"" Writer's Wanderings: 18 Days Through Europe in an Audi - Meilen, Switzerland

Thursday, October 14, 2010

18 Days Through Europe in an Audi - Meilen, Switzerland

[Summer, 2004]

Leaving Belgirate we kept Lake Maggiore on our left this time and circled around it to head north into Switzerland. All was fine until we hit another small town that seemed to have more cars than than people. When some places began to look familiar, we knew we were driving in a circle.

"Stop at a hotel," I said. "They'll probably speak English."

"No, no," came the male reply. "We'll find someone at the gas station."

Well, this time they did. A tall Italian man preceded our two guys out of the gas station and jumped into his car. Bob and Dick jumped into the front seat and said, "Follow that car!" The Italian's car pealed out onto the street and we screamed right after him. The guys told us that he spoke English, was headed for the border and offered to lead the way.

We followed him out of town and onto some back country roads. Polly and I began to look at each other with the suspicious minds of the females we are.

"Are you sure this guy is going to the border?" we asked. Laughter from the front seat did not put us at ease.

"Are you sure he's Italian? You know there are some people who would love to get their hands on four unsuspecting Americans." More laughter from the front seat.

Farms and fields and forests whizzed by as the road seemed to narrow even more. Suddenly we came out of the woods and onto a highway with the border crossing obviously in front of us. Heart rates slowed as we approached the Swiss border. The Italian went to the first booth and we took the second. The guard looked at our passports and reminded us that we needed to purchase a driving permit for the car in order to drive in Switzerland. He waved us through and we parked to stretch our legs and purchase our permit.

While Bob and Dick were in the license bureau, Polly and I noticed the Italian still talking to the guard at the border. They had not let him through yet. Those suspicious little minds of ours began to work again. When the guys returned and we pointed out that our "friend" was still waiting to get through. They looked in his direction and he gave a little salute in return.

"Quick, get in the car." Dick said between his teeth that were clenched in a smile.

"We're out of here." Bob echoed.

We have no idea why he was still waiting as we pulled away. I don't think we want to know.

Once in Switzerland navigating became a cinch with wonderfully clear road signs that matched the information we had on our maps. We headed for Lake Zurich and the winery of some friends we had met on a dive trip to Papua New Guinea.

As we waited for a ferry ride across the lake, we could see the acres of vineyards along the hillside across from us. The grapes are provided perfect growing conditions along the shore of the lake. The ferry deposited us in Meilen, a quaint little town with a few small wineries. We found a parking place and had lunch at a little cafe next to the water before we set off to find the winery of Herman Schwarzenbach. Luckily our friends were there since we had forgotten to bring their email address with us and had not warned them we were coming.

They live just above the wine cellars in a home that has been passed down through generations and is about 200 years old. On our personal tour, we were intrigued by the beautiful carvings on some of the large wooden wine barrels. There was no processing at the time but Celeste explained the stages of bringing in the grape harvest all the way to selling the bottled vintage. We enjoyed a taste of their product in their beautiful garden along the lake and relived some of the highlights of our dive trip in PNG before continuing on to Liechtenstein.

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