Thursday, 15 May 2014

Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein - May 2014



I can't believe after 8 months of planning the time has finally come for us to go to Switzerland.  The year is just flying by.  The main reason for our trip is to attend the Meeting Friends Mega Event in Frauenfeld but during our 6 night stay we'll also be attending an event in Liechenstein, visiting Austria to find as many icons as possible, driving to Germany to do a Wherigo series, going up a mountain and finding any other caches that take our fancy along the way .

THURSDAY

Departed Luton in torrential rain and heavy cloud at 13.30, arrived in glorious sunshine in Zurich at 15:45 CET and headed to pick up hire car.

The dream.....  WAKE UP!!
        
..... reality!
We have had many hire cars over the years and it has to be said that the Seat Ibiza was pretty rubbish, safe to say it had been thrashed, every time you lifted the boot if it had been raining the water would run back into the boot and soak whatever was in there, also I think my torch was probably brighter than the headlights - really not impressed and would avoid them in the future, the only positives were that it was easy to park and not too thirsty.



First stop before checking into our hotel in Kreuzlingen:

A letterbox:

In our ongoing quest to find as many cache types per country as possible Mark had shortlisted 3 easy looking letterbox caches.  The hint was a little confusing as it didn't translate into English but it was immediately obvious what it meant at GZ but we weren't 100% sure even when we opened up the box as to whether we were correct or not, but then we spotted the geocaching logo so we knew we were in the right place.  A very clever hide.  I won't include a link but have included a photo, hopefully not too much of a spoiler.  Really good and a well deserved fave point for our first cache in Switzerland.

Then on to an event. 

This standard event was held by Mirage Breton and as luck would have it just a very short distance from our hotel.  It was interesting to see that they do a similar thing to us - if there isn't an event to attend when they go to a new country then they hold one themselves.  This was their 10th travelling event.
Swiss girl Fanny TB
There was a very unusual TB that we were dying to bring home to an event in the UK, it was Swiss girl Fanny, but we don't think Easyjet would be too pleased so unfortunately we had to leave it.

Enjoyed chatting to other cachers before heading off to a well known fast food purveyor for possibly the world's most expensive burger.

HOW MUCH??!!

FRIDAY

Had breakfast then headed off  to Austria to do a puzzle, letterbox, multi, trad, earthcache and then on into Germany to do some wherigos.

We last visited Austria 22 years ago but of course caching hadn't been invented then and it was nice to come back and find some caches.

On our way to Germany we went through the Pfänder tunnel - I think it's the longest tunnel we've ever driven through (6.7km/4mi long).  The tunnel has been built to provide a link between the German motorway network and the Austrian motorway in the Rhine valley.  I love driving through tunnels and there are loads of them in Switzerland - one I particularly have on my to-do list is the Lærdal Tunnel in Norway which is 15 miles long (one day!)

SATURDAY


Bike Hire

MEGA Switzerland - Meeting Friends 2014

We arrived at the event nice and early before 9am and there were quite a few people around already, we'd pre-ordered a geocoin and supporters pack so collected those first.

There were some lab caches set specifically for this event and as we'd enjoyed the ones we found at the Kent Mega we were keen to try these too. They were really interesting and took us to some interesting places around the town.

We'd noticed quite a few caches were to be published for the mega and they looked do-able by bike, so we pre-booked hire bikes that were available on site and being provided by a mobile bike hire company called Bike Station. As the bikes were such good value we decided to hang onto them for the rest of the day and we're glad we did as we clocked up over 10 miles on them.

This is our 17th Mega Event and to date is the best one we have been to.  The whole event from start to finish was really well organised, from the booking of the supporters pack where we just had to bring along a QR code to collect it, the signage from the motorway telling us where to park, the helpful organisers who were easy to spot in bright orange 'HELFEN' T shirts, the surrounding caches, all set on good cycle friendly/pushchair friendly paths and were all really nicely hidden and the bike hire that was provided at a very reasonable cost.  We had so much fun and the name of the event couldn't have been better as we made so many new friends, everyone we met was friendly and helpful.

The Frauenfelder Altstadtführung wherigo was brilliant fun as we were having to translate as we went and luckily at each zone there were quite a few other cachers playing the wherigo and they were really keen to help us if we got stuck with the answers it was a great way to get talking to people.  At one of the zones Mark was well chuffed as not only did he successfully translate the question he found the answer before  the German speaking cachers who were completely stuck!
Cascata

When we got to the start point for the multi we spent ages looking for a number, luckily we were soon joined by cascata, a very friendly cacher from a town near Zurich, he showed us his printed sheets which were different to our cache listing for some reason, he asked if he could join us on the rest of the multi, this made us smile because we were about to ask him if we could tag along with him as we didn't have a clue what we were doing.  It was really good fun doing the multi together and we were really grateful for his help as without it we'd have been completely stuck.



SUNDAY

Today we completed a couple of wherigos and a webcam in St Gallen before heading to Liechenstein to do a puzzle, trad, multi, earthcache and an event.


This is our first visit to Liechenstein and what a beautiful country.

The traditional we found was fairly close to the puzzle and we didn't know until we got to GZ that it was in fact up a tree, the T4 should have given it away really.  I was a bit worried as it seemed a bit high up but before I could stop him, Mark was at the top of the tree, I was wondering how I'd go about calling the emergency services in the middle of nowwhere should he lose his footing but I needn't have worried as he's a very experienced tree climber

Mark auf den Baum

The multi we found was in an amazing location.  We stopped off at the viewing platform to look out across Vaduz before heading down to the earthcache and the event.


