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My Summer 2010 Tour
ARRIVAL IN MILAN, July 20, 2010
I arrived at Milan Malpensa Airport by Turkish Airline Airbus 320-200.Being cheap, it was fully packed and congested. Nevertheless, the staff did their best to keep the passengers in an adequate state of comfort. Immigration formalities were brief and I was out of the terminal in about 20 minutes.
Milan City was 48 km away. Fortunately, there was a very efficient train, Malpensa Express. I purchased the ticket paying Euro 11 and boarded the train which drop me at Cadorna Station in about 29 minutes. From here I walked a little further to catch the Metro for Milan Central (Stazione di Milano Centrale ).
There are many slips between the cup and lips. While I was stepping into the metro, someone caught my legs and tried to pull me out. In the process, I fell inside while my passport, tickets and credit card slipped on the floor. In a moment, the culprit was gone. I immediately collected my belongings and then checked my pockets. Thank God, there was no material loss except that a gift pack of Turkish Airline was snatched away by the rascal. WELCOME TO ITALY.
Using metro, I went to Central Station and looked outside for Tram No.5. With some guidance, I found it out and while boarding it showed the hotel card to the Tram Operator. He nodded and I took a seat with a sigh of relief. The Ornato Hotel was far away in the Northern Zone of Milan. At one point, the operator stopped the tram and pointed towards the hotel. I thanked him and moved towards reception area of the hotel. The moment I got int, someone greeted me with right pronunciation of my name as “Welcome Hafeez Malik”. Later, I learned that he was an Algerian Muslim and my name was a common name in his country as in Arab World.
Hotel Ornato was a three-star, rent for single room with bath and breakfast was Euro 40 per night.
I had a comfortable sleep at night. After having nice breakfast, I braced myself for daylong walk in the city.
Fearing pick-pocketing, I deposited all my valuables with the hotel. (But it is not a fool-proof as I had sustained a loss in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in 2009. Like there is no such thing as free lunch, there is no such thing as an absolute safety.)
First I went to the Central Station to secure a seat for Lucerne for 23-July-10. The second class ticket cost me Euro 63. Surprisingly, the lady at the ticket counter did not accept credit card and was insisting all ticket seekers on payment in cash. Maybe she was lethargic or eager to improve cash-inflows by avoiding commission of the credit card companies.
Second, I weaved through the streets and with a tram ride ended up near Duomo Church which was no less than Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris. Its stained glass work was awesome. It was full of tourists who were clicking their cameras despite written warning of ‘No Photography”. It is said to be second largest after the Cathedral of Seville is Sothern Spain. It is entirely made of marble, with immense statues, arches and pillars.
Milan down-town has many ancient places and interesting buildings and has rightly been described as the city of glamour. There were many museums in particular the Santa Maria delle Grazie which had very rare paintings including the “Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci
Near to Duomu Church was Galleria Vitoria Emmanuelle, an elegant covered shopping arcade. It was amazing to see exorbitant price tags for things of daily use like shoes, shirt or ties.
I love trams in Milan, They rattled though the city and served most tourist spots and main station. One Euro ticket was valid for 75 minutes without any limit.
Besides, food was another of Milan’s joy as large varieties of dishes were available even African, Korean Malaysian and Arabic. I particularly enjoyed Döner kebab grilled by Turk immigrants.
July 24, 2010
I got 11:30 train for Lucerne, a city in the north-central Switzerland. The train snaked by the Mount Pilatus, Swiss Alps and Lake Lucerne.
I had booked a room in Hotel Sonnerbeg located at the top of a hill. I had three options to go there: (i) hire a taxi coughing Euro 30. (ii) take a bus from the city centre which would drop me 600 meters before the hotel uphill, and (iii) go by bus upto Kriens then take a funicular rail reaching near about the hotel. The last suited and with little effort, I found a bus and the base of the rail at Kriens Busschleife. In about 45 minutes, I was checking in the hotel. Room rent was 60 Swiss Francs (CHF) or equivalent to US $52 per day.
While the location was ideal overlooking Lucerne City flanked by snow-capped mountains and dense jungle, it suited only to those who had their own transport. Moreover, its restaurant was very expensive and would have put a great dent in my budget. So I asked for a liter of milk which the hotel supplied me free of cost. When an enormous quantity of pure Swiss milk went down my throat, I felt myself “coming out of my skin”. In order to suppress the matter, I thought of going downhill two to three times. But good sense prevailed upon me and soon the urge subsided.
I got up early next morning. The sky was clear. Being at a height, I could see far off places, mountains, rivers and forests. The air was very refreshing and I inhaled as much quantity as I could store in my lungs.
After having a super breakfast, I started walking down the hill. Though after about 15 minutes walk, I could catch a bus, I decided to go to the water front on foot. This was a tall order and took two and half hours.
The water front was hemming with activities. A wooden bridge was awesome sight. It was covered and was considered to be one of the oldest of its kind in Europe. Another land mark was Museggmaur, a wall preserved in its original well-fortified state. I walked by the wall which provided an opportunity to see the turbines on the Reuss River and some old gates. Many cruises were being offered by paddlewheel steamers and motor vessels.
After a while, I returned and had a delicious lunch at a place near the railway station. In the afternoon, I resumed the walk, this time to Weinmarkt square which was car-free area of the town. It was very impressive to see historic houses decorated with frescoes lining the picturesque town.
Meanwhile, I purchased a ticket for returning tomorrow for CHF 144 or US$ 134 to Italy for its unique city of Venice.