Swiss Roadie Trip Day 2 – Reims to Obermumpf
11th June 2019
We set off for Switzerland accompanied by Six the Musical. Most of the day is spent driving; a total of 5 hours, with one brunch stop at a French service station. We arrive in Switzerland mid afternoon. Daughter no two is clutching her carnet. I have the passports. We are stopped at the border but they’re only interested in one thing – that we cough up 40 Francs for a year’s Swiss road tax.
We decide to go to the toilet while we’re stopped. There are portaloos, which are the worst smelling place I’ve ever been. There is a bus load of Chinese tourists parked outside. The smell is so overpowering that I’m seriously tempted to open the door mid pee and rapidly weigh up whether exposing myself to a group of 50 camera toting tourists is preferable to bearing the stench of those toilets.
We continue to our B&B in the village of Obermumpf. The landscape en route is very industrial. We drive along a three lane highway past factories spewing fumes into the air. It’s nothing like the image in my head, where most of Switzerland looks like the finale to the Sound of Music.
From Obermumpf you can walk across a medieval wooden bridge over the Rhine to Germany. There are people walking back across the bridge with bags of Toblerone. This is how high the cost of living is in Switzerland; people reimport Swiss chocolate from Germany.
Our B&B host is an American tattooist and his other guest a Belgian architect. We spend a pleasant evening eating, drinking and chatting, take an evening stroll through the village, then retire ready to complete our journey in the morning.
Swiss Roadie Trip Day 3 – Villigen
12th June 2019
This morning we complete our 600 drive to the Paul Scherrer Institut in Villigen. It’s a huge site spanning both sides of the river Aare. When we arrive, the fire brigade are in attendance. I ask daughter no two if they are likely to be required again. She is way too nervous to find this funny.
Security is high. We need passes for ourselves and the van plus dossimeters. The issue of dossimeters requires passing a test. Daughter no two is concerned that the old man and I will fail. In fact, she has to take a test. We must first follow a safety course before we are even allowed to attempt the test.
It takes two hours to complete formalities and unload the equipment into the synchrotron. Then the old man and I retire to the on-site guesthouse to await further instructions.
I meet up with daughter no two and her colleagues for lunch. Good news – the six pumps have survived the journey. There was a dodgy moment on a roundabout in Greenwich, where one pump had lost a foot during loading and toppled over taking the other five down like a very expensive set of dominoes.
We have one more task to perform before we are surplus to requirements for the remainder of the week; a mega food shop to get daughter no two and her team through the night shifts/weekend when the canteen is shut.
There has been a small explosion during our absence, but everything is now under control, assisted by the arrival of cookies. We leave them to their experimenting and repack (since the incident in Greenwich, our bags have been wedged around the pumps to increase stability) ready to depart in the morning.
Swiss Roadie Trip Day 4 – Lucerne
13th June 2019
We have four free days until the experiment ends. There are no parkruns in Switzerland, so we do the only sensible thing and set off for Italy.
First, we head for Lucerne. Once we have left the cordon of heavy industry along the border, Switzerland becomes much more Swiss with factories giving way to mountains and lakes. Reaching Lucerne is easy. Finding a parking space big enough for a van is another matter.
Once we are finally parked, we are quite familiar with Lucerne. We walk to the river and zigzag our way through the old town, crossing the various bridges, starting with the 14th Century Kapellbrücke and finishing with the 15th Century Spreuerbrücke with its macabre Dance of Death roof murals.
After, we head for our hotel in the nearby village of Bauen. In Switzerland, mobile data (like everything else) is mega expensive and I have reached my data cap. Hence, we are faced with trying to navigate what looks like the world’s most complicated road junction without Google Maps.
We stop at a supermarket to buy lunch and access WiFi. I soon realise why it is necessary to drive 5 miles past the hotel before returning in the opposite direction; we are staying between a lake and a mountain and the motorway, although only metres away, passes through the mountain in a six mile long tunnel.
After we exit the tunnel, we have to do a figure of eight/double U turn manoeuvre to join a small road parallel to the mountain motorway. We stop for a picnic by the lake whose name rolls off the tongue; Vierwaldstättersee. It’s a pleasant spot which could possibly claim the prize for the most remote ‘Pay & Display’ car park location.
We reach our hotel; Seegarten, which has a restaurant overlooking the lake. I try to speak German at check in but we have to switch to English as they can’t understand my accent (I think). We take a beer on the terrace. It’s a nice spot as long as you focus on the lake and mountains in the background. Look closer to the shore and there is polystyrene, plastic bottles and all manners of junk bobbing around in the water.
In the evening we take a stroll along the lakeside footpath. A lady jogging past wishes us a ‘Schönes Abend’. The old man is quite put out, he thinks she is calling us swine. He isn’t the greatest linguist; in the supermarket, when the cashier said ‘Danke’, he was convinced she had called him a donkey.
Swiss Roadie Trip Day 7 – Morcote
16th June 2019
After our detour into Italy to do a parkrun, we cross the border back into Switzerland and tonight’s destination; Morcote. Morcote is a lovely place (voted Switzerland’s most beautiful village in 2016) with absolutely no parking except for one multi-storey. We have been unable to find height restrictions online (or here, even) so attempt entry but the van hits the top of the barrier. We finally manage to park a mile out of town at a cost of £2 an hour. We trudge back to Morcote with our luggage in the 30 degree heat. I’m not impressed. And then I see how many steps we have to climb to reach our B&B.