The earthcache was good fun, we got talking to a German cacher who was also trying to find the info, we looked everywhere and couldn't find anything so went into the tourist information office, our helpful new friend asked the assistant behind the counter if she knew anything about the geocache and she gave us both a print out with the answers!! Result!

Then it was just a short walk to the Hochsitz event.
bitte lächeln!

We had been considering having our own event in Liechtenstein to coincide with our trip to the area but after talking to Ian from Basketcase Crew a few weeks ago he said he was thinking about having an event so we encouraged him to get one published as it saved us having to set one. 

We'd actually planned to visit Liechenstein on a different day during our holiday but when this event was published we decided to rejig our itinerary so we could attend.  What a great little event, really well attended, lovely to see so many cachers, some we'd previously met at Mega Switzerland.

We were so lucky with the weather too as the sun shone all day


Liechenstein's First was a must-do because of the location and views so that was where we went next.......  and we weren't disappointed.  The views were just amazing all the way but just as we arrived at GZ it clouded over and started to rain, the weather can be so changeable.  What a great place, just as we'd returned the cache I spotted a small mammal and wondered what it was, it wasn't a rabbit as it only had small ears and was too large to even be a hare, not a squirrel as the tail wasn't very bushy and it was far too big, after researching realised it was a marmot and that they are fairly common in that area.
View near Liechenstein's First

MONDAY


Today we travelled to Santis der Berg stopping off at a webcam in Appenzellen on the way.

Appenzellen was a really pretty place with some lovely buildings and quaint shops, unfortunately the whole country seemed to be closed on a Monday so we could only windowshop, we had to wait around for ages for the webcam page to refresh so whilst Mark did the techie stuff I disappeared off to find somewhere to get warm, the only place that was open was the public toilet, it was lovely and warm in there with the heating on so I stayed in there until my hands and feet had thawed out.... there was a definite drop in the temperature from where we'd come from.
I think I've changed my mind

Next stop Säntis der berg

The weather forecast wasn't good for today and snow was forecast in the area but as we'd planned our visit to the mountain we decided to go for it anyway as we were really keen to find the earthcache at the top of the mountain. 

We took the cable car journey to the top which was really exciting (scary), we passed through thick cloud and once at the top it was a complete whiteout and part of the outside area was closed off due to the heavy snowfall.

View from the summit
 
So unfortunately the multi and traditional weren't  possible to do but we were able to find the answers to the earthcache with the help of some fellow cachers we bumped into up there, we'd also met them the day before at the Hoscitz event in Liechesnten.  Enjoyed a lovely chat before going our separate ways.

Sobo and Tina Franziska

So that was our new highest cache!



TUESDAY

Today's plan was to visit Stuttgart and do the Grimms marchen wherigo series

We'd spotted these wherigos last October whilst planning our trip to Switzerland and pencilled it in as a maybe if we had any time spare. The weather forecast looked good for today so we thought a long walk would be just what we need to balance out all the driving we've been doing.

We parked at the suggested parking and off we went.  We didn't know what was involved with this series we just knew it was based on the Grimm's Fairy Tales but we hoped all would become apparent as we set off.  I started playing on my iPhone but it wouldn't let me choose which zone to go to, even when restarting it gave a totally random zone.  I knew this wasn't right as Mark was able to choose which zone he wanted on his Samsung and Oregon so I returned to the start and started again playing on just my Oregon and all seemed to work ok after that.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable series which really tested our German language skills and we learnt quite a few new words. 

The series is in a beautiful location with lots of interesting things to see along the way.  We were so lucky with the weather, the sun shone the whole time and luckily it waited until we were back at the car before it clouded over and chucked it down with rain.

It was quite hardgoing at times and the wherigos were played on just one cartridge so we weren't sure if we failed at any of them whether we'd be able to carry on.  With the added difficulty with the language it took us quite some time to complete but sheer determination to succeed paid off, the 6.18 mile walk took just under 4 hours.

WEDNESDAY

We checked out of our hotel and headed towards Zurich, stopping off to find a cache in Winterthur that has 301 favourite points since 2011 and had the most favourite points in the Zurich canton, so we were intrigued as to what it involved, it really was brilliant, sorry no spoilers here, you'll have to go and find it.



Then we headed to the centre of Zurich which was stressful to say the least, as the local drivers were less than patient.  Eventually we found our way to an underground car park, which has to be the most hi-tech we have seen, it was very modern and the lift area more like a hotel lobby.  You couldn't enter the car park until there were spaces free so you had to wait until one became free before you could enter.  All the spaces had censors so you were then directed by screens to the nearest available space.  The car park was situated in Bahnhofstrasse which is Zurich's main downtown street and one of the world's most expensive and exclusive shopping avenues.  There was one designer shop after another and jewellers selling Rolex watches for 37,000 CHF (£24.668).  So we didn't want to leave the car too long as we imagined it was probably the most expensive car park in Europe.

We would love to have spent more time exploring Zurich but we just ran out of time and as we'd cut it a little too fine on our flight out we didn't want to risk doing the same again.

So, I'm finishing off this blog at 39,000 ft and our exciting trip is nearing its end as we'll shortly be landing at Luton.  We've had an amazing time and we absolutely loved Switzerland, I really hope we'll return one day as there is so much more to see.

This fantastic hobby really does take us to some amazing places.


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