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Published: September 28th 2014
"Tr avel makes you modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world" - Cameron Scott
How true is that? When we always notice it when we arrive on French soil. Borderless Europe stretching ahead of us. Old border controls look sad and neglected these days. Having no use they have fallen into disrepair. The areas that once housed lines and lines of cars with their passengers waiting for their passports to be stamped are now makeshift and somewhat scruffy parking spots.
We are now in our last week of travel. Always a difficult one where do we go? Italy is behind us and ahead Switzerland. What a contrast between two countries. Italy where life is lived in the fast lane. Where it is obligatory to wave your arms around when you speak or when you drive. Obligatory to fasten a mobile phone to your ear and wear glitzy shoes and bling. Impatience and horn beeping seem to be a virtue.
We woke early and had our final shower, paid our bill and set off . Sally Sat Nav took us the wrong way again and to make matters even more interesting we found ourself
stuck in the wrong queue at the peage around Milan. Normally we find the yellow T booth easily but because of the heavy traffic we were funnelled into the blue ViaTicket LIne. Not a problem as we had the card so out I climbed, took the credit card out of its case and inserted it into the machine. It spewed it out but the barrier did not lift. Behind us was a car waiting. I tried again nothing. So the only thing was to reverse slowly backwards and try to join the right queue. A man in a car waved to me and signalled at the toll to tell us we were going into one for which we needed a toll box. Smiling I gestured to it on the screen and put my thumbs up like Norman Vaughan to say we were Ok. He smiled and let us in and through the peage we flew. Milan morning nightmare over.
We didn't have a vignette to travel across Switzerland and stopped at the last petrol station in Italy to buy our diesel and our vignette. The cost is 33 euros and the vignette lasts from January 1st to December 31st
so if you buy it at the start of the year and use it it proves better value than buying it now with just a few months left to the end of the year.
So to Switzerland. Compared with Italy, clean, tidy, almost clinical. German efficiency, quiet and ordered. Cable cars climbing the beautifully manicured fields full of equally pretty cows with cowbells. The peaks covered still in pristine white snow. Sally Sat Nav 1 hated it and kept switching herself off. Sally Sat Nav 2 wouldn't even find a satellite to cling on to. There are plenty up there. We were heading for the St Gottard Tunnel but before we entered it we stopped for lunch at the restplatz at St Gottard Sud. With no swiss francs we paid for our lunch of chicken, potatoes and vegetables in euros. 38 euros for the meal. In Italy that would have bought dinner and pudding plus wine. Another difference - the prices of everything . So thats a meal eaten at both St Gottard Sud and St Gottard Nord.
After lunch we arrived at the tunnel. The
tunnel is 10 and a half miles length and is the
third longest road tunnel in the world. Dark and gloomy it is always good to get to the other end and see daylight again. And what a view when you come out. Blue skies reflecting in crystal clear mountain lakes. Mountain passes and trains running on time.
Today was a day of travelling through four countries. Italy to Switzerland, Switzerland to France, France back into Germany. OUr destination a small campsite on the Rhine. 18 euros a night but very efficient with small market, fresh bread on order, modern crimson and silver showers and a nice restaurant. The tables decorated with ornamental gourds and heather. We ordered veal in sauce again with Alsation noodles.
We set off with Sally misbehaving again. We found where we going by following our noses and hoping for the best until she woke up. The tiny villages along the way look pretty in their Autumn colours and still with their windowboxes and roundabouts decorated with pink and red geraniums. The bridges covered with boxes full of yellow black eyed Susans. I know I say it every year but next year I am going to plant loads of them in plant pots. Perhaps I
will in 2015. They look so pretty and continental and will remind me of Europe.
A short trip on Germans motorways before we got into la Belle France. It was nice to be in the land of Mr LeClerc again and now I could shop and buy our favourite flans. We were heading for a municipal campsite at Molsheim in the Alsace region. The plan was to use it to visit Strasburg which neither of us had seen before. There was a train station in town and the trains seemed to run quite frequently.
We set off with Sally misbehaving again. We found where we going by following our noses and hoping for the best until she woke up. The tiny villages along the way look pretty in their Autumn colours and still with their windowboxes and roundabouts decorated with pink and red geraniums and the bridges covered with boxes full of yellow Black Eyed Susans.
I know I say it every year but next year I am going to plant loads of them in plant pots. Perhaps I will in 2015. They look so pretty and continental and will remind me of Europe. A short trip
on Germans motorways before we got into la Belle France. It was nice to be in the land of Mr LeClerc again and now I could shop and buy our favourite flans. We were heading for a municipal campsite at Molsheim in the Alsace region. The plan was to use it to visit Strasburg which neither of us had seen before. There was a train station in town and the trains seemed to run quite frequently.
On the way I had a brainwave . OK I don’t have many. We were in the land of storks, close to the Ecomuseum we had visited last time we were in this area and what was here that we had missed. The Chateau du Haut Koenigbourg. Last time we had come we had driven up the switchback roads only to find no parking and had to drive away. Would we be luckier today? Well it is Wednesday and not a public holiday. We could but try. Up and up Suzy climbed and with a sense of déjà vu we could see the camping car parking and it was empty apart from three vans. There was even space on the road . We
parked up and started the long walk up to the castle . Standing on the Stophanberch mountain the castle can be seen from miles away. I think it was built by Frederick Van Hohenstaufen known as One Eye.It was given to the Tiersteins in 1479 who rebuilt it. It was used during the 30 years war after which it was burned and destroyed. In 1865 the castle and the forest came into the possession of the town of Selestat who gave the remains of the castle to the Emperor William II of Hehenzollern (Kaiser Bill) in 1899. He entrusted restoration to the architect Bodo Ebhart who worked on it between the years 1900 and 1908. Under the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 it was given to France again.
It is a lovely reconstruction, medieval in character and beautifully done complete with entrance gates with the Tierstein coats of arms, a portcullis, courtyard with well, kitchens ,chapel, arms rooms, trophy rooms and grand bastions. Everything a castle should have. Plus a huge wooden windmill within the castle itself. Heavily restored definitely but it worth the long drive up to see it. There is a small shop at the top selling books. Rather liked the one which told the whole history of everything you need to know about dragons. There was a restaurant and a small café from where we purchased a roll and a hot dog. It is wasp season here and they are becoming dozy. Spent half an hour swatting the things before we walked back down to Suzy and set off through the pretty Alsation villages for our overnight stop at Mollsheim.
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