Tag: austria

Switzerland: the flat bits

If you look at a terrain map of Switzerland you’ll notice that you can follow a valley up the Rhine south from Lake Constance through a corner of Austria, then turn northwest after Liechtenstein, and continue down another long valley to Zurich without ever hitting any mountains or passes. This has got to be the easiest way to bike through Switzerland and it was certainly the easiest and flattest section of the whole trip this far. The route is also mostly on signed bike routes so even easier. And while flat, the route is surrounded by mountains so there are stunning views on all sides. Or there would have been if I had been able to see them through the rain and fog and clouds. Can’t have everything. And it was still pretty although I spent an extra day waiting in the rain in Weesen.

The rugged mountains drop down to hills as you approach Zurich and the lake is lined with what I took to be commuter/bedroom communities for the city and then expensive-looking lakeside houses. I cut through the center of the city and out into northwestern Switzerland which looked much like the rolling hills of Bavaria. Then it was down to the Rhine again, through Basel, and across the border. A short tour of a beautiful country.




Over the Alps

My last morning in Croatia started with finding a monument marking the 15th meridian. There was also a plaque posted with a map showing lines connecting the site across Europe to Ireland. I presume it was some sort of energy line concept, but not really sure. The rest of the morning took me up and down the river bluffs along the border with Slovenia while I debated where to cross and what route to take then. After a couple 18% climbs I felt motivated to just take the next crossing and head on toward Ljubljana.

Late in the day I met Ingo, a German cyclist who had started the day all the way back at the Croatian coast and was trying to make it to Ljubljana by night. Having some cycling companionship motivated us both to push on into the evening and we made the city before dark, leaving us time to find a hostel and drink a couple Slovenian beers. Ingo had started his trip in Corfu and followed the coastal route north destined for his home in Düsseldorf. He was going a fair bit faster than I was and headed on the next day while I hung out to see the city.

Ljubljana — and Slovenia in general — struck me as feeling more like Austria than Croatia or the other Balkan states. I started seeing a lot more cyclists and bicycle infrastructure, listened to chamber music played from a boat drifting down the river, and found coffee shops with tattooed hipsters — making me feel right at home.

After a couple days in the city I rolled on to Bled then into northeast Italy before doubling back up a mountain valley to Villach, Austria. Then doubled back again to follow a long valley up to the pass at Mallnitz. You can’t actually go over the pass this way; instead cars and cyclists are loaded onto a special train that runs through a 15km tunnel underneath it. The weather was colder and rainy on the north side of the pass and I camped near Bad Hofgastein where I ran into Lisa, another cycling tourist heading the opposite direction. I think she’s the first American cyclist I’ve encountered yet and apparently I was the first American cyclist she’d met since leaving Paris two months ago. Not sure why there aren’t more Americans in these parts. Lisa’s also the first cyclist I’ve met to be simultaneously writing a doctoral dissertation.

After waiting out another drizzly day I rode down the mountains into Salzburg where I spent a couple days seeing the city and watched the world cup final. Then it was a left turn to head west into Germany and look for the Bodensee-Konigsee cycle route.




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