Chur to Como then back to Matilda at Porto Montenegro and a lot of work — with some fun too!
I always know when we’ve been bouncing around and up to too much because I have to start these weekly reflections by going back to last weeks entry to work out where we were!
Like really? We were in Chur only 7 days ago! It feels like a month…
Chur. Pronounced something like a cross between Whore and Her, it’s a more interesting town than it first appeared to us. It turns out to be one of the oldest medieval cities in Switzerland, the site of the first Christian presence north of the alps and is on the far upper part of the Rhine River.
We walked around the town and enjoyed seeing the painted buildings (which reminded us of Bavaria, but not quite as heavily done), there was a brass band playing music and we found some decent coffee! Not bad for a morning.
The one miscalculation on our part was spending a day in Switzerland on a Sunday. At least in Chur, and I presume much of the rest of Switzerland EVERYTHING is closed. Which is fine, I love that people have a weekend off, but it did make the town center feel somewhat abandoned. Even a lot of the restaurants were shut on Sunday night. Which was probably a good thing — we couldn’t believe the prices of the meals.
Perhaps it’s because we’ve been bumming around the Balkans for the last two years, but we have a mental image of how much things cost. Here at Tivat, a VERY good curry main dish is about €9. We ate out at a Thai restaurant in Chur and the main dishes were €25 each. That’s around AUD$40/USD$26 each. We tried not to eat too much or we’d end up broke!
One thing that was open on Sunday in Chur was the local movie cinema, so we watched The Whale which we both enjoyed. As Switzerland is very multi-lingual, we watched it in English, with both German and French sub-titles shown on the screen.
The other surprising element to Chur was that it’s very proudly the birthplace of H.R. Giger — the Swiss Artist who blended human and machine forms into nightmarish “bio-mechanical” fantasies. Most famously perhaps, he designed the Alien for the eponymous movie.
While wandering the streets of Chur, you’d stumble across a statue in a garden that was out of place, a gallery featuring bio-mechanical sculptures or outside his birthplace, one of the old water fountains with a particularly interesting pattern on the base under the water.
On Monday we headed back to the Bernina Express, which is the same train we caught up with a slight difference. If you search online and view the website, they promote the “Express” which is the tourist version of the train. It runs once a day. But there is also the local version — which is exactly the same train line, similar trains, but stops at more stations. We caught the local train up, this time we were going back on the panoramic tourist express.
I don’t think it really matters which one you take. The local train let’s you hop on and off at various stations which means you could make a day of travelling up through the Alps and seeing the glaciers while the tourist version has bigger panoramic windows (although they don’t open like on the local train), and is a little faster as it doesn’t stop as much.
The trip back down the Alps was just as enjoyable as the trip up. It was a nice feeling just sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the scenery instead of trying to capture as many photos as I did on the way up. If you get the chance, we definitely recommend this as a great train journey to enjoy.
Back in Italy, we rushed off the express straight to the platform for the train back towards Milan. We bought a ticket and hopped on, pleased we’d made the connection in time. Once the train left we heard a loud conversation in the next carriage. The conductor was loudly harassing a tourist for not validating their ticket. We looked at each other and realised we hadn’t validated ours either!
When the conductor arrived, she asked for the tickets and we immediately apologised “Sorry, we didn’t know we had to validate them.”
“But why not! It’s written on the ticket.”
Sure enough, it was written on the ticket. In writing so small it may as well be (with apologies to Douglas Adams) “on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”
We received nothing more than an animated Italian scolding which in some ways was worth the price as an experience anyway and were then forced to buy a ticket on the train, which cost roughly 1.5 times what we originally paid. To be fair to her, once the scolding was out of the way she then patiently explained the process for the future, warned us it could have cost €250 as a fine and then explained how we could get a refund on the unvalidated ticket. All in all, it cost us around €10 euros additional for the experience.
Although we were on the train to Milan, it wasn’t our final destination. We hopped off at Varenna on the shores of Lake Como to catch the ferry down to Como (the town).
We missed the ferry connection (it was sold out) so had an hour and half to enjoy Varenna which turned out to be a nice experience. Pizza for lunch, Italian gelato and a lovely walk along the board walk gawking at the mansions lining the shore. It’s such an iconic look — it ‘feels’ Italian. The sort of scenery it’s hard to imaging anywhere else. The ferry took just over an hour and allowed us to see even more mansions lining the lake before landing in Como.
Como (and Lake Como) have been the ‘playground’ for the rich and famous since Roman times when the first recorded villas were built along its shores. The town centre itself is still partially surrounded on two sides by the old medieval wall and the centre is full of beautiful buildings and lots of shops to explore. We loved our brief stop over and had a wonderful time walking around and soaking up the atmosphere.
If there was one complaint it’s that the air quality is terrible. This seems to be a common problem, while we were there it was very brown in the sky everywhere which really detracted from the sights. Lombardy (which includes Milan and Como) is the industrial powerhouse of Italy and one of the richest regions in Europe, but all that production seems to also come at a cost.
And just like that, the brief escape was over. Wednesday morning it was back on to the train and off to the airport. A quick flight to Podgorica and then into Rada the Lada to drive back to Tivat and Porto Montenegro. Overall, it was a fun holiday. It was the perfect length of time away and we were ready and recharged to start tackling those bigger boat jobs.
The rest of the week has been go, go, go when it comes to working on Matilda. We finished polishing the stainless for the biminis which meant that we could put those back up. Karina washed them all on the docks and then waterproofed all the covers. We put the press studs back so that we could get the cushions out of the front cabin.
The doors came off the cupboards on the fly bridge and I stripped off all the hardware, we soaked that in acetone to remove all the old varnish on the stainless and then I sanded them back. We’re up to two coats of varnish now and another 3–4 to go, especially on the sun facing sides.
Our life raft was returned after its service, the fire extinguishers and a new sea worthy certificate for those along with a replacement for the one that had failed.
Today, instead of our usual Sunday ‘no work’ policy, we’ll continue with the varnishing and sanding — we are on a roll and things are tangibly coming together and Matilda is well on the way to being ready to go.
Despite all the work (which our stiff and sore muscles can attest to) we still found some time to catch up with friends. There’s been the usual social activies like a jam session one evening with Ollie and Mike (a recent addition to the marina who plays a Mandolin), an ice cream run and a farewell party on Lickety, the first of the boats in the marina to ‘officially’ set off to start the season.
Friday I drove towards Podgorica with Judy and Steve from Fair Isle to go go karting for a few rounds before I had to head back to Matilda and more boat jobs, while on Saturday Karina went on a winery tour organised by the marina. By all accounts it was a lot of fun and she got to enjoy the company and the tales of one of the super yacht crews who were out to party (apparently they had already been drinking all night and were still drinking during the winery tour, then were dropped off at Kotor afterwards to continue drinking). She was invited aboard for a tour, something we will try to make happen, although she also said they were so drunk you couldn’t really be sure if they meant it or not.
Plans have been put in motion to sell Rada, so next weekend we should be somewhere between here and Bulgaria as we have a meeting to hand the car over to the person who is going to sell it for us on Monday week. Before then we hope to finish the varnishing and start the polishing. We’re still waiting on news on the stainless for the passarelle (it’s been completed, but we need an appointment to get it fitted) and over all there’s lots of jobs to keep us amused.
Until next time,
Tim & Karina
PS Boat jobs are thirsty work! If you’d like to make sure we stay caffeinated, https://buymeacoffee.com/matildatheboat it’s always appreciated.