It’s been many years since I have actually gotten away, but it’s been well worth the wait. Canada is awesome but my heritage has a way of pulling me back to my homeland, especially since there’s so much of my family there. Come, take the trip with me from your own chair… ‘There’s even a surprising jump off a mountaintop…
Can you guess where we are going? ‘Other side of the ocean, Swiss Alps, Lake Maggiore, Schnitzel, Buon giorno, are a few hints’…
Where did I go:
We’re leaving… on a jet plane… (don’t know if I’ll be back again) A bunch of my family and I had the urges to go back to where it all started; Germany but we also wanted to add in a bit of side-trip to visit somewhere new. This time of year (late October) was a bit risky weather-wise, but I’m so glad I had a small umbrella with me! The 15 day excursion had about 12 days of rain but still tons of laughs!
Once you take a new perspective to life you see it in a different way. We often get caught up in our daily ritual and a break from it really does make us rejuvenate. How small we are in the big scheme of things… Since I am such a visual person I see beauty in the tiniest things.
What is Locarno Switzerland like:
Locarno is not a huge metropolis city, which is why we chose it. It is quite quaint located on the shores of Lake Maggiore with a well situated train station. We did not need to rent a car. The climate is somewhat warmer than what I am used to in Canada for this time of year. The puzzling thing was seeing palm trees & other species that we don’t have here; it must not ever get really cold! It was sadly quite rainy but still double-digit warm.
My Hotel (Al Pozz Hotel) was so sweet and quaint. Our host ran this small hotel with his family and made us feel like family. I especially liked the very old tiny elevator with swing door! Breakfast was served in the main floor restaurant and later in the day we could enjoy their amazing thin-crust pizzas. My view from our small balcony was quite breathtaking! We could take long walks along the waterside promenade or visit the many restaurants along the way. I felt quite at home amongst the locals walking their dogs.
I always marvel at how well everyone in these towns maintains their properties even though they are many decades old. Their sense of colour and design also strike me. Yes, those are massive dandelions to attract visitors to the art gallery.
Where is Locarno?
Locarno is about an hour away from Milan on the border of Italy in the Ticino region. It is predominantly italian speaking but you may also find some german, french or english speaking patrons. I managed with my mother tongue of german and a bit of Italian understanding. The surrounding view of the sheer mountains just boggles my mind.
I imagine in summer it would be even better with the variety of activities possible including taking a small cruise on Lake Maggiore.
Exploring the Sites in Locarno:
The hotel provides it’s guests with free public transportation coupons so we took in the local sites by day trips. The Funicolare takes us up the mountain to spectacular views of the valley. This was one day when the skies decided to stay somewhat dry and give a perfect blue sky. ‘Just wait until you see what we did!
The architecture is unfathomable, perched so high on a mountainside. Sacred Mount Madonna del Sasso can be accessed from pathways starting in the town. I got goosebumps once I finally reached that plateau and also because my bionic knees held out for steep the trek up!
The local population is quite friendly and enjoy their walks as well. Every inch of stone and masonry is amazingly & meticulously constructed. The natural patina resonates with my love of aged sculpture that I strive for in my personal works.
For the Love of Stone and Rock:
I love that walkways and stairs are all made with stones and rocks that are found in the area. We could learn quite a bit from these old masters.
The amount of stone work boggles my mind. Structures are not only massive but also have a great amount of complicated structure. Often the natural vegetation mingles with the stone to create a perfect compliment. It’s the perfect place to leisurely explore & dine along the way.
Amazing use of Slate:
I marvel at their use of materials, especially the slate. I can’t even imagine how long these roofs have been in use! The challenges faced when constructing on these hillside abodes makes us really appreciate the hard labour. Taking some inspiration from their rustic design will translate into my mosaic slate projects. Do take in the details of your travel observations to incorporate little tidbits into your own creations.
Appreciating the material:
The craftsman’s choices of materials has ensured that these structures will withstand the test of time. We really should adapt more of that type of thinking in our life.
Why work with stone?
Locally mined stone makes perfect sense. Only long lasting materials that do not require huge amounts of maintenance are used. Engineered stone arches for support couple with sturdy blacksmith art. In the design world it’s a combination of ‘line’ and ‘texture’.
And further up we go!
