From Belgium we still had a way to go before we would get to Switzerland. Paul felt refreshed and ready to drive so we decided to put a random(ish) Swiss destination in the sat nav and see how far we got.
Fuel in Luxembourg
Yet again it felt as though we were treating Luxembourg with some disdain. We weren’t going to stop to see anything cultural or touristic. All we were doing was stopping for fuel. Luxembourg got it’s revenge by sending our sat nav doolally, sending us on unnecessary detours twice. Luckily I spotted the second time soon enough to swing all the way around a roundabout and back the way we had come.
Supermarket in Germany
We zoomed along the German autobahns, praising their smooth surfaces after the rattle and shakes of the Benelux countries. Later we found out how they manage to keep the surfaces so smooth. They are obviously unafraid to close large sections of the road for resurfacing. We met at least three long contraflows with speed restrictions.
We stopped at a Kaufland supermarket in Pirmasens to top up further groceries and just have a nose at a German supermarket. It’s the first time we’ve taken Bertie shopping in Germany. The food and drink was remarkably good value and so we did some more stocking up so we could put off shopping for as long as possible in Switzerland. We had been a bit naughty and smuggled some meat, fruit and veg across the channel, just the stuff that was left in the fridge at home, but now our freezer and veg draw were stuffed full.
We had a late lunch in the supermarket carpark and chatted about our next plans. Stop in Germany, or cross the border and find somewhere in Switzerland? Paul was keen to keep going while he had the energy so I found a spot on P4N that seemed reasonable, getting us into the country but not as far as the mountains.
Wangen an der Aare
Once we were over the border getting to our parking spot was less easy than anticipated. The roads around Basel were thronged with slow traffic. A combination of rush hour, roadworks and increasing muggy heat made for a bad tempered drive until we finally got out of the snarl of city encircling motorways and made our way towards the countryside.
Wangen an de Aare is a small town on the banks of the wide and deep Aare river. We drove straight at the old wooden bridge on our approach, luckily heading off to the left just before we hit it. There are seven pitches marked up for motorhomes plus lots of car parking. We were the only motorhome there and we wondered why, perhaps the cost of 25 CHF was off putting for a town with little outward appeal to tourists.
Given our late arrival dinner was the priority, but as I was chopping veg I could hear some mournful hooting from the other side of the river. It was a pair of Alpenhorn students and, I presume, their instructor. It was a practise session without any doubt, but the haunting sound floating across the river was still impressive.
Later, as twilight fell, we saw a horde of uniformed young people walking past along the banks of the river. Paul looked at them and said he couldn’t imagine they were in the forces as they didn’t all look very fit. I reminded him that Switzerland still has national service. The following day we could hear the continual pop-pop-pop of gunfire, so maybe these were new servicemen and women doing their training (a slight aside that national service is only compulsory for men which seems a little backward for Switzerland). A little research turned up the fact that Wangen an der Aare is well known as an ‘army town’.
Cycling to Solothurn along the Aare
The following morning we wanted to get some exercise, to stretch muscles that were used to a seated position. Cycle paths can be found on both banks of the Aare so we decided to go to Solothurn, a short round trip of about 20km.
We needed to pick up some cash first. We could use euros in Switzerland but it’s not a very cost effective way of spending money (the swiss will exchange euros for francs on a 1:1 basis but the euro is worth slightly more). We’ve heard that cash is needed in some locations so wanted to be prepared.
The cycle paths were well maintained and the cycling was easy for the most part with a couple of very minor hills where the path had to leave the banks of the river to avoid the very prosaic obstacles of powerplant and sewage pumping station. The Aare is the largest river entirely in Switzerland and its deep jade colour hid it’s depths but we got occasional glimpses of fishes near the banks. Hopefully that’s a good sign of the health of the river.
Just outside Solothurn we found an interesting skate park in some disused industrial buildings.
Solothurn was busy and bustling. The river path took us right into the heart of the old town where the cobbled streets climb up from the river bank and the cathedral of St Ursus towers in it’s neo classical white magnificence. A visit inside revealed more stark white decor, like being inside a meringue.
A group of wedding vehicles were pulled up outside the cathedral, from gleaming tractors to Ferraris. The wedding party themselves were generating lots of convivial noise at a restaurant in the square.
We took in the sights of the central old town before heading back to Bertie and continuing our journey.