So, if you have a map of the world open on your knees, and are looking for a place to retire to. The good news is that I can save you the time of considering Switzerland. Unless you happen to be a Russian oligarch or Phil Collins, or presumably, just about to mary Phil. Switzerland will just about eat up any nest egg that you have put aside for those greying twilight years faster than any other country.
Switzerland pricing itself out of the market is a bit of a shame. It is picture postcard stunning, very clean, and has the best tasting tap water of our journey. It would presumably makes a lovely pot of tea.
It is overcast, but warm enough for summer kit as we bid farewell to Chur and our pals. We head back to Route 2, and along the Rhine to retrace our last 20k and point us North towards Germany. Now, I am not sure what happened to our work ethic, but this is harder work than it should be. Forward 10k better than back 5, has always been my motto, so this is a hard start to the day.
We are pedaling through lush farmland next to the Rhine, which is running fast and a duck egg chalky green. We had seen the place where the two rivers that form the Rhine had come together. Much like the Nile, they are very different colours. Together, they form this pale green, which would make a nice colour for a kitchen or bathroom.
Realizing that we can add a bit of a cycle in Lichtenstein to our country list, just by crossing the river, and also break the monotony of river cycling. We cross at what must be the only covered bridge linking two countries.
We could have continued a few K’s, and included Austria in a hat trick morning. Unsure of the route though, we come back into Switzerland to use up our last money and stamps.
So, we now have Austria on one bank and Switzerland on the other. Much is similar. But at the moment there is one big difference, and that is a skyline dotted with construction cranes on the Swiss side. If you had been wondering where they all went from Northern Europe when the economy went into meltdown I can help. When the cement mixers fell silent and the high visibility tabards and hard hats were put away, they came south.
To be honest, the trend continues into Germany. But even the smallest house extension here has a crane. It makes taking a stunning panorama photo a bit of a chore. I guess eBay is awash with them at the moment.
We end the day in Germany, at Altenrhein, just short of Lake Bodensee. We call it Lake Geneva and the Germans, Bodensee just to confuse. It is our opportunity to buy things in the shops that we had needed, now that we are back in Euro world.
The next day is perfect. We are riding around the lake’s west bank and it is busy with holidaying cyclists. Too busy. The path is perfect, the villages perfect, but I just do not like it one little bit, and have a ‘ bit of a face on’. You could ride up and down the BBQ section at your local DIY store on a hot bank holiday and have fewer people getting in your way. I take no photos and inwardly fume.
To be honest my mood is not all down to my fellow cyclists. That morning I had discovered that a part I had fitted to renovate my stove was supplied wrong. The stove is now sulking in the bottom of my rear left pannier. It knows it is unloved.
The town of Konstanz has some very funky public art, and a good outdoors shop. We are still dizzy with excitement about being able to afford to buy coffee and cake again, so it makes an enjoyable stop. We cross the lake to Meersburg on one of the many regular ferrys.
We are staying the night with friends that we met in New Zealand. Peter and Sarah have managed to do the difficult trick of ending a round the world cycle trip, settling down and still being happy. They have also crammed in, getting married, starting a family and finding flat and jobs, into the few months they have been back. It is great to see them so happy.
We are now officially in the Black Forrest, which I guess is nice. The sun is out in a blue sky, which certainly is nice as we head on. We have not gone far along quiet country roads before we come across one of the most annoying German traits, bullying. Germans bully each other into doing things and conforming. This is all well and good if you want to get the snow cleared from the paths or litter put into bins. Here though, we are tooted and pointed at. They want us on the bike path.
You are going to do more riding on the footpath in Germany than you have done since the age of 10. It may be a quiet road, but the sods will come close in their cars just to prove a point. Provision here has gone too far perhaps, and they expect you off the road. They are also aggressive with it.
I had my father in law marked down as one of the 7 most aggressive drivers in Germany. Truth be told though, he probably is not top 20, it is a big field and we have met some already that would put him to shame.
On a more cheerful note, we have Storks with us again for the first time since early in Spain. They are raising young now, who will shortly have a very demanding first flight.
The road kicks up at the end of the day to a 12% climb to our campground at Sigmaringen. We catch sight of first a fox and then a black squirrel, at a stroke, doubling our ‘ observed mammals ‘ list for Europe. We did see a chamois in Switzerland, but that was whilst walking and does not count. Crickey, they can shift!
It starts to rain and then gets very heavy just as we are booking the tent in. We take a cabin, for a bit of peace and quiet. It is a good call, as we are next to a circus and the Sea Lions bark the night away like dogs in a South American village. That would have pushed ‘ bloke with an annoying laugh ‘ into second place in our ‘ stupid reasons for having to move the tent in the middle of the night ‘, list. Never camp next to a circus then.
It is a damp morning and we are on a wet bike path and once again, by sheer chance, following the Compostella Pilgrim route. The streams are running fast and crystal clear with lots of plants and wildlife. We are on chalk, which is unusual in our journey and there are huge snails because of this.
We pass through sweet villages. They all look like working places with real lives being lived. I like them very much. Veringenstadt, Hettingen and Gammertingen all lovely and inviting, with fine bread and coffee stops. We turn left towards Hausen and Red Kites are riding the thermals of a warming day.
As we got closer to Switzerland we had been looking out for an increase in the number of bikes being piloted with’ Butterfly handlebars ‘. Sure enough, most bikes now have them and they are truly horrid things to behold. Why the Germans love them so much is beyond me. You could not find a way of placing your hands further from the brakes and gears. If they were any good Greg Lemond would have tried them first. They are not, and Greg looked elsewhere.
In a rare break from German conformity, there is a burst of ‘ outsider art ‘, our first for a while. The day goes well until the last 10k to the campground. ” A bit of a climb, nothing more than 200m”, we are told by someone who is talking total rubbish.
The cars are fast, and discarded McDonald crap points to this being one of their favorite climbs. It goes on and up far longer than it should, and puts me into a poor mood. I am drained of all joy.
We have a day off, finding no enthusiasm to push into a cold June morning of mist and rain. 14 hours of sleep and we are fresh enough to walk into the village for cheap German food. Nearby the town of Rottweil, is home to, well you have guessed it already.
The first raindrops start the very second we swing our legs over the top tube the next morning. Too little to make you put on a coat, but enough to make you take off your shades. We go through Pforzheim which is a bit bleak if truth be told, but has a McDonald’s, the one source of free WiFi in a stitched up German market.
We are heading back to join the Rhine, and wonder how it has changed since we parted. Well, it is becoming a nightmare to navigate that is for sure, with few quiet roads. The gps comes into its own again. Again the Compostella route and a strange bit of Graffiti.
We cross the Rhine by ferry at Leimersheim. The river is running exceptionally fast and takes great skill from the guy up there at the controls. I almost give him a well deserved round of applause in a sort of ‘ charter flight landing ‘ sort of way. Up stream to the left, turn around and hit the ramp perfect, with barges coming left and right. He is good.
Germersheim, on a bike path through woods, and then to Lingenfield for a nice quiet campground. Across the small lake, a Cuckoo calls, and in the morning starts again early. This time the call is different, and I remember the rhyme:-
In April I open my bill
In May I sing night and day
In June I change my tune
In July far far I fly
In August away I must
We are riding on bike paths between unhappy little towns, in a less than prosperous part of Germany. On the up side though, we pass a huge field of Parsley. I guess it has to grow somewhere. It is strange to see it on such a scale.