Tuesday, September 2 – Language Whiplash as we drive between cantons (Bern to Vaud)

Cold, but sunny and clear

As much as we have been looking forward to hiking, we wake up tired and decide to just go for a drive today. We drove from Saanen down the valley to Chateaux d’Oex. Saanen is only a few miles from the border between the cantons Bern and Vaud – but most importantly this is a border between the German speaking area (Bern) and the French speaking (Vaud). It is only 15 minutes or so by car between Saanen and Chateaux d’Oex.

Once you get into the French part of Switzerland it does feel different. The signs are all in French, people speak French to you instead of German, the towns look different – just slightly different. This last thing is probably more to do with the building restrictions of the canton. The towns in Bern are beautiful and perfect looking – perfect wooden chalets, each window with a window box full of flowers, overflowing gardens with big flowers, sunflowers, vegetable gardens. The French towns are also beautiful, but it a bit more rundown way. The French towns seem to sit more in the mountains than in the valley and are perched on the edge of valley walls. The streets are more narrow, the buildings look different. It just feels a bit more lively, a bit less organized.

We walked around Chateaux d’Oex. It is a small town with a pedestrian main shopping area – a few restaurants, a few cafes. We looked for someplace for lunch, but nothing looked that interesting. The stores were all closed (it was past noon) and there were a few people in the restaurants – the town was very quiet. I had read that this town was more built up with more highrises than Gstaad, but this was not so. It is a pretty town – not very big.

We continued our drive over the mountains to Col des Mosses and on to Le Sepey. On the map this is a red, main road – but in reality it is a winding, narrow mountain road. There were not many cars and the driving was easy, but you went high up into the mountains with steep dropoffs beside the road. We stopped in Le Sepey for a late lunch (rosti with fresh mushrooms for me, fish for Steve). Le Sepey is a very small town perched on the edge of a mountain.

We then took what was supposed to be a minor, yellow road back to Gstaad, but this turned out to be an easy road and is the faster way to get to Le Sepey and then onto Aigle and the Autobahn. This road went along the high mountains of this area. There are some mountain rides from here up to the glaciers. At Gsteig you start down a long gentle valley that ends in Gstaad.

That was our big adventure for the day.

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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.