After our amazing train journey to the top of The Oberalp Pass we stepped out into cool temperatures and a landscape still covered with large areas of snow yet to melt. It looked a lot colder from the train than it actually was and shorts and a cycling jacket were all that were needed.
It was a beautiful sunny day and after the obligatory photo shoot at the “Oberalp” sign and the lighthouse which has been placed there to mark the Source of The Rhine (Yes! Lighthouse) we started our journey of around 900 miles along the river.
We were up at around 7000 feet so the only way was down. Steve has cycled many times in The Alps and is used to the switchback descents. But for Sarah it was a first and it was made even more difficult by the weight we were carrying. A slow and steady start soon began to gather momentum as the severity of the switchbacks became less and less. Our speed began to increase and before long we were hurtling down the mountain at speeds approaching 50 mph! “It’s a good job we fitted new brake pads for this trip”, screamed Sarah!!
The views were unbelievable. Snow capped mountains, blue sky, lush green fields and meadows full of wild flowers. Add into the mix a splattering of Swiss style houses and it made a picture perfect scene. We were loving it.
Eventually the gradient became less and less and we found ourselves cycling along the valley floor in the same scene as before but viewing it from a different angle, the bottom rather than the top.
We moved on through villages and open meadows towards our campsite close to the town of Chur, the oldest town in Switzerland. We rounded a corner and were faced with a hill …. going up! We knew the hill was there, but we hadn’t expected it to be so long and steep. It was like someone had given us a grand piano to carry. On top of this, Sarah had been struggling with a chest infection for a couple of weeks which just wouldn’t go away. In fact, we had had some serious discussions in Belgium and The Netherlands as to whether we should abandon the trip or not, but she decided to give it a go.
Everso slowly we moved up the hill, hoping the next bend would be the last only to find the asphalt stretching on and up again. The clock ticked on and the sun started to drop and the bends kept coming. We stopped at a garage to buy some drinks and have a brief respite before plodding on again. Eventually after what seemed an eternity the top came into view. We cycled over and freewheeled the four miles down to the campsite.
The tent was up in a flash and after a shower and cooking some food at the great camp kitchen, we sank into our sleeping bags and slept like babies. It had been an incredibly long day. Starting in Italy, then the train journey into The Alps and the cycle to the campsite. Sarah had done amazing to get through it.
The next morning we emerged to another beautiful day and only then realised what a scenic spot we had been camping at. We were tired but eager to press on and Sarah said she was feeling a little better each day.
We picked up The Rhine again after passing through the town of Chur and it was now starting to look like a big old river. We had seen it grow the previous day from a fast flowing stream as at propelled down the mountain looking milky blue and glacial. It was now becoming slower and wider but still had a glacial look about it.
We followed it almost all of the day travelling along lovely wide asphalt paths. We saw occasional day cyclists and the odd dog walker, but essentially we had the route almost to ourselves. We enjoyed the odd glance behind us to see the snow capped mountains slowly shrinking in the distance and appreciated the hot weather which had replaced the cold chill.
At one point we crossed the river via an old covered wooden bridge and found ourselves cycling into the small principality of Lichtenstein. It reminded us a little of Monaco. Everyone looked wealthy and the main square was surrounded by high-end fashion shops and every major watch maker we had heard of. We sat in the small main square and watched the World go by eating our sandwiches and soaking up the sun.
After leaving Lichtenstein we found ourselves at the border of three countries where the small Principality ran into both Austria and Switzerland. We followed the Rhine North East into Austria and on to our next campsite.
We had arrived in plenty of time so we had a walk to the local supermarket, bought some ingredients for a small feast, and headed back to cook. Steve got out our stoves and gas. “NOOOOO”, he screamed, as if the world was ending! “What’s happened”, cried Sarah as she rushed to help. “I bought the wrong canisters in Italy. They don’t fit our burners”. Thankfully it isn’t often that we make silly mistakes but when we do it hurts. Neither of us could be bothered to go back into town and find a restaurant. So with no cooking facilities available on the site our feast became a snack of a couple of brioche buns dipped in yoghurt!
The next day we set off in search of gas, hungrier than two ticks on a teddybear. We made our way to where the Rhine enters Lake Constance in the town of Bregenz. We found a sports and camping store and bought the last four canisters. “This will see us through a couple of weeks but we will need more”, said Steve. “Getting this type of canister in Europe looks a bit of an issue”. Sarah then raided the Aldi store and bought enough croissants and wraps to fill an army!
Bregenz is famous for opera. They have a festival there each year at an open air theatre right on the lake. They were in the process of building this year’s set for Madame Butterfly. There were photos around from previous years and the sets look out of this World.
After our monster lunch, we followed Lake Constance around its North shore and into Germany. It is absolutely beautiful and has a wide promenade, full of activity, and the miles rolled past as we watched the ever changing scene in front of us. When there was nothing to see on the promenade there was always the lake to admire.
We arrived in Freidrichshafen in early afternoon. We had found a lovely little hotel on the outskirts of town, costing not much more than a campsite on the lake, and as it was Sarah’s birthday the following day we took the opportunity to eat out at the pizza place opposite. Beer and pizza …. so much better than brioche and yogurt!
Sarah woke up on her birthday in a comfy bed, but there was no day off from the bike. Steve pointed out that we had spent the last seven nights in seven different countries, which is something we probably will never do again.
We headed off, back along Lake Constance, and followed The Rhine out to The West and back into Switzerland. The route was a little more difficult to follow and at times moved away from the river and into forests along gravel tracks. These were slower going and harder on the bikes and us! But the different scenery helped the miles pass by. We also stopped for coffee and apple strudel in the fairytale setting that is the town of Stein am Rhein
We finished the day back down alongside the river on a gloriously sunny afternoon as we pitched up close to the scenic town of Schaffhausen. We were next to a couple from Australia who were on a six month tour of Europe. We swapped stories of OZ and Europe and it was strange to have a long conversation in English!
The next day was our sixth straight day in the saddle and we had a rest day planned for the day after. We had also booked a small Airbnb for a couple of nights. So we made our way along the river talking about how much we were looking forward to a day of rest and wander around the medieval town of Bad Säckingen. Let’s hope it turns out to be “Good Säckingen!”