The cable car ride follows the funicolare and then there’s an even more queasy journey on a swing-seat to the top. Trust me; it wasn’t as scary as it looks… How else ca you get such an unobstructed view?!
Well, ok, there’s a way; Paragliding! My courageous daughter, brother & cousin decided to ‘fly’ off the top of the hill para-gliding in tandem. I stood back from what looked like the edge of a cliff, as they ran-ran-ran until the wind lifted their sails. The breeze took them up & around, guided on a 45 minute ride!
They said it was super smooth, a bit chilly and breathtakingly beautiful. Equipped with cameras they eventually landed on an old airstrip far down below. I was just happy to see that all the harnesses were well attached!
Always interesting paths:
Who knows how long these pathways have been trampled on!? ‘And why do they seem to look much better than our over-maintained versions? In all the wet weather these paths were still quite safe, even at a steep incline. Note to self; comfortable footwear is of utmost importance.
Another trip up a mountain:
There’s no shortage of mountains! We took a bus up winding thin roads that had sheer drop-offs at the side. Our destination was Valle Verzasca (Verzasca valley) turquoise clear water and stone formations that looked like ancient weathered wood. The Lavertezzo region is known for it’s stone bridges crossing the clear river. In summer it must be so tranquil to lounge in the blue water pools.
These arches of the Ponte dei Salti bridge draws many visitors all year long. After over 400 years they still stand tall and strong. I was a bit nervous as the hand rail height is very low, do not trip as you would tumble off.
As you know I am very fond of stone and rock, and this was the cleanest water I think I have ever seen.
Check out how the rock displays it’s many layers! The marbling of the stone layers was so mesmerizing and had the beauty of art. So much design inspirations can stem from what mother nature showcases for us.
We were amazed at how the small stone dwellings were hugging the mountainsides, appreciating their simple existence. It truly makes you wonder why we have such complicated lives and they do not. Romantic thoughts of living that simple life drifted through my mind as we took the long winding bus back down thousands of feet…
Next Stop; Heidelberg:
Our 4 days in Locarno included much eating and site seeing, not to mention a small impromptu street party. Who would think a very talented saxophone player would just join in the fun!
Our 7 hour train trip to Heidelberg included 2 transfers (Basel & Mannheim) but was quite comfortable. It’s our fault that we travelled with so much weight of luggage.
‘More breathtaking views emerged from the train as it cut through countless tunnels and mountain scapes.
Why is Heidelberg so popular?
It is considered one of the most beautiful cities of Germany. I was born there so it’s my favourite! The old castle on the hill, The Neckar River and old town surrounded by hills is picturesque without being too commercialized. The population has 20% as students to the Heidelberg University.
This is by far the most famous view when researching this quaint city. I chose to stay in the Holländer Hof again this time as the vantage point can’t be beat.
Can you see the bronze Monkey near the tower? There’s quite the folklore that surrounds this statue and had constant photo-ops.
Foot traffic in the streets:
Cobblestone roads that are for foot traffic only offer countless shops and restaurants. The main street; The Hauptstrasse (Hauptstraße, “Main Street”) is almost 2km long. Cafes along the side and various businesses make it a favourite place to be in day or even night.
The massive Heidelberg Castle tours over the hill and houses the Apothecary Museum. I loved looking at all the old specimens. I was quite happy to find quite a few substances that I still use for eco printing!
Again, the views form accessible mountain paths don’t disappoint. I honestly do not understand why we would have left such a beautiful country!
It’s in the details:
Again, I have an eye for details; such old texture on this massive door. The coarse texture seems to resonate with me, perhaps it’s in my DNA. We all have certain things that seem to give us pleasure so taking note of the and recognizing some aspect could work into your creative designs is key.
Even with all the ‘old world’ charm of Locarno there were some things that stood out to me. I remember this study of planes of the face as a key tool to learning to draw. Oh, I will take inspiration from these… perhaps some concrete projects?
You never really know where you will get inspiration… It could be a shape of broken glass or a cloud, the important thing is to allow yourself the opportunity to recognize that there is something that catches your eye. Over time you will start to recognize some commonality to your choices and it will become your style. My suggestion is to not imitate what you are bombarded with these days from all over the world; I know it’s hard to steer clear.
There used to be a time when geography did limit what you could see. Now, that limit is gone which does come with a greater volume and also competition. I hope I’ve given you some insights and you enjoyed your trip with me to Switzerland and Germany!