I hate looking over the edge of a mountain, but I didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t anything but edge to see!
I braced my feet against the train seat in front of me and tried not to peer out the window–I couldn’t stop myself though–the scene was too spectacular.
If forever could be photographed as a view, this was it. For forty minutes the cogwheel train climbed, twisted, climbed, then twisted some more until we reached the 1704 m summit of Monte Generoso, in Switzerland.
Green grass, sheep, cows, and a few rocks all spread out below me, along with the town of Capolago, somewhere at the bottom of it all.
When I left the train, I was greeted by the mellow, somewhat sad melody of six musicians playing Swiss Alphorns or Alpenhorns.
The musicians wore traditional costumes of long skirts and aprons for the women and knee-length pants with knitted white stockings for the men. White shirts and hats were the order of the day.
I’d read the 1880 story of Heidi by Johanna Spyri many times as a child, and I was beginning to feel like she might pop up around a corner at any minute!
The train up the mountain, however, was just the beginning of the fun!
- The alphorn was traditionally used by those who made their homes in the mountains of Switzerland and elsewhere.
- Alphorn-like instruments have been used to send signals from village to village in the Swiss alps since medieval times.
- The alphorn is carved from a solid piece of spruce, or occasionally pine.
- There are no lateral openings in the alphorn, so its sounds are the natural harmonics of the open pipe instruments.
- Notes of the natural harmonic series are similar, but don’t overlap with notes of the chromatic scale, with a number of different sounds that come between.
- The rail line to the top of Monte Generoso opened in 1890, however the first carriage to use it was pushed by a steam locomotive.
- A cogwheel train is fitted with special wheels or cogs that mesh with rails in the track, so the train can’t roll backwards.
- The maximum grade on the climb to Monte Generoso is 22%.
The train, of course, doesn’t stop right on the summit of the mountain, but at a station beside the restaurant. It leaves that last fifteen-minute-climb to visitors who want the full panoramic 360° view. And what exactly can you see? Well once the mist was completely gone, the Lakes region, the Po Valley right over to the Apennines and the Alpine chain: from Gran Paradiso to Monte Rosa, from the Matterhorn to the Jungfrau and from the St. Gotthard massif right over to the Bernina ranges, and that’s both a mouthful and an eyeful.
Since I can’t begin to explain with words what it looks like from waaaaay up there, I’ve embedded a YouTube video below. And if you think it makes you dizzy (even I can only watch the first minute or so), imagine how I felt on top of it all!
After all the exercise, there was the great promise of a typical Ticino Buffet, with all the local specialties. I could have made a meal on the appetizers alone, but there was still lots to come once I’d sampled some of everything. The venison main dish, jugged venison stew whisked with fondant, was particularly tasty. Jugged, I learned, was a method of slow cooking that really allowed the flavors to mix–and while I’d never eaten anything sweet with venison before, I found it a delicious mix of flavors.
Here’s a video I’ve put together of photos of the buffet and lunch while I read the entire menu!
The train ride down the mountain was just as exciting as the one up had been, so there wasn’t an opportunity to nap after the enormous lunch I’d eaten. Once we reached Capolago I was on to more adventures for the rest of the day.
My morning adventure, though, made #9 on my 2012 Staycation of places I’ve visited for a few reasons. The top of Monte Generoso was my first view of the Alps from a summit–and it was, without doubt, a memorable sight. The cogwheel train made me feel much more comfortable clinging to the side of the mountain than I’d expected, so even a fear of heights didn’t prevent me from experiencing the full view along the way. And finally, I love delicious food and the buffet was an amazing example of some excellent Swiss specialties.
- Monte Generoso – http://www.montegeneroso.ch/en/13/home.aspx
- Capalogo – http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/infra.cfm?rkey=2081