Going full circle – a campervan adventure into Europe.  Week two – Switzerland.

I’d always wanted to travel through Switzerland. Mountain peaks, pristine lakes, cool cities, everything works, what’s not to like? The prices perhaps but, since I’m traveling in my campervan, I was certain I could keep costs down.  

I was lucky to have a friend on the ground when I arrived.  She’s called Bettina and I met her 3 years ago in Sri Lanka. We’d stayed in touch, she’d seen I was coming to Switzerland and offered to meet me in Basel – her home city. 

I found a place to free camp just over the France / Swiss / German border and arranged to meet up. And it was a good intro to the country! 

My free-camp was on the edge of a farm which grew ‘pick-your-own-flowers’, and Bettina turned up with a bicycle she’d borrowed from her boyfriend – she perfect way to explore the city of Basel.  

I won’t go into lots of details about what to see and do but it did feel an international and energised city with lots of cool bars and places to eat. It’s also the meeting point of Switzerland, Germany, and France.  I’d be happy to go back and spend more time there. 

The real highlight for me was seeing a friend, not getting knocked off my bike by the efficient trams, and getting ideas for where to go in the country. Thanks to Bettina and Kurt for their hospitality! 

From Basal I drove to Lucerne and central Switzerland.  After a week of cities, I was ready to get into nature and explore.  The drive was easy and, as I got closer to the lake, the roads offered views of mountains dropping directly into the water.  It was stunning! 

I knew the hiking was accessible from this area of Switzerland and, following an idea Bettina which had been scribbled on a paper map, I stopped off at a small village called Beckenried, right at the foothill of the Klewenalp. 

I got chatting to a man from Canada who worked in the area and he told me I could sleep right where I parked – but to make sure I had a parking ticket clearly displayed on my window! 

The next morning a took a cable car up to the top.  It was about 25 Swiss Francs and gave beautiful views over the lake and mountains.  Then I was in the perfect place to spend the day hiking the easy trails.

The sun was out, the sky was blue, the paths would across low-level mountains, and down through forests. It was so well set up all I had to do was walk. 

From the lakeside, I then drove up to an Alpine village called Engleberg.  People had suggested this as an outdoor area and a quick chat with tourist info steered me to my first Via Ferrata (climbing ladders).

Once again the weather was great and my timing impeccable.  This was the last day of the sun for the area and the last day the Via Ferrata was open for the season. 

I made an early start, took a double cable car up to 1500m, and returned 8 hours later tired, happy, and pumped with adrenaline!

I’m not a climber but had managed some hard Via Ferrata routes, met some cool people, and had such a good experience.  This is well recommended.  

Alas, what goes up must come down and, after four days of sun, the rain came. And it came. And it came.

I decided this was an opportune time to explore the city of Lucerne and drove back down the mountain, found a place to park my campervan, and explored.

I’ll be honest here – it took me two days to adjust to the city, what with the rain, and being spoilt by the tranquility of nature and good weather. But, this is the reality of travel. It has its ups and downs. Even more so when you’re traveling solo. 

Despite the weather, I could see the attraction of Lucerne. It’s situated at the foothills of the mountains and offers a wealth of things for tourists.  I hope to come back sometime.

All I had to do now was choose where to go.  I had three choices in mind.  West, South, or East. 

Two were showing rain for a week, and one was showing a glimpse of the sun for two days…and you know what they say…the night is darkest before the dawn…

Massive thanks for friends and family for staying connected and giving advice and tips.

Top tips

You need a vignette to use the motorways in Switzerland – you can buy them at the borders.  They cost 40 SF.  

Free camping isn’t as well set up here as in France. But it is possible. Just don’t expect services – it’s more like using carparks.  Many of which are free after 19.00.

It’s a small country and easy to get around.  Distance doesn’t ever seem huge and roads are good. 

I’m traveling at the very end of the season.  Some hotels/restaurants/chair lifts are closed  If this is important to you it’s worth bearing in mind.  But traveling in the slight-off season has advantages. 

The tourist info centers are friendly, efficient, and well geared up for visitors.  In fact, there’s probably a map for everything you can think of! 

Traveling solo isn’t always that easy – stay connected!

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