Friday, July 9, 2010

Posting Back in Time

Zug, Switzerland (J & bikes, bottom right)

Over the last week we took a scenic tour of Switzerland, a major deviation from our original itinerary. The plan had been to ride north from Zurich towards the Rhine, then follow the river west until it turned north, where we would visit Germany and France.

But why not see some of Switzerland? Thomas tried to convince us that it would be no problem to visit the Alps, but we avoided the major passes, claiming that to climb those during our first week on tour with all our gear would have killed us. Instead we opted for 30-40 mile days along rivers, through small towns, and over rolling hills.

Switzerland is fantastic for bicycle riding. There are fairly well marked national and regional routes that link up all over the place. Detailed maps of the regions are posted along the routes, although not at every turnoff, and we had a national bike map with us as well as a couple of regional maps. Detailed maps for cities would have helped us stay on track, but once we got used to the bicycle route signs, we found it pretty easy to find our way from place to place. The maps even indicate severity of climbs and traffic levels on the roadways. Much of our route was on dedicated bicycle paths, some small country roads which are just about one lane wide, and then sometimes we were on 'busy' roads with cars that mostly kept their distance.

The countryside is farmland; wheat, barley, oats, corn, and other beautiful crops line the paths, and we saw quite a lot of cows, sheep, goats, and chickens. Our memories of Switzerland will always be accompanied by the sound of cowbells and the taste of fresh cherries, which we couldn't resist where the trees lined the paths.

We also took at least one swim a day in a river or lake. There is a lot of water in this country, and most of it is very clean.

A very shallow river

A very deep and fast-running river where we walked upstream to get in and then floated down to where we could get out again

We did get one look at the Alps, from near the top of our first Swiss pass, Passwang.

If you look closely, maybe you can see some snowy mountains in the background

Luckily the Swiss make their roads in long, swooping switchbacks, and we made it all the way to the top with just a couple of breaks along the way.

Looking back down to the valley where we came from

The top!

After almost a week, we were in good enough shape to crawl to the top and fly down the other side. Then, of course, we climbed again. It was a big day. Alpine passes will have to wait until the next time we are in Switzerland.

Now we are in Basel for a day of resting and posting. Lila and Erwin (Thomas' parents) are generous hosts and we have already had a great time with them, and eaten a lot of very delicious food. Today, the temperature will reach 34C - way too hot. So perhaps we will make it to the Rhine for a swim.

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