by Evelyn Kanter
The crystal-clear air of the Swiss Alps is a perfect place for a gathering of air-cooled vintage VW Beetles.
More than 1,000 bugs and their Karman Ghia cousins, will be parking in the pastures surrounding the historic village of Chateau d’Oex, in the Alpine foothills east of Lake Geneva this weekend, August 26-28, 2011.
How do you say ‘show and shine’ in French — The local Lemania Coccinelle Club turns Chateau d’Oex positively buggy for this biennial, with VW themed events, a parts swap, and the Swiss version of a ‘show and shine’. It’s held every other year, in years ending with an odd number, like 2011.
Organizers are expecting vintage VWs to be driven here from 15 countries, including from air-cooled clubs in Croatia, Sweden and Denmark, where the Beetle is known as Kaefer, the German word for beetle. Who knew there were so many air-cooled VW clubs!
The only exception to the air-cooled rule allowed is the water-cooled T3 van, which VW switched from the air-cooled T1 and T2 versions manufactured before 1979. These were known variously as Bulli, Transporter, Caravelle and Westphalia Camper in Europe and elsewhere, and Microbus or Vanwagon in the USA — like the one I drove across Europe and North Africa, including Libya, after college (scroll down to read that artcle). Water-cooled Passat, Golf, Jetta and even water-cooled Beetle models are not permitted.
The VW Museum in Wolfsburg has loaned the rally some rare models in the past, but not this year. According to organizers, the only loaner will be a 2012 Beetle, not even one of the pre-production concept model Microbus that VW has been displaying at international auto shows.
Chateau d’Oex international Balloon Festival — Chateau d’Oex is better known for its annual international hot air balloon festival, and also as the launch site for the world record journey of the Breitling 2 Orbiter in 1998, that lasted nine days and travelled more than 5,000 miles. A copy of the bright red Breitling capsule was sitting in the main square of Chateau d’Oex the last time I visited, on my way to the ski slopes nearby ar Rougemont, Villars and Diablaret.
Evelyn Kanter EcoReport has been named one of the ten best Eco Travel websites of 2011 by Tripbase.