Monday, September 1 – Driving from Konstanz to Saanen (Switzerland)

Overcast, no rain.

Up and out for a walk, then breakfast in the hotel. We were going to go to a café in town because the hotel room did not include breakfast and it was expensive (20 Euro each), but we could not face the long walk to the main piazza (only 15 minutes but Ursula and Lionel had run us off our feet). We have about $100 in old German marks that we wanted to exchange at a bank, but the only bank in the area that would do it was in another town. We will mail those marks to Ursula and she can turn them in.

Loaded up the car and headed out. It took about 3 ½ hours to drive to Gstaad – most of the way on Autobahn. We did manage to get pulled over by the police and get fined!! For something that I should have known – our car did not have an Autobahn sticker!! We have rented cars in Switzerland many times, and they always have that Autobahn sticker on the windsheild. You do not pay tolls on the Autobahn in Switzerland; instead your car has to have a sticker that costs 40 Euro (maybe you can buy cheaper ones for shorter times – I don’t know). The sticker looks like the universal highway sign (a green roadway) with the two-digit year. It is usually on the drivers side. When we picked up the car, I forgot to check that the sticker was there (duh!!). When we were driving I assumed it was in this plastic thing under the rearview mirror – with the parking disc – but it wasn’t.

The police car pulled in front of us and flashed “Stop Bitte” on its rooftop Police sign. Then they pulled onto the wide shoulder, but they did not slow down and stop. They kept driving. We followed. At one point, I think we could not understand what was going on and we pulled back into the lane, but they did and then they pulled over again. After a few miles, there was a pullout and they pulled in there and we pulled in behind them. They got out, checked Steve’s drivers license, the car registration and his International Drivers License. We still didn’t know what was wrong. After trying several languages, Steve and the policeman settled on English and he explained what was wrong. We had to pay a 100 Euro fine (in cash) and 40 Euro for the sticker (in cash). We got a receipt (and I will try to get something back from AutoEurope).

Note for the Switzerland driving section: Always check your car windsheild to be sure you have the Autobahn sticker. I will find out where you can buy them.

Konstanz – Bern – 2 hours
Bern – Saanen – 1.5 hours

We had arranged to meet the agency person in front of the Saanen train station at 3pm. We were 20 minutes early. Saanen is a very small town and we found Yvonne easily in front of the train station and then we followed her in our car to the vacation rental.

Our apartment is in a chalet with about six apartments in a group of 3 or 4 chalets just on the outskirts of Saanen. It is a 10 minute walk to the train station from our apartment. We are on the ground floor. The apartment is beautiful! It is quite large – 2 bedrooms/2 bathrooms, with a modern kitchen open to the livingroom and dining room. Wood floors in most of the apartment. A nice outdoor sitting area. Lots of windows. Comfortable furniture, but not overly fussy. Yvonne said they had turned on the heat just that week – it had been down to nearly 0 celcius.

Saanen is a small town with a few shops. Gstaad is 5 minutes away by car and has a large Coop and a Migros (supermarkets) plus several really nice specialty food stores. We drove into Gstaad and got groceries for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow. We walked around the main pedestrian shopping area in Gstaad and had apple strudel and coffee (sitting inside because it is still cold). Then home to make dinner. I did not even bother to unpack much.

It is Wednesday night as I am writing this. Last night I was going to write my journal when my computer died!! Not the blue screen of death, but the “I am not going to boot up” screen of “you are in trouble girl”. Trouble because I had BIG PLANS for using that computer in the next two weeks. I had spent an hour or two updating the Switzerland section of the web site before the death occurred and I did not lose my work. But instead of writing my journal, I spent the evening copying files from the computer to this cute USB storage device we have (256 mb SanDisk Mini Cruiser) and then copying them from there to Steve’s computer – which we will now have to “share”. Great.

I will post this and then head to bed. Our connection is very slow and we pay Earthlink for each minute used and the landlord for each minute used. Why can’t Earthlink provide a toll free number for access? Earthlink also lists the access number without the leading zero, which you need when dialing in Switzerland. Thanks Earthlink! Luckily we figured this out quickly.

So now I miss my high speed access and my own computer!! (But I am in the Alps and the weather was great today and we went hiking.)

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.