When the sun was out, Switzerland is exactly what we expected – stunningly beautiful. There’s something about biking amidst the giant mountains that makes you feel very small. On the sunny days we tried to pack in as many kilometres as we could, knowing that at any time the grey clouds blocking our view (and getting everything wet) could be looming. Nothing like waiting for Cami to finish climbing the hill and getting a great photo.
Unfortunately despite crossing all our fingers and toes, on our first day of the route the rain clouds hung around and we spent a lot of the day hiding in covered areas waiting for the downpours to stop. The overpass wasn’t a particularly pleasant layover, but it did the trick.
We expected to see some beautiful lakes, and we did!
We loved the ski-chalet style homes which dotted the route, some from as early as the 1600s. They were often painted with beautiful designs, like the one below. Amusingly the cows and goats all wear loud bells (wouldn’t the cows and goats find the constant ringing annoying?), and there are ancient water troughs everywhere.
It’s difficult to find a hillside without the dots of homes spread throughout.
Our route ran through the small town of Gruyere, where we stopped to warm up in a local restaurant for the famous fondue. It was absolutely delicious.
Given the price of accommodation, we were actively looking for places to “free camp”, and one night despite being in a non-ideal location between two big cities, we found a place on a dirt road off the highway blocked to cars that we believe served a World War Two bunker. While unlikely to be noticed, it was very creepy as the lock on the door to the cave had been cut, and the door was swung half open. We peeked inside just long enough to make sure no one was lurking, and Sean slept with one eye open. Just below was a dock where we watched the sunset with the rest of our wine from dinner.
There’s one segment of this route that is exceptionally steep on rocky surface where they recommend taking a short train. Going only one stop on the train we ascended 1000 meters. The doors opened, and everyone in our car looked at us with pity as we reluctantly left the warm, dry car for a very cold and wet station. Taking cover for a bit hoping the rain would ease, a friendly Swiss-German notified us (2 months late) that the summer for France and Switzerland was predicted to be wet and cold and politely asked us, why didn’t you go South? This weighed heavily in our minds as we shivered through our next 40 kilometers.
Our tent was already soaked, so we had to find a roof. Switzerland will probably be the most expensive place we travel for hotels, which made this difficult. Some farmers offer their barns to sleep in, so with this in mind we kept our eyes peeled. Finally we noticed a sign reading “Schlof im Stroh’. We don’t know any German, but made the educated guess that this indeed was a place to stay.
Our host didn’t speak a word of English or French, and we had no dictionary but we managed to communicate. And we slept incredibly well, our tent drying at the same time. The view from the barn was beautiful.
Laundry is much easier when it’s warm enough outside for the laundry to dry. So we’ve resorted to air-drying our hand-washed clothes on the backs of our bikes – see below:
Once we reached Zug, we had to acknowledge that the weather forecast was getting worse, and made the difficult decision to abandon our plans to continue through Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic in favour of the sunny south in Italy. At 8 PM, we found a train leaving the next morning then spent the evening researching where to bike in Italy. En route to the train station in the morning, we questioned our decision to leave as the skies were clear. Sure enough, a few drops started to fall and just as we snuck undercover at the train station it was a full blown downpour. Italy, here we come!
We left Switzerland much stronger bikers, with lighter wallets (they aren’t lying when they say Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world) but filled with chocolate (one bar a day keeps our spirits high!). Disappointingly, we didn’t hear a single yodeller. That will have to be another trip.