By the time we reach Austria later today we will have completed about 75% of the Grand Tour drive of Switzerland.
It has been a comfortable 2 night stay in this attic apartment in the very quiet location of Rorhbach and we have ticked Lucerne of our bucket list of places to see before we get too old to travel(as if that is ever likely to happen)
Our route east took us towards Sursee through more of the green rolling pastures we have seen so much of during the many kilometres we have driven since Sunday.
Most of the villages we passed through are joined together by footpaths that are used by both cyclists and pedestrians and you don’t have to drive too far to not see people out for a walk or on a bicycle going between villages. This is in sharp contrast to almost all the other countries we have visited in Europe where there is generally a distinct lack of footpaths or cycle trails connecting villages. Holland excluded of course!
There is also a general movement of farm tractors and their effluent trailers on the road taking the muck from the sheds where the
cows have spent the winter to be spread over the pastures.
At Sursee we noticed a nifty gadget we have not seen working before. It was an automatic grass mowing machine and in fact there were two of them working in tandem. They were no bigger than a small vacuum cleaner and were working by remote control. What an ingenious idea!
We have noticed a fair amount of new building activity going on along the roads we have driven with small remote controlled cranes being used to speed the construction of the large 2 or 3 story houses that are traditional in Switzerland.
We passed through Zug which looked a neat and tidy place and then the road climbed above a valley taking us ever closer to a range of mountains in the east.
We crossed over a causeway at the bottom of the Zurich see and took a short diversion down to the lakeside to have lunch.
It was a quiet picnic area between the railway line and the lakeside at Schmerikon and with the warm sun it was almost too pleasant to want to get back in the car and keep heading east.
As we were packing up a small group of women and children walked by and we wondered where they had come from as they didn’t look like they belonged in Switzerland.
We took a diversion to get back to the car and discovered where the women and children had come from. There were 4 or 5 caravans with awnings set up in a park area that was not a camping ground and we decided that from their complexion and style of dress that they were gypsies and their ‘freedom camping’ seemed to be tolerated in this country that appears to be strict on authority.
After lunch the road took us on through hills to Wildhaus and then a very sudden drop in the road of 200 metres. The gradients were initially 10% and then 15% and we were very quickly in Gams the last town in Switzerland before you arrive in the Principality of Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein holds all sorts of records not the least being that it has more registered companies than people and it has an unemployment rate of 1.5%.
Again we hardly knew we were entering another country with no entry border, just
Swiss and Liechtenstein flags and then a bridge over the Upper Rhine River which constitutes the border.
We took a guess at how long it would take us to drive through one of the smallest countries on the planet and we weren’t far out at 15 minutes! We were probably at the narrowest point in the country as further to the south where the capital Vaduz(keep that one in your head for the next Pub Quiz you go to)is situated the country widens out a bit.
The country remained neutral during WW2 maintaining close ties with Switzerland. Although it borders with Austria which was under Nazi occupation the Germans had no interest in incorporating a country with little in the way of natural resources to the Third Reich.
The border into Austria had a bit more to it than from Switzerland and there were actually some buildings and customs people as well as armed police. We did have to slow down but were waved on through (sometimes age helps when officials are looking for drugs or contraband).There were about half a dozen cars off to the side of the road with their doors and boots open getting
the once over.
At Feldkirch we filled up with petrol and noted the cheap price per litre compared to Italy and Switzerland.
We were back into following a mountain valley. One of the noticeable things about Austria is though while it has a tidy look about it, it didn’t quite measure up to the orderliness of Switzerland. Sure the wood piles were neat but not quite as structured as in Switzerland. Life we think in Austria might be just a little more laid back than in Switzerland.
At Bludenz we got a bit of a surprise as we were leaving the town area.
We had been wondering when we might start to see the results of the mass migration from Syria and other war torn countries that we had seen nightly on the news last northern summer and here it was.
At a bus stop was a group of probably 30 to 40 people of all ages from children through to adults with bulging plastic bags which we assumed carried their belongings. They were definitely of Middle Eastern extraction. It just wasn’t clear if they were going somewhere else or just waiting for transport to
take them there. Whether they were new arrivals or not was unclear although we understood that Austria had closed its borders to refugees earlier this year. Although how people can be kept out where the border controls are still so loose is a telling factor.
However we expect we may see more of the greatest migration since WW2 as we head north eventually into Germany and then later to Scandinavia.
We knew we had another mountain pass to get over before we got to our destination at St Anton in the Austrian Alps but hadn’t quite realised it was going to be as high as the 1800 metres it was.
We should of course have realised when we checked on the atlas where St Anton was and noted all the snow symbols indicating ski locations.
The valley where St Anton is located is very narrow and you have the real feeling of being a bit closed in but the scenery when some of the low cloud cleared was very picturesque.
The directions to our apartment for the night looked very simple from the main road and there weren’t that many places on the hill above
However, we had to drive up and down and around for quarter of an hour and eventually used the trusty mobile phone to get a better idea of whether we were close to our destination than what Gina could offer.
Once we found the place we realised that the lack of the name of the establishment being clearly indicated either on the building or on the little lane that led to it hadn’t helped our cause.
Anyway the place is very nice with comfy beds and we even got an upgrade to a 2 bedroom apartment (not that we needed the second bedroom) which had even more space.
We had passed a bread shop at the turnoff from the main road at the bottom of the hillside and as we hadn’t had a lot of exercise today we dared to take a walk down to get some fresh bread to go with dinner assuming we would be able to find our way back to the apartment on foot. We did take the cell phone just in case!
Tomorrow it’s back to Italy.
PS:Yes,you are hearing right,the national anthem of Liechtenstein is played
to the tune of God Save The Queen.Watch on Youtube.
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