The Return Home, Part I
Saturday, July 3
Bound for Zurich, we had a very simple day ahead of us. Get up, put gas in the car, and drive to Zurich. We had the whole day, so we could stop and smell the Swiss roses, if there were any, along the way.
It was a great day for driving, too. More blue sky and warm weather again today, meaning that every single day of the vacation portion of our trip except for the first day had been pretty much perfect weather.
After a tiny bit of grocery shopping and tanking up the car, we headed up the Val Venosta, admiring the pleasant pastoral views of alpine farms with mountains beyond. We stopped in the neat historic walled-town of Glurns, an almost-entirely German-feeling (and speaking) place. We wandered around the old walls and up and down a few streets, and visited a nice church just outside the city walls.
Continuing on from Glurns, we turned up onto the SS41 for the drive into Switzerland only about 15 kilometres beyond. From there, we followed Swiss highway 28 up the Val Mustair to the Ofenpass, a beautiful 2150m / 7000-foot pass. Highway 28 then wound back down into the Engadin Valley, passing through a section of the Swiss National Park. We then climbed another excellent mountain road up another, higher point: the Fluelapass. At nearly 250m / 750feet higher than the Ofenpass, the Fluelapass was a more barren, arctic-like kind of place. We stopped at the height of land next to an inn complex and next to a sea of sport motorcyclists, and had a quiet picnic lunch on the shores of a frigid lake next to the pass. There were little ice-floes and banks of snow on the far side of the lake.
The road down the far side of the Fluelapass offered more twisty-road fun, leading us down to the relative lowlands of the Landwasser valley and the city of Davos. Despite this lower elevation, Davos is considered the highest 'city' in Europe, at 1560m / 5100+ feet above sea level.
We continued following route 28 down the Landwasser valley (now with heavily forested slopes on either side) until it ended abruptly at the large, flat-bottomed Rhine Valley. More mostly-flat valley driving along good Swiss Autobahn brought us past the scenic Walensee, then out of the mountains and into the area around the Zurichsee. We arrived in the Zurich area itself late afternoon, and checked into our hotel (the Novotel Zurich Airport). Nice place, but quite expensive (and I'm fairly sure our relatively reasonable rates would have been completely unavailable had we just shown up at the front desk without a reservation). We even had to pay extra for parking. Good air conditioning, though.
We passed the evening by going for a driving tour of downtown Zurich (a festival of some sort was ongoing next to the lake, so we weren't able to drive in some places), filling up the car with gas (as required by the rental car company), and returning to our room to watch Spain beat Paraguay in the FIFA world cup quarterfinals. We carefully packed all of our luggage (literally to the brim, in Pu's case), and turned in for the night.