Gempen, Switzerland, our 20th Country!October 1 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C
We've made it to Switzerland! It comes in 20th on the list of foreign countries we're exploring on our long term tour of Europe.
We've read about Switzerland, heard about it, seen some stunning photos and are excited to discover for ourselves what this place is really like.
Having stocked up on dried and tinned foods along with French wine, there was one more place we needed to stop before diving into a month in this reputedly expensive nation. There were several crates of empty beer bottles in Martha's boot so we made a beeline for a getrankenhaus in Germany. Here we fed them into a deposit return machine and put the credit towards more beer, some alcoholic, some not.
Anytime we've been near a supermarket in the last week we've found ourselves drawn to buying 'supplies for Switzerland'. The place does have our favourite discount shops, Aldi and Lidl, but there is always the fear of the unknown and so we guess we are panic buying 'just in case'.
After filling Martha with fuel, Will bought a 2019 Swiss vignette from the station. This will allow us to travel on the motorways and access any motorhome filling and emptying facilities at service stations. The vignettes are sold by the calendar year, so despite only requiring it during October, we had no option but to pay the full €38.
Back on the motorway, overhead signs slowed traffic to 60kmph and required lorries to queue along the inside lane to pay their toll. With our vignette displayed on our windscreen we sailed through in the outside lane and were suddenly passing through a border station with officers uniformed in hi-vis clothing keenly watching each vehicle as it went by. It all happened so quickly we didn't see any 'Welcome to Switzerland' signs, only the familiar board displaying national speed limits.
Industrial Basal quickly surrounded us and demanded all our concentration to adjust to the subtly different road markings, lighting systems and signage as we exited the motorway and plunged into city suburbs. We'd planned to make use of onstreet parking reserved for motorhomes for up to 24 hours but after finding it, we decided that the main road was just too busy. Aside from the noise, every passing vehicle would rock the van, so we headed towards a nearby place on Park4Night that promised a large offroad car park. It delivered on its promise; the only problem was that we found ourselves unintentionally passing out of Switzerland and back into Germany to reach it!
The old saying of 'third time lucky' proved true on this occasion. We found the perfect overnight spot in a wooded carpark on the outskirts of Gempen; a small (Swiss) town just 20km, but a world away from busy Basal. The journey here was beautiful. Up and over tall hills with craggy stone faces, winding switchback roads and light dappling through the forest canopy as leaves floated gently down. The day was unexpectedly hot, so it was a relief as we climbed and the temperature dropped from 24°C.
Leaving Martha we set off to explore on foot. Pavements were intermittent and narrow but Gempen was pretty. Large, well maintained buildings, with smartly painted rendered walls lined the quiet highstreet. There was charismatic use of timber in the form of wooden shutters and small balconies, many of which spilled over with white, pink or red geraniums. Water flowed from elegant, aged taps into stone troughs, also decorated with flowers. The Post Office come general store was open, but the clay crafts shop and gasthaus seemed closed. Wooden brooms leant against a couple of houses ready to sweep autumn leaves. It was clear residents took pride in their homes, with small, plain pottery statues and plant pots decorating many an exterior.
We were glad of the rest after a steep walk back to Martha, arriving just before the rain did. Heavy downpours accompanied by a thunder storm brought the temperature down to comfortable 18°C and kept us indoors for the rest of the day. Both of us felt tired out after the adrenaline rush of crossing a new border, but looking forward to what the coming month will bring.Read more