Back to the future

406 nights : 13,676 miles travelled : countries visited: 17

The future rewards those who press on.      Barack Obama

Now, we know that you’ve been thinking that all this snail trail malarkey is just one long holiday. Yet we had started to believe it was hard work.  Reflecting on what had already happened for the blog, planning where to go next, whilst remembering to enjoy the present at the same time can be challenging. Then we arrived back in the UK. It was a joy to catch up with family and friends but within days, we appreciated how fortunate we had been to step off the merry go round of real life. So after a hectic 10 weeks, we can finally tell you about our journey home.

Lake Maggiore bridges Italy with Switzerland and the stunning scenery surrounding it’s shores flow from one country to the next. But you are immediately clear that  you have moved on. We cannot overstate how tidy and orderly Switzerland is, and after the casual wonkiness of southern Europe, we both felt slightly unnerved. Urban areas resembled scenes from the Truman Show and we struggled to find countryside that was truly wild. Everywhere was so well managed.

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We spotted this footpaths officer more than five kilometres from the nearest town

This did not reduce the impact of the mountains, rivers and lakes and it was easy to float into the tranquility and beauty surrounding us.

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Rivers, lakes and mountains also help to define the lovely city of Lucerne in Central Switzerland.

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The octagonal water tower is a 13th century fortification

The Chapel Bridge was originally built in 1333 although much had to be rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1993. Not all the painted panels dating from the 17th century were replaced providing a stark reminder of the fire damage.

 

Interlaken really does sit between two lakes and is a hub of extreme sport and endless activity. We settled for leisurely walks and let Mr Kips raise our average speed!

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Our chances of spotting Heidi always felt high!

The picture box beauty of Switzerland was just as we hoped and the cost of living as high as we expected. We decided to spend our remaining Swiss Francs on lunch and chocolate on our last day but with a burger and fries for two costing nearly 50 pounds, there was barely enough for half a bar of Toblerone!

Our plan to visit the Black Forest was abandoned after days of heavy rain left the dark trees steaming and waterways resembling Willy Wonka’s chocolate river. So we decided to visit the border village of Schengen. As major beneficiaries of the agreement that allows free movement across borders in Europe, and in light of all the uncertainty surrounding the future, we came to pay our respects. The village is near to where the borders of France, Germany and Luxembourg meet and the river was close to flooding. We hoped this wasn’t a bad omen!

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The agreement was signed on a boat on the River Moselle, marked by this visitor centre

Sections of the Berlin wall were a poignant reminder of a darker time when Europe was divided by more than checkpoints and customs booths.

Throughout the year, whenever ( read often!) we found it difficult to move on, we promised ourselves that we would return. We retraced our steps to the Mullerthal region in Luxembourg which was reassuring as it proved a return visit is possible, if not often likely. 

Graham was in charge of the route home, which meant we would always be close to waterways. The role of the Canal du Centre in keeping lorries of the road was dramatically boosted by the building of the Strépy-Thieu boat lift. It reduced travelling time on that section of the canal from four days to one and meant that larger barges were able to transport heavier goods.

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Two counter balanced caissons move boats between the downstream and upstream reaches
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The boat lift bridges a height difference of 250 feet and the viewing platform made an old canal fan very happy!
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The four original lifts are now on the UNESCO World Heritage List

Our last night was in France in preparation for the journey home. We had already decided that we were not ready to give up the nomadic life of the trail and we were heading back for a pitstop not a return. This was a great reminder that there is a wonderful life in the UK to resume some time in the future. But for now the trail is leading us back across the Channel!

M & G x

Treat of the week: We love the journey through the Channel Tunnel. It is so convenient when chauffering a dog and it never fails to impress us as a feat of engineering. Our journey to Folkestone was made more special by being the first to enter our section of the train and driving up the empty carriage was like time travel, although it wasn’t clear if travelling home was going back or forwards?

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