Category — Switzerland
today’s distance: 97 km
total distance: 608 km
riding time: +/- 5h
climbing: about 1000m
Off to a late start due to the time change that night, I was not leaving until noon, heading further east. Waking up was a treat as Katja’s room offers stunning views of the Engadin. The weather was - as it had been the day before - glorious. Blue skies, combined with a ferocious wind from the west made for an insane average speed of almost 28km/h for the first hour.
Just as I was leaving the town of Zernez to start the climb to the Ofenpass, I met Peter who needed a screwdriver to fix his derailleur. After riding together for a few minutes he pulled ahead and I didn’t see him again. Only one pack for a two-day tour sure must feel great. After the first steep section, the ride flattens out, going downhill (grrrr - all that work for nothing) before climbing again for a while. It was here when the wind started coming down the mountains and hit me head on. Still, the surroundings sure made up for it and having been over the Julier the day before I was in no partiular hurry today.
Just before the last flattish section, I looked at my altimeter and saw 1989 and for the next few meters played around with historical events
1989 - Berlin Wall comes down
1990 - Noriega surrenders to US forces
1991 - drew a blank
1992 - Boutros Boutros-Ghali SG of the UN
1993 - UN SC resolution on ICTY
1994 - graduation from US high school
1995 - WTO comes into being
1996 - graduate from high school
1997 - another blank
1998 - heading to Canada
1999 - bike down the coast from Vancouver to Mexico
2000 - Y2K
2001 - 9/11
2002 - graduate law school
2003 - Bush claims “mission accomplished” - kind of preposterous (and not only in hindsight)
2004 - Bush wins second term
2005 - head to Stanford
2006 - J’lem
2007 - Brussels
2008 - climbing up a steep, steep hill
2009 - I’m no Nostradamus …
After arriving at the top, a couple on their way to Greece for an extended holiday stopped and took some pictures for me. Hearing where I was heading they were flabbergasted and are now happy subscribers to the blog (for all those not subscribed yet, you can enter your email address on the right hand side at the top).
The downhill was cold with headwinds throwing me around and slowing me down quite a bit, but it was still exhilerating and some nice top speeds in some sections. The border was easy enough to cross, the Italian border guard seemed a bit irritated that I would ask him for a stamp. But it’s in the passport now, too.
Overall, the downhill was about 1200 m (roughly 3600 ft). After following the river Etsch for a while, I decided to set up camp at a campsite which I passed in the town of Laas. What had been planned as a short day was 97 km in the end. But the best was yet to come. Food …
I looked around town for something to eat as I had not done much shopping. It being Sunday, there was only one place open - and what a great place it was. My question as to whether the owner would still have something available for a hungry biker, she served some of the best soup that I have ever had. It was nothing short of greatness. Now maybe it was even better because I was hungry, but it was great. It was some Minestrone-type soup with local ingredients. This was folllowed by spinach dumplings. This greatness was smothered in sage butter. All of this was topped off with parmesan and a salad. Then Maridel brought out the cake and some tea (on the house - nut cake, topped with warm apricot jam and cream). We had started talking during dinner and she is now a reader of the blog as well. The great thing was the conversation with Maridel, the owner. She likes to travel, meet new people and is a fantastic cook. We talked about the changes that the village has been undergoing over the last 20 years or so and how the predominance of apples in the area has changed things considerably. Farming has become industrialized with the attendent changes for the community.
March 30, 2008 No Comments
today’s distance: 110km
total distance: 511 km
riding time: +/- 7h
climbing: lots - 2186m altitude (700 more than I had planned)
After leaving the wonderful place of Helen and Peter with gorgeous weather beckoning, the road continued for a while along the Rhine valley. From Chur on I was tracing some of the way I had taken on my first bike tour in the Alps with the Badminton club when I was 15. From Chur the road followed the Rhine until the first climb in the middle of which I met Lena and her family who were on the way back. Lena was keen to tell me that she had broken her collarbone, not a small feat for a five year old. She had asked me where I was going and when I said China she asked her father: “Is he stupid?”. It was childlike honesty at its best.
More uphill to Tiefenca
Some time during the climb I felt that it was not a good idea to try to do it in one go. I felt my strength dwindling, I had to stop more and more often. Figured that if I would find a place in Bivio - the last town before the top - I would consider taking it. There were none, things were booked because it was Saturday and I was already late in the day.
So, against better reason I continued up the hill, realizing it would be a close call to make it to the top of the pass. Hard to des
Just when I was ready to get into the next car (not that any would have stopped), I saw a house on the top. Still a number of switchbacks to go through, it seemed like the place to go. A car that I flagged down confirmed as much. Rounding the corner I saw that the road continued further on and became indifferent (I should have looked up the des
As the sun had gone down temperatures dropped considerably and I put on several layers of clothing. A lone snowshoe climber snapped a few pictures, a guy in a car showed me a finger because he thought my bike was in the way - yet there was no other place to put it as there was a meter of snow left and right of the street. And I wasn’t going to leave without the picture.
The downhill was fun, but cold. At about 7 or
A few words of thanks to the French car cheering me on, the bus driver doing the same, the snowshoe climber and the couple telling me that the top was at the hotel - it did help. No thanks are due to the bunch of Cologne guys thinking they are funny when they asked whether they should take me along in a full car and the guy flipping me off.
Pedaling on I headed east and passed through Silvaplana and mundane, but ugly St. Moritz, a place not much to my liking. Too much money being thrown around, helicopters swarming (alright, there were two). I made my way to Samedan tired and exhau
We went to one of the few affordable bars in St. Moritz, a fun place with Joe Vox playing (www.joe-vox.com). If you can see him ever, he’s a good singer and a fun guy hailing from Moenchengladbach.
March 29, 2008 1 Comment
today’s distance: 125 km
total distance: 401 km
riding time: +/- 6 h
It was a glorious day … to say the least. After bidding farewell to fantastic couchsurfing.org host Regula and bemoaning the fact that their cute buildings will be demolished to be replaced with nondescript apartment buildings, I headed out along the southern shore of Lake Zurich.
First stop - the Lindt chocolate factory to take a peek. No guided tours however and the store had the regular chocolates only. So on I went with one bar in my bag and soon in my tummy, yum, yum!
The road had quite a bit of traffic and after dodging a couple of cars I was soon on bike paths that led me from Lake Zurich to Lake Walen. The scenery was dramatic from the start out though. The peaks started moving in closer and closer and once between the two lakes I took a wrong turn for a few minutes and entered another valley, which got even better. Back on track I went along Lake Walen on a nice bike trail along the shore, climbing at up to 26% though made for some tough climbing. The views were well worth it though. I will post a video in the next days.
With bucolic and dramatic scenery abounding and a tailwind to boot riding was great. I turned into the Rhine valley and biked along the river for a while until I hit the town of Landquart and proceeded to couchsurfing hosts Helen & Peter. Their son Roman who is out and about touring South America had hooked me up with them or rather twisted their hands a bit. The house is at the uppermost top of the village in a startlingly beautiful valley, with a bit of grunting up to do. Helen & Peter were great hosts and a big thank you to both of them!!! And to Roman for setting this up. Delicious food and conversations about all things Swiss and particulars of this area made for a great meal.
March 28, 2008 2 Comments
today’s distance: 98 km
total distance: 276 km
riding time: +/- 5.5
Rain pelted the window at 5:30 am … went back to sleep, no plan to head out that early. By the time I started things were good though and I made some good progress with a good tailwind. My knee started to bother me though and I will have to keep an eye on it. It should be alright if I do low gears and is nothing new at the start of a tour.
My first stop was at a bakery doing their goodness in a wood-fired brick oven. There isn’t much that beats a dense well rounded bread dough baked to perfection. It was yummy and was a great addition to the remaining cheese. However, the sales person’s feeling for inclines were all off. She figured it would be all flat from then on … after about 5 km further along the road I happened upon a 12% climb - glorious downhill to follow of course.
So, either the Swiss are just used to higher mountains than I am or it is the usual issue of biker incline v. car driver incline (aka have to pedal hard v. push down the accelerator a bit harder).
This was followed by a series of other climbs until I reached the town of Baden, quaint and pretty.
The rest of the day I spent navigating the tricky roads around Zurich. Just when you think you’re there, they throw another hill at you with a good 15 minutes of laboring uphill. Fun stuff in the end though. I ended up at Regula’s place at 5 pm, my couchsurfing host for the day. She’s a great cook - nothing better than pasta and a good homemade tomato sauce to fill an empty biker’s stomach. This was followed by an excellent tour of Zurich at night …
Thank you Regula for putting me up for the night - and good luck on the upcoming bike trip through Argentina and Chile.
March 27, 2008 No Comments
today’s distance: 94 km
total distance: 178 km
riding time: +/- 5 h
Cycling Without Borders took an unexpected turn today … more on that later. Heading out of Freiburg, the same wind started to pound in my face … not much of a happy camper. Neither are the people in this town. It seemed like a poster war was going on as soon as I entered. The whole thing is about whether to build a road around town to decrease congestion and noise for the people living along main street. They are - needless to say - in favor of the new road, but it just so happens that the people where the road is to be built aren’t. So here goes the poster fight.
Soon afterwards I talked to a local bike store owner and to get away from the high volume of traffic he suggested to try the French side, so off I went to cross another border - not in the plan.
I pedaled along the Rhine for the most part, the road being sheltered by the trees on the right hand side and with considerably less traffic. Much better riding apart from the rain, the wind and the nuclear power plant that I passed. Power was supplied by the chocolate Easter eggs given to me by Maria that morning. They provided much needed energy. Late lunch was equally good with baguette, tomatoes, hummus and a couple of cheeses.
Back to Germany to take care of some administrative matters and then I was in Switzerland with the first stamp in my passport. Basel is a wonderful and picturesque city with friendly people around. An elderly lady I talked to thought I should come back after the trip and seek her out on her daily stroll along the Rhine river to give her the summary of the trip. We shall see whether that will happen.
However, the people of Basel will still have to explain to me how they ever fit 11,000 virgins into this little alley, but that’s something for another day.
Ina and Michi were kind enough to let me stay at their place. I’ve known the two of them for quite a while now and the evening was spent watching soccer and eating wonderful food in addition to the usual good conversations. Thanks to both (riveted by the German victory over Switzerland):
March 26, 2008 No Comments