Archive for the ‘Switzerland’ Category

Winterthur to Hüfingen

2 August 2010

Here we are in Hüfingen near Donaueschingen, Germany. On a climb toward the end of today’s ride we crossed a fateful watershed. The drops of sweat falling from our brows no longer find their way to the Rhine and the IJsselmeer in Holland (where attentive readers will remember we swam four weeks ago). Now that sweat heads East (if it doesn’t evaporate of course) into the Donau/Danube and the Black Sea. We feel committed to Istanbul now!

Husemer See

Guido lead us through forests, farmland and a high railway bridge to the Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen this morning – an awesome amount of water and those clever Swiss engineers have found ways to build platforms REALLY close to the torrent. We then said goodbye and headed out of Switzerland into Germany where we had some navigation challenges as we had no map and Garmin’s map had a hole in it too.

Rhine Falls

A ride through drizzling rain brought us to a kiosk in the forest where German bushwalkers were taking refreshments (very classy fare) – we joined them of course.

Arriving in rainy Donaueschingen we asked Herr Garmin for a list of accommodation. The closest, Landgasthof Frank was just 180 metres away (our of sight). We rode there and they had a room for us – who needs to book!

The sadness of leaving Switzerland and our Swiss friends was slightly ameliorated by a splendid (and inexpensive) meal at a Croatian restaurant called Forelle – excellent for hungry cyclists.

Cycle route:
Winterthur to Donaueschingen

Swiss National Day

1 August 2010

We have noticed a lot of flag flying around Switzerland. I think they are generally a lot more keen on this sort of thing then we are in Australia, but it is also due to the fact that 1 August is Swiss National Day and everyone is feeling especially patriotic.

We went with Guido to Zurich for the day, starting out on foot to Kyburg, a castle about an hour from here, then by bus and train. It was sunny and quite hot. Swimming and sunbaking was pretty popular. We all had a swim in the lake and then a ferry ride to the centre of town. On Guido’s advice we decided to leap into the Limmat River which flows out of Lake Zurich with quite a current, and float downstream a short way. This was good fun though it could easily have been a longer trip as it was harder than it looked to stop and climb out!

Rosalie floating down the Limmat

Then on the train to Uetliberg where there is a lookout and tower overlooking Zurich and giving a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside.

The Swiss celebrate their national day with fireworks and bonfires. We went to watch the lighting of a huge bonfire nearby followed by the municipal fireworks display.

Winterthur

1 August 2010

Travelling east we could see the Alps on the horizon, a beautiful clear sunny day. Our route took us through farms and villages and then across the urban fringes of Zurich with a long steep downhill run into Winterthur. Here we found Guido, a friend of our family since 1989. We went for a walk through the old town, had a beer, saw a buck’s party featuring groom-to-be in mankini, then retired to Guido’s private cinema (his living room) to watch Les Petites Fugues, a film about life on a farm in the Jura (recommended).

Bridge at Baden

Cycle route:
Unterentfelden to Winterthur

Gersau to Unterentfelden

1 August 2010

(Fri 30 July) The YH at Gersau is called Rotschuo – Red Shoe. It’s an old Swiss farm house with dormitories added on each side. It was full of families with children and babies and few assorted extras like us. The rain was still pouring down, so we had breakfast and I had a swim in the Vierwaldstattersee (aka Lake of Lucerne). No sign of rain stopping so we sat for awhile in the old sitting room, floors, walls and ceilings all of dark timber. Unexpectedly the alps appeared as clear as anything! Then out into the rain and on the road.

Our Swiss German is pretty limited but we can order zwei schale hell (2 milk coffees) and are successful at purchasing items from the konditorei.

A welcome sight for cold and wet cyclists

Our destination was the home of Hans and Irma in Unterentfelden. We were happy to see them again and Flavio and Vera, now a lot more grown up than when we last met in 2004. We were given luxury accommodation in the garden house (recently constructed by the whole family) and a delicious dinner of raclette and black forest cake. After dinner lots of talking about our various travels, followed by a concert of recorder music (Vera), drumming (Flavio), then Australian and Swiss folk songs sung at full volume by everyone with ukulele accompaniment.

Cycle route:
Gersau to Unterentfelden

Where are the alps?

29 July 2010

The weather obeyed the forecast and gave us a thunderstorm followed by torrential rain. No early dash up Pilatus. The alps are all hidden by cloud. We took the ferry to Gersau while the rain continued then cycled a short distance to the YH that’s right beside the lake.

It seemed likely that the weather would clear if we went up the Rigi, and that’s where we’re now sitting, watching the cloud go up and down and enjoying the view when it’s there.

View from cog railway on Rigi near Luzern

Food highlight of the day: brezels from Luzern bahnhof. I know it’s only Swiss fast food, but they are good.

Brezels are tops

Travel tip: don’t take the exploding pannier approach upon entering your chambre for the night. This what Ian does. Everything comes out and gets distributed around the room. I am urging him to adopt Jameela’s method which is to neatly fold your clothes and place them in the cupboards provided. I don’t think he’s going to do it.

