Switzerland – 3 Passes to Brienz

17 -18 July 2019

We struggled to tear ourselves away from idyllic Noah’s Ark but eventually headed up into Lombardy on roads of varying quality – some quite bone-shaking – a condition we have got used to in Italy. Partly our fault as we were trying to stay away from toll-roads  on the flat Modena-Milan corridor which we dislike intensely. Even trying to stay as far out from Milan as possible we got caught in horrible traffic and the demonic electronic toll system as we headed up towards Como. We reached Como’s sosta early evening but Danny took an instant dislike to it so we continued an hour up the shoreline to Menaggio. Como is a lovely lake and we ended up on a carpark with a view of its water and the magnificent mountains that run down into it.

Next day we drove along Lake Lugano and entered Switzerland – more quickly and less dramatically than we had expected. We didn’t come over a mountain pass like in the Sound of Music, we drove up the side of Lake Lugano and suddenly there was a small border post. Where a nice young border agent talked us through the paperwork we needed and happily relieved us of our money. A very Swiss trait, we soon learned.

 

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At Lugano itself roadworks led to a wrong turn that took us all the way to the top of a mountain – great views obviously but a bit hair-raising – and when we got there Danny teetered on the edge of losing it when told it was a dead end and we had to drive all the way back down.

After leaving Lugano behind we drove along a wide, flat valley floor lined by steep mountains. It was a pleasant 25°C and we were happy. Anticipating great Swiss scenery we had decided to go over the Gotthard Pass – a winding mountain pass that has connected north & south Switzerland since the 13th century. So glad we did, it was gorgeous. We twisted and turned and when we got to the top (2106m) we were unreasonably shocked to find a bustling area with a couple of restaurants, a small lake and plenty of parking! Not unlike the Horseshoe Pass and the Cat & Fiddle on Tan Hill but on a much grander scale with much grander views. We parked up alongside a number of other motorhomes and had lunch.

 

Down the other side of the pass we chose the longer route to our destination, a spectacular drive up and over the Furka Pass (2429m) which is on the “Grand Tour’ of Switzerland. We stopped at the top for oohs, aahs and photos, along with a guy on a Harley Davidson, and someone clearly from a different species who had cycled up – without a battery.

We had a great view from there of the route up to our final Pass of the day, the Grimsel Pass.

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But first we had to drive down through Belvedere next to the Rhone Glacier, the source of the Rhone……

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The hut is Belvedere, the source of the Rhone is to the left….

…. and into the valley floor before our last steep climb up again to the busy stop-off point of Planggerli with its tarn and cafe’s, then over Grimsel Pass (2164m) itself and down past the towering walls and grey-blue waters of two reservoirs recently completed in the steep-sided valley.

It was a journey of jaw-droppingly gorgeous mountain scenery, just what we had hoped for from Switzerland – and great roads even on the hair-pins.

After which the flat, green valley floor containing the river Aare that took us to Camping Aaregg was a bit of an anticlimax. On the shores of turquoise Lake Brienz (Brienzersee), the campsite was bustling with kids everywhere and we were very glad our pitch was out of earshot of the playground.

We set up in the heat of the afternoon and had just finished when the occupants of the tent next door turned up with their 3 little girls and politely pointed our that we were overlapping onto their pitch, preventing them from parking their car.  There were inconspicuous markings (bright red) delineating the pitches. Our hearts sank at the thought of all that work, but they had a quick chat and decided they could live with things and park their car by a little-visited caravan a little way away. Campsites can be very territorial places so we were very relieved and very grateful –  particularly as they had 3 little humans underfoot. One of whom, we were to learn, was particularly demanding…….