Therefore; this post is all about “How We Tried to Cross the Alps in May and Mother Nature Smacked Us Down!”
The plan……. (Black Line)
Leave Thun and head east and then south over the Alps using the Susten Pass and St. Goddard Pass, stopping at the lovely little alpine town of Andermatt and then on south to our planned destination in southern Switzerland, the Unesco Heritage Site of Bellinzona. This seemed a perfect plan with potential for fabulous views inside the Alps.
Note to self….. always obey your GPS.
The month of May can be a tricky travel month in Switzerland. We had already had a week of warm sunny days bordering on downright hot, and of course we assumed this would continue through the entire trip, ignoring the fact that many times when we travel in Europe in May it has poured chilly rain. We also ignored the fact that we knew the Alpine passes can be closed in May, depending upon the weather.
With these two strikes against us, we stepped out of our hotel into a morning where the temperature had crazily dropped 40 degrees from the day before and what seemed like a monsoon was producing a deluge of rain. Our GPS was blinking a warning at the top of the screen “Passes Closed”. We convinced ourselves this did not mean “our passes” and headed off toward the Alps.
Note to self….. Sometimes listen to your husband. Occasionally they are right.
As we ascended into the foothills of the Alps, fog and mist enveloped us draping and blanketing the views we anticipated and made the wet tightly curving, cliffhanging roads treacherous. This didn’t stop us.
Jim “I think we should turn around”
Me “No, this isn’t so bad. We can get over the pass.”
Jim “The sign we just passed says “pass closed”
Me “That’s not OUR pass. That’s a different pass and we’re not taking that road”
GPS Blinking “Passes Closed”
Me “it’s so beautiful!”
Jim “the car is beginning to slip”
Me “we can make it”
Me “this is making me really scared”
Jim “we are turning around NOW”
Me “where? The road isn’t wide enough”
OK, I’ll admit, at this point I was really panicking, but the Travel Gods were with us and out of the snowy distance appeared a dirt road which exited our road, giving us just enough room to turn around. Relief flooded us and so defeated, we headed back down to the nearest town.
Luckily for us, a small café offered us a place to calm down, have a coffee and grill the lone café worker as to how to proceed to our destination. I think I fell in love just out of relief that she turned out to be incredibly knowledgeable and mapped out our route on our smeared, crumpled, dog-eared map. (Blue Line)
The really bad news was that we had to head north quite a distance to Luzern, then east all the way to Lichtenstein and then south over the lowest pass at the eastern edge of the Alps, which thankfully was still open. This grand detour around the Alps added an additional 250 kilometers to our drive. Traveler stupidity always has a high price!
Even though the San Bernardino Pass does not have extreme peaks that reach the heavens and villages perched high on alpine slopes as do the higher passes, we experienced some pretty spectacular vistas.