Sorry for the hiatus, folks, but I’ll try to tie up this Europe trip blogging ASAP.
On the fifth day of our journey we checked out of our hotel Italy and drove over the Alps to Switzerland. We had planned to take the Furka Pass over the mountains which, if you are a fan of James Bond, you would recognize from the film Goldfinger. We left quite early in the morning, but not before we’d stopped in at the café down the street for a cappuccino. There is also a glacier cave there which you can walk into, which I was very much looking forward to.
We were worried about driving over the border because in Switzerland you require a paid pass to travel on the motorways and this is not something we had. The pass cost about £40 (for two days worth of driving on the highways, seems to me that Switzerland has the right idea here, people!). It turns out that we had nothing to worry about – if you were without a pass then as soon as you went through passport control you were waved into a separate queue where you could purchase them before continuing. Lucky for us!
The drive through the countryside was beautiful, and you could see yourself getting higher and higher by the amount of snow on the ground. The weather was pretty cloudy, but the views were still wonderful.
Beautiful village in the valley.
Unfortunately the Furka Pass was still closed because of snow. We were very sad about this because, while we hadn’t planned much before we left the UK, we had really been looking forward to this drive and seeing the glacier. This also meant another hour or so of, comparably dull, highway driving. We ended up taking a detour to another pass – according to the board at the side of the highway it was the only one that was still open.
It was not.
Snow, and, in the background, the red & white barricade across the tunnel entrance.
We stopped at a turn-around at the top of the mountain and had our lunch overlooking the valley. The views were spectacular, you could see right down into the village and, across the valley, a frozen waterfall standing out a stark blue against the black/brown rocks. It was quite surreal, but wonderful. We were parked there for a long time just enjoying the views and listening to Idlewild’s The Remote Part (which seemed extremely fitting).
The road, up to the pass and back down again, was very narrow, as usual, and the edge of the road was a sheer drop, as usual. Neither S nor I are big fans of heights and, as you can see by the picture below, we weren’t given much hope by the guardrails in the area:
In case you can’t tell, that 1/3 inch thick metal rod in the middle of the picture is supposed to be a guardrail. Awesome.
After driving back down into the valley and rejoining the motorway we drove on towards Rothrist. We were staying the night in a roadside hotel in the car park of a truck stop, which turned out to be absolutely perfect. It was clean and comfortable and the staff were very friendly. The first thing we did when we got there was ask at the desk how long it would take to drive to Zurich, and the woman just said, “Why would you want to do that?”
At first we were both questioning whether she was telling the truth or whether she just wanted us to stay local and spend our tourist money there. Well, it turns out she was right. Zurich was awful.
I hate to bring judgement down on the entire city based on our half-hour drive through, but it was awful. The entire city was under construction (in fact, the entire country was under construction – there should be a warning sign when you enter Switzerland!!) and everywhere we turned was a derelict building or a horrible hole in the ground surrounded by wooden hoarding covered with graffiti. Awful. Add to that the fact that we got lost and the fact that it was pouring down with rain so hard we didn’t even bother getting out of our car, and you have an unsuccessful trip.
A picture of Zurich in the rain.
I am glad we went, though, because now I can say I have been somewhere that starts with a “Z”. Excellent.
We drove back to Rothrist for dinner and I am happy to report that the town is more than a car park. In fact, we had a lovely meal there afterwards took a fine walk in the crisp air. The main street is extremely beautiful, as you can tell by the picture below.
There was a river junction in the town and I was so impressed by the diamond-clear quality of the water that it was basically all I could talk about for days. No, seriously, I was wandering around going “Look how clear that water is! Isn’t it amazing?”
So, not the best day of the trip, but taking into account the fact that Zurich was such a disappointment, the Furka Pass was closed, and we took an hour-long detour up a mountain only to turn around and come right back down again, the day was entirely enjoyable!
If you would like to see the rest of the photos from Day 5, you can find them HERE.