I have lived in Turkey for almost two years and in Argentina so I’m used to countries which have so many different places. But, I never imagined Switzerland being like that.
We left Zürich behind to travel to the Southern part of the country. At the start we took the scenic route around some lakes and nice towns and then we took the highway. The highway which took us through the Gotthard tunnel. A tunnel I know from when I was small, back in the days it was the longest tunnel on earth, nowadays it’s the fifth longest tunnel. The van still had this flickering battery light and we still had no idea what was wrong. However, she starts easily, drives perfectly and sounds normal.
In the tunnels the light was flickering more, or is that because it’s dark and we it is easier to see? Not sure. But, we managed to get in and out of the Gotthard tunnel and entered another world. Suddenly we were surrounded by incredibly high mountains and truly arrived in the middle of the Alps. But also; it was a lot warmer. We were wearing a t-shirt and were still feeling warm. Love it!
I’m not sure but I remember lago maggiore from my youth. A huge lake in Switzerland and Italy. We were staying the night in Lucarno, at a campsite right at the lake. A very expensive campsite I must say, the most expensive one we’ve ever stayed on. But, for the night it was okay. The campsite has a restaurant and since we hadn’t done any shopping yet this was quite handy. I has nice toilets and good showers and we are staying with view on the lake. For one night the price is doable I guess.
Dipping in Lago Maggiore
What better way to wake up with a nice dip into Lago Maggiore? Well, a hot shower maybe. The lake is still so incredibly cold I couldn’t stay in it for too long. It felt like the New Years Dive in the North Sea back home. But, this time it’s warm outside so you don’t need that disgusting soup afterwards 😉
Fontana, Europe’s cutest village?
We soon left the lake and campsite behind us to visit a valley and it’s cute little villages. While on the road we had to stop at possibly every waterfall on our way because they are all so beautiful. And then we walked up to a village called Fontana. One of the cutest villages I have ever seen I’m sure. All the houses are made out of big stones piled on top each other, in the middle of the village one finds a fountain with delicious mountain water. It’s as quiet as if it being a village on a early Sunday morning. For us this meant a village alone and a moment to drive up the van.
The great thing about travelling in this time is that there aren’t many tourists and that may be more of a plus than all the downsides of travelling during this time. Yes, the bars & restaurants are closed, borders might not be open for tourists and you have all these regulations you have to take into account. But the plus side is so huge; almost no tourists, people being incredibly friendly and curious and true adventure.
Back to the village(s). Fontana is truly amazing. The location is wonderful, the houses are just incredible and the tiny streets wonderful. The van could only just fit the small streets of the village. We drove up and down and continued our way to another cute village. This village was also located with view on a waterfall and had the same cute houses as Fontana. It’s called; Foroglio.
We didn’t stay the night at either of these villages. We headed for a campsite which we hoped was open but wasn’t. Actually, the campsite itself was now the home to many Scottish highlanders with big cowbells. It was all very idyllic, but we had no place to stay, except for the wild. Which we did, with approval of the farmer of course. And so we slept on the farmers land next to Scottish highlanders with big cowbells. Luckily, they aren’t awake at night like the hamster I had when I was young. And so, with cows, snow and mountains surrounding us we fell asleep.
We woke up not to the sound of roosters but to the sound of cowbells. After a quick breakfast we headed for another valley, but first we had to figure out the flickering battery light. We headed into town and found a garage quite easily, but not the right one. From one garage to the other but no one seem to be able to help us, and no one seem to be able to speak a language other than Italian. Annoying but yet another adventure. I tried my best Spanish to make some sense out of our problem. Without any luck. No garage is able to understand nor help us. Instead of getting irritated or annoyed we decided we better head into another valley to relax at more cute villages. We ended up at the end of the valley on a parking lot for campers. With about 20 campers we occupied the lot and had a nice sleep in our van. Also, we did some grocery shopping so were now able to cook for ourselves, yay!
A lot has happened since the last time I wrote a blog. We’ve crossed borders, visited some castles and experienced our first car troubles. We also have left the rainy and cold days behind, had great hikes with friends and cooked our first meal!
So, we feel real advantourists now. Driving the van is a lot of fun. We have had 18 thumbs up, countless smiles and many compliments. But, like I said, we also experienced our first car troubles. So let’s start with those.
Welcome in Liechtenstein
On our way from Apenzell to our friend in Zürich we crossed into Liechtenstein and Austria, without many troubles. Going back from Austria into Liechtenstein went as easily as from Germany into Switzerland. A couple of questions about what we were going to do and where we are from.
Liechtenstein is just a small country in a valley and honestly it doesn’t even feel like a different country. Except for the flag and the border on Google maps it just feels like you are in Switzerland. The border patrol we spoke to on the border from Austria into Liechtenstein were actually Swiss. But, it was fun to explore a capital city without tourists, without the fuz that most cities have, it had one traffic jam! And probably one street but ok.
Anyway, after our quick visit to Liechtenstein we went to our friend who lives in Uster, next to Zürich. While driving the very scenic highway along some lakes suddenly the battery light of the car starts flickering. Oh no. Normally that means; stop the car. But I decided to continue to Uster (we were close) and see there what is going on.
Well… finally in Uster we parked the car somewhere to see where we actually had to go to. You have to know that the car sometimes has these minor issues with electricity. So of course, I thought, well something must be wrong there. However, after checking out our address for the night I tried to start the van but nothing. She didn’t make a sound. That’s not at all like her.
We checked all we know, couldn’t see anything so decided to push her. Which she enjoyed so she started again. We went to our friend, turned off the van, tried again to turn her on and voila, no problem!
Visiting our friend in Uster
While at our friend we had nice diner, went to bed not so early to have a day of work planned ahead of us. We both had to do some work so this was a good day to do so. Of course with a break to check out the nearby lake. A hike of two hours – very doable. We also had a vegan kebab for lunch, which was nice, but of course not like real kebab.
The next day we worked in the morning, had lunch with friends of friends and went for a hike in the afternoon. A short hike this time but with an amazing view on the Alps. We headed to our friends house in Zürich and had real Swiss fondue for diner! It was so much fun we went to bed quite late actually, whereas we had plans to hike the next day. Which of course we did. A hike of about 5 hours over the ridge of a mountain. For some quite scary, for us not so much. We are not afraid of hights but if you are, this hike might not be for you. We ended the hike in the cute little town of Baden, where we had a beer on the street.
The bars may be closed but in Switzerland you are allowed to drink wherever you want. So many bars just open a place outside where people can get alcohol and drink in the square in front of it. We loved it! A good way to end our hike.We went back to Zürich by train and had nice typical Swiss rösti, and as we were all so tired from the hike we went to bed early. Also because we were going to leave the next day, onto our next advanture which will be taking us south.
After two nights in the cold, many steps in the snow and nothing but bread and pizza it was time to leave Germany and it’s corona restrictions behind and head for another country and hopefully some sun. After visiting the Hohenzaller Castle we travelled all the way south to Switzerland. I write all the way but it wasn’t that far really. However, the road to the border wasn’t that great. We took the highway instead of the lovely winding roads through the Black Forest. Mainly because our toes were frozen again, secondly we wanted to reach Appenzell before nightfall.
Crossing a border in Europe isn’t really a big deal. Most of the time you won’t notice you crossed a border except for minor things like; when you cross the border from The Netherlands into Belgium you suddenly drive on bad tarmac and when you drive from The Netherlands into Germany suddenly everyone knows where the accelerator is located and well when you arrive in Great Britain you suddenly have to drive on the other side of the road and pay with Pounds. Then there are the differences in gasoline prices, license plates and landscape. But that’s about it.
However, like Great Britain, Switzerland is a different border crossing. Switzerland isn’t part of the European Union. Which means that there is an actual border control. We decided to skip the toll roads and cross the border via a small town. Turning the corner suddenly there was a border control post, it almost felt like a checkpoint. And in sense it was actually a checkpoint. Anyway, they asked us what we were going to do in Switzerland, where we are from and made a copy of our passports before letting us enter yet another country on our trip.
We’re in Switzerland!
It has been a very long time since I’ve been this excited crossing a border in Europe. And it went smoothly, luckily for us. The thing with the corona virus is that every country has it’s own regulations, and it’s own rules in terms of tourism, border crossings and travelling. For some countries you need a PCR test, in some countries you are only allowed to transit (which means you have to get out within 24 to 72 hours) and there are countries that welcome tourists like kings because no tourism means no income.
In Switzerland one needs a PCR test to enter and the regulations are that shops are open, so are hotels. But restaurants and bars are closed, well they are open for take-away and hotel guests. After two nights in the cold we were craving for a hot shower so we booked a B&B in Appenzell. And yeah, Switzerland is expensive so is our stay here but well.. luxury has a price.
Appenzell is a town in northeastern Switzerland, at the foot of the Alpstein mountains – or as the Swiss call it: the pre-Alps. Appenzell has a very cute car-free centre featuring wooden houses with colourful facades. They have a brewery, some cute little shops and market places. Near Appenzell you can hike the nice mountains, visit lakes and enjoy the amazing views.
We stayed here because we wanted to hike the Ebenalp and visit the Wildkirchli, a cave complex housing a 17th century chapel and hermitage. Unfortunately for us we couldn’t visit the Wildkirchli due to snow but we did visit Ebenalp and actually had a snowshoe hike on the mountain top – 1644 meters above sea level.
We took the cable car up from Wasserauen (868 metres above sea level) to Ebenal (1644 meters above sea level). It took us about five minutes to get up. The cable car was built in 1955 and in a normal year it will transport about 200.000 visitors every year!
Above we got our snowshoes, which are free to use, and went on a short hike. We thought it would be a bit longer but it was quite a short hike actually, which was a pity. But it did take us to beautiful spots with amazing views. To be honest, I’m not a winter sport person and prefer these mountains in summer or autumn time. However, seeing the mountains covered in snow, while the rocks and trees show their tops through the tick whiteness is quite impressive. To have a real good hike over here and actually visit the Wildkirchli we have to come back in August in whatever year.
After having a beer at the top of the Ebenalp we went down again, tried to walk to a lake but heard lots of avalanches and decided it was not our time to die yet, so returned to Appenzell for a pizza and an early night in our warm hotel room.
Love, Milene & Yuri
Hi there! We are Milene & Yuri. We are travelling the world together since 2015. Our endless curiosity and will to explore has resulted in many cool, and somewhat extreme, adventures. On MYgrations you'll read all about our adventures, you'll find lots of information about the countries we visit you won't find anywhere else and more. Enjoy!
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