Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

NOTE The views I express on this site are mine and mine alone. Nothing I say should be construed as being "official" or the views of any group, whether I've been a member of that group or not. The advertisings on this page are from Google, and do not constitute an endorsement on my part.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Trip of a Lifetime, Part III

We left Ste. Croix late, partly because of the craziness at the post office, and partly because my wife and her mother walked into town to look around. It was about 11AM before we hit the road, our next destination Lausanne for lunch, then on to Chillon Castle. Lunch was totally forgettable, but Chillon will always be one of the high points in the trip for me.

Chillon Castle is on the northern shore of Lake Geneva, about halfway between Lausanne and the eastern end of the lake. Chillon Castle has been the subject of a number of Swiss stamps, and one of the reasons I wanted to stop. Lord Byron was a prisoner here, and wrote of his trials in one of his poems. The castle is well preserved, and provides a superb glimpse of what life was like in Switzerland for many hundreds of years, both for the nobility and for the common citizen. At one time, more than two hundred people lived in the castle.

Usually, when you visit a place that has been on a stamp, you're disappointed. Seldom does the actual area match what is on the stamp. Chillon was the exception. These stamps from my collection show pretty much what we saw in person. The view from inside was as magnificent as the view of the castle itself. The guide for the tour was very knowledgeable, showed us things I was surprised to see, and told us things that changed my entire opinion of what life was like in early Switzerland. Even for the nobility, life was often hard. The castle depicts exquisitely the Swiss love of wood, and wood carvings.

This photograph shows the gatehouse, where you purchase your ticket to enter the castle (shown on the right). There's a moat about fifteen feet wide between the lakeshore and the castle, with about four feet of water in it the day we were there. I have some great slides, both of the inside of the castle and of the moat. One of the slides of the moat shows two ducks swimming there, and the long, dark outline of a trout close to the castle wall. The wall you see along the road to the castle's parking lot has ivy growing in a number of places, and a host of lizards live there. I caught one and let my daughter play with it while we were waiting for lunch hour to be over, and the castle to open back up for visitors. This was just one more bit of evidence that it's less crowded to travel during the "off season", but you have to learn patience!

The highway along the lake was only modestly busy, and it wasn't a hard drive. It was certainly preferred over this drive:

Lady Serendipity left us for awhile at Chillon Castle. Our next stop from Chillon, where we left about 2:30, was Great St. Bernard pass. We were going to cross the Swiss/Italian border through the tunnel. The border station was about halfway inside the tunnel, and was the only place where we had trouble crossing an international border. The Italian border guard was unaccustomed to the NATO travel documents we had, and had to ask someone else what to do. Even with that, the wait wasn't long.

The difference between Switzerland and Italy was dramatic - even the construction of the houses was different. We were about halfway from the tunnel to Aosta, our next stop, when my father-in-law began having stomach pains. We found a hospital in the town, and he was given emergency treatment for his problem (a mild case of food poisoning), but it delayed us almost four hours. We had planned to stop for dinner and some sight-seeing in Milan before heading on to Genoa. There's a very interesting Gothic cathedral there, as well as the fabled Gallaria, the world's first mall. We arrived in Milan just at the tail end of the rush hour, and a half-hour after dark. We decided it wasn't worth it to stop there, and drove on to Genoa, where we planned to spend the night. We stopped for dinner at one of the Autostrada rest areas. We had one of our most unusual encounters there, and one that would remain with all of us the entire trip. The two doors to the rest rooms were clearly marked for men and women, but once you entered, there was no wall between the two areas. It was quite a shock to all of us! We all piled back into our Volkswagen and headed south, arriving in Genoa at 1:30 in the morning, tired, sore, and hungry.

The hotel we stayed in there was palatial, relatively expensive (the most we paid the entire trip, about $90 per couple), and just across the square from the Christopher Columbus statue. My father-in-law was still not feeling well, it was foggy and rainy, and we were all still tired from the day before. We did little sight-seeing before heading out, back to the highway, and off to Pisa. On the way out of Genoa, we drove along the waterfront, where more than a dozen large passenger liners were tied up, and some 30 merchant ships. Pisa and Florence, two really gigantic high points in the trip, will be the subject of my next part.

Here are a list of links to the area I've discussed above. I've decided to put all the links at the bottom of the page, rather than scatter them here and there throughout the article.

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva again

Boat cruises (A few good photos)

Great satellite photo of Lake Geneva

History of Lake Geneva (some great photos)


Lausanne Visitor's Guide

Lausanne Olympic Museum webpage

Official Lausanne city webpage (in French)

Chillon Castle

Chillon Castle

Another site

And another

Great St. Bernard Pass & Tunnel

The pass and the Hospice

History, plus a great link to aerial views

More good stuff

Another photo of the Hospice



More history, and some photos

Another good link


City map, with links to all important attractions (best)

A downtown webcam

Yahoo Travel Guide, Milan




A list of webcams

Someone else's trip

Virtual Tourist, Genoa - good place to wander around

Genealogy link


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