3. Glarus and the Swiss Alps
4. Snow on Bodensee
After cycling 140 kilometres, I was already in Germany. I planned to stay for my first night at Eva’s place in Lörrach, a small town north of Basel.
Eva was away on the day I arrived so she left her door open and stuck some arrows of cellar tape on the floor to sign me where to find her room! In the room, I was delighted to find a table full of chocolate, fruits and tea waiting for a hungry cyclist. The following day I was hiking around Lörrach, then spend the afternoon enjoying once more the unnatural 18 degrees in February, sitting by the lake, talking to Eva, drinking beer and eating fruits.
When I left Lörrach for Baden, I had no idea this day would be the first painful day of my travel. It started well when I met with Horst, a really nice retired Croatian-German cyclist who rode with me for the first 20 kilometres. Later, I grew tired of following a too big road and decided to rejoin the Rhine by heading more or less north. I was riding on forest paths, turning right or left from time to time, trying to keep the direction, and it worked! I had lunch eating my last piece of French cheese in front of the stunning wooden bridge of Bad Säckingen.
Then I decided to take a shortcut which I could not really find and I was finally advised to ride back to the Rhine after an hour. I kept on following the Rhine for a while but it started to be quite late afternoon so I decided to cut short… That was a mistake! After an hour riding, the road didn’t stop to go uphill. I was facing an endless 12% climb and I had barely enough energy to push the 70 kilos of my bike up the hill. I was still 20 kilometres from Baden and night was coming so I thought I would better ride off the road for safety reasons.
I was riding on a path which became more and more muddy. After a while I got stuck. The bike would not move anymore, no matter how hard I pushed on the pedals. I was removing kilos of dirt and trying to extract with my cold fingers the mud stuck between the wheel and the mud guard! Ok, next time I will try to avoid muddy shortcuts!
I struggled in the night for the last 20 kilometres to Baden. When I finally arrived in Baden, I was welcomed by Linda and Marco, a smiley and friendly couple. We drunk chartreuse (thanks to Florent) and next day I was not even feeling as bad as I imagined I would be. At least I could move! So I went to visit Baden, a charming Swiss town with colourful wooden façades.
I left Baden for Zurich, then Winterthur and there I left my bike in Rahel’s flat and decided to make a break of cycling for a couple of days. Rahel is a friend I first met in Rome while I was travelling around Europe in 2005. After visiting Zurich at night, we took the train for Glarus, a charming little Swiss town in a valley surrounded by mountains. From there I was hiking in the mountains with Rahel’s mum, communicating with her with a mix of gestures and Swiss-German-English.
We ate Local traditional food in a mountain cottage surrounded by a wonderful landscape above the clouds. Then we met a Swiss couple who offered us some wine and talked about their friends who had been cycling around the world: “They thought their journey would last two years but they finally cycled eight years, then they went on some other journeys… ” – You can have a look on their website .
Eight years! I am on the road only for 10 days and so many things already happened… I have no clue where I will be in 6 months. I don’t even know where I will be in 10 days! All I know is that good things will happen…
That day, I was so much staring at the mountains that I got my first sunburn!
Glarus is also home to the “route 66”, the local pub of Glarus. Marc, the owner, is an easygoing guy who offers local beers to travellers. There, I also met Roger who gave me 300,000 Iranian Rials and ensured me that Iran is a wonderful and safe place to visit. I never had any doubt about Iran, but I am amazed to meet so many nice people here in Switzerland. Friday night, I ended up training my jodl skills in the streets of Glarus at 4AM with random locals. As you can imagine, cycling on Saturday from Winterthur to Kreuzlingen wasn’t that easy !
I arrived in Kreuzlingen at night and my GPS had no battery, probably because I forgot to switch it off. For some reasons I still can’t figure out, all my spare batteries were dead as well. Maybe I was crossing a time warp or something? I needed to find Claudia’s Home and all I knew is that she lives near Aldi so I spent about an hour cycling around the city at night and asking people where Aldi is. I mainly got very surprised look and vague answers like “Aldi? You can’t go there by bike!”, “Ah really? Is it on top of a mountain or what?”, “too far…”. Yes, that was far! I was two hours late when I finally found Claudia’s flat and it was so clean and nice that I felt even more dirty than I probably was. Claudia welcomed me with some very tasty home-made sushi! How come I always meet such nice people? Eating sushi, sitting comfortably on her sofa, sipping in my tea… I had no idea I would spend the following night in my tent under 10 centimetres of snow and that’s probably better this way, I was just feeling great 🙂
The following day, I was talking to Claudia for a while, and when I started riding, it was rainy and snowy. It kept on raining until I pitched my tent by Bodensee (Konztans Lake). I slept couple of hours in the cold and woke up early, tired of the noise made by the ducks at the pond nearby. I put on my trousers still wet from the previous day and was staring at the steam emanating from it in the ray of light coming from my headlamp! Cold! Cold! Cold! I have to hurry! I packed all my stuff including my wet tent and started cycling.
Drinking the first tea after 20km ride was just the best moment of the day. Later on I entered Austria and tried to follow some messy bike lane signs. One specificity of Austria in February is that there are no bikes on the bike lanes, but many people use it to stroll with their dogs !
At some stage I arrived at a crossroad with four directions and not any sign! I didn’t know which way to pick so I chose to go straight ahead but after couple of kilometres the road got smaller and smaller and I ended up in mud, and then some sand. A heavy bike in the sand is just not manageable. These situations never kill my optimism so I pushed couple of times hoping for the road to become better and bigger once more but no, that was a dead end. I even tried to push the bike across some fields but I realized I could push and exhaust myself for hours before I find a road, so I decided to turn back…
I then realized that my front wheel disc was very noisy. Since 2 days it was getting loose and even if I carry on the bike more than 3 heavy kilos of tools and spare parts, I don’t have the front disk key! So I stopped every two minutes under the snow to screw it back with my frozen fingers… Until I finally found a shop! DJ bike shop in a town called “Hard” (maybe it’s a sign?). They were very friendly guys and they fixed it for free so I could ride again, and smile again 🙂
Later in the afternoon I left Austria and reached Bavaria. The road I was riding on was called “Alplenstrasse” and that says everything, a constant climb with very painful hairpins under the snow. Why the hell did I leave in February?! Am I some kind of masochistic traveller? When I reached the top it was already dark and I was so exhausted that I didn’t want to risk cycling on this big road at night. So I called my next Couchsurfers and agreed that they pick me up by car for the last 20 kilometres. I had enough for that day 😉
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