A famous Persian poet once said (am not sure as to what place he was referring to; “if there was a paradise on earth,it is here”,and I have often wondered what kind of place would qualify for such a description?
I think I have just visited it.
I have just come back after four days in Locarno,this characterful town sits on the broad sweeping curve of a bay in the lake,as it is the on the Italian border of the Switzerland it is full of pizzerias and quaint little eating places,overlooking subtropical gardens. In the warm evenings as we wandered around choosing the best place to eat,we will be overwhelmed by the fragrance of Jasmine and Olander,wafting with the mountain breeze,as the town is surrounded by peaks of various size, almost bluish grey with the high cloud hanging over them.
The cobbled streets of the old town lined with Renaissance facades are over run with tourist and the rest of the population too,not once though we came across any drunks, hoards of young people, on Saturday evening ,dressed up and laughing and having fun,but not being drunk or being disorderly.
The next day after arriving we took a trip on Lake Maggiore. a delightful round trip,taking us there by train and coming back by boat, a six hour round trip. Amazing value too, as we were given a Swiss pass which included all the journeys,including wonderful train journey from the airport to Locarno. The railway line meanders through high and low mountain passes, in the distant there are ice covered peaks and then simply dense greenery, layers and layers of pine trees. Huge waterfalls, falling from very high and glistening in the sun,it was a mesmerising sight. I sat simply mesmerised, I have never seen so much beauty in one go .
But therte was more to come. We went to the various islands,nestling in the bluish grey water of the lake. The lake is surrounded by the mountains and their reflection makes it look like it is an extension of those majestic peaks.
We went to the wonderful island of Brissago.
In the 19th century they were the property of an Anglo-Irishman of the St. Leger family, Richard Fleming, who was married to a Russian-born lady, Antonietta, who developed the gardens at great expense. After the death of her husband the writer James Joyce visited the island and stayed at her house. They travelled the world collecting plants and creating these most wonderful gardens. The poor lady died in poverty , but what a legacy to leave. It is true that gardeners are very selfless people, what they do is for posterity,their labours are enjoyed for generations.
It is amazing,from the most unusual sapphire blues to the exotic Australian bottle brush, the planting takes your breath away.
The plants are lush and bursting with bird song, the water lapping at the bottom of these wonderful trees and the lapping of waves, I wanted to die and remain there!
Apart from the garden there were other very impressive things.
The trains are so silent, prompt clean and comfortable. The platforms are very easy to change,and the steps to the train come down parallel to the platform, no cries of “mind the gap” , a lot of our trains are dangerously badly aligned to the surface,and some trains are longer than the platforms, so one has to change carriage to alight there.
One pass covers all the transport,the train,boats,local buses and even the cable car . As I sat this morning on Reading station ,open to the wind and heat,I was thinking of Zurich Central station, the temperature yesterday there was 109F, but the station was fully air conditioned and pleasant. The staff are very well informed and helpful. When I was going, I got to Reading and asked a railway employ about the platform for the train to Guilford, he mumbled something and walked away. The station has been undergoing renovations for sometimes, so it is a maze of various escalators, building work and stairs. It took me sometimes to find the right platform. In Switzerland ,the platforms and times were printed on our tickets,you simply turned up at time there and found your train waithing.
Some underground stations,even Paddington doesn’t have escalator or lift if you come via the under round, you carry luggage and yourself ,huffing and puffing up the long set of ancient stairs.
And most amazing was the feeling of security and good will, not once did we feel threatened or worried roaming in the town, hordes of youngsters enjoying open air singing and concerts,not intoxicated or throwing up,but bright, happy and at ease with themselves and others.
So what has gone wrong with us?
Oh by the way the weather was brilliant oo, sunny and warm,but a very cool and pleasant breeze in the evenings.