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Switzerland 2003

Cycling Through Three Cultures in One Small Country

August 4 to August 21, 2003
 
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Can a group of average, middle-aged cycle tourers make a go of it in Switzerland?
(Click on thumbnails to see larger photo)
dinner in Bern
This Year's Touring Group

A three-week journey in the land of glaciers, mountain goats, and alpine passes? You bet! Well, admittedly we had some help. The website Cycling-in-Switzerland directs readers to the excellent "Veloland Schweiz" series of cycling maps. All nine of the Swiss National Cycle Routes are represented in these detailed maps which include elevation gain for each map section. They were indispensable in helping us decide where to go and how to get there. The narrative for the maps is written in French or German, but the maps transcend any language barrier.
Swiss Flags

We also took advantage of the bike friendly and efficient Swiss rail system to ease us through the difficult parts. We even jumped on an alpine paddle-wheel steamer to cross a lake that provided one of the most scenic two hour boat rides we've ever experienced. Eight bikes? No problem, just roll 'em on deck and enjoy the ride! At one point we stowed the bikes in Interlaken and spent two days hiking and riding cable cars in the mountains of the Jungfrau Region.

Lake Geneva
Geneva, CH
Our goal was to experience three cultures in one small country. That's one example that makes Switzerland so unique. We began in French speaking Geneva and traveled north to Lac de Neuchâtel, then to the Murtensee where we passed into German Switzerland. Bern, Interlaken, across the Vierwaldstättersee, Urnersee, and up the St Gotthard Pass.

map
(Click on map to see larger view)
Then down the southern side of the Alps and it was Ciao! Benvenuto! And the beautiful castles and plazas of Bellinzona. We wished one of us could speak Italian. From Locarno we cycled up the Centovalli and crossed the border into the "real" Italy. At Domodossola we took a train through the Simplon tunnel to Brig, Switzerland and biked down the Rhône Valley to Montreux, passing once again through the invisible linguistic curtain from German to French.

Along the way we rode on parts of six of the nine national bike routes crisscrossing the country. We stayed primarily at youth hostels and small family owned hotels which are listed on our Trip Itinerary. The weather? It was HOT!! We happened to arrive just as the Great European Heat Wave of 2003 was settling over the continent. We're from Ohio and we get our fair share of summer sizzlers but 10 straight days of 90 plus degrees were more than we bargained for.
Genev Roule
Genèv' Roule
Our flight arrived in Geneva along with all our checked baggage and two Bike Fridays. The rest of us rented bikes from Genèv' Roule. Using the internet from home we found only two establishments for bike rentals in Geneva. The other being Rent A Bike that rents bikes from train stations throughout Switzerland. The bikes from Genèv' Roule were passable.
Rental bike
The Rental Bike
They were hybrid bikes with rear racks, 21 speeds (a standard 7 cog rear derailleur with a 3-speed internal hub), and a "mixte" frame style that allegedly accommodates all riders. That is after a couple days of riding and numerous stops for adjustments, experimentation, and general fiddling around with seat posts, handlebars, and finicky gears. The bottom line is the price was right and we had no breakdowns.


Genèv' Roule
Be prepared to speak French when you arrive at Genèv' Roule, as English speakers were in short supply during our visit to the shop. Genèv' Roule is funded in part from sponsors who exhibit advertising placards on the bike frame. The bikes are then loaned out for free on a daily basis. Since we were using the bikes for many days, as well as taking them out of the environs of Geneva, the placards were removed and we were charged for renting the bikes, albeit a reasonable charge.

So join us on a five part trip through Switzerland using the links below. Click here to contact us with questions or comments.
Bob Parry & Ed James 2003, 2004

Part 1: Geneva to Murten

Part 2: Bern to Interlaken

Part 3: Berner Oberland

Part 4: Interlaken, St Gotthard Pass to Bellinzona

Part 5: Locarno, Centovalli & Rhône Valley to Montreux