Perhaps the country I have been most excited about visiting. Mountains, scenery, nice people and chocolate. James also has shared my excitement and it’s long been listed as his favourite country.
Our entry was a little hectic as all of a sudden we arrived in Liechtenstein meaning we exited the Schengen area and had to pass through a customs of sorts. But before we had time to worry about Chelle’s visa, we’d paid a hefty fee for use of the Swiss roads and were through. Headed for Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein basically to tick off another country but also a useful stop for Chelle’s birthday present as it happened!
It was raining pretty hard but we found an awesome free camping spot to spend the night above one of the many lakes. Big ‘No Campervan’ sign but the carpark was empty so we figured we’d be fine. The clouds even cleared and the sun popped out for an hour or so
Next morning more rain so we drove straight to a big waterpark near Zurich that I’d promised the kids we’d go to for ages. As it happened, despite allegedly being ‘The biggest undercover waterpark in Europe’, it was quite tired and only 3 of the 12 waterslides were working. However they gave us a 40% discount as compensation which was fair enough. needless to say we all had a great time!
We really didn’t have any idea of where to go next so, after a bit of dithering and back and forth we chose to head west in the general direction of Lake Geneva and ended up in a little village called St Ursanne close to the French border. It fact it felt way more like France than Switzerland – it was super quiet with some nice old buildings, a river and an old cave where the monk who founded the village used to live.
Unusually we found a perfect place to wildcamp pretty quickly. A quiet spot round the back of some big buildings aith some perfectly level tarmac to park up on.
Was only when 7:30am came around and scores of kids were running about right outside our windows did we realise we’d actually parked up in a school playground. Ooops! Luckily the weather saved us and an outbreak of rain sent them all scurrying back in.
I should add that the night before we had a visit from a very friendly local – a ginger cat, we named Mickey. He sauntered into the van, sat on all our knees and came literally racing back to us the next morning too. Nice to have a cat in the house again for a few hours.
We skipped town before morning break and headed westwards once more. Again there was some hesitation about where to go but on the way we had a rainy but invigorating 90 minute walk around a lake in the countryside. Also bumped into a horse show which we checked out over lunch (our van fitted neatly in amongst all the horse floats and caravans!).
Needing water and toilet emptying, we tracked down an aire in a little village which was a section of carpark for the local sports centre. Wouldn’t normally be the sort of environment we’d go for but actually it was a fantastic spot. Overlooking meadows and hills, free water, free electricity and even a spotlessly clean toilet. To complete the package there was even a BBQ so we cooked up some burgers for dinner. Safely say this was the best aire we’ve stayed at let alone one that was free.
Next morning we tracked down (at the second attempt) our first geocache on our own and James & Abbie swapped a few trinkets.
Next stop was Lake Geneva where we decided to grab lunch somewhere. We parked in the bus parking (as we often do… I think having the sticker ‘School on Board’ helps us get away with it more easily) and grabbed a very expensive bite to eat at a pretty basic café. Turns out Switzerland, especially Geneva is very expensive.
We then headed out of town a little way to Cern – home of the Large hadron Collider. We all really enjoyed the visit and the two free exhibitions were great. James posted about our visit here:
By the time we finished it was early evening so we set about finding somewhere to stay. Searching online, we found an aire on the side of the lake but despite entering the GPS coordinates correctly, it frustratingly didn’t seem to be there and we got caught up in one-way systems and roadworks until, exasperated and getting late, we decided to follow a sign for a campsite. Again, Geneva prices blew us away – 65 Euro for the night and that was for the standard pitch and in low season! To compare, typically we pay around 20 Euro for a campsite, 10 Euro for an aire or free if wildcamping of course. Anyway it was too late to turn around so we copped it and hammered the washing machine and wifi to get our money’s worth.
Next up were more mountains, in particular the distinctive, chocolate-wrapper-adorning Matterhorn. So we drove to Zermatt as far as we could (the village is car-free) and parked up in a car park alongside the main road in.
In the morning, we got up early and took a train up to one of the peaks overlooking the village. Weather was perfect although we were all a bit chilly at the top (3,500m and -2 degrees), especially me and James in shorts.
From the summit you could see 20-something peaks over 4,000m including the famous Matterhorn
We decided to only take the train halfway down and walk the rest which turned out to be a really nice family hike. Nice mixture of walking on snow, through pine forests and open ground. And Zermatt village at the bottom was also very picturesque
We then piled into Frosty and drove off, searching for a new spot to spend the night. We didn’t go far but ended up near Saas-Fe an hour or so away, passing some lovely scenery along the way.
Next morning, onwards towards Italy where we were meeting the Speedies in a few days. The sat nav was insisting that the quickest route would have been to head down via Milan but this looked like a huge detour so we decided to ignore her protests and aim to cross straight over the alps as the map suggested was possible.
After yet more hours of driving winding mountain roads, we belatedly realised why the long route was suggested – a key mountain pass was still closed due to snow (this is late May!). However, all was not lost as it turns out there’s a car train that runs straight through the mountain in the cooler months and a guy at the service station assured me it would take something the size of Frosty.
So, we rocked up to the station and before we knew it we were aboard and flying through a pitch black tunnel at who knows what speed (could have been 10km/hr or 200km/hr!)
After 30 minutes or so we were at the other end in lovely Andermatt. The day was still young so we pressed on, this time able to take on the next obstacle ourselves – the Oberalp Pass
Oh and here’s a quick video of what it’s like to be driving Frosty in the Alps!
We ended up in a lovely spot in a valley amongst the mountains following some extremely tight manoeuvring amongst the houses. Chocolate box Switzerland in a fairy-tale village next to the river. Here they spoke ‘Romanisch’ – a language very distinct from the other three languages they speak in Switzerland (French, German & Italian) and the people were especially friendly.
So we ended our Swiss stay happily bedded down here for two nights and hammered the schoolwork with a few walks and explorations in between.