Last time I saw my father he told me the biggest regret of his life: that he didn’t take better care of himself while he was travelling the country on a motorcycle. He died a week after.
This is not a sad start for a story, but rather a personal one: my father travelled a lot and was incapable to stay put for anything in the world. I think about him when I arrive at any new place I visit, but above all in Switzerland (where I went with my mother, for my birthday, because she was part of a painting exhibition).
My parents used to work in Switzerland when I was a child. For those of you who do not know details about the Eastern European communist regime, I open a little parenthesis: my father was sent by the Romanian car factory Dacia to technically assist the sales in Germany and Switzerland. This was back in 1979. My parents were not allowed to take me with them: I was the insurance the Romanian state needed that they will come back once the contract was over.
Therefore, my first visit to Switzerland in 2012 had a different connotation, as my father loved that country very much (he use to tell stories about this wonderful and civilised place all the time) and for my mother it was a trip down the memory lane.
I drove us from Italy to Switzerland through Como, pretty surprised that there was no border. I then profoundly disliked the 17 km long Gotthard Tunnel and enjoyed the super-green scenery that came after it. We spent some time in Luzern and Sarnen and wondered around with the painters group. These people are amateur painters from European countries that share a common feature: they are somehow related with the railroads, therefore, they enjoyed our guided visit at the Pilatus Bahn.
There was a joke back in the ‘90s (as we already spoke about communism) that once the Romanian gipsies got to Switzerland, they ate all the swans from their lakes. Nope, it is not true, just an urban legend, but a cool one, you have to admit.
Joke aside, the most vivid memory I got from my first trip to Switzerland was that it was… strict. As we arrived late from Italy, I left my mother at the hotel and went to park the car (she was thus present at the welcoming ceremony). It took me one hour (I wish I was joking!) to find a parking spot in Luzern, not because there were none, but because I couldn’t make a u-turn. Everybody was so correct, no honking or sudden movements that I rather went around the entire Luzern Lake then make an illegal move that would have taken me back to the old city.
Once this adventure was over (after stopping at a hotel at the city entrance and asked for a map – my phone was dead already), I found a parking spot, parked and tried to pay. After inserting 10 Swiss francs in the machinery and without being able to find the ticket to put as proof of payment, I gave up and left for a multi-storey car park. The next days I watched the locals parking: each spot had a number on the sidewalk and the parking meter matched those.
Let’s get back to tourism: we listened to the military fanfare downtown Luzern, ‘sailed’ to Sarnen and enjoyed the lunch on a boat, listened to the famous Swiss songs in a 4 star restaurant and, on top of everything, I had the chance to make an old Columbian happy just by answering her in Spanish (her family immigrated when she was a child, she rarely had the chance to use that language).
After the four days spent there, I understood why my father was so impressed by the country: it fit him pretty well (which I cannot say about me – I’m more the gregarious type, I prefer more colourful countries).