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geschlossen gesperrt closed shut

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

by Rach
9km from Basel, Switzerland – 2km from Weil am Rhein, Germany – 100m from French border

How many things do you think could be closed in one day?

  1. The bridge we needed to cross!

     Cute bridge huh?
    Detour number one.

  2. Schloss Laufen
    Now we weren’t particularly planning on visiting the castle so this was no major inconvenience. However, it was the place from which to set out for a viewing platform of the biggest plain waterfall in Europe, and there we *did* want to go, but….
  3. Rheinfall
    Can you believe the biggest waterfall was closed? Well, of course, the river keeps flowing, 700 cubic metres per second in the summer, so it really can’t be stopped. 
    But the viewing platform can be closed. And it was.
    So we took a little pedestrian detour (number two) and looked down on the falls from the top. The sight may not have been as majestic as looking up at it – we could see the 150 metres wide, but not the 25 metre drop – but the roar of the water rushing underneath us was fearsome. Awesome.


  4. The main road to Basel.
    Guess where we were going! Yep, that’s right. So we took detour number three, which really would have been much easier if every turning had been signposted instead of all except the one on the roundabout! Thankfully Rob guessed well.

I’m told it was a beautiful drive today. I wouldn’t know. I was too busy watching the road (sometimes sideways through the wing mirrors, more often out the front, and occasionally using the rear view mirror at last), and sometimes even trying to find fifth gear. I’m told we passed fields of red poppies, a patchwork of greens, the occasional castle on a hill. I saw black road, white lines, a few red Monet poppies at the roadside and a Renoir-like blur further afield.

Then finally something opened.
The heavens.
All road markings disappeared, and despite being only mid-afternoon, it was as dark as dusk. Headlight pairs approached, lightning flashed across the sky, I tried to stay away from the invisible edge of the road.

The rain eased as we pulled in to our Rhein-side parking place, a free one just outside Basel, which made it far enough away from the town to be in a different country altogether. This whole border thing is still a real novelty to the children (although they would be much happier if the gun-in-their-hip-holster officials would put some stamps in their passports), and they wanted another three-countries-in-one-day episode….we had started in Germany and driven through Switzerland, so we walked across the Rhein to France before dinner! At least that bridge was open.

PS WeatherBoy (that’s him up there) would like me to make note of the fact that this European spring weather is most interesting. For a couple of days we have had 35 degrees, and now it is down to 15 degrees, and only reached a high of twenty today. No wonder we’re feeling chilly! He also points out that in addition to the thunderstorm this afternoon, there was one at breakfast-time….there we were sitting on our new grass green mat between our vans watching lightning flash, listening to the thunder roar, waiting for the raindrops, which soon came, sending us scarpering inside.
He’s right; it is most fascinating <wink>

Time on the road: 4 hours
Distance covered: 193km

Navigation 101

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

by the navigator
Reichenau, Germany

Lesson One.
If you are the navigator, you should do your homework well. With a big paper map spread out on the table, you plot various routes and suggest them all to the driver, who will only feel comfortable with any of them once they have been plugged into his GPS. Together you will reach an agreement about which one to pursue the following day. Your navigatory role is then to make sure you know which villages, towns and cities you will pass through, but if you forget, don’t worry. You’ll just do what the GPS says anyway. Even if you are a well-prepared navigator and say at the very first turn, “That’s the wrong way, we need to go straight on to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.”
When this kind of conversation has already happened a few times in the preceding week (“There’s the Stellplatz up there” – “No the GPS says it’s a kilometre away” and so you drive on and do a u-turn when convenient……etc etc), you realise the best course of action is to Just Be Quiet and let technology rule. And normally you would, but this time, you end up very quickly on a very narrow winding road and so you point out that the reason *we* had decided to avoid this route was that it was mostly on secondary roads……but by this stage you’ve gone so far that you keep going.

And so we ended up going over the mountains instead of between them. And we went north instead of south. Actually we had been planning on going much further south, but decided after the slight stresses of the past few days on the road that it would be good to cut down the travelling and have a relax for a day or two. We are free agents and have the flexibility to do that! So instead of starting at the source of the Rhein, we saw – and crossed – it for the first time today, a little further on its journey than at Reichenau in Switzerland. And curiously enough, we have ended up staying at Reichenau tonight – Reichenau in Germany, that is. Oh, and somewhere along the way, we took a wrong turning, but saw a signpost that said “Neuschwanstein” and so I suggested we detour there for our lunch stop. We could do that too. However, the rest of Europe had the same idea and our little detour took a couple of hours…..and we didn’t even get in to the castle! The queue was so long, the parking was all full (and expensive), and so we parked beside a flower-filled meadow for our bread and apples. The flowers were so high the children could play hide-n-seek in them!
At the risk of making really repetitive reading, I’ve got to say again that the countryside is just simply idyllic. The mountains, the meadows, the cows with their cowbells, the blue sky threaded with vapour trails, the tolling church bells, the hamlets, the farms, the deep green lake – it’s all beautiful.

So we might not have gone where we were planning this morning, but we had a gorgeous drive all the same, crossing through three countries in one day – Switzerland once, Austria twice and Germany three times! It is so different to little ol’ New Zealand, which (obviously) has no land borders. There we were driving along through Bregenz, with three roads to choose from. One would keep us in Austria, one would take us to France, and the other would head for Switzerland. We chose the Swiss one (because the GPS told us to), and we were surprised to detect a noticeable difference between that country and the other two we had spent the morning in – perhaps it was just the area we drove through, but it was decidedly dingy. The buildings were not as well maintained and lacked the character that villages across the borders had. But then again, maybe it was just because we were driving alongside the train tracks, and that part of town is never the nicest, is it?”

As we skirted the southern shores of Bodensee (Lake Constance), we finally realised it was Saturday. So that’s why half of Germany was out on the cycle paths and visiting castles on this bright sunny spring day! It also meant tomorrow no shops would be open and so we needed to find a supermarket. But not until we returned to Germany – Switzerland still uses its francs and we didn’t have any! Fortunately we found a supermarket, stocked up for the weekend and grabbed some bockwurst and salad for dinner, knowing it would end up late. Good decision. When we finally got to Reichenau, the Stellplatz, where we were planning on staying was a) not where it was supposed to be and b) (when we found another) it was full. We were contemplating asking a friendly farmer if we could park in his driveway when a lady informed us someone was about to leave. One place was better than none! Exercising my most formal and polite German, I then asked another group if we would possibly be allowed to park in beside them (if they didn’t have their awning wound out so far and tables and chairs set up, there would be plenty of room for one more to squeeze in). What could they say? <wink> I’ll tell you what they did say: STOP! as Grandpa nearly nicked their brand spanking new Womo!!!!!

And so another day on the road drew to a close, the navigator jumping out to direct the Bear Cave back into its spot for the night.

Time on the road: 5 hours
Distance covered: 258km