Our return drive to Milan, Italy, started on the morning of June 11th with a walk across the island bridge to the parking lot to fetch our car. We checked out and drove through Lindau towards the Austria border and the town of Breganz. We made another wrong turn near Feldkirch and had to make a several mile correction to get back on a road to the Swiss border. Oh for a good GPS!
As we were driving south, we knew we were on the edge of the tiny country of Liechtenstein, between eastern Switzerland and Austria. When we saw the signs for Liechtenstein, we left the Swiss highway and drove a dozen miles or so east to its border and into the town of Schaan. We then drove a few miles south to the capital, Vaduz.
The few towns in this small country are bordering the Austrian Alps and the views east were great. We drove to the south side of Vaduz, turned west following the signs to Switzerland, and rejoined E43 to head for Chur and San Bernadino. Switzerland has four official languages, French, German, Italian, and Romansh. Road signs were in German until we went through the San Bernadino tunnel. Then the signs were all in Italian. Everywhere you look, it’s a beautiful view of a mountain, an alpine lake, a quaint village, or a mountain meadow. I have always said that, ounce for ounce, Switzerland is the prettiest country in the world. It is very well run, clean, and expensive. It’s worth it though.
After we got to Bellizona, we were back on the highway south through Lugano and Chiasso to the Italian border. We passed Como and headed for the Malpensa Airport, northwest of Milan. Our destination was the Hilton Garden Inn Airport Hotel. What we didn’t know when we booked it is that it’s several kilometers north of the airport through a dizzying array of roundabouts and confusing road signs. Oh, well, that’s life in the old country. We arrived safely and very tired around 6:30 that evening. It was a very nice hotel with a fine restaurant and bar, which we enjoyed before retiring for the night.
Our flight home on June 12th was at 10:15. We left the hotel at 7:00 to make sure we had plenty of time. Hah! When we stopped at two different gas stations to fill up the tank, the pumps would not accept either my Visa debit card or American Express, only Mastercard. Of course my Mastercard was stolen by the pickpocket in Riomaggiore ten days earlier. So we could not fill the tank before returning the car. When we arrived at fhe airport, we were looking for the sign, Car Hire. We circled the large airport three times before we could spot the tiny sign in a array of large signs containing various Italian phrases. Then the car company charged us an extra $50 for not filling the tank, and would not accept the Visa card, but the American Express card worked here.
By this time it was 8:15, but we were still on time, or so we thought. Malpensa is a big, and difficult airport to traverse. There are 24 ticketing areas, and Delta was the last one south of the main entrance, a very long walk with the luggage. After checking in, we found out the boarding gate was a few blocks north of where we came in. We stopped at a McDonalds to fuel up for the long walk and finally made it to our airplane. Lesson for the day: avoid Milan Malpensa if you can find an convenient alternative.
The flight back was ontime and offered enough good movies to keep you entertained for eight hours plus. When we got to JFK in New York at 12:15, going through customs took an hour and fourty-five minutes, somewhat short of the 2 1/2 hours it can take in the summertime. It was another bus trip to the Delta domestic terminal, which was overcrowded, hot, and noisy. Our connecting flight was scheduled for 6:30, which was a long wait. I tried to get us on an earlier flight, but it was full. So we waited and took pictures of the pigeon which was walking around our waiting area.
We were very happy campers when we finally got off the plane in Minneapolis where Keith was waiting to take us home. It was a really great trip. We saw a lot of new countries and territory that we had not seen on other European trips. Traveling with the OU team, staff, and families, and watching Julia and the team playing volleyball in four different countries was a special treat, not to be missed. Lastly, visiting old friends in Germany is always special. You just don’t know when you will get a chance to see them again.
Cheers and Happy Travels!