Gerolfingen to Luzern

28 July 2010

We bid an early farewell to Henri and Mireille, our wonderful hosts who helped us, fed and housed us and made us feel welcome. Thank you!

It was a beautiful clear morning and we could see good views of the alps as we travelled east. Our friend Chasseral was also clearly visible as we looked back and it only disappeared from view late in the morning. A nice steep road took us through fields, forests and farmyards and we had a close encounter with some cows. I also found the ideal setting for a Sound of Music re-enactment.

The hills are alive...

At lunchtime it began to rain so we stopped in Huttwil – Zaentrum Cafe to be exact. I give the lunch 3.5 stars. When we came out we found that our bikes, which we had left leaning nicely against the shoe shop window, had been moved. I suspect that the shoe shop owner noticed a downturn in business, assumed it was related to the presence of the bikes, and took direct action. A shoe display  was placed where the bikes had been. Number of customers before and after: 0.

We were rained upon all afternoon. In Luzern we found we had been upgraded – woohoo! To the hotel instead of the pension. Weather forecast for tomorrow is not promising but we are ready for an early ascent of Pilatus if it’s clear.

Cycle route:
Gerolfingen to Luzern

Berne

28 July 2010

We travelled by train to Berne with Henri and Mireille to see Klee meets Picasso. Klee is a Bernese artist and a magnificent gallery has been built on the edge of Berne to commemorate him.

Bernese bear

Then some tourist activities – but first came lunch: 2 kinds of bread (v good), 3 kinds of cheese (excellent), a tomato, a park bench and a Swiss Army pocket knife. This was just near the old bear pits that are now converted into a performance space for humans (Waiting for Godot is coming soon). The bears have a new home nearby, overlooking the river. Anyway, as lunch was finishing I saw this. People who have seen Exit through the gift shop will know about the street artist Space Invader and his tendency to place mosaics in public places around the world. He has put quite a few around Berne (which I only found out later) but it was a bit of a thrill to spot it like that!

Ok – the tourist activities. The river – it’s pale green-blue and fast flowing with rubber raft groups floating downstream. Henri and Mireille took us to the low lying part of town that gets flooded every so often. Then to the Berne Cathedral. It has painted sculptures over the entrance and, inside, the ceiling is deep blue with gold stars. We listened to the organist who was playing a 20th century piece (goosebumps on last chord). Then up the tower (222 steps) to see the view over the city.

Around the old town, to the Swiss Houses of Parliament in front of which a computerised fountain sprays jets of water that children love to play in on a warm day.

Art galleries and tourist activities are at least as tiring as riding up a big hill. We took the train home and Henri made fondue for dinner. You are meant to have it in winter but we’re in favour of breaking rules. It was delicious with chunks of onion and garlic added. Blueberries and blackberries for dessert.

Chasseral

26 July 2010

Early start for a big ride. It was raining at breakfast but soon cleared.

Along the lake, around the southern end, then up!

Highlights: beautiful town of Le Landeron; fields, views, cows, cow bells, a cheese factory, beech forest, passing the tree line, reaching the top, paragliders, views west  to France, going down the other side, Neuchatel, view of the alps (faint in the distance but there they were), old town of Erlach. Then home, shower, beer, dinner. Tomorrow Berne.

Three bikes on Chasseral

Cycle route:
Gerolfingen to Chasseral and return via Neuchatel

Gerolfingen

26 July 2010

Gerolfingen is where Henri and Mireille live, about 10km from Biel overlooking the lake. Today (Sunday) we did the following:

La Suisse

25 July 2010

An early start to go over the border into Switzerland to meet Henri in Porrentruy. Passed a music shop on the way out of Montbeliard with lots of yellow and orange vuvuzelas in the window – I reckon they would have been going cheap.

The border was marked by two appropriately painted rocks on the roadside. Almost immediately on entering Switzerland we heard the sound of cow bells, which stayed with us most of the day. Shortly afterwards we passed the customs station – deserted. A long downhill swoop into Porrentruy where Henri was waiting for us.

Then followed a wonderful day of cycling through the Jura – cows, fields of clover, barley, oats, forests, valleys, huge farmhouses. We felt cold for the first time and had to stop frequently to put on jackets or take them off as we warmed up from climbing.

Lunch in Montfaucon, wind farms, tracks, grass roads, steep hills followed – up and down. At last we descended from the high country and had a long downhill run including 2 tunnels (spooky), a walk around the old town of Biel, then along the lake and finally up one last and very steep hill to the home of our friends Henri and Mireille. We found a warm welcome, hot shower, cold beer, delicious dinner, good company that included son Lino and friend Marcel, then a comfortable bed.

M. Garmin was adamant that there was a road

It was great to be met and guided by Henri through the Jura -a long ride with lots of hills. We’re looking for a rest over the next few days.

Lake Biel from Henri's living room

Cycle route:

Montbeliard to Gerolfingen