But it’s worth the climb. Our room, in B&B Casa Angiolina is halfway up the hill, and has a great view over Lake Lugano and the mountains beyond.
Everything in Morcote is expensive (even for Switzerland) so we buy some expensive beer and spend the evening on our lakeside balcony enjoying the view, drinking our expensive beer and leftover picnic.
Swiss Roadie Trip Day 8 – Villigen
17th June 2019
We get up early – we’ve run out of coins for the parking meter. Our room shares a bathroom with 5 other rooms. It’s a half length bath with a shower head attachment. The old man showers cross legged holding the shower attachment above his head. He says it’s the worst shower he’s ever had. I wouldn’t know – I can’t actually get in and out of the half bath so have to make do with a rub down with a flannel.
I can’t get my head round the expense of Switzerland. For our room with 1/6 share of a 1/2 bathroom we are paying £100 a night, plus an additional £2 an hour to park two miles away. Even the boats have Pay & Display parking in Morcote.
We descend the 142 steps to the street, hike back to the van and drive to Villigen; daughter no 2 finishes her experiment tonight.
We drive north through mountains and tunnels, including the enormous Gotthard tunnel which takes 15 minutes from end to end. I don’t like being underground so long, which is weird as I’m descended from generations of miners.
We arrive in Villigen in time for lunch and a much needed shower. Then I spend the afternoon doing laundry. It’s a good practical test of how much German I can remember from my Uni days. I accidentally put the old man’s pants on a boil wash, but maybe that’s a blessing in disguise. So far today my German has not gone well: in the supermarket I got a really strange look. I thought I asked for a bag (Tüte) but instead asked for a corpse (Tote).
I walk to the synchrotron to see daughter no 2. In the corridor is a man trying, with limited success, to fill a jar with liquid nitrogen, half of it ends up spewing into the corridor. I have dinner with daughter no 2 and her colleagues, then leave them to their experimenting.
Swiss Roadie Trip Day 9 – Horgen
18th June 2019
The experiment is over. Time to load the equipment back into the van. After a final trip to the PSI café, we set off for Horgen, a town on the shores of Lake Zürich. The boyss were in charge of loading the pumps but at the first few roundabouts there are creaks and clunks. So we end up in a car park for half an hour resecuring everything.
It’s a hot drive – the temperature is pushing 30 degrees, so once in Horgen, we head straight for the Sportbad; a 50m open air pool with adjacent lake swimming area. We relax and swim in the pool. Daughter no 2 swims in the lake but I wuss out and make do with sitting semi emerged on the steps.
Then we check into our B&B. We’ve been a bit concerned about this one as we’ve read some strange online reviews. One said the owner broke into their room and stole their chocolate! Another said the owner charged them 10 Francs for pool cleaning and then refused to let them use the pool. There’s certainly a lot of charges. On booking we were charged the room rate plus City Tax and Spa Tax. Subsequently we received an email stating we still owed money for Tourist Tax and a Pool/Kitchen Cleaning Fee.
We check into our ‘suite’, which is just a bedroom in a family home. The owner is keen to tell us she doesn’t want us in the pool we’re paying £20 to clean as they have friends coming.
Then we have dinner and some celebratory Prosecco. Luckily the old man doesn’t want Prosecco as our ‘kitchen’ only contains two glasses. While we drink wine, he has a beer and eats his dinner on the solitary plate.
Swiss Roadie Trip Day 10 – Zurich
19th June 2019
We get up and walk to the station. We’re going to visit Zurich, which is 10 miles to the north.
I purchase 3 return tickets which are so expensive I wonder briefly if I’ve accidentally bought the train. The nice lady in the ticket office explains that she’s giving us tickets to Uetliberg because they’re the same price as Zurich and Uetliberg is a nice place to visit in the mountains.
We spend the morning in Zurich, walking along the river to the Fraumünster and over the bridge to the Grossmünster churches then visit the Kunsthaus.
The Kunsthaus is a really good art gallery with lots of works by artists the old man has heard of.
The rest of my family are philistines; while I wander round enjoying the art, they sit on a bench checking their social media/playing candy crush.
Daughter no 2 wants to go to a restaurant for lunch. The old man moans about the price and insists on going to a supermarket and having a picnic by the river. Daughter no 2 says she wishes we were a normal family. She has a point – the old man buys chicken noodles which he proceeds to eat with his fingers, before washing his hands and face in a fountain.
We decide to take the nice lady’s advice and catch the train to Uetliberg; a mountain which rises 500m above Zurich. From the summit you get a great view of the city, Lake Zurich, and the mountains beyond.
We walk to an observation deck to take some photos.
After refreshments, we decide to take the Planet Trail. It’s a walk through the solar system at a scale of a 1:1,000,000,000. This means we are walking at twice the speed of light and the sun is the size of a spacehopper. We pass Mercury, Venus and Earth which are the size of pinheads. I lose interest at Mars and return to the station to wait for the other two whose attention lasts until Saturn.
We catch the train back to Horgen and spend the rest of the beautiful sunny evening at the Sportbad, swimming in the pool and relaxing by the side of the lake.