Getting to Cinque Terre
We woke up unwillingly at about 6am. We showered and ate breakfast at the hotel again. We grabbed our stuff after breakfast and checked out of the hotel. We walked a few minutes to the bus station a couple blocks over, and waited. There were several buses already there, but none of them were the one we needed, which was a Flixbus. When one eventually arrived, everyone crowded over to it, and they all turned away at the door. Before we could get there, a woman asked us where we were headed, and then informed us it was not the bus we wanted. Okay then. We waited a while longer while chatting with the woman who introduced herself as Soraya. One minute before the scheduled takeoff, another Flixbus rolled in. The right one. So we piled all our gear in and hopped in line. Just before we got on, a woman threw a water bottle at a man she seemed to be there with, and started shouting at him in French. Luckily for us, they both decided to get on and sit right behind us. Soraya had grabbed a seat across the aisle from us and informed us that the man of the fighting couple had forgotten his passport and the woman of the duo was very angry about it and was not being very nice to him.
The bus finally rolled out of the station at 0800. It was due to leave at 0745. We had been told at the bus stop that these buses were notoriously late and that Italians “like to move at their own pace.” So we figured a departure 15 minutes later than expected was satisfactory for us. Rob fell asleep shortly into the bus adventure. While I probably also could have slept I forced myself to stay awake as I was enamored with the scenery. We travelled out of Geneva through the Swiss countryside and into France, winding our way through the towering French Alps. We drove right next to Mont Blanc which is the tallest mountain in Western Europe. The sheer size of these mountains was mind boggling and most still had piles of snow on the peaks. The lady at the chocolate shop yesterday said that there is skiing year round in the French Alps.
We started to make switch backs up the side of the mountain and entered Tunnel du Mont Blanc. So I guess we drove through the mountain. We exited the darkness 9 minutes later, travelling approximately 30mph. Do the math, it was long. At the tunnel exit, we stopped for Italian customs. Two polizei entered the bus and collected all our passports, then left. We were mildly uncomfortable, but they were carrying firearms, so we weren’t about to make a scene about it. Soraya shared the story of her ordeals getting her new passport which sounded exceedingly complicated. She was much more anxious about watching her passport leave her possession, understandably. Eventually, the officers returned and handed back all the passports, one by one. We were back underway shortly thereafter. Side note – the man without a passport presented a card of some sorts, I presume another ID. This must have been satisfactory for the border officers because he was not thrown off the bus.
The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. We made a few stops along the way and fell increasingly behind schedule. We finally reached our destination in Milan, Lampugnano, and disembarked. Soraya was going the same way as us for a while longer, so she graciously lead the way since we had no idea what we were doing. We got subway tickets and got onto the platform as the doors of our train were closing. We stepped into the train just as the doors closed. Perfect. From there, we went to Cardona to switch lines. We said a very quick goodbye and thank you very much to our new friend Soraya, and bolted out the door. We found the next train we needed, which was headed to Milano Centrale. At the central station, we hopped on a longer-distance train which would take us to Levanto. We got off in Levanto to make another transfer onto the last train, which took us to Corniglia. Once we got into Corniglia, we just had a short hike up the longest staircase ever (perhaps – I also thought the Indian Nose hike in Guatemala was the longest staircase ever). At the top of the stairs, it was really unclear which way we had to go. Mandy asked at the pharmacy, but they couldn’t offer much help. We walked into Corniglia proper in search of tourist info. Unable to find any, we searched instead for the elusive “blue path”. We didn’t find the blue path, but we did find one with red and white blazes that appeared to go to where we wanted to be, according to maps Mandy downloaded for offline use. So we located the trailhead and started walking. The trail follows the coastline, more or less and it was approaching sunset, so the views were stunning. We had flashbacks to hiking in Guatemala although the terrain was somewhat different. The sun went down behind the mountain ahead of us, and we plodded on through the light of dusk. When we couldn’t go even one more step without dying (literally), we realized that we had actually overshot our destination by about 100 feet. Suddenly we had the energy to make it the last little bit, with the house in sight.
We arrived just as the host, Paolo, was walking up the path to meet us. We greeted him and the couple of other guests, and tossed our bags down. After a very brief orientation, we took a quick shower and changed out of our sweaty hiking clothes. Then we breathed a sigh, and began to actually relax. Holy crap, the views. So amazing here. The AirBnB Mandy found is a tiny bedroom built into the side of a mountain. It opens up to a small yard, just big enough for a table and a few chairs. In front of the yard, the land falls off sharply down to the Mediterranean Sea. We have a completely unobstructed view west out over the water. We watched the sun dip down into the water in a blaze of red while we chatted with our neighbors for the night, Jason and Liana. We went down a flight of stairs to the restaurant, to find that it was closed, so we opted for more German trail mix and Swiss chocolate for dinner.
On to Switzerland
We woke up at precisely 8-8:30ish. We got out of bed when we were fully ready. Showered. Packed. Today we opted to give the restaurant in the base of the hotel a shot for breakfast. There’s a daily breakfast buffet that’s rather pricey, but heavily discounted for guests of the hotel. It offered a lot of options; more than puff pastry variations that are found at most other breakfast bakeries near here. We tried fruit salad, “omelet” (quiche is more accurate), croissant, bacon, and yogurt. All of it was quite good, though the bacon was a little floppier than we both like. The omelet was packed with all sorts of things; peppers, bacon, brats, and cheese. The yogurt was actually a parfait with dried fruits and nuts and granola. This was probably the most filling breakfast we’ve found, and maybe the cheapest, too!
After breakfast, we had time to walk down the street to a bakery we spotted the day before. Here we bought a couple of sandwiches for lunch since we have a long travel day ahead. On the walk back to the hotel, we also grabbed a bag of trail mix at what appeared to be a health food store. We grabbed our stuff from the room and checked out, then made our way to the bus stop. We were waiting on the 205 because the sign said Baden-Baden Bahnhof. About 3 minutes before the bus was due, Mandy suggested we go across the street to check the map. The map showed that bus line 244 also has a stop called Bahnhof, and the two bus lines are nowhere near each other. With no idea how to confirm which train station we needed to get to, we made a snap decision to stick with the 205 and hope for the best. It was set to arrive before the 244, so we hustled back across the street just in time, and asked the driver if his bus would take us to the station we needed to be at. We had no idea if he could understand where we needed to be, but he said we were on the right bus. Hardly comforting. We rode nervously all the way to the last stop, where suddenly everything looked familiar. Nailed it. We’ve been at this train station before, when we came in to Baden-Baden, and it’s the same station we needed to get back out again. Since we had about an hour to kill before the train was set to leave, we grabbed an iced coffee and a caramel macchiato at Coffee Fellows. They were both really good. I think the coffee may have even been cold-brewed; it didn’t have the typical bitterness of a hot coffee.
Around noon we started to gather our bags and make our way to platform (gleis) 4 to take the train to Basel SBB. We boarded the train and found two seats together, facing in the direction of our travel I prefer this orientation for long trips. There is no WiFi on this train but we decided to use the time to reminisce about our time in Baden-Baden while typing this blog draft for you in Microsoft Word. Rob ate his schnitzel sandwich for lunch, hardly 5 minutes into the train ride. He is a growing boy and often hungry. We enjoyed watching the scenery fly by our windows. As we had gotten into Baden-Baden well after dark we didn’t get to see much of the landscape on the way in. This region of the country is spattered with foothills of the Alps so it is very scenic to watch the villages among the rolling hills pass by out our train windows.
We had booked this train route to build in some longer connection times, thanks to our experience in getting from Ingolstadt to Baden-Baden in the most convoluted way. Our first stop was in Basel, Switzerland and we had about 40 minutes here before the next train. We sat outside and enjoyed the warmer weather than we had had in our previous days. Before long, we boarded our next train and enjoyed the short 30 minute ride to Olten. Here we had a 45 minute break between trains. We decided to venture away from the train station just a bit to get a couple pictures of the nearby river. This was kept short as we did not want to miss any connections on this trip. The next leg of the trip was the longest at around 2 hours. Our plan was to try to get a seat on the restaurant car of the train so that we could enjoy a beer with the scenery. When the train arrived it already had quite a few passengers and the restaurant cabin was full. We made our way through the car to the second class car where we found two seats together and promptly claimed them. The rest of the journey was uneventful. We glided smoothly down the tracks past beautiful Swiss countryside, farms, large lakes, and views of mountains off in the distance. We finally arrived in Geneva around 5:45 pm and were happy to see that our hotel was across the street from the train station.
We checked into our hotel and promptly dropped off our luggage so that we could go explore and find some dinner. We decided on a restaurant that was close to our hotel and offered a mixture of Italian and Swiss specialties. I decided on the chicken cordon bleu. I had the tagliatelle porcini. We decided to split a bottle of white wine which was made here in Switzerland. Rob passed all of the etiquette tests when the server brought the bottle to the table and poured our glasses. After our lovely dinner we ended with a dessert of chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream. It was starting to get chilly as the evening progressed so we retired to our hotel to watch a movie before falling asleep. Yes, I stayed awake through the entire movie!
"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
- Bilbo Baggins
We're just an adventure-loving couple with a puppy looking to share our stories with the world.