Planning for the trip began in the depths of winter. The focus was on Switzerland and we decided on a minimum of three weeks. We ordered bike route maps through European sources. The maps were published by Kompass, Bikeline, and Veloland Schweiz.
(Click on any thumbnail photo for a larger picture.)
Then the real nuts and bolts planning started for lodgings, terrain, mileage, and sightseeing. While the snow swirled outside we were reading Lonely Planet, Let's Go, Rough Guide, and Fodor's. (Click here for daily itinerary, miles, and lodgings)
We didn't give a thought to renting bikes once we arrived in Europe. We wanted the comfort and reliability of our own steeds so we purchased heavy-duty cardboard bike boxes designed for shipping. We got a fair price on USAirways from Cleveland, Ohio to Munich, and as a bonus the airline allows bikes to fly free on international flights. (How long will that perk last?) Upon arriving in Munich we stored the bike boxes at a public storage facility at the airport.
Unlike the Frankfurt airport, Munich's airport does not have an international train connection. We took the S-Bahn commuter train into the center of Munich and spent a day touring the sights of the city. At the main train station we hopped a regional train to Augsburg, Germany, 1/2 hour west, and the start of our journey. (Click map thumbnail to see trip map)
The next 20 days we biked nearly 600 miles in four countries. We encountered three languages (German, Italian, and Romansch), and more dialects we ever knew existed. We biked across diverse eco-systems from breathtaking alpine scenery to lush sub-topical Mediterranean paradises. And the food - it was all delicious.
We lodged primarily at youth hostels and stayed at small family-run hotels when necessary. This kept our average nightly lodging costs to about $24 per person for the trip. Despite Switzerland's reputation as a notoriously expensive destination you don't have to spend a lot of greenbacks to enjoy this country! The Swiss youth hostels are first rate.
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