I grew up in a mix of the English Midlands and the east coast of Australia. So for most of my life the only borders I crossed were just into the next county/state (my parents didn’t have any interest in Wales so I didn’t even cross that border until I was in my early 20s).
Moving to Switzerland and having other countries and languages so close by was something of a novelty. For the Swiss it is just standard, and many cross over all the time just to go shopping with more favourable prices (though I have a Swiss friend who did the challenge of visiting all the neighbouring countries by public transport in a single day).
The Swiss Military has something of a history of crossing the border by mistake; famously invading/bombing Liechtenstein a number of times, and friends who did their time in the Swiss Military admit to crossing one border or the other by mistake.
I have crossed over to neighbouring countries numerous times and by various means of transport.
Some of my favourite crossings
Stein / Bad Säckingen. You walk across the border on a 203m long covered wooden bridge over the Rhine, made even more special by the way it wanders left and right as you go along rather than just being perfectly straight. Bad Säckingen has a nice little old town and some good ice cream cafes in summer, Stein on the Swiss side is entirely forgettable (even when you are still in it).
Laufenburg. Two old towns joined by a lovely stone bridge across the Rhine. The prettier and more extensive part of the town (including the castle) is on the Swiss side, but the best view is from the train station on the German side.
The Swiss side of the Rhine is dotted with bunkers (as with most of the Switzerland really). The footbridge between Schwaderloch and Albbruck has a little egg shaped machine gun pillbox greeting you on the Swiss side.
Monte Boglia. Sitting above Lugano the mountain has a fantastic view over the lake, city, and alps. The Swiss-Italian border runs along the ridge so you are constantly walking back and forth over it at the peak as you admire the views. I walked up from Monte Brè on a warm February weekend.
Bagnai Di Craeggia. A kilometre and a bit past Spruga up the stunning Valle Onsernone are the ruins of a former bathhouse. This is one of those curious cases where for whatever historical reason the border cuts across the middle of a valley rather than following the ridgeline. I visited when having a first look at the valley over Easter.
Passo della Crocetta. My first time crossing a border by a lonely alpine pass. I stayed the night at the little hamlet of S-charl then hiked down to Müstair. The pass was beautiful with a stunning view of the distant icy Ortler.
Into France by Kleinlützel. The border itself wasn’t especially interesting and I only stayed in France for a few minutes, but it is the closest point in France to my house and the novelty of cycling from home into a new country and language within a few hours made it memorable.
My to do list
- There are endless footpaths in the Alps crossing over ridges into a new country.
- An obvious choice are the various tri-points. When I first moved to Switzerland the DE-FR-CH in Basel was on my to do list, but I have never gotten around to doing it and have rather lost interest in going to an out of the way part of Basel for a border that is actually in a random bit of the river. The CH-AT-LI and CH-AT-IT are on mountains which can be hiked up and look far more interesting. The CH-FR-IT would require more mountaineering skills and equipment than I have.
- There is a cable car opening up that will allow you to travel from Zermatt to Cervinia in Italy.
- Umbrail Pass. Apparently an impressive spot with the trenches from WW1 still visible. This could be done as a cycling loop with the Stelvio pass.
- Kilometre 0. An obscure bit of woodland near Bonfol in the Jura was the start of the frontline between France and Germany in WW1.
I don’t plan to go out of my way for these, but they are fun little points:
- Famously Lake Constance which sits between Switzerland, Austria and Germany is in all 3 countries with no defined agreement on how it is legally split. I have put my hand in so it could be argued that it counted as being in all three countries at once.
- The Hotel Arbez has the border run through it.
- The enclaves of Büsingen am Hochrhein (Germany) and Compione d’Italia (Italy).