Germany, France and Switzerland.
Age-old rivals who compete for the best bridge position on the Rhine, the avoidance of tax payments on the Euro-Airport and whose police are reputably meaner to the citizens of the other countries.
And yet… these three countries meet somewhat harmoniously on the EU-flag-decked Friedensbrücke on the Rhine and work closely with each other in relation to the industries and migratory working population.

Thursday.
This was a feiertag for most of Europe, so we met up in Lörrach busbahnhof and wandered up through to Rötteln in the bright and burning sunshine. It’s only May, but it is VERY hot! Or maybe we’re neither of us used to the warm temperatures after the recent snowstorms…

We had picked up a couple of beers from the station shop (in countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland where shops are usually closed on a Sunday or a bank holiday, stations are the most likely place to have shops or cafes which are still open), and walked through the southern-most tip of the Black Forest along an old Roman road, aiming to get to the Schloss Rötteln.
Despite the website and noticeboard saying that the castle was open until 18:00, the man on the door refused us entry and said we had missed the last entry at 17:30 by 1 minute. Frustrating! But not to be too outdone, we explored the outside of it (and saw lots of lizards!) and headed back into the forest to find a suitable picnic spot.

Lots of the Black Forest is home to wild pigs, deer and other sorts of game, and in order to keep the numbers in control, the park wardens and farmers have hunting licences for specific times of year. The hunter will perch up in a tall wooden chair and wait for the animals to pass by. These chairs are usually a good 5m from the forest floor and make excellent picnic or resting spots – so when we saw one amongst the trees in a side-valley, we climbed up and spent a good few hours catching up on news and swapping travelling stories!

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At 4pm, after working at the school and helping run the staff training day (our semi-official title was the Mighty Mensa Coffee Makers), we ate an ice-cream and cycled across the borders into Switzerland and France.

The inhabitants of the Dreiländereck get very blase about hopping across international borders, but it is still quite thrilling for us English barbarians. There’s nothing like the English Channel for creating an island-nation-mindset, or the thought that crossing into another country is somehow risky or difficult!

In Basel we locked up our bikes outside the Rathaus and wandered up through the City to the Münster and the view point over the Rhine. We wanted to walk along the narrow footpath just above the water level, but thanks to the meltwater from the Swiss Alps the river level was too high and it was actually underwater…
We headed back to the main shopping districts and found a refreshing beer in Barfüßerplatz, sitting on the steps beneath the history museum in 33’C.
As the afternoon wore on, we decided it would be fun to pop into France – the border is only 20 minutes cycle away, so whyever not?! There are cycle paths through Basel direct to France, but we chose to go via the Friedensbrücke in Weil am Rhein, which then led to us getting quite confused and going in all sorts of directions around Basel Badische Bahnhof!
Eventually we got to Huningue and made a beeline for the coolness of the memorial fountain. Families with small children were darting in and out of the jets of water, but we abandoned our sensible adult ways and ploughed directly through the middle of them. Soaked? You bet. On the positive side, we then had an excuse to cycle up to Village Neuf to warm up, and then pedal back to Rötten over the Lucke via Haltingen and Ötlingen.
Supper was a ton of home-made flammkuchen, a sort of thin onion and ham pizza which is the speciality in the Alsace / Elsass region. Life is good.
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Huningue town square and fountains…
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