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Monday, July 20, 2009

Leukerbad Thermal Spa, Leukerbad, Switzerland

One of the outdoor natural thermal spa pools at Leukerbad.

There's only one thing to do after a day of eating nothing but bread. (See previous post in which Giuseppe and I eat only bread for one day.) The next day must be Una Giornata dell'Acqua e della Frutta, a day of fruit and water. We think you'll agree though, we do fruit and water very well.

So, for the water, we chose the spa at Leukerbad. Leukerbad is a mountain town in the Swiss Alps, reached by driving two hours north from Stresa, crossing over the Sempione (Simplon) Pass, and winding over and under the Alps through some of the most spectacular scenery I've ever seen. Leukerbad has the wonderful fortune of receiving natural hot waters from underground, and a thermal paradise has been constructed over the waters. For a fee, one gets to spend the day floating between 10 different hot pools. There's a large one indoors, a tunnel connects it with the outside. Outside, free-form pools have various corners with fun things to try. High-pressure jets, bubbling baths, and soft showers.

One favorite for us was a 'treatment' bath. One walked first through a small pool of extremely hot water, almost too hot to bear. This was untreated, unfiltered water from the natural springs, from 600 meters below the earth, and 40 years old. The water was only high enough to reach one's calves. After barely surviving this short walk one crosses over to a same-sized pool of ice-cold, arctic temperature water. The lower portion of my legs felt strange.. almost burning in a way, perhaps some natural mineral in the waters... non lo so, I don't know. The shock of the frigid water was, well, shocking. Some distance before the end of the path my lower legs were almost too numb to move any longer, and with difficulty I pulled myself along with my hands on the guardrail. We think that water any higher than calf-high for this little trial may indeed be quite dangerous, hence the shallow depth. But the benefits to one's circulation are supposed to be enormous.

The treatment bath at Leukerbad. Much more painful than it looks here.

The admission ticket allowed us three hours to play; enough time for us, as we had the drive back through the Alps to Stresa. And after changing back into our clothes in the quite-strange-to-me unisex changing rooms, we drove back. Luckily, I was the passenger, as I was much too relaxed to drive.

That was the water part of our day. How about the fruit? For fruit, we left Stresa in the morning with no plan, no food in mind, but serendipity led us, as often happens, to the perfect solution. In the valley in Switzerland, the one reached on the western side of the city of Brig, we drove right into the heart of Walliser apricot season. Albicocca. Every few meters there was another roadside stand, we randomly chose one to stop at. A few minutes later we had a basket of apricots, a large bottle of apricot nectar, and a jar of apricot jam. A day's supply of apricots, to be sure. The fruits were larger than I am accustomed to, with more fruit and more juice. They were, in a word, perfect. As was the entire day. Perfettissimo. On a scale of 1 to 10, this one was a 12.

Albicocce at the stand in Switzerland. We bought one of those baskets, and ate every last albicocca in it during the day.

Fruit stands like this one lined the roads for several kilometers.
I didn't buy any, but look at this beautiful selection of apricot and other fruit grappas. La prossima volta... next time...

Here's Leukerbad's main website again. As you can see, this is definitely a doable day trip from Stresa. We left Stresa at 11:00 am and returned shortly after 6:00 pm. It would be possible to do even more on this day trip than we did: www.leukerbad.ch

If you'd like to really see what's going on at Leukerbad, here's a link to some real-time Web cams: http://www.leukerbad.ch/en/webcam.cfm

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