cost us $60 return.
I reckon Dad summed it up just about perfect one morning as he finished his coffee and said "Hmm that was good, I'd buy another one of those if I didn't have to remortgage the house"!
Before parting ways with my parents back in Germany they had mentioned they would be attending the annual Zurich Street Parade in a couple weeks’ time and loving the sound of it all we jumped on board and arranged to meet them there. One thing that hadn’t quite crossed our minds was just how BIG this event was! Being that it is the most attended parade in all of Europe, accommodation options were slim and anything we could find that was available came at a premium. We ended up staying at the only place we could afford; a family run campsite situated just on the city’s outskirts on a beautiful big farm with farm animals, flying fox and a swimming pool - bliss! We spent the next couple days doing not a lot more than feeding the animals, drinking wine and relaxing in the sun in countdown to Saturday’s parade.
Come the morning of the “Follow your Heart” street parade we met at my parent’s hotel for a few pre-festivity beverages before getting out in the sunshine and joining the colour and chaos out on the streets. We raved, we drank and we laughed as we lapped up the beautiful city and partied amongst the 950,000 crazy costumed punters!
It’s pretty safe to say a majority of us were feeling pretty sore and sorry the next day so we opted for a lazy day camping at the farm; mum and dad pitched their tent and Bodhi got to have another sleepover in Jasper! We had a day of nothing-ness, which was great. We petted the goats and had a go on the flying fox but other than that spent the day doing little more than chilling out by the van and listening to dad play the ukulele.
In the evening dad put his boy scout skills into action and made us a campfire. We had attempted a grocery shop at the local supermarket in anticipation for a serious campfire cookup later on, however being a Sunday in Switzerland meant absolutely EVERYTHING was closed except the local petrol station. Turned out the petrol station sold enough ingredients to whip up a BBQ, the only problem was having to foot the total bill at the end which came to 96 CHF (which converts almost dollar for dollar so 96 bucks!), for only just enough food to cover dinner! Quite possibly the most expensive quantity vs. cost shop any of us have ever done… but hey we managed to find marshmallows to toast on the fire (even if they were $10 a bag) so happy days!
Leaving Zurich behind, we chugged our way south toward Italy through the majestic Swiss Alps and even passed through the St. Gotthard tunnel; 16.4km in length making it the third-longest tunnel in the world. In true tunnel fashion we tried our very best to hold our breath til we got through to the other side but failed miserably. It was super-hot and humid in there and at the slow and steady rate our Jasper traveled it took us a good 25 minutes to reach the light of day again.
From exiting the St. Gotthard tunnel it was a steady descent into Italy; a nice easy drive for Jasper who really doesn’t cope too well with all that hard mountain climbing.
Italy - Mamma Mia that’s a spicy meatball!
Italy was bliss! Warm sunny days spent cruising along the Mediterranean coastline; windows down, triple J streaming, the breeze blowing through our hair… Overnight stops in beautiful Italian towns with their terracotta roofs and old weathered houses lining the thin and narrow cobble-stone streets, complimented with café’s on the terrace serving an indulgence of vino, pasta and gelato – yum!
Yep Italy pretty much had it all!
Nicknamed ‘Piccolo Roma’ or ‘little Rome’ for its smaller scale likeness to Rome and the Colosseum, the small town of Verona in northern Italy was our first stop after crossing the border from Switzerland.
With mum and dad quite accustomed to tent-life after their 2 week stay at the Buddhist center we traded hotels for campgrounds and made the most of late night campouts in Jasper for most of our Italian leg. Arriving in Verona we punched in ‘nearest campsites’ into the GPS (that’s right, we couldn’t survive with only a road map and didn't want to risk another Hotel Furstenhoff scenario so we bought another GPS!) and navigated our way to the closest camping ground we could find. After zigzagging up a steep hillside we arrived at a gorgeous little campsite perched on the top of the hill overlooking the ancient town’s terracotta rooftops and the river that surrounds it. We made this our base for discovering the old town and its artistic heritage (including its setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet) while wandering the piazza with gelato in hand.
From Verona we passed through Manerola so Joel could visit the Ferrari Museum and start planning for his mid-life crisis. From there we made a dash for the coastline and spent the next week or so cruising south along the coast, swimming in the warm Mediterranean, eating plenty of pasta and stopping at small family run campsites each night to sing kumbaya over a glass or three of Italian red.
We paid a visit to Pisa’s infamous leaning tower, snapped a few typical leaning tower shots, purchased a postcard then continued south in search of one of Tuscany’s many thermal springs.
Instead of getting caught in the tourist trap we researched one a little more ‘off the beaten track’ and headed straight to Terme di Saturnia (the spas of Saturnia). The drive to Saturnia was lined with fruitful wineries, rolling hills and barren sun-bleached fields baking under the Tuscan sun. After a confusing journey along thin and at times unsealed winding roads we finally reached the small town with not much more to boast than a café, gelato stall and a really big carpark… the hot springs definitely being the town’s number one, uh, crowd warmer ;-)
The naturally formed calcium pools were filled with 100’s of locals bathing, reading 50 Shades and relaxing in the sun. We joined in and spent our afternoon bathing in the sulphurous waters, getting massaged by waterfalls and coating ourselves in the stinky sulphur-enriched mud which is said to be able to cure the body of disease and purify those who lather up in mud and immerse themselves in the healing waters. Hello everlasting youth!
Next stop, Italia’s capital Rome; our final destination in Italy and last hoorah with my parents before we parted ways yet again, with us to heading to Croatia and them continuing on to France.
We explored the ruins of the Roman Forum, discovered the history of the mighty Colosseum, threw a penny into Trevi Fountain, visited the Pantheon, played pirates with Bodhi on the Spanish Steps and navigated our way through the wealth and audacity that is Vatican City in search of Michaelanglo’s “Creation of Adam” in the Sistine Chapel. I have to admit, with all the hype it gets I had imagined it to be something ‘more’ (is that terribly uncultured for me to say?), but at least I can now say I’ve “been there” when I see it in the movies… and I have photo evidence to prove it as Joel completely went against the uncountable number of ‘no photo’ signs and took a photo anyway!
Scheduled to catch a ferry to Croatia in the morning we bid farewell to my family once again and set off into the night making sure to pass the Colosseum once more, this time under spotlight, before setting off full steam ahead toward Italy’s east coast port to board our early morning boat ride.