This was our first ever European trip. During summer of 1997, we began preparation; it was necessary to get visas for Germany and Switzerland. We decided to share all travel-related expenses with our friends – another family couple, studied all available road maps; there was no widely available GPS applications that time and mobile phone looked like piece of brick in 1997. All that made this trip unique and to be remembered forever. Other interesting details – all photographs were taken using the 35 millimetres film camera but videos filmed using Super VHS mini camera; we borrowed one from friends because it was so rare piece of equipment that time. One of our goals was visiting Switzerland cities.
Arrival to Switzerland
In 1997 we lived in Latvia and our trip started about 60 kilometres to the south from Latvian capital Riga late in the evening. Driving almost non-stop whole night and day (in total about 1800 kilometres; we were two drivers), shortly before midnight we arrived to Karlsruhe in Germany. Despite driving in shifts, tiredness forced us to seek for the first available hotel without considering room price. We were lucky enough to get good bargain and next morning we were fresh again. After breakfast and a short walk, we immediately continued our trip.
After driving about two hundred kilometres, we arrived at Weil am Rhein border control point. Border guards did not stop us for a long time and after buying highway vignette we were welcomed in Switzerland.
Vevey, Leysin and Aigle
After border crossing, we continued driving to Vevey, Aigle and then up in the mountains; our accommodation was booked in famous ski resort Leysin.
Serpentine road from Aigle to Leysin was surprisingly extreme for the first experience (I would not say that now because we have seen many more difficult roads) – rises and drops all the way. There are six kilometres between towns if we draw direct line, however we were driving about 17 kilometres to get to the destination. After 20 minutes of driving adventures, we reached our final destination. For the first time of travelling by car abroad, everything went so well and was really exciting!
Next morning, we decided to walk downhill from Leysin to Aigle. Despite signs along pathways saying it should take two and a half hours, it took for us more than four hours to reach the town. We were stopping often, passing beautiful landscapes and vineyards. After a cup of coffee in Aigle, we went back to Leysin by Aigle-Leysin mountain train on this occasion. It took only about 20 minutes to reach the starting point of that day’s journey. The train winds its way up through vineyards and steep mountains, before arriving at its destination located at an altitude of 1450 metres above the sea level.
After that, we still had whole afternoon and evening to walk around Leysin and that is what we actually did.
Switzerland cities – Geneva, Lausanne and Montreux
In the morning of the third day of the trip of visiting Switzerland cities, we went to Geneva. Unfortunately, the weather was not good, everything around looked grey, however the city itself was interesting an we bought some Swiss souvenirs to take back home.
After visiting Geneva, we visited Olympic Museum in Lausanne and had a walk on beautiful banks of Geneva lake. Before arrival to Leysin, we passed through Montreux, which still is one of my favourite places in the world.
Montreux lies almost seven kilometres along the coast of Geneva lake; the statue of Freddie Mercury stands on the banks in front of the Covered Market. Freddie lived for several years in Montreux and recorded his last album there.