After a second generous Teutonic breakfast we booked out of the hotel and took a taxi to a car rental office a couple of kilometres out of town. Our plan was to take the ferry across to Romanshorn again and then drive through Switzerland to Liechtenstein. At this stage we didn’t have a road map because I tend to consider these to be an unnecessary expense and I was fairly confident that the place would be signposted and not too difficult to find, as it is, after all, an independent European sovereign state.
We had booked the car for ten-thirty but as there was a ferry at ten-forty we arrived early to see if we could pick the vehicle up a little sooner and be sure of making the crossing. We found the office but there were no cars at all and I was beginning to regret my decision to go for the cheapest option available when I had made the booking. We sat and waited in the sunshine and Kim was struck with the brilliant idea of purchasing a map from the garage next door so that we could plan our route a little more accurately than my strategy of simply pointing the car in the general direction of Liechtenstein because although it is a European sovereign state it is also rather small. We thought that we might also be able to make contingencies in case we missed the ferry.
I needn’t have worried about the car hire arrangements because the car turned up about ten minutes before the agreed pick up time and the process was impressively efficient and within minutes we were in our brand new silver Peugeot and heading back to the city with just a few minutes to spare before the ferry disembarked for Switzerland. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be driving down streets that looked as though they may have been pedestrianised, but others were doing it so I followed their example because I was determined to make that ferry. And we made it with just a couple of minutes to spare.
The lake was flat calm and a little eerie with a spooky blue mist that obscured the far side of the lake and certainly blotted out the Alps beyond so we sat at the front of the boat and watched for Romanshorn to come into view. We had bought our ticket on the car deck so when the ticket collector came around the passenger deck where we now sat I had to rummage through my trousers to produce a badly disfigured ticket because I had screwed it up and thrust it into the bottom of my pocket immediately after purchase. It was a good job I hadn’t thrown it away because I suspect that if I had that we would have had to pay a second time for the crossing.
We left the ferry in Romanshorn and with Kim in possession of the map and entrusted with navigation duties we set off out of the town and made it effortlessly to the town of St Gallen, a sort of gateway to the Alps. Here things became slightly more difficult and Kim’s navigational skills were tested to the limit as she was entrusted with the task of getting us through the town and on the road to Vaduz. After a couple of wrong directions and slightly fraying nerves she eventually took us through and out the other side.
We selected a minor road and scenic route and were so glad that we did because here the scenery was wonderful with green fields and gently curving meadows that looked like fresh watercolours running in rain and all bathed under a gentle pastel blue sky. In the fields adjacent to the roads there were alpine cattle with bulging udders feeding on the lush grass and clanging noisily about on account of the huge cow-bells that they had hanging around their necks.
Eventually the winding road took us to the village of Tregen where we came across a hill top restaurant with good views over the valleys below and we stopped for a drink and to allow Kim to repair her shattered nerves after the minor panic in St Gallen.
This gave us time to examine the map again to find the most suitable route and Kim explained how she had carefully plotted a course to avoid places that the map helpfully pointed out as ‘worth a detour’. Kim had interpreted this information as ‘worth avoiding’ when of course it actually meant ‘worth going out of your way to take a look’. Goodness knows how many interesting things we had missed already or might miss later if we hadn’t been able to clear that little misunderstanding up right then.
This was a lovely setting and we sat in the sun and enjoyed our drinks but the best was yet to come because when we decided to use the wash rooms before resuming our journey we were delighted to find what simply has to be the best loo in the world with an impressive mechanical cleaning process that included a 360º scrubbing and disinfection of the toilet seat procedure. This was really impressive but I was a little concerned about health and safety risks associated with it beginning in advance of the occupier leaving the seat, which could have been especially painful for a man if he was to get caught up in the mechanism.
When it was time to leave we paid for our drinks with what has to be some of the finest bank notes in the world. Everyone knows that the Swiss are fond of money and they leave no one in any doubt of this with the quality of their notes. Not only are they brilliantly colourful but they are printed on high quality paper as well.
On the ten-franc note we were interested to see the portrait of Le Corbusier who was a Swiss architect who is famous for his contributions to what now is called Modern Architecture. He was a pioneer in theoretical studies of modern design and was dedicated to what he saw as providing better living conditions for the residents of crowded and polluted cities and contributed to the design and development of high rise futuristic ‘cities in the sky’. The sort of places that we enthusiastically constructed in the 1960’s and then rather sheepishly tore down again in the 1990’s. I am not suggesting that Le Corbusier’s ideas weren’t good but perhaps that we didn’t fully understand the concept when all over the UK we constructed sub-standard buildings that failed to live up to his vision.
These bank notes reminded me of my dad’s insistence on always returning home from foreign holidays with currency for his personal treasure chest. Even if it was 90˚ in the shade and everyone was desperate for a last drink at the airport dad was determined to bring a souvenir note or coin home and would hang on with a steadfast determination that would deny last minute sustenance to everyone so long as he could get his monetary mementos back home safely. How glad I am of that because now they belong to me and my left over Swiss bank notes have been added to the collection.