Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Into Switzerland

We had our breakfast in our Austrian Gasthof, retraced our steps back down the valley and headed off westward towards  Liechtenstein.
Mountain stream
Fields at the head of the valley
We decided to go to Switzerland via Liechtenstein, despite the fact that I had been to Liechtenstein before, and knew it wasn't very exciting. It's two biggest sources of income are postage stamps and false teeth.  Says it all, really. But Andy hadn't been there and wanted to see it. 

We looked at a couple of restaurants for lunch and thought the prices looked a bit steep, and then suddenly thought that these prices might not be in Euros. We hadn't even thought about getting any Swiss Francs, even though it was always part of the plan to go into Switzerland. We asked a Kiwi that we saw near an ATM to confirm our suspicion about the currency, and then got out some Francs.

Scloss Vaduz, Liechtenstein's Castle
After lunch we drove through some glorious countryside - picture book stuff with cows, wildflowers and a beautiful mountain backdrop, and then the road started climbing up to get over those mountains. 

It was a lovely day, and so lots of people were out enjoying it. There were families picnicing, people in open-topped convertibles and lots of bikers. The route up was full of hair-pin bends and spectacular scenery. 

View back down the valley

The Hotel at the top of the Klausen Pass

Looking down the other side from the top of the pass
After reaching the top of the pass we headed down the other side. This side had fewer hairpin bends,   but there was often a sheer drop off on one side.

Looking back up at a section of the road

The road down

Road hugging the cliff

Cliff side cut away to leave room for road
We were driving along, a little way behind a couple of cars. A motorcyclist overtook us.  We didn't pay him any more attention as the road was demanding all the attention we had.  We came around a blind bend and saw the car in front of us pull up behind the car in front of him. I thought to myself 'why on earth are they stopping there' followed quickly by 'why one earth is that woman getting out of the passenger seat [of the car in the very front] - have they had a row? No, she's walking over to the edge ... is she motion-sick after all those bends? No, she just looked down and then looked paniced....'. Cog wheels started turning rapidly in my head. "Has someone gone over the edge? I asked Andy.  He got out to check.  He called back that a motorcyclist had gone over.

Andy had stopped hard up against the rock face making it impossible to get out of the passenger side, so I climbed over the gear stick and handbrake to get out. I looked over the side and sure enough, 40 or 50 metres down was the biker, with his bike about 3 metres away from him. He was in long grass, which would have softened his fall, and was moving. I couldn't understand where he had gone over, because there was no gap in the safety barrier, and no break in it either. I then noticed someone else in the grass, they appeared to be falling down, but then I realized they were sliding as they had slipped rushing to get to the biker. A couple of minutes later another person followed.

When I first got out I asked Andy if anyone had called an ambulance.  He said that he had seen people doing that. I'll confess I was relieved, as I didn't think my German was up to giving the emergency services all the information they needed. Nonetheless several minutes later someone came up to us asking if anyone had called an ambulance.  Turns out this was the woman from the first car. She said the motorcyclist had overtaken them and then was going to fast when he came to a bend in the road, skidded while trying to break, and subsequently went over the edge.

Once it was determined that there was nothing we could do, we decided we may as well leave. About 10 minutes later two police cars passed us going back up the mountain,  but it wasn't for another 20 minutes that an ambulance passed us.

When we finally reached the bottom of the alps, I had thought we would stay in Altdorf, of William Tell fame, but we couldn't find anywhere to stay. We tried a few other places, but by this time we were really tired and stressed and made it to Lucerne (which is the other end of the lake from where we had started looking) and just found a comfortable chain hotel (Renaissance Blu) and checked in. 

After having breakfast in Austria and lunch in Liechtenstein, we settled down for dinner in Lucerne, and that is the start of another story ...

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