Published: June 8th 2012June 8th 2012
Waking up to another grey morning we contemplated on our neighbours an English elderly couple from Southern England who were camping in their rather small and damp tent. We did not envy them trying to brew up the night before on a camp stove with the wind howling around them and the rain falling by the bucket load. They spent the evening in their car rather than in their wet tent. The morning found them repeating the cooking arrangement for breakfast outside and when I spoke to them they uttered the immortal words "Mustn't grumble" - Typically British reaction to adversity. I was glad we had the warmth and comfort of the motorhome. They were heading north trying to outrun the bad weather to the Italian Lakes.
After paying and picking up our passports we too headed North towards Switzerland or at least the Italian part of Switzerland. The rain was heavy and the sky dark and heavy traffic did not help. The motorways around Venice were heaving with traffic and it all felt more manic than normal with the bad weather. We hit the worse traffic jam we had seen for a long time around Bergamo. The signs kept
telling us there was a problem and eventually we hit the bottleneck. It went on for at least 3 kilometres and each lane crawled like snails getting nowhere. We noticed that our lane was the slowest so moved to another one. Once we moved this lane slowed up. There must be a law somewhere that states that the lane you are in will always move slower than its neighbour and once you move to the faster lane it too will slow down. The one you left will now be the faster lane. After about an hour by which time we were getting fed up we reached the head of the queue which had been caused by an accident between two lorries. The police and ambulances blocking the road and roadworkers clearing the debris. Half an hour earlier and we would have been right at the thick of it.
We reached the first toll and the man in the kiosk was horrified as I offloaded a load of small change in the hope of making my purse a bit lighter. The border into Switzerland was straightforward as we passed Lake Como. This looked very pretty despite the rain and drizzle
and the filthy spray coming off the vehicals ahead of us.
Our destination for the evening was a small campsite Gudo on the River Ticino. The small village was approached by a narrow road with roadworks and traffic lights. There wasnt enough room for two vehicles side by side and we crossed fingers for a clear run. Tom Toms first attempt at finding the campsite was a bit of a disaster as she took us down a dirt track towards what looked like a farm. The road narrowed to a lane and then to a track where rollerblading,cycling and walking tracks were signposted. We turned back before it became impossible and headed back to the main road. What is it about a sat nav that it will take you one way and when you realise it is not a good route and return to the main road it finds you a better route? Eventually the second road led straight to the campsite.
Reception opened at 3 and we had arrived too early however the owner showed us a plot next to permanent caravans. The ground was soggy with the heavy rain and the hills around the campsite obscured
with fog. We did not have a swiss connection for the electricity but the owner offered us one as long as we returned in before we left. After a cup of coffee we went to register at the office. We thought that we had covered all bases with our electricity connections but had not realised that we needed a different one for Switzerland. There was a lovely swimming pool on site but it was too cold to use it and bikes were available for hire. Facilities were good with a large heated shower block and toilets, recycling facilities at a reasonable price with the ACSI card.
There was a bus stop outside the campsite and as usual with hindsight we should have used this to go into Bellinzona. However our plan was to go in the motorhome to the nearby town of Bellinzona with its three castles protecting the valley passes between Italy and Switzerland. Bellinzona is the most Italianate of Swiss towns.The Three Castles have been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. The group is composed of Castelgrande,castle Montebello and castle Sasso Corbaro with its fortified walls. The Castlegrande is located on a rocky peak overlooking the
valley, with a series of fortified walls that protect the old city and connect to the Montebello. We tried to park in the town to see the lower castle but struggled to find anywhere to park the van. Giving up we decided to try the middle castle which was reached by a switchback road which got narrower and narrower as it wound its way up the hillside. We wondered if we would ever reach the castle and hoped that nothing came down to meet us. Eventually after hairpin bends we reached the car park which was relatively empty. From here we could see the lower castle and walls and also the higher castle up on the hill. The castles built of grey limestone look forboding and threatening and I can imagine how awful it must have been for the armies to come over the hill and see the first castle. If they were lucky enough to survive this battle another castle beckoned and so it went on from castle to castle. Inside was a museum which cost 5 swiss francs. We decided to look around the castle and miss the museum. In particular we loved the swallow tail battlements which are typical of this part of Switzerland and Italy.
Our drive continued through the mountains and the St Gottard tunnel. A wonderful feat of engineering and for once free to drive through. The scenery was particularly beautiful once the rain stopped and we could see mountain peaks.waterfalls, green flowery meadows and alpine scenery. Swiss chalets piled high with log piles in readiness for the winter. Blue scabious filled meadows,lakes and milky blue rivers.
Stopped at a roadside restaurant where we ate Chicken and Chips and Chicken with Rosti and leeks. With two expresso coffees we paid 34 swiss francs. We noticed how expensive it was to eat in Switzerland. The restaurant was clean tidy and typically efficient, conversation a mixture of German, italian, french and a touch of English. On the way out I stood in chewing gum and pondered on a dirty habit that I thought only happened in Britain. It took some while to remove the sticky stuff from my shoes and from the carpet in the motorhome.