12-14 August: A little taster of south-western Germany and into Switzerland

Author: Mrs A

Location: Wangan im Allgäu, and Lottstetten, Germany, The Rhine Falls, Switzerland

Monday morning brought stormy skies and cool temperatures – struggling to reach 14°C by lunchtime. We farewelled Ottobeuren and drove west through Germany, heading to a town called Wangan. We parked up on a stellplatz (the German version of a parking area dedicated for motor homes, with electricity and services provided for self-contained vehicles) beside the river leading into town.

By early afternoon the rain had stopped so we ventured out for an explore. Wangan is an old medieval town with several well preserved buildings and some remains of the wall and towers which marked the entry points.

The River Argen is very full after the heavy rain, In the background, St Martin’s church which rings out the hour…

Clearly English speaking guests are a rarity in these parts, as the information centre, packed with leaflets, maps and posters was able to hand me only one single booklet in English, detailing a historical walk through the town. I asked about cycling but the response was vague and a German language map book with rides was handed to me, and two routes pointed out as suitable as day rides.

Mark and I had a wander around town, finding a few of the old buildings before heading back to camp before the next storm arrived.

The streets of the old town are all cobbled
Part of a lovely sculpture – St Anthony’s Fountain – named after the patron saint of domestic animals, sitting on the site where the weekly pig market was held for hundreds of years
The town hall – or Rathaus (I find this quite comical that it directly translates as the rat house!) dates back to the 1500s and incorporates the first fortifications
History is everywhere if we could only read the signs!
Coats of arms outside old pubs date back to times when few could read and pictures communicated who the publican was
Claimed to be ‘one of the most scenically attractive streets in South Germany’ murals cover the front of many buildings, dating back to the 1700s
The Women’s Gate – dating back to before 1472
Everywhere a colourful array of flowers
Check shirts are mandatory apparently…
A music shop selling dodgy Australian road signs and didgeridoos…surprising!

Tuesday was overcast but dry, so I used Google to try and plot out a circuit route using the map I’d been given. Our route ended up being 60km, so by the time we got back to camp we were starving. Other than the medieval town of Isny, the ride was unremarkable, following mostly quiet roads through farmland and bike paths parallel to busy lorry routes. I think the grey skies helped to dull our enthusiasm for the gently rolling hills and fields of crops.

Isny im Allgäu, another pretty medieval town with a lot of history
Is this how you make warm water…?
Heading off on our ride

Wednesday: We were woken at 7am by the chiming of the local church bells, and packed up and on our way within a couple of hours, having enjoyed fresh bread delivered to the stellplatz by a local baker for breakfast. Before long we were passing through into Switzerland, completely unplanned, having failed to purchase a vignette for the motorways! We exited the motorway as fast as possible and quickly bought one at a local garage, hoping we wouldn’t be penalised for those few kilometres we had driven without paying.

This is the downside of being able to easily pass from country to country – each border crossing comes with its own rules, with Switzerland joining Austria and Slovenia in their requirement for all vehicles to travel with a prepaid vignette attached to their windscreen. Of course Switzerland was the most expensive, at 40 Swiss Francs, around AU$61 (£34). At that price we will have to ensure we make use of it!

Our destination for the day was actually in Germany again, about 40 minutes drive north of Zurich, just across the Rhine River.

Lottstetten is a quiet little village with a handily located stellplatz an easy cycle away from the magnificent waterfalls on the Rhine.

The River Rhine near our camp

We found a cycleway and followed signs to Neuhaisen am Rhinefall, the location of the falls, actually back in Switzerland, just across the border. We weaved our way through paths along fields and railways passing through quiet villages….

Peaceful country lanes, the village of Lottstetten in the background
A little ginger kitten calls us over to give him strokes on our cycle past

The falls were created after the last ice age, and have huge volumes of water thundering over them. Today we were advised there are 479,000 litres per second moving past…we wouldn’t fancy white water rafting over them right now!

479 thousand litres per second roar over this drop on the Rhine River
Look carefully and you will see tiny tourists on the rock in the middle of the falls, and to the left…and of course the boat beneath the falls.
Laufen Castle behind us on the Zurich side of the river, dates back to the year 878

It turns out we were not the only people there to see the spectacle!

For the first time since Krka National Park in Croatia we saw rows of coaches, full car parks and crowds of people lining up for toilets, ice creams and boat trips. It was not really our scene, so we stopped for a few minutes to admire the magnificent falls (and really, the photos do not do them justice), the castle overlooking them and wondered at the sheer power of the river before heading back.

And so to our final night in Germany this evening, as tomorrow we will head into Switzerland again, making it officially our tenth country this year